"I got it!"
Mauve looked up from the day’s mail. Kason had practically bounced through the door, enormous grin on his face, a small rectangular box clasped in his hand.
"What?" asked Mauve.
Still grinning, Kason placed the box on the kitchen table and tore away the paper. Mauve winced at the waste, but her eyes grew wide as she saw the box beneath the brown paper. It was yellow and shiny. The world-famous icon of the Sensatryp Corporation was displayed, discreetly, on the side of the box.
Kason picked up the slender box and presented it to her, with a little bow. "Your present, m’lady."
Mauve took the box from him with excited fingers. The plastic surface was slick and warm beneath her fingertips.
"Is this for real?"
"Yep," said Kason, still grinning.
"How?" asked Mauve. She looked at him, brow furrowing. "It’s not stolen, is it?"
"No!" He looked aghast and Mauve felt a flush of shame. Kason was a lot of things, but he wasn’t a thief.
She eyed the box. "It’s not a bootleg version, is it?"
"Again, no," said Kason, sounding a bit irritated. "It’s authentic. I bought it at the store. If you want, I can show you the receipt."
"How can you afford this?" she asked.
"It was on sale," said Kason. "Thirty percent off because they’re about to release the new one. Strawberry Fields."
That made sense, thought Mauve.
She grinned, then, and leaned forward to kiss Kason’s cheek.
"You’re welcome." The grin was back, infectious and cheeky. "So, do you want to use it now or save it for later?"
"Now," said Mauve. "Definitely, now."
They pulled open the sofa bed and undressed. Kason turned off the phone. Mauve opened the bright yellow box with trembling fingers.
Inside, nestled in black foam, was a vial of pale, swirling liquid.
"Would you like to do the honors, sir?" Mauve asked, giggling, presenting the vial to Kason.
Chuckling, he grasped the plastic stopper securing the vial’s contents and plucked it free. The instant the white liquid was exposed to open air, it began to evaporate. Thick clouds of tart sweetness enveloped Mauve and Kason’s tiny studio flat. Grasping hands, they drew in deep lungfuls of the agent.
Mauve’s skin tingled. She felt warmth and light against her eyelids. Opening her eyes, she found herself transported. Gone was the windowless flat with its third-hand furnishings. Instead, she and Kason were kneeling on a bright red blanket. Around them stretched a golden beach, the sand shimmering like glass. The ocean was slate gray, slapping gently at the golden sand with foamy waves.
The ocean wind caressed her skin and Mauve looked down.
Kason was sitting across the blanket from her, grinning.
"Look up," he said.
Mauve did. The sky was pale yellow, dominated by what appeared to be a huge ringed planet, its surface a blur of dark reds and swirling umbers.
The air was tart, but it was a pleasant sort of tartness. The tartness of cold lemonade on a hot summer day.
"Welcome to Lemon Sky," said Kason.
He stood and pulled her to her feet.
"How long will it last?" asked Mauve. Some of these sense-holidays lasted for real hours, others for virtual days.
"Who cares?" asked Kason, and pulled her, laughing, toward the alien ocean.