shuffling around all day in one's jammies, drinking herbal tea and watching the birds flit from branch to branch, and being terribly jealous of everyone one knows simply because they can be outside while one is stuck inside drinking tea and draining one's sinuses--this is the time one gives to reading odd things and enjoying that experience. here, the 2nd excerpt, roughly 40 pages from the end of pat cadigan's tea from an empty cup. this is from the perspective of yuki, the alternate heroine of the novel, who has entered artificial reality in search of a friend.
"after a time, the light died down, from blinding to something softer, something on the order of the warm golden glow from an antique lamp. yuki became aware slowly that she was no longer falling, had not been falling for some time. her eyes were closed and she had no sense of her position--had she passed out? was she still unconscious and dreaming?
"she opened her eyes and jumped, startled. she was sitting in an enormous leather chair...pulled up to a large, round, dark wood meeting table. there was a touch on her arm and she turned to find her grandmother sitting at her left.
"'body,' the woman said.
"'whose?' asked yuki, bewildered...'you look and talk just like my grandmother...is this how they use you in the afterlife? they keep your brain running to generate post-apocalyptic ar cities?'
"'if I am your grandmother, I'm dead, I'm past caring why they keep my brain running.' the woman smiled. 'it doesn't matter what they intended anyway. something else is happening, something they didn't bargain for.'
"...'it's all just ar. right now, I'm moving so fast they can't track me, but eventually I'll start to lose momentum and they'll find me again.'
"'actually, they'd rather find you before you lose momentum,' [the woman] said, leaning over to look at the center of the table. yuki followed her gaze but saw nothing other than a vague area that might have been a spot that a dustcloth had missed. 'they've been trying to get up this high for a while now. only one or two managed it in the past--accelerant combined with high adrenaline, nature's own speed cocktail. they want to follow you up. they know there's something here and they want it...old japan.'
"yuki laughed without humor. 'oh, yeah. post-apocalyptic tokyo, the hottest thing yet. please. save the sales pitch. I don't do ar...'
"'no. not a cheap amusement park. the real old japan. and I know who you're looking for.' there was a pause. 'igochi tomoyuki tried to sell his birthright. the one who purchased it was set upon by a demon, who killed him.'
"'sorry, I don't believe in demons,' yuki said sourly.
"'ask tom, then, when you find him, if he believes in demons.'...[the woman's] face became a cold mask. 'he became greedy. he took the catalog, he decided he would sell the high-level access for money, to anyone, non-japanese as well as japanese. greed is a very old, very unorginal scenario, so boring. if we could recover the catalog, the accesses to the higher levels--'
"'if tom's still in here,' yuki said, careful to keep her voice even, 'why can't you find him? or do you already have him--out there--and he just won't talk?'
"'--we would forgive him, we would make him part of bunraku. as you are.'
"'bunraku,' yuki repeated, mystified...
"'the method by which old japan will be remade--awakened--for good. the real, the true old japan. we were bringing it to fruition, we were nurturing it with the life of our blood and tissue and the afterlife of our souls...'
"something rippled through her, like a sensation from someone else's body, as if someone else were sharing the suit with her by some remote access. except this time, it didn't feel hideously obscene, like being invaded by a stranger from within.
"there was a gentle touch on her shoulder and she looked up to see a large doll-woman in traditional japanese costume floating in front of her on the table. it bowed and began to move slowly and precisely, with as much grace as a living person.
"not a doll. a puppet, with several living persons behind its movements. her movements. bunraku. japanese puppet theater. not a children's diversion but the classic puppter theater of old japan, as serious as noh and kabuki, a demonstration of skill and grace, control and cooperation. now she could see the outlines of the people moving the puppet if not their faces. see them and feel them--"
I have to say in closing that I thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel, so much so I have decided to locate its sequel, dervish is digital. the ending in particular is not slapdash or cartoonish but a solid, complicated ending.