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Chapter 18 - Seraglio

 

 

 

Seraglio was Alexandra and Charles' play project that amused them for hours on end while babysitting George. 

Angela has known both children since they were born. She'd been present at both their births. And she'd played with them and changed nappies as they grew up.  They were like her own children. Now they are teenagers she only looks in on them occasionally like when they were babysitting, to check that George is happy; to check that they aren't fighting; or more recently to check that they aren't getting too incestuously close.

Angela had been fretting over her parents imminent death and Edmund has suggested that she take a look at what the kids have actually built out there in the real world, as a distraction from her worries.

For reclusive Angela the idea of visiting Seraglio is frightening.  She imagines some sort of down-town bar full of Bogans getting drunk; screaming obscenities at each other; and engaging in physical violence.

Initially Seraglio had seemed nothing but an interesting Cloud based game and an exercise in creative coding.  That was, until the actual land was acquired by a mysterious agent in The Cloud causing great public controversy and demonstrations against its construction.  Of course the mysterious agent was just a code entity created in The Cloud by the kids.

"Maybe that had been a signal that someone needed to take a look at what their game was causing to happen out there in the real world," Angela mused. 

"But shouldn't that have been their parents?  Obviously Dad's been a bit too preoccupied to watch Charles 24/7 but what about Samantha?  She's his mother."

Now she found herself entering a huge Moroccan door, a replica of one from the grand palace in Marrakesh, set in a vast stone wall that seemed to extend an entire city block.  She revised her down-town bar expectation to major world casino. 

Once through she was in an opulent reception space with at least twenty desks, behind which sit real women, veiled in the Moorish style as receptionists. Adjoining is a reception courtyard surrounded by niches furnished with couches low tables each with an elaborate earn of hot spiced apple tea.  This area is where supplicants to be admitted are screened for sufficient credit and huge muscular men in the garb of Harem Guards, armed with scimitar swords, act as bouncers.  

Angela passes through unchallenged.  Her alias is in the Seraglio regulars database as a hugely wealthy princess, which is of course quite true, but a regular she is not. The bio-recognition has been spoofed.

It occurs to her that this place must be a huge employer of real life 'Sims'.  She asks Puck, her VPA, to check and sees a recent management media release that boasts that Seraglio attracts around 70,000 visitors a day and claims to employ around 9,000 people. 

"When it's seen as a game these are just numbers. The kids can't begin to realise the impact of their grand visions translated to the real world.  All these people making a living here or enjoying themselves as visitors: male and female; of every conceivable ethnicity; dressed and made-up to the nines; pushing and shoving; hurrying; relaxing; flirting; being rude or polite; drinking; eating; smelling; using the toilets.   All this living, loving and hating, flesh and blood in all its many guises," she thinks.

Passing through a circular topped Moorish arch she enters the palace complex proper. The Moorish theme is echoed in extensive architectural stone, and its general proportions reflect a Moorish style but these elements blend with a great deal of glass, trimmed in gold inlaid stainless steel, reminiscent of an ultra-modern Arab bank or exclusive hotel, perhaps in Dubai. Most of floors are elaborately tiled. Many rooms and galleries feature long shallow ponds in which water constantly flows. In some galleries the walls too are intricately tiled, after the Alhambra, and in others they are covered in carved Arabic script.  Angela asks Puck to translate them and discovered they were poetic verses, not from the Qur'an but from Byron's Don Juan.  She should've guessed. 

There's a choice of entertainment on multiple levels in spacious halls or intimate bars and galleries decorated with European Orientalist paintings after: Ingres, Regnault, Long, Gerome, Levey-Dhurmer, Matiisse and so on, that served to deny any religious intent or purpose. Despite all these spaces it is thronged with people. The wealthy and famous do indeed come here from all around the world she realises, recognising some international faces.

On the top floor is a vast central chamber roofed over by a dome beautifully lined with beige and brown tiles and subtly illuminated in brilliant blue, a replica of the dome over the blue Mosque in Istanbul. But there the similarity ends.  It's a vast ballroom in which glittering balls are scheduled monthly.  At this moment though, the vast carpeted floor was scattered with cushions and from one of the galleries, set partway up one wall, the world's most famous singer is crooning to a vast audience that had arranged themselves on the cushions with a drink or smoking hookahs, petting tame lions and tigers or enjoying the company of the famously beautiful and elegant Seragigoló boys and Seracocotte girls. 

There's not a drunk, a fight or a raised voice to be heard.

Knowing the kids' new preoccupations with sex, she is not particularly surprised on entering the hammam, the extensive bath house, to see naked patrons wallowing in large communal baths, across the surface of which steam wisped attesting to the warmth of the water, or enjoying Turkish massages from equally naked or semi-naked masseurs according to the patrons' desire.   It's like that famous painting by Ingres.

Where their preference and their wallet have allowed, some patrons have retired to the niches provided, obviously to engage in commercial copulation.

"For goodness sake, get a room," thinks Angela.

Angela has her own standards and prefers to think of prostitution as 'commercial copulation'; the female practitioners as courtesans, or perhaps concubines; and the males as , gigolos or escorts.  She avoids using obscenities in her every-day thoughts and speech.  It's not that she's a prude it's just that she reserves the 'F' and 'C' words for intimate use with her boyfriend Romeo, as did DH Lawrence's Lady Chatterley and her lover Mellors. They're her special love making words and Romeo is her lover's name for him.  His real name is Ben but who could bed a Ben?

She had been surprised by the tame 'wild' animals roaming about like house cats or dogs many settling near favoured patrons to be petted: "They're amazing."  So she took the time access her Cloud Console to find out how the kids had done that. 

"How clever are those kids!" she thinks. "So this is what you get if two kids, with unlimited funds, take elements from the best that Muslim architecture has to offer, and reassemble them on a grand scale." 

The gardens, replicated from the Alhambra, were equally spectacular, even at night with their subtle lighting, lending interesting mix of light and shade. 

 

Alhambra Garden

 

The scale and beauty of the entire establishment took Angela's breath away. To think that the kids had done this as a game after reading an epic poem. Epic indeed!  To achieve it they simply wrote some code in The Cloud to amuse themselves while babysitting.  It was from The Cloud's virtual tours that they chose the elements they wanted to combine from existing buildings.  They'd built (created in code) agents in The Cloud to do the leg work: the architectural solution and resolution; the land acquisition; the surveying; the engineering of all kinds; the purchasing; and the fit-out; to name but a few resources at their disposal.

Yet they have never experienced their own creation. 

"It's just a game on their Cloud Consoles or on the big MV to them," she mused.

Tonight is fascinating. It's brought home to Angela that experiencing the world live continues to be more 'real' than even the best 'full immersion' virtual reality, in part because there is greater commitment live: 

"There's transport to and from and those boring bits that you can't just skip over and you can't simply flick to something more interesting or leave whenever you want. And I feel more vulnerable in this environment. I know that I can slip or have an accident, be hurt or even killed in the real world."

So she spent the next hour or so just roaming the premises in wonder.  Here were the world's most famous entertainers performing in numerous intimate or vast spaces like the numerous bars and restaurants; and everyone who is anyone in town or perhaps the world, is milling about rubbing shoulders.  She found herself constantly checking-out Seraglio's specifications through her Cloud Console in growing admiration of her younger sibling and her brilliant niece.

Given their uninhibited and potentially embarrassing behaviour, she soon realised that most customers are not even aware that they have agreed to be recorded everywhere within Seraglio, including the toilets and private rooms.  This is perfectly legal - cameras and body scanners are everywhere these days. Everyone ignores them. There are clear warnings at the entrance and in each gallery that cameras and body scanners are in use throughout the premises and the policy is published in huge and time-consuming legalise on-line and agreed to by every entrant. But many patrons are illiterate.  They are supposed to ask their VPA to interpret signs they can't read themselves but seldom do as it can take hours of boring listening.  Even the literate are so used to endless 'user agreements' that they frequently just accept them without reading. 

So, particularly in the pavilions used by the Seragigoló boys and Seracocotte girls for commercial copulation, there are dozens of cameras and scanners, covering every angle.  Angela quickly reviewed the ultra-high definition video images and audio the many cameras, microphones and multidimensional scanners were streaming to The Cloud.  Very revealing!  No wonder the Mayor got into such trouble here.

Once she had sated her curiosity Angela found a bar and ordered a cocktail.

Alcohol and coffee are the only drugs Angela uses, strictly in moderation.  She never gets drunk.  She needs to have her wits about her, particularly tonight at Seraglio.  It would not do to become another one of the pawns in the kids' Seraglio games.

She was sitting alone thinking and sipping her drink when the girls approached her table and sat down provocatively.  They were around her own age but Bogans.  These days no one is poor but there are still classes based on wealth, position, authority and family.

Contrary to Angela's initial expectation, Seraglio is for the upper echelons with very expensive everything, thanks to Charles and Alexandra's 'charge what the market will bear' policy and Alex's observation that: "celebrity is attracted to expensive because expensive translates to exclusive". 

Some who lacked the motivation to study or lack the family background still aspire to move up a social rank or two.  For a Bogan that means either achieving fame and celebrity themselves or 'marrying up'.  For one of little education, celebrity can be gained through sport.  But these days that means steroids and pain killers; a lot of training; and massive competition for a the small handful of positions.  Even then, 'Celebrity Sports Persons' form a small minority.  Not too many cage fighters of either sex get invited into the upper echelons of society.

Other forms of entertainment: singing; dancing; acting; modelling; painting; sculpting; writing; producing or just being interesting offer less boisterous and fundamentally health threatening routes to fame. Unfortunately most Bogans lack the education or motivation required to succeed in most of these.

So these girls were here with the price of a single drink to try and pick-up someone to pay for another and perhaps to find fortune and fame by osmosis. 

Angela thought the girls' motivation for being there was bizarre, totally alien to her.  She has spent her life avoiding the paparazzi that plagues wealthy families and scrupulously erasing any public mention of her existence.  And the kids' experience with their Titus Andronicus, had taught them the same lesson:

"Why would anyone actively seek notoriety?" she wondered:  "What's the benefit?  They'd be better off back at home, buying the latest Jet-ski or 'must have' fashion to wear for a week before it goes into their storage with all the other crap, after which it gets recycled."

Nevertheless she was here to see how 'the other half lived' and to forget her own troubles, so she bought the girls another drink and tried to find out more.  She discovered that Amber, Taylor and Phoenix had each tried desperately to become famous. They had separately appeared on MV reality talent shows but been eliminated early.  Then they had jointly worked as advertising models, which was where they met.  But so far it was all in vain.  A few friends and family were impressed and kept digital scrapbooks but no one seemed to recognise them in the street and no strangers had requested a 'selfy'. 

They'd got past reception because they are exceptionally good looking and 'beauty trumps money at Seraglio'.  This applies equally to both sexes. 'The Alexandra Rule' it's called, but the reception staff have no idea why.  Maybe exceptional beauty once got you free entrance to that historic entertainment palace in London?   The girls were apparently hoping to meet a wealthy and preferably famous person to partner with, man or woman seemed irrelevant. 

After some initial banter about how beautiful she is and her lovely expensive clothes, that seemed to involve stroking, arm-grabbing and pressing their breasts against her it came out: was Angela interested in any of them?

"No, and I don't meet your requirements.  I'm a systems analyst and comfortable financially but I'm not famous...  But I'm happy to buy you another drink," she replied.  They seemed to lose interest in touching her. "She's not famous!  And she's a stuck-up bitch."  Angela overheard Phoenix whisper to Amber, who was still flirting outrageously. 

But it was a definite: "Yes please!" to more drinks.

Of course Angela had noticed Amber immediately she'd entered the bar.  And the other two were very pretty as well.  But she had no interest in Bogans who thought celebrity was the only goal in life and thought she was a 'stuck-up bitch'.

After another round of drinks and more girl talk, the gossip turned to the NYGirls.   To the girls' surprise, Angela was amazingly well informed and was able to contribute some juicy inside 'goss'.  They soon overlooked the social gulf and so the four twenty year olds became best friends for the night. 

Angela found herself particularly attracted to beautiful but silly Amber who so wanted to meet a NYGirl.  Amber squealed with excitement and bounced on her chair, almost wetting herself, when Angela convinced her that she did really have access to the NYGirls by having Amber and her two friends invited to meet the NYGirls in their dressing rooms. When Chelsea appeared on Amber's PurseMV in person, to offer the invitation, Amber was awestruck, like a peasant presented to their queen. Taylor had to take over.

After that, all the girls' secrets and hopes for the future spilled out.  The hope of meeting a rich partner turned out to be well down their expectation list.  They had more realistically come here to be seen seducing a celebrity in the hope that the Virtual Talent Scout  for PornMV would notice them.  The girls naively thought that they could seduce some patron and be talent-scouted that way.  They knew virtually nothing about the recruitment process and they thought the Virtual Talent Scout  was a real person. 

Angela explained the meaning of the word 'virtual' and that conventional copulation with an ordinary celebrity would inevitably be boring.  "Most celebrities are not very good at it and you would go completely unnoticed in this environment, where every secluded spot seems to have couples going at it like field voles."

Angela had nothing against porn except that like alcohol and other drugs and even exercise, if taken in excess addiction results.  She knows that it is still associated with the sin of Adam among the many religious communities that thrive these days.  But the point at which it 'goes beyond the pale' is not clear.  Soft porn is everywhere.  It's most evident in product advertising and popular music MV performances.  And many modern dramas involve a real sex scene, with the actors really doing it. 

She explained that their best option would be to engage an expert.  They should each buy a session of professional intercourse, with all the extras, from a Seragigoló or if their preference ran that way, a Seracocotte.

In that case they could be sure that the Virtual Talent Scout would be watching. 

She explained that it was the same in the original harems, zinana, and seraglio where copulation was always observed and recorded by eunuchs and all the details were scrupulously kept to ensure the legitimacy of any children - just as thoroughbred horses must be carefully observed, when a stallion was put over the mare, for their foal to be legitimate. 

"What's copulation?" one of the girls had interrupted.

After trying coitus, coition, congress, intercoursefornication?  Angela finally had to break her rule against public crudity: "Fucking," she said.  "Oh," they all chorused, "why didn't you say so!" 

At that point Angela realised that they hadn't understood a word she'd been saying for the past half hour. 

At one point she'd been holding forth about visiting the historic London Eye, where first-time clients are often surprised when they are offered a 6D souvenir of their experience, made without their consent but probably deleted or overwritten if they are not interested. 

But here at Seraglio it's a record of an amorous encounter, merging video, surround-sound and with sensation data into a v-Fascinator  recording that clients can enjoy again as many times as they like, privately at home.  "It's a nice sideline for the Seragigolós and Seracocottes who are allowed to negotiate a price and keep the credits as extra income," she'd explained. 

So their blank gazes and fixed smiles had not been due to the drinks; just total incomprehension.  She might as well have been speaking Ancient Greek: What's the London Eye?  What's: consent; zinana; amorous; eunuch; encounter; negotiate; scrupulous?  Even: 'field vole'?  So she told herself:  "No more foreign or polysyllabic words.  Imagine I'm explaining things to little George. But I suspect that even he has heard of London."

So she explained again that they would only be talent-hunted if they could put on a professional, top performance.  "It's like that show Dancing with a Pro" she told them. "Anyone who is no good at dancing doesn't even make it onto the show."

They understood that perfectly well, they'd all tried-out for that show.

"So, in that case, if you are to have any hope of being selected, you need find or hire your own Pro to give you some lessons; and who will be your partner on the day, before you turn up to the audition. Don't you?" 

"Now you tell me," interjected Taylor.  "No wonder I failed that audition."

Angela ignored the interruption:

"In this case you'll need to perform in one of the Pavilions, the places with all the cameras, and do it with a professional  Seragigoló or Seracocotte to be noticed.  Otherwise forget the whole idea and try-out for the Bachelor Wants a Wife again."

"Noeh! We've tried that too many times.  They have too many girls already." Amber told her, as if Angela was the fool for not knowing this.

"And anyway," added Taylor: "Unless you are selected to be one of the 'the weird ones' or the one who 'had to pull out for some tragic reason', it's only the girl that gets engaged at the end who gets to be at all famous. And then it's for a couple of weeks.  There's no more interest except for maybe a follow-up next season when she explains that they are still an item and the marriage is sometime soon. Or that he was a bastard secretly having it off with one of the other girls.  Romantic!"

"Taylor's street-smart, despite her lack of education,"  Angela thought.  She'd never realised that Bogans can be so smart.  They just hadn't been interested or been motivated enough to getting her kind of education. "Family background, I suppose," she thought.  

She was liking these girls more and more.  Taylor was at least as clever as some of her better educated acquaintances. It would be fun to help the girls achieve their goal of becoming porn stars. 

"Making pure hard-core porn might be an intellectual challenge," she thinks.  "Porn attempts to represent physical sex devoid of involvement or affection. It's sex reduced to its animal essentials: inducing in the viewer the release of hormones and bodily fluids by means of brain arousal similar to that they would achieve with a skilled human partner:  Erica Jong's Zipless Fuck."

"It would be interesting to try to make a production centred on a range of body stimulation alternatives that is pure physicality, without a hint of romance, like the client exercising on different machines in a Gym." 

"Of course to carry on their species, all organisms exist in part or in whole to reproduce.  But humans uniquely have a brain that wants to introduce romantic love; and honour; and chivalry; and commitment; and often even our gods; into the reproductive equation.  Her goal would be to eliminate all these while somehow retaining physical appreciation and enjoyment of beauty and lustful enthusiasm; and passion; involving the entire physical being. That would certainly be a scientific challenge."

Somehow the idea that this would be an experiment in human psychology and physiology legitimised the project.

The girls had been chatting about some sports 'hunk' while she was meditating.

So she interrupted: "Look I'm up for a bit of fun. I don't want to do it myself but I'll help you if you are really set on being porn stars."  

Obviously she could use her inside knowledge if she became their coach.

"So do you want to fuck Amber before or after you help us," asked Taylor, "I've seen you looking at her."

"No! Neither." Angela assured her, shocked. 

"You can have us all, if that's what it'll take," said Amber. "We're up for it if you want us, that's why we came here." 

When she refused again they became suspicious of her motives. So to put them at ease she told them that they each had to pay her back double after they earned their first million credits.  She got them to make their mark on a real paper page in her old-fashioned notebook, with her real pen.  They'd never seen a notebook and it was a solemn act, as if they'd signed in blood. Now she was their manager.

Something was happening to her.  Not only had she ventured into the world alone but she had enjoyed it.  And now she had these girls, future porn stars, to manage.  They didn't know it but it was their lucky night. She was uniquely placed to grant them their wish.  She was their 'fairy godmother', with three Cinderellas to transform. She would make them mega-stars of porn.

But in spite of being street-smart they were incredibly naive.  She felt suddenly guilty that she would be using them to pursue a whim of her own.   So she told them: 

"You mustn't be too hasty - I mean, jump in too quickly.  This is not something that you'll be able to back out of once you've done it."

"Some sections of society condemn porn and they will verbally abuse you - call you nasty things.  And there's your reputation with your family and friends to be considered - think of your good name," she told them. "You'll have to be braver than me. I could never do it.  And there's a lot for you to learn and it's going to be hard work."

"But Porn Stars are huge,  like the NYGirls" said Taylor: "Last week there was a gi-normous crowd of fans that stopped traffic outside Sheena Blue's hotel.  A couple of fans even abseiled down ropes onto her balcony."

"Anyway," said Phoenix. "My family are very super straight.  They don't even know what porn is. They'd have no idea if I was a porn star." 

"Oh so you don't think some uncle or aunt or cousin might be a secret porn user?" said Angela. "And what happens if you get really famous and you're on every religious group's 'greatest sinners list'?  If you have the success you hope for it will be impossible to keep secret.  And those who are outraged are likely to want to feed their moral indignation. So you'd better count on losing friends from church and being shunned by your relatives."  They looked at her blankly - speaking Greek again.

So she tried their language: "The Bible-bashers are certain to find out and they'll give you shit!"

"Oh," they understood.

"I don't care about them!" said Amber, "I just want to be famous.  I'm going to be the most famous slut in the world!"

"Ok!" said Angela: "On that note, we should all go home and get a good night's sleep. And if you still want to do this tomorrow should get back here to Seraglio to begin rehearsals at midday."

As Angela climbed into bed she had a surprising sense of purpose and elation.  Tomorrow was going to be fun.

"I'll tell Edmund he was right, Seraglio certainly was worth a look."

Closing her eyes she thought about cause and effect.   Edmund told her recently, when proudly listing the abilities of his brilliant daughter that she was responsible for Alexandra's conception.  It had been make-up sex with Anne after the huge fight she caused. 

When she was only five she had walked in on Edmund and her sister Mary in bed.  She'd said nothing and they'd thought she was too young to understand what was going on; or to think it odd.  But she was just biding her time.  She waited until all three sisters and Edmund were at morning tea. Then, as if she was asking about the cake, she asked him if he intended to complete the trio by sleeping with her too. 

"You were a precocious brat," Edmund had said: "But look at you now, and look at Alex, I'm so proud of you both." He was cheering her up again.   

Without her intervention, her baby brother Charles wouldn't exist either.  "Dad only became aware of Samantha because I tried to sack her as my French tutor," she remembered.

"So I'm responsible for both of them being born," she thought. "So Seraglio would not exist except for me." 

She snuggled down and smiled happily.

 


That night Angela slept well and the following day she began her new business directing the girls (you can read about Angela's Midsummer's Night Dream  here but only if you sign up and log-in as a site member).

 

 

 

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