Two people sit on a bench, underneath a gazebo, waiting for a storm to pass.
The person on the left is dressed conservatively, wearing a sweater, jeans, and a pigeon-faced mask. The person on the right wears a pink button-up, purple pants, and their face is obscured by a geometric outline of a woman’s head.
The two sit quietly for a bit. Both stare straight ahead.
The one with the geometric outline of a woman’s head breaks the silence, “Such an odd storm,” they say, outwardly—not directed at the person with the pigeon-faced mask—but out into the world. The voice comes out harmonizing with itself, a low tone and high tone, like two people speaking at once. A silence weighs between them, briefly.
“I remember seeing something like this a few years ago,” the one with the pigeon-faced mask says finally, “lightning clusters in the city, electric hail in the mountains.” The pigeon-faced person’s voice is muffled, like an anonymous whistle-blower on the nightly news.
The voice doesn’t suit the pigeon aspect of the public persona, but customized voice alteration takes some technical know-how. The modding community is out there and offers hundreds of voice settings, from “cats meowing” to “gender swap” to “russian accents,” but most people don’t bother to change their settings from the defaults.
“Ah,” says the one with a geometric outline of a woman’s head, “I stayed inside up until about two years ago, so I must have missed it.”
The one with the pigeon face finally turns to look at the one with the geometric outline of a woman’s head. Behind the mask, right above the beak, eyes move up and down, taking in the whole picture of the one with a geometric outline of a woman’s head.
“You’re lucky, you know,” the pigeon faced one says, “It was really miserable for a while there.” A lightning ball cracks behind the gazebo, and both of them glance over at it, briefly. The ball spins in place, electricity popping and whizzing around it, before it disappears with a loud pop.
“I’ve been outside my whole life,” continues the pigeon-faced one, “I worry a lot of about what they know about me from my youth, before the masks were popular. You know, when I was a kid, we’d just wear surgical masks to hide our faces. How naive we were thinking that would work!”
The one with the geometric outline of a woman’s head leans over, closely to the pigeon-faced one, “I’d be lying if I said it didn’t get a bit lonely, though. Everyone in my block was a bit boring, that’s why I ended up leaving, to see who else existed.”
“A good approach,” says the pigeon-faced one, “I know this is strange to some people, but I met my partner outside in a park just like this on the other side of the city, ‘Benedicia Nuka Gardens’, have you been?”
“No,” says the one with a geometric outline of a woman’s head.
“It’s wonderful,” says the pigeon-faced one, “if you like this park, I highly recommend it, especially once the electric storms calm down. It’s amazing seeing so many people gather at one spot. Sometimes dozens, I’ve heard, but I’ve never seen so many people in a single place at once.”
“That does sound wonderful, I’ll make a note to go there. Finding new people outside your block is so hard.”
“Don’t I know it.”
The two return to silence. The storm continues, disinterested in slowing down.
“I’m going to miss my transfer, so I guess I have to go out into this,” says the one with a geometric outline of a woman’s head, “It was nice meeting you.”
“Likewise,” says the pigeon-faced one. “Go to that park, sometime.”
The one with a geometric outline of a woman’s head nods and gives a slight wave before jogging out into the storm. The geometric head sizzles and cracks in the storm, obscuring itself and the person below it, seeming to disappear into nothing.