BY Karl Wenclas

The exclusive mall waited in an obscure landscape of woods and trees, at the end of a single road after three or four turns. The two young women arrived in Annabel’s Rimac Nevera– most expensive electric automobile on the planet.

“This is the mall,” Annabel said. “It never advertises. It doesn’t need to.”

She massaged the door handle. The Nevera produced 1900 horsepower, went 0 to 60 in under two seconds, had a top speed of 258 miles per hour and sold for $2.5 million. Annabel’s divorce present to herself. 

The two women stepped from the emerald green car like electric goddesses, appearing tall and sleek, Annabel color-coordinated in magenta and gold, her dark-haired sidekick Tasha Stasi– an inch shorter and a few ounces heavier– in silver and black. Carrying small Louis Vuitton handbags matching their outfits, in their persons the women proclaimed conspicuous consumption. Walking billboards for extreme wealth. Jumpsuits, shoes, hair, earrings, eyebrows, makeup, perfume– each woman presented an entire aesthetic package. No need to enter a museum to gaze upon art. You could admire them

Confident? Yes! Bordering on arrogance. Two women who’d made their way by perfect exploitation of contemporary social media and the Third Industrial Revolution. So well did they use the tools of electronic hype and hucksterism (not as well as the mogul himself of course) that not a sliver of doubt could enter their well-groomed heads. 

CONFIDENCE: The belief you can achieve anything– the first necessary component in so doing.

The sidekick, Tasha, was a popular podcaster whose ideas bounced from post-left to post-right and back again, depending on mood and the perceived winds of popularity and opportunity. Tasha embodied Total Flexibility. Adaptable– able to adjust constantly like Orwell’s depiction of switching sides: “Are we at war with Eurasia or Eastasia today?” Against right or left?– and within a week, often a day, her legions of podcast viewers would fully know she’d always held her current beliefs. 

Tasha’s tactical pliability extended to her friendship with Annabel, whom Tasha admired for many sterling attributes, but mainly for her bank account. (If actual revolution ever hit– they’d heard rumors it might– Tasha would be at the front of the throng, carrying a red flag.)

A doorman greeted them obsequiously as they entered the elegant mall. Sun glistened down from skylights, adding a sheen of dazzling clarity and glamor. Arrays of boutique goods awaited: clothes, jewels, shoes, scarves, sandals, furnishings, desserts. Caterings to the good life. A remaining sliver of lavish comfort atop a civilization showing cracks. 

Yesterday, holds had been removed from Annabel’s bank accounts and credit cards. Freddy had decided to be generous. (Half-a-billion was a sliver of his total wealth. He made that in interest in a week.) Annabel immediately texted Tasha: “Let’s go shopping!”

Shop they did. Store after store. Though they envisioned walking back to the car afterward with arms loaded with fashionable thick-plastic green bags carrying the names of elite brands, in reality they arranged for their purchases to be delivered– save for one small gold-colored purse which matched Annabel’s outfit. She ditched the Louis Vuitton bag. 

“Here,” she told the clerk. “Give it to a needy person.”

(Editor’s Note: The underpaid clerk kept the handbag for herself.)

One of Annabel’s credit cards was uniquely new, of a kind Tasha had never seen before.

“I love the glow of plastic in a mall!” Annabel exclaimed, her eyes filled with enthusiasm.

“Can you imagine a more glamorous time?” Annabel asked when they stood outside again in California sunshine, and a valet brought the gleaming emerald Rimac Nevera around.

Tasha smirked, looked, turned her head, puckered her mouth, but didn’t respond.

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