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A Bottle of Old Wine

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Herbert Hyrel settled himself more comfortably in his easy chair, extended his short legs further toward the fireplace, and let his eyes travel cautiously in the general direction of his wife.

She was in her chair as usual, her long legs curled up beneath her, the upper half of her face hidden in the bulk of her personalized, three-dimensional telovis. The telovis, of a stereoscopic nature, seemingly brought the performers with all their tinsel and color directly into the room of the watcher.

Hyrel had no way of seeing into the plastic affair she wore, but he guessed from the expression on the lower half of her face that she was watching one of the newer black-market sex-operas. In any event, there would be no sound, movement, or sign of life from her for the next three hours. To break the thread of the play for even a moment would ruin all the previous emotional build-up.

There had been a time when he hated her for those long and silent evenings, lonely hours during which he was completely ignored. It was different now, however, for those hours furnished him with time for an escape of his own.

His lips curled into a tight smile and his right hand fondled the unobtrusive switch beneath his trouser leg. He did not press the switch. He would wait a few minutes longer. But it was comforting to know that it was there, exhilarating to know that he could escape for a few hours by a mere flick of his finger.

He let his eyes stray to the dim light of the artificial flames in the fireplace. His hate for her was not bounded merely by those lonely hours she had forced upon him. No, it was far more encompassing.

He hated her with a deep, burning savagery that was deadly in its passion. He hated her for her money, the money she kept securely from him. He hated her for the paltry allowance she doled out to him, as if he were an irresponsible child. It was as if she were constantly reminding him in every glance and gesture, "I made a bad bargain when I married you. You wanted me, my money, everything, and had nothing to give in return except your own doltish self. You set a trap for me, baited with lies and a false front. Now you are caught in your own trap and will remain there like a mouse to eat from my hand whatever crumbs I stoop to give you."

But some day his hate would be appeased. Yes, some day soon he would kill her!

He shot a sideways glance at her, wondering if by chance she suspected.... She hadn't moved. Her lips were pouted into a half smile; the sex-opera had probably reached one of its more pleasurable moments.

Hyrel let his eyes shift back to the fireplace again. Yes, he would kill her. Then he would claim a rightful share of her money, be rid of her debasing dominance.

He let the thought run around through his head, savoring it with mental taste buds. He would not kill her tonight. No, nor the next night. He would wait, wait until he had sucked the last measure of pleasure from the thought.

It was like having a bottle of rare old wine on a shelf where it could be viewed daily. It was like being able to pause again and again before the bottle, hold it up to the light, and say to it, "Some day, when my desire for you has reached the ultimate, I shall unstopper you quietly and sip you slowly to the last soul-satisfying drop." As long as the bottle remained there upon the shelf it was symbolic of that pleasurable moment.......