In a small villa in the French wine country, in the year 2390, the occupant lay asleep on a sofa, a cat curled up next to him.  Suddenly the sleeper's limbs jerked convulsively; dreaming of falling, he awoke with a violent jolt, displacing the indignant cat. "You'd think I'd have gotten used to that by now," he murmured to the cat.  Hearing a knock at the door, he got up to answer it, paused for a moment, putting his hand to the small of his back, then opened the door with a sigh, admitting a bald elderly man, who had a concerned look on his face and asked, "Are you all right?"

"Just a bad dream and a bad back.  I don't expect either one will kill me . . . right away.  At least I still have some hair."

The visitor nodded sympathetically and asked,"If you knew how difficult it was going to be, would you still have done it?"

"Yes, of course.  You're worth any amount of difficulty.  And believe me you've caused me a lot."

"Well, I could certainly say the same for you!  But you can still go back if you wish.  This isn't engraved in stone."

"They might take me back, but I made a decision, and, I might add, the most worthwhile decision I've ever made.  I don't regret it.  Never have, never will.  But it certainly does take some getting used to."

The cat began to meow.  "What is it now?" demanded its owner.  "You think you're the center of the universe, Beastie--do you know that?"

The visitor smiled.  "Well, you've certainly found a companion you can relate to--you two have so much in common."

"You wound me, Jean-Luc . . ."

("Who am I kidding?  Myself apparently.  Would I really make that sacrifice for anybody?   Not likely. Would it matter to him if I did?  Equally unlikely.  And what's with the cat?  I don't even like animals. Well, I've let my imagination run away with me again; that's the most implausible future I've dreamed up yet.  Sleeping next to a cat?  What'll I think of next?  The possibilities, apparently, are endless.")

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