The Far Flung Future of 1999

          The future is a scary place with towering insurmountable white walls. It’s a three mile square smack dab in the middle of Dis and its residents are almost unknowable. I had business there. I had a bit of something that they didn’t want me to have. It might have been a battery, maybe a bomb; it was plasticine, purple and has a coil. Haley was nervous; I was nervous too but I knew I didn’t have a firearm. Haley was less comfortable unarmed, despite her arms being twice mine in strength and length.
          “Maybe you should stay behind.”
          She seemed a little hurt by that but there’s not much logic that says I was wrong. After 2160, Humanity gets jumpy and you can never quite tell what a man who’s decided to wear a white lycra bodysuit with a bright red tie thinks is sensible. There was one on either side scanning traffic going in. Their posture told me that the power tools in their hands were actually weapons. I could almost make out the text being displayed on their huge granny sunglasses. I suppose it was weather and sports scores, maybe celebrity gossip.
          This corridor was about long enough to cross a decent river and we were quickly approaching the point where leaving would be inconvenient or worse, suspicious. If I didn’t return the purple thingmabop they’d come looking for it surely. The scanners were quickly approaching and the solemn ridiculous guards were beginning to pick up on the nervousness of my friend. I promptly found Haley’s hand and she looked down at me. I tried to sing a little under my breath.
          …out of the blue and into the black…
          The trick to lullabies is there not for the baby, they’re for the parent. I use to sing Sex and Candy when fiddling with diapers. Kept me calm. I was never any good at it though.
          I was hoping that there was a transitive property to my calm, despite it never working before. Seemed to. I stepped through the scanner first.
          1999, Homo Sapient. 91 kilos. Cleared for Sector 1.
          The LCD seemed smug. I wasn’t going to argue, especially when I had a favorable answer at home. It was Haley’s turn.
          ????, ????, 120 kilos. Contaminant.
          Red lights, sirens and powered drills aimed at my friends head: calm was gone. I was pointing what looked like a studfinder back at them; stunguns didn’t even really look intimidating back in the day. Every part of the standoff was bluffing to a degree, but they had 3 clear advantages: (1) I knew their guns killed (2) I had one feasible shot, while they were 2 (3) My gun only stunned. To my surprises, Haley had not pulled out that revolver of hers. Too bad, the Old West somehow just knew how to stay imposing through the years.
          After a couple seconds I holstered my incredibly dangerous Builder’s Square bargain bin weapon. Slowly I pulled out the purple thing and put it at my feet, very calm, very cool.
          “This is yours. We’re done?”
          They didn’t speak English, they didn’t deem it prudent. Their Hiatachis lowered to the ground. Me and my friend slowly backed out of the line. After an awkward close to a mile backtrack we were out.
          “Sorry I cost you that finder’s fee.”
          “Oh, wasn’t like I needed it.”
          True, it was clothes I needed… and food.
          “Amber?”
          “Uh huh?”
          “You’re holding my hand again.”
          So I was.

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Scene from an Italian Maturbation

      It goes from togas, to tunics, to tshirts, stopping ever so briefly to acknowledge that time when they wore black shirts and went mad. There are the ruins of Rome littered through out, even in the part with the togas. Perhaps the artist was giving the people what they want. Perhaps the artist didn’t think anyone knew the difference. It is vibrantly colored though, and the landscape is breathtaking but the faces are flat and uniformly pensive turning towards anger. It really seems to denote a lack of emp… Bernard is trying to be better, trying to be nicer. Trying to stay in the moment and…

     not get distracted by the mural on the wall of the Italian restaurant while his date is trying to make eye contact before the breadsticks arrive. Bernard’s gaze rises from her big strong hands to her lovely blond hair that will soon enough turn back to red if he doesn’t work on those roots. The contacts she’s wearing create the most beautiful emerald eyes. She lets out a small uncomfortable grunt as she gives a toothless closed smile, perhaps alluding to a quirk leftover from preteen braces. He could just not be happy with her date.

     Really though? Who wouldn’t want Bernard? He’s got bad breath, an expanding midsection, receding hairline and a pair of glasses thicker and squarer than a nerd appearing in a John Hughes film. He’s got a mean cold exterior that should make him untouchable to the under 18 crowd. Yet he’s here, in a restaurant that costs more than he pays for groceries.

     “Linguine carbonara for the gentleman and water for the ahem other gentleman.”
     “Wait, we haven’t gotten breadsticks yet.”
     The waiter is already gone.
     “What? Regretting your dining choices Bernie?” Leslie is playful in tone but obviously self conscious about being the only person eating at the table.

     Bernie’s eyes wander down to the plate as the fork meets the thin slice of sausage drenched in thick red sauce. Leslie brings it up to his mouth and as her pearly white teeth bite, mercilessly tearing into the meat. Her lips were… that dark red she wore was… it had a way of breaking men down to their base. He’s about to jump across the table and take her but then she repeats and oh god, it’s even better. Again, and again until Bernie is left limp and flaccid and desperately glad that Leslie left for the little girl’s room.

     In his post vicarious carnivorous ecstasy he turns round to see if anyone else is having nearly as good of a dining experience. He finds a skinny 14 year old boy in a black flat top glaring at him while nursing a peanut butter jelly sandwich. Bernard knows the boy to be named Jessie. He knows Jessie from school. Jessie used to be quite the bully when Bernie was 12, when Jessie was 14. The thought occurs that Leslie has been switching genders. Bernie might be willing to let that go and let that night ride out into a new satisfactory conclusion.

     “I really don’t know anything.”

     She’s not even at his table yet, but he can hear her heels click behind him. He’s not going to turn around. He knows what Leslie looks like. Leslie is the type of girl who only agreed to go to the fanciest restaurant in their town on his dime because she liked him and she was still being charitable. She was a good 3 ranks above him in any order that mattered: beautiful, witty, charming. That was 17 years gone and she’s probably even better now. She’s sure as hell not still 15 and not reliving that time she
     “You know after this, I went down to the gas station, horked down a microwave burrito, went to my house and cried myself to sleep. We going to revisit that too?”
     The flesh draped over his shoulders was close enough to how he remembered Leslie, from that time he received her after her prom date was done with her. She puked on Bernie’s Burberry coat and Bernie in turn thought maybe, just maybe he was owed a go. Good times. The voice wasn’t hers, no that was probably the real voice, too many cigarettes smoked to be Leslie proper.

     “You know what we want.”
      “No. I knew. Then they erased it. I wouldn’t be a trusted courier if I kept the cargo.”
     “Well, I know what you want”
     Bernie sighs wishing that dreaming really could be enough for him.
     “You will soon.”
     The courier business is all about fight and flight. Bernie’s been told that it helps to have a friend. Bernie has Jessie which is something like a friend but at this point Jessie is just something scarier than Leslie and he’s switched open a curvy stiletto. Quieter too. Soon Bernie and the man who played Leslie will wake up in a motel bathroom but for now Leslie is crying and dying while Jessie begins to carve into the girl that isn’t. Bernie turns away helpless in the presence of his own devices, desperately not thinking while residing in his own mind.
     The breadsticks come as Bernie is leaving up the rabbit hole.
     His eyes open and there’s a man twitching next to him on a pink tile floor in a plush blue bathrobe. They had had a $300 night in a decent hotel and for a moment Bernard feels guilty about underappreciating the taker on the floor. Then he remembers what they do.
     Never feel guilty, don’t begrudge them because this is the work you do but never feel guilty for hurting a taker.
     He’s out the door and soon to call an ambulance because there is a man twitching on the floor and these things call for an ambulance but these things do happen. The man will be fine. The man will surely be fine.

     These secrets are getting pricey.

In The Sixth Millenium, There is an Answer to an Old Question

“Anyone ever ask you what the measure of a man is Aiden?”

The answer was sitting on the table to the left of a tape ruler. The rest of him was on scales all around the sterile white room. Amber Banes was diligently disassembling as much of the man as she could. 2 liters of blood were sitting on the ground in glass jars. With a plop, the kidneys were put aside to be inspected later for viability. Briefly she glanced at Aiden who was standing at the edge of the room trying to muster up some emotion for the proceedings. She turned back to the body, revealing the red highlights of her black bobbed hair.

“Well Granddad?”

“ Stop calling me that. I’m ten years younger than you.”

“No honey, you just lived ten years less than I did. The birthday still proves you’re my senior.”

“That’s fine. Is that Trevor Ashton?”

“Says so on the chip.”

“Trevor Ashton, awarded Hero of Earth in 2166?”

“As far as I know.”

If Aiden had his druthers, he’d be smoking and pacing up and down the ten mile compound. A troubling thought could always be beaten down with the proper medication. Sooner or later, he’d out pace it and find a rational, comforting answer. This was not to be as the fruit of Kentucky had died long ago and Aiden had work to do.

“ How does a man who survives impalement, plasma discharge and two painful divorces die?”

“A steel beam removes his head apparently.”

“So you’re saying that he’d be a poor recruit for an army?”

“ I would be if it was 4000 years ago. Now, we’ve got capabilities that… it’s magic. I got frozen a doctor, now I’m a shaman.”

The scalpel was put on a tray so that she could grab a pair of hedge clippers.

“ Why did you leave?”

“My arthritis got to the point that I couldn’t tie a knot: couldn’t work. Turns out all I needed was a cream.”

Plop. The heart was pretty big for a small man. Out of its element it was a rather unimpressive piece of meat. It might just save someone else’s life but that was potential. At that moment it was a bloody junction. The salvage mission continued onwards.

“Well Mr. Smith, do you need him or not? I really don’t want to remove his intestines if I don’t have too.”

“No, I kind of figured I’d get the whole package.”

“Wouldn’t be so picky myself. I’ve got sot some natural born killer heads back there.”

“I’ve got better prospects.”

“Do you need a new kidney?”

“Three’s sort of crowd.”

“Picky. Picky.”

Plop. The liver was now weighed. If you were one to subscribe to the idea that this was where the soul resides you might think Trevor had some serious evil inside him. Could very well be a symptom of the toilet wine.

“I was suppose to go somewhere else.”

“Senior moment?”

“I was told when you stop living you go somewhere.”

She stopped for a second. With her right hand she maneuvered to touch his shoulder but remembered the blood at the last possible moment.

“Do you dislike where you are?”

As if the patron saint of awkward moments, Ikay bust into the room with what looked like a tricorder and an insanely cheery smile.

“What’d you get me Amber?”

For a moment the two regarded Ikay like she had horns growing out of her bald head. Her cheerful disposition could be so irksome. Problem with that was, Ikay just wanted to save someone. Try as he might, Aiden couldn’t fault the kid for that.

Trevor Ashton died at the age of 60, 1.65 meters tall, 65 kilograms heavy. He had 155 confirmed kills and in his life he saved 20 men. In his death, he saved another 21.

Turn Off, Work, Turn On

Love was on hold with all other emotions. These holds were getting longer and longer. Victoria was thinking about installing a button behind her right ear so she could toggle her emotions more easily. Without need of the adjustment chair, she could just turn off when a driver rode her bumper or a customer demanded a refund for used food. She could turn on when she saw roses or butterflies.

No, this way was easier to get through. You never know when an inconvenient memory might change one’s mood and ruin even the sunniest of days. No, this way was better: 9-5 robot, 5-9 human being.

Beep

“Cash or credit?”

Beep

“Paper or plastic?”

Beep

“Would you like the whole till or just the denominations of a dollar and more?”

Beep

The adjustment chair was at home with all it’s knobs and lights. All those customizable settings that could give you so many specific emotions and yet Victoria used the thing to just turn hers off. It was so wasteful, in fact it occurred to her that having the thing on at all was pretty wasteful so she unplugged it. It’s actually a pretty good place to keep ones clothes for the next day.

Rewriting History on a Mini Cassette Tape

`I want you to know that I couldn’t change this. I tried but I guess there is only so much the universe will allow a man to do. There’s some alcohol right above your head. It’s going to hurt but I think you can reach it. Pour it on the wound. Yeah, I know, more pain but at least it’s cleaner. The coroneh… the doctor said the wound didn’t nick anything. The trick is to keep you from bleeding out.

There’s some linens in that basket you dropped right? Okay, grab the bed sheet and just pull it over to you. Put it over the wound and keep pressure there. Now, there’s help coming, so hold on. Luckily for you, Mrs. Jefferson is the nosiest woman in the neighborhood and she heard glass shatter. She thought it was a domestic dispute, but that’s okay. She’s still being a good person at heart.

They do catch him. His name is Herman Muniz. The vicious little idiot tries to pawn our television. I wanted to kill him but it was too late, he was already in custody. Not that I would have been able to do anything to the punk. You were the stronger one of us and you can barely throw a softball. I’m just a sap. I’m sorry here I am bemoaning life without you and you’re still here. What’s wrong with me?

Don’t answer that. Now if you did like you did the last time when you died, you started to check the messages right before he jumped you with that knife. If I got this right the officer is coming to the door right now and things are about to move very fast. Try not to tell Alex about this, I, I mean he, won’t understand. Honestly, I just barely do. It’s unfair to unload on him just how crazy technology will get in the next few years.

I miss you Nancy, don’t let him miss you too.

The Pragmatist and the Uzi

The pragmatist in Jeffery told him that there was no better option than to just open up with automatic fire. The uzi that was sitting in his briefcase would empty the restaurant in fifteen seconds. It would all be over, especially Jeffrey’s career as a bodyguard. The more he thought about it, the less it made sense to answer the awkward silence with gunfire. Maybe, just maybe, his employer could figure out an interesting conversation topic without mass slaughter.

Really, pragmatism is slightly overrated. Also, Jeffery’s pragmatist seemed to be broken. He removed the ear piece and put it in his pocket. These things were still way too damn buggy. His employer would have to deal with his life being entrusted to a humanist for at least two more generations of tech.

The Appealing Fiction of the New Old Friend

“They usually send women after me, leggy women.”

Paul looked at Bernard, waiting for the rest of that sentence. Bernard simply went for another sip of coffee. The place was the kind that had bags labeled Sumatran, scones and a severe dislike of any Starbucks terminology an errant customer might sputter. They sat on stools, neither touching the ground. The sun was glaring in on them. Paul was drinking a Hawaiian blend that cost money just to think about, black. Bernard was drink milk and sugar and regretting the little coffee that happened to be in his cup. It was probably either arabica or erotica. Either way, it was unwanted.

“Are you going to finish that sentence?”

“They wanted something too. You’re just a bit more subtle about it.”

For a moment there was hate in those beautiful blue eyes but it was quickly quelled and pushed down. Paul was a very collected type. Every article of his three piece suit was aligned exactly to the center. His part was immaculate, despite revealing an unfortunately large forehead. To be impolite is tantamount to murder in the deliberate and long elaborated scruples of Paul.

“Bernard, I’m your best friend. I would never.”

Bernard however was wearing a second hand black sports jacket with green chinos, both stained. His hair was receding and never combed. There was nothing hiding the ugliness of Bernard and he felt that to be somewhat of a public service. The bits of honesty he could afford were few and far between.

“We’ve been friends since 1991 right?”

“Yeah, Ms. Richard.”

“No.”

“Richards?”

“No, we’re not friends. You’re just another guy trying to take something from me.”

“Don’t treat me like that Bernard.”

“Paul when you walked into this coffee shop, I didn’t know you. It’s hard for me to remember that but I do.”

“If you keep on turning on your friends like this…”

“I won’t have any, which is why I don’t have any.”

“You got me Bernie.”

“Not even my mother called me that. Kudos for the ambition but you can’t just rewrite a lifetime of being alone.”

In Bernard’s occupation one must have introspection because that’s where one keeps the product. Deep in the wrinkles, where the lightning travels, there is a host of secrets to keep straight for various employers. Each one is stored and cataloged inside an incredibly complete timeline. All of this is carefully scrutinized whenever faced with new and often contradictory information. You don’t survive in the courier business without a really good rear view mirror.

“You know Paul, if you had just asked maybe I’d help you.”

“Would it help if I asked now?”

“No, you must be my old friend for at least two weeks before I trust you again.”

Paul slowly dismounted from the stool and grabbed his coat. As he walked out the door, Bernard knew he’d be a good friend if it wasn’t for the incompatible occupations.

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