WELCOME TO THE FUTURE
A (W.T2.F.) Sunday Series
–Short Story Time–
Speculative fiction is a way to explore a future that may or may never exist, technologies that we can only dream of today, and of the capabilities to exploit or improve the Earth and human lives. For more short stories type “WTF” or “short story” in the site search bar.
After a long period of isolation and mental health issues, humanity ensured that no one would ever be alone again by enabling direct mind to mind communication. Unfortunately this blurred the line between individual and mass mentality and humans finally did achieve “humanity.”
The thousand pound robot moved meticulously from one end of the room to the other. It was a glowing beacon of heath, disinfecting with UV light and a whir of filtered oxygen. Andy followed its movement for a while, standing in a small holding chamber while the area was cleansed, his vitals checked and the latest news on how to cope during the pandemic blurred into the last three years of drone.
He was excited. He’d applied for the benefits of universal coverage, followed the #alonetogether campaigns, and each of the recommended guidelines to get to where he was today safe, and sound enough. Enough to qualify never to be alone again.
“The breakthroughs in connectivity will ascend us to the next generation of human-kind. One step for each man and woman, one step towards humankind,” said the newscaster.
The isolation chamber was a twelve hour process. Andy could sit down, stand-up, pace 5 meters in each direction, use the facilities, and access social media. He switched to the next channel.
“The FDAA has approved the L.INC technology for mass consumption. Over one quarter of the world’s population is pre-approved for use. Questions arise on the disruption of global sovereignty and the legitimacy of this offer, extending a government’s approval beyond its border to anyone who’s pockets can reach the depths of a bottomless pit.”
It was bleak news, Andy swapped the channel again.
“The FDAA has rapidly moved to support the government funded lab behind the L.INC that has been sold out for months. The first subjects are arriving at labs today, for questioning, testing, and final approval ahead of receiving the first injections of the L.INC, a 10G neurotransmitter that will change globalisation as we know it. The L.INC will enable mind-to-mind connectivity, the ability to open and close communications with anyone around the world who has a similar device, instantaneously. The government service is subject to a one-time fee, then free to use for life.”
It was good news. Andy’s hand slowed its involuntary tremor, his eyes drooped at the six hour mark in isolation, and by the time the twelve hour mark struck, he was awoken from a deep slumber by hazmat suited medical officials. They led him to the next screening where he was blasted with a cold film, before proceeding through the final barrier. Here, everyone wore regular uniforms. He was one of the first to arrive, and took his place next to the roughly tucked patient bed. For a simple procedure, it was a rather cool welcome.
Andy followed the actions of those to his immediate left and right. Shortly after the middle-aged woman to his right entered the space, a doctor indicated that the woman should lay down. First, she received an injection of muscle relaxer, followed by the L.INC neurotransmitter. There was no immediate visible change, but after some time, Andy noticed a glazed look settle on her visage, distracted answers, and slight incoordination as she stumbled from the patient bed to the transition area.
After a few sessions, Andy realised that he was still unattended. He felt a pang of fomo, endlessly curious as to what his fellows were experiencing, and a desperate urge to join their ranks. Upon flagging down a nurse, some hushed whispers, and a formally attired doctor’s approach, Andy was informed that there had been a mistake. He didn’t qualify.
Aghast, Andy listened to their reasoning. He’d answered too many A questions, left 5C unanswered, his track-record was inconsistent and he hadn’t signed up for the optional programs or volunteered for self-monitoring. The technology was in such high demand and his track record was far below the ranks of the prioritised citizens. He would have to wait.
In a daze he left the building. A simple open shut, open shut of two doors, and he was back to reality. The streets were near empty other than for the few *coffers of those who had succumbed to the microbes, neatly tucked away just in sight for collection, but not too blatantly exposed as to frighten the few neighbours who remained. By now, most would be in the holding-chambers anyway, soon to have access to the citizens of the world.
Andy returned to his flat. He messaged his flatmate, Aida, to see how things were, but received no reply. He rightly assumed she was in the transition area, acclimatising to the new world wide web. He stayed up until he heard the rap on the door and the gush of the airlock that isolated their home from any wandering microbes.
“Aida!” he said, excited to see her after the recent events.
“Bob?” she said.
“Aida?” he said, and she said hello back to him as if nothing had happened.
She then proceeded to throw him unusual glances, engaging with his gaze, and then diverting her eyes as if it were some awkward first crossing with a stranger.
“Aida?” he repeated. She totally ignored him, sat down on the sofa, sat up, looked down at herself, looked at him, seemed to forget he was there, and then stared off into some intriguing corner of the room.
Andy got up and walked the few steps to where she was sitting, on his preferred side of the sofa. He put his hand on her arm, squeezed, and seconds later she reacted with a solid stare.
“Who are you?” she said in a deep voice, sitting up slowly.
“Andy, your flatmate,” he said.
“I don’t live here, where’s Catherine? I live with Catherine…” her voice flatlined, becoming soft and unusually feminine, “Dan?” she said, falling back into a stupor.
Andy checked her pulse, pupil dilation, and temperature, all normal. His eyes fell to the implant just behind her ear. He reached forward, thought twice, and called the emergency line. No one picked up. He turned on the news.
“Today the CEO’s of the big five, Microhard, Ogle, River, Iris and Rbook, joined in solidarity to coordinate the security of L.INCs servers after its executives disappeared into the abyss of the world wide web of human-kind. After months of lobbying against the FDAAA’s approval of the government funded L.INC, warning of the widely unknown long-term and the short-term effects of HCPSUs (human-computer storage unit), they finally broke regulation and removed all FDAA commercials from their platforms, replacing these with regular updates of the crisis at hand, forever changing the relationship between the state, corporation and global citizen.”
Andy briefly left Aida’s side and returned with his old holoCP unit, picking apart several components and reconfiguring. The interface connected with his lense and opened a flash of 3D content and networking data. He captured the L.INCs network, but was solidly barred from joining the party. He looked back at Aida, and remembered, one person, one world wide web of humanity. Very carefully, he physically connected to her link, set a safety timer, and plugged in.
Five minutes later, Andy sat breathless on the sofa, he shot up to his feet and patted his body with his hands, slowed his breathing and smoothed his hair. He stumbled to the other end of the room and back, and checked AIda’s vitals that were slowly fading to a hint of pulse, and then nothing. He checked the network. She was there, or rather, they all were, with their signals massing, blending and merging into one. It was impossible to determine one from the next. It was a true melting pot of society.
Leaning back into the sofa, Andy couldn’t help but to laugh and cry at the same time. Today, about a quarter of the human population had achieved “humankind,” finally brought together as one. As for the rest of them, it was now without a doubt to him that it was their individualism that brought them together. A body couldn’t function as five feet. It needed a head, toes, knees, elbows… and then to do the various tasks at hand, it needed small hands, large hands, soft hands, strong hands and all sorts of different characters to bring them together.
By Anne McKinnon
What works for one isn’t going to work for everyone
Online identify & Avatars
“The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.”- William Gibson
ON A SERIOUS NOTE
*Coffers- referencing a world news update in the WSJ “In Ecuador’s Epicenter, Families Forced to Leave Dead Outside”.