a dark future blog…


January 25th, 2033 by d.s.

The city had been fairly decent for a change. When you are on the streets a lot , cold and slush just don’t sell. This past week the cold has been down into the negative numbers. Today it seemed like it would warm up. It was about 30 F at lunch. Now the wind is picking up and there’s snow in the air. It looks like we’ll have to deal with some weather after all. Mother Nature’s a bitch. I plan on holing up here and jacking into the Net to avoid dealing with it. Maybe it will go away on its own.

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February 12th, 2033 by d.s.

I’ve started teaching in my spare time. Like I have any of that. I have the loud ‘tick tock’ of the clock pounding in my ears all day, and I decide to spend my evenings and weekends preparing class lectures and teaching. I get a rush out of it though, getting up in front of a room of people who get a grade if they listen to me. It can be addicting to have people hang on your every word, when just an hour earlier some Johnson was telling you how stupid you are. So I climb into my little red, late model sports coupe and fight the traffic of the sprawl to cross the city and arrive at the University campus just in time for another three or four hour class, once a week. So I’m either jacked into the Net or racing across the Sprawl for more hours a day than I care to think about… but it keeps me from turning into an obese cyber-addicted geek behind my console all day, and it forces me into the grit of the real world. Being on campus takes me back to my early undergrad days. I feel detached from the daily grind, as if I am in a surreal, virtual world on campus. The clock tower stands out at the center of the campus, and the winter air seems brisk as I watch my breath condense on my walk back to the car. I like what I’m doing. It keeps me alive. It gives me perspective. I’ve had many other jobs… technician, a computer salesman at Manny’s Cybermart, a chauffer for cadavers… maybe this is a sign that things are starting to pay off. Well, I’d better not jinx things. Later…

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March 28th, 2033 by d.s.

I’m taking the tube across the Sprawl today. I guess I’ll be doing that a lot more now. Gasoline was once the lifeblood of the U.S. economy. Wars were fought over it. A yellow haze of hydrocarbons floated permenantly over the Sprawl, like a bad hangover. Now it’s all about hydro and hybrids – my little red gas hog is outmoded… politically incorrect. Antique is another word for old crap. You can’t find gas and you can’t find parts for old cars – at least neither come cheap these days. So I’m stressed out – What’s new? We all walk a fine line between reality (whatever that is) and the deep end. I was standing too close to the tracks earlier and a monotone voice came out of nowhere and said, “Step away from the granite edge.” It’s a metaphor for my life – I’m leaning over, peering into the abyss, standing precariously close to the granite edge. If I slip and take that plunge, it will be a dark spiral down, with no way back. Maybe it all adds up, the years spent swimming through the data streams – looking for patterns. The brain starts to act differently when you get back to the coarse, stank reality. But you can hide it. Things aren’t all ones and zeros here. There’s no checksum run on your humanity. It’s all about appearances here. So you can slide by; fake it. No one needs to know your secret. You play the game and hide behind your Shadz – just another guy in an overcrowded Sprawl. Well, this is my stop. Time to turn off; unplug; go numb; blend in.

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April 24th, 2033 by d.s.

The Sprawl is one of those things that looks good from a distance. When you look at it from the restaurant on the 100th floor of the Zaytec Building, the city is beautiful as it spreads out below. At night the glow of tail lights make the streets and arteries of transportation pulsate like data flows on the net. As you sip your martini, the Sprawl is Art. Most of the beautiful people don’t ever walk at lower street level, where the urban decay shows the roots of the old city. Where all the litter settles and the ugly washes off the city and pools, gray and dull. The poor and disinfranchised live here. They walk. They don’t have the latest hydro-burners that ride the high street levels and park in the expensive garages with drivers and gates the latest in shiny plastic and chrome. The underbelly of the city is grime. It gets on your clothes and skin and gives you a ghost-like palor. If you live here you know. You know because of the persistant cough from years of testing biological agents on the poor, and because you don’t have health insurance. You know because the grime gets under your fingernails and you can’t ever seem to get it out. You know because you are close enough to see the pixels.

What really separates the haves (above) and have-nots (below)? Is it fate? Is it education? Is it that some eagerly play the game, and others like me detest the game because it is all fake smiles and platitudes and there is no real susbstance to it? Cheating the poor out of their savings, or the elderly, or the sick, or the many who get involved with the law because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time? Real-Estate salesmen, doctors, lawyers – all with their special cliques and circles of friends who all dress alike and think alike? Why do the people who play the political games and accept society at face value end up with the high-rise apartment, maybe a cabin at the lake. Vacations and perks. While the rest of us who want to think and feel freely, who are creative and demand justice, equality and freedom of expression end up down here? I’m educated. I’m capable. I’m also a geek. Technically capable and quick to question authority. If you are close enough to smell the bullshit and ask, “Why?” then you are only destined to rise so far in the world. I guess I can take comfort in the fact that most geniuses never became rich, but were rather poor and subjugated by the wealthy morons who play the game well and don’t have a clue otherwise. Some of us feel that to sell out is moral defeat, while others in society play it like a board game, only interested in the things they can acquire before they die. For all the frustration I feel (the liquor courses through my veins as we speak), I can rest better knowing that I am a unique individual who is poor, but in a way superior to those who buy into the latest theory on management and economics without so much as a thought. I’ll sleep well tonight (not just because of the liquor – that’s just to remove the veneer of frustration) because I can see the pixels, and moreover because I want to see the pixels.

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May 1st, 2033 by d.s.

It’s May Day in the Sprawl. Just a day like any other day. No one remembers the Cold War, or knows what May Day signifies, they just know the weather has been decent lately and the days are getting longer. People seem to sense the summer coming on. It isn’t oppressive yet, like August, when you walk outside from an air conditioned building and it’s like hitting a wall. The thick, humid atmosphere makes you start to sweat as soon as you enter it. It has the smell of the city. It’s such a dramatic change from indoors that light itself seems to bend as it goes from one medium to the other. Well, like I said, it’s not like that yet…

I’m sensitive to the weather because the car is gone and I’m riding public transportation again. I ride in the discrete annonymity of a brightly lit bus or subway. No one looks at anyone else, just down at their feet. Riding the bus is a humbling experience. In a way, it’s the freedom of not having to worry about a broken car, insurance, and all that goes with owning a car in the Sprawl. But on the other hand, that belief quickly gets old and you are soon enough willing to brave the insane traffic and outrageous parking prices just so you can have that perception that you actually have control of something in your life. You don’t really. The routine of the bus is always the same – as long as you are there on time, you get where you’re going on time. If there is something I like about public transportation, it’s the feeling that I’m on time and more reliable. That is, of course, until the summer repair season hits.

The dog days of summer haven’t hit, but now that the weather is consistant the streets and bridges seem to all be under construction. One thing that has changed little in the past century is the “make-work” programs dreamed up by bureaucrats in the Department of Transportation. If I were a violent man, I might suggest a lynching was in order. Because the union workers won’t work at night, the total cost to the Sprawl of the daily commute has jumped immesurably. Sitting on the bus, as the trip to the University used to take 20 minutes by car, and 40 minutes by bus, now stretches to an unbearable 90 minutes each way. Streets are reduced to single lanes, bridges are blocked off, traffic is re-routed, assholes in cars try to circumvent the queues by passing on the shoulder and waiting for some sap to let them cut in front of the line (and there always is one!) I just know that what has become a pain now will get only worse as it warms up.

One way or another, the construction will go until the fall and then take a break for a few winter months before starting up again. Plenty of time for drivers to forget any of the humility they might have gained by sitting in line each and every morning and afternoon. It’s bad enough that no one knows how to merge or use their blinkers, but the construction just stresses everyone out and pushes them closer to the breaking point in a place where the tension goes up exponentially with the temperature. It’s pretty normal now, which is a sick thing to say, but in the Sprawl in the heat and humidity of August, with the city in gridlock people get road rage and tempers flare. Angry words turn to riots that ripple throughout the streets of the Sprawl. Then the police suit up in their riot gear and suppress the unrest. A few people are killed (maybe blamed on heat stroke or gangs) and curfews are inacted for a month, and some people are arrested and some just disapear. Then the heat dies down and the water rationing ends and the curfews are lifted and the construction season ends. A cycle of discord brought on by an increasingly artificial, antisocial, over-governed, society – consumed by commercialism and blinded by the very technology that was supposed to free it. All I know is that I am glad I have air conditioning and a high-speed data line in my apartment. When the semester ends, I won’t be teaching again until January, and I don’t plan on leaving my aparment or taking the bus unless I absolutely have to, until the temperature and stress level goes back to a safe and bearable level. Maybe I can finish up this job for this Johnson who hired me to locate someone for him, then I can get out of the Sprawl for a while and relax.

Well, it’s my stop. I’ve gotta go.

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August 15th, 2033 by d.s.

[…………..session established…………..]

Every eleven years, solar activity reaches a maximum. Solar flares and coronal mass ejections are more common during the Solar Max. When the Sun aims toward Earth and shoots off a billion tons of charged particles moving at a million miles an hour, all Hell can break loose. That’s what happened. That’s why I’ve been offline. Down and out in a high-tech world without power and communications. We weren’t prepared and we paid the price.

Sometime in the past two months, the days are sort of a blur and me without my digital counterpart to remind me about things like this… activity on the Sun picked up. We have had issues every couple years with certain old satellites. No biggie. But this year was different, huge flares targeted Earth and what would have gone mostly unnoticed a few solar cycles ago, had a big impact this time around.

There was little warning. When the energetic wave of alpha particles and protons hit, solar powered satellites in their path were put out of commission. The great mass ejection of fast-moving Hydrogen gas pushed back the Earth’s magnetic field, which usually envelopes the planet and channels charged particles toward the poles, leading to the Northern Lights. With the Earth vulnerable, the effect was devestating. All the satellites that weren’t specially sheilded, which was about two-thirds of them, were destroyed or sent spinning out of their orbit. Many burned up in the Earth’s atmosphere. It offered a good show. Shooting stars filled the sky. Normally, the light polution of the Sprawl would prevent you from viewing such a spectalcle, but the violent wave of energy that hit also took out the National Power Grid. Transformers blew, and most cities were plunged into darkness for days.

For the most part, computers and electronics on the ground were unaffected. They weren’t directly taken out, but without electricity and communications, they were useless. Then the riots and civil unrest came like a third wave.

In the Sprawl, you look out for your own. In times of emergency, people watch out for one another. The riots were to be expected. So, most people stayed at home, expecting the governments to provide military support. They were safe at home, for the first few days. Then people started dying from the heat. People needed food and water. Clean water. Safe food. It wasn’t pretty. It was the kind of thing they say could never happen. We were living through the aftermath of a war we never fought.

I had friends outside the city, and I walked and hitched rides and left the Sprawl. It kept me alive, I’m sure of that. It was over a week before power was fully restored, and then we had rolling brown-outs. Emergency aid helped those in need, but by the time it was all said and done, the population of the planet had been reduced by a few million.

The Sprawls were hit the hardest. The dense megalopolis that spread down along the coastline was in gridlock. And the summer had just started to heat up. The Feds lost the ability to track people with the RFID tags and biometric scanner, so anyone with the nerve could get through the checkpoints. Bullets still worked though. The private police of the mega-corps weren’t afraid to use them either, to protect their property. The mega-corps had generators, and the mega-rich were above all the dismay in their air conditioned high-rises. Hydrogen generators were quickly brought online to keep them cool, while the masses below were left to the heat and the riots.

I have to sign off now. Running on battery power. I’m still not back in my apartment. I don’t know if I have much to go back to there. It’s going to take months to stablize the cities still, to get them back to some state of normalcy. And, years to replace all the burnt out infrastructure. The satellites and power stations, electronics, lost data. Destroyed by a unforgiving nature and the violent side of Man.

Did I find the guy I was searching for? I’m sure I won’t hear from the Johnson again, but yes. I found him. For what good it will do. I imagine prisoners didn’t fare well through all this. And for all my efforts, the credits I earned are probably so many lost bits in the now defunct data stream. But I’m resiliant. I can bounce back. I’ve got more motivation and purpose now than I’ve had in a long time, and I think that having to rely on myself and not use the Sprawl as an excuse and my electronics as a crutch will bring out the best in me. I only hope in the long-run it makes us all stronger.

[…………..session disconnected…………..]

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This is a story of a future in which the population keeps growing, technology keeps advancing, and people are caught in the crossfire between an Orwellian government and corrupt mega-global corporations. The world of the Sprawl is a dark, urban dystopia, full of conflict and passion and a growing divide between the highest and lowest echelons of society.

Follow Johnny Dark, as he dives deep into The Net, to mine data and search for patterns in the data stream. All along, Johnny tries to make ends meet and stay alive as society follows a dark spiral into chaos.

This story presents posts in chronological order, then to now, top to bottom.

To reach the author: 'ds' at 'arcology.com'.

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