Tag Archives: the future

Driving Through the Canyon Drunk

Decidedly LA, postmodern
in its self-awareness, post-postmodern,
submodern, supramodern, until
the word loses all meaning.
Watch out for deer.

There is no deer here.
Gas, gas, turn, Mulholland, turn, brake, brake.
The mountain lions have all driven down into
the Valley, or else

settled in beneath the rafters of the new
construction, the same as further east, but later
on into night and meetings, bars and the fog,

side streets and us,
and oh what a place to die.

The Cyborg Head of Stan Lee

An outtake from my new play, True Believers.


The Cyborg Head of Stan Lee is the ultimate weapon of the future, the final outpost for the salvaged prophecies of the greatest human mind, enhanced by futuretech created as a part of PROJECT: A.L.P.H.A.MECH for the technological improvement of mankind. The head retains a shred of Stan Lee’s consciousness — specifically that portion of his brain governing strategic extrapolations. While much of Stan’s face was destroyed in battle with the cancerous rays of the Los Angeles sun, his flesh was virtually reconstructed with an adamantium alloy to replace the pulverized skin. The scientists were also able to establish a basis for the integration of miniaturized relay-circuits, protected by a steel plate implanted in the skull. This plate is further equipped with a pneumatic lens for enhanced 4D vision, as well as an audio receiver and a voice box electronically amplified to approximate human speech. Pope Sylvester II was known to confer with a similar artifact during the 10th century, one that spoke to him of God’s Will. The Cyborg Head of Stan Lee was sent back as a beacon from the end of time, imbued with the Voice of Stane Lee, the new God, according to the gospel of Jack Kirby. It is my mission as its guardian to right the future and change the timeline for the sake of mankind, beginning with Alan Moore’s coming magical war.

Objective

I once saw a guy get fired. I was sitting on a bench outside of the offices of the company where I had an interview later that afternoon. It was a Tuesday, a little after two o’clock, an hour or so before my interview. I was leafing through my portfolio of projects I’d initiated at my old company, several copies of my resume, my cover letter. I had spent half the night looking through that portfolio, and I had all but memorized the exact wording of each page. Still, I leafed.

It was on the third or fourth flip-through that I swiped my thumb just right. The paper cut stung immediately, and I instinctively lifted the finger to my mouth. It was then that I saw the man in the blue suit standing over the blond-haired man seated with his back to me. There was something in his face that gave me pause. I had caught the second between not knowing something and the knowing. There were no dramatics, no tears or angry gestures, but there was a staggering in his face. When he turned to leave the blond man’s office, he swung the door behind him. I remember how it didn’t close all the way.

I sat on the bench thinking about how that man had to go home. He had to figure out how he would keep affording that home, how – if he had one – he would keep affording his family or how – if he didn’t – he’d ever afford a family. I’m not religious, so I didn’t pray for him or invest any hope in his future well-being. When he walked out of the building half an hour later, I didn’t even look at him. I just kept my eyes on my resume, on the tiny streak of blood that remained after I lifted my thumb to turn the page.

Automatic Teller

The entranceway was a net, designed to capture the sunlight before it contaminated the pub inside. Kevin had forgotten that it was still daytime. He stutter-stepped as he pushed past the door and a wave of light crashed over him, splashing across the walls and floor and burning his heavily dilated eyes.

He waited a moment for his eyes to adjust to the sun, then scanned the small foyer, past the dilapidated racks of free periodicals, until he found the ATM sitting in the corner to the left of the door through which he had just exited the bar. It looked like a tired old man, leaning up against the wall with its knees up against its chest. There was ribbed plastic tubing resembling arms on either side, bent up into L-shapes at what appeared to be the elbow, and its body was more of a boxy metal trash can with worn, rounded edges that were clearly intended to make it look sleek. It had a pixelated monitor in place of a swinging lid, with a numeric keypad goatee and two scars across its chin — one for consuming the cards, the other for dispensing cash. Presently, the monitor displayed a digitized face with a sardonic, bitmapped smile.

Kevin inserted his card into the appropriate slot/scar and punched in his secret code. A voice spoke: “Ten twen-ty.three. Let.me.guess — hYour birth-Day? Ha. Ha. Ver-ee oar-idgenal,” it said, with a mechanical inflection. Kevin took a step back, being careful to keep one foot by the machine in case someone tried to rob him. He looked around the room frantically, but couldn’t see anyone. “Wuh-who said that? H-how did you know?” he said.

“Ha. Of.course. Fuh-king tip.ee.cull. Seer-heously, did.you.hwant.some-one.to.steal-hyour.i-den-ti-ty Be-cuz hyou are just.ask-ing? for.it mis-ter,” the voice responded. Kevin looked down at the ATM display in bewilderment and noticed that it was rolling its pixel-cluster eyes at him. Its bitmapped mouth was dropped open in disgust. Once it noticed him staring, it returned to its default expression of indifference. “Sorry,” it said. “hWould you like.to.make. A-deposit, or-A. hwith-drawal.”

“Uhh…withdrawl, please?” Kevin responded nervously.

“Let me-guess,” responded the machine. “hYou did-not re-uh-lies that.it-was.a cash. only-bar. Good-fuh.king-job.dumb-ass. En-ee way.how-much-would. hYou. like?”

“I’ll take eighty, please.”

“Ay-tee. Doll-ers? Gee-zus. Christ.man. How much.did-hyou drink?”

“I haven’t had anything yet. Just give me the cash!” At this point, Kevin was frustrated. Why couldn’t he just got his cash and be gone? He had always hated artificial intelligent, ever since the soda machine at work had started giving him Diet Coke “for his own good.”

The machine let out an exasperated digital sigh. “All. rite-man. Calm. down. Don’t have-a. cow. I’m-just. Try-ing.to.help. hOne-moment.please.” Kevin listened to the harddrive whirring inside and felt a sudden urge to rip it out and smash it on the street.

After about a minute, he heard gears begin to grind, and a taped-together five-dollar bill came out of the slot. Kevin waited for a few more seconds, but nothing followed, and soon the digitized emoticon face had disappeared. He smacked the machine on the side of its boxy head and yelled, “Hey! Where’s the rest of my money?”

The digital face returned with a blip wearing a straight expression. “Sar-ee, bud.ee. I’ve seen-hyour. Cred.it.Card-bill this month. I’m-just. Try.ing.to-help.Good!bye.”

Kevin stormed back into the bar, ordered a shot of whiskey, and left without giving the bartender a tip.

The Future Only Goes In One Direction

Read the road sign:
The future only goes
in one direction

but didn’t make it clear
which way that was.
Left — back —
forward — there —
any preposition fair;
a rotary uncertain who
should yield. But three

wrong turns can lead you
back the way you meant
to go, and so I took a path
through four dimensions,
rounding corners through
the past and wind up right
back when I’m meant to be.

Anywhen But Here

I shuffle my feet across the shag-woven wind as Karen drags me by the arm down the hoverhall. The glow of the solar-flo lights make the white walls glow like a doctor’s office in soft focus, the way the world looks right before or right after you pass out, probably from blood loss but maybe, embarrassingly, just from the sight alone of Nurse Moller clearing out the air from the tip of an intravein as she saunters towards you with the sultry, menacing poise of a large jungle cat even though her floppy, wrinkled skin hides any sign of muscle underneath and you know that she knows that you hate needles and she knows that you know that she’s going to miss the vein three times just because she’s thinks it’s funny.

Which more or less describes the feeling that I have towards realtors. At least with Nurse Moller, I know I’m bleeding because I’ve been stabbed repeatedly, but at least, one assumes, the ultimate outcome is beneficial, some sort of antivirus or brand new trait that lets you breathe underwater for the weekend while also protecting you from the harmful effects of sexual transmitted infestations that you may or may not acquire from a dolphin. No, realtors sell you on the perks of breathing underwater and then smooth talk their way into letting you sign your prints off on some lengthy, incomprehensible, legally-binding clause that allows them to flay you alive while sodomizing you with blades cut from the bones of said infected dolphins.

Karen pushes me through the Grand Oak door with platinum highlights and pushes down into a spinning egg-shaped chair. “Now please, Walter.” She looks at me like a pet chiahualla that doesn’t understand English. “Just give her a chance. This could be a really great opportunity for us.”

I make a pouting sound and spin around and round in my egg-shaped chair until a plastic-faced woman in a power suit with chin-length red hair walks into the room. She’s the supermodel version of Mrs. Potatohead. I hate her even before she hits the button on her desk that abruptly stops my chair from spinning and gives me whiplash. I swear to None I see her pull a smile out of her desk and attach it to her face.

“Welcome to Tachyon Properties,” says a pre-recorded sound from behind her shining teeth. “Where Realty meets Reality. My name’s Barbara. What can I do for you today?”

“Pardon my husband. He has a…slight prejudice towards property brokers,” says Karen with a condescending glare.

“That’s fine,” it responds, unphased. “Here at Tachyon Properties, we’re more than your traditional brokers. We deal exclusively in Unreal Estate.” Then she feeds us the company line: “Because it’s not just where you live, it’s when.”

Cue robotic staccato smile. I can already tell that Karen is hooked. By next week we’ll be moving to somewhen awful like 17th century France. The women talk, and I spend the rest of the meeting wishing I could still spin in my chair.

Out of Juice – Part II

The power drought happened faster than we predicted.

The tail end of a Bear market, stocks drop 20 points in two months, Pre-bots become the Wal-Mart of our generation.

Cheap, available everywhere, and creating just enough jobs to not notice the imbalance. We couldn’t resist them. Loan sharks sold them on the streets, no deposit, taking the solar, selling it to stores. They say it got worse overseas. No emissions laws, looser quality standards, people trapped in their apartments, going days with no power, black markets that ran odds on the daily price of solar, dark times.

We all thought solar panels would be everywhere. Pre-bots makers buy the panels in bulk, you’re lucky if you can get enough juice to run your fridge with anything after-market , the demand was so great. Me, I can’t spare fifteen minutes between repairs, and Phil still finds the words to sell me.

“When I sell the bots I fixed, then you’ll get your money, and I can’t sell what ain’t fixed, and I can’t fix what I ain’t got the parts to fix it with.” I think he was born with a coil in his throat.

“You’re making me dizzy, Phil. Just take the damn things.” I liked it better when he sent his bot over to pick up parts. I could ignore the machine. I power up the screen, start reading, he sits. I take notes, face buried in the pile of parts renting my desktop, he stands by the window, lights a smoke.

“Hell of a view.” Phil shuts the window, the last breath of smoke hits the pane. “Gotta get going,” he stretches, opens the fridge. “It’s empty.” I don’t even turn to watch. He finds something, I hear him chew as he puts his shoes on.

“See you tomorrow.” That’s what he always says. Last time it was two weeks before he came back, but I had cash to float myself. Liquid assets.

All this on my mind, and she moves in across the hall. Cheery, perky, time on her hands.

“Whatcha doing, neighbor?” Heaven help me. She’s dressed for the beach every day, bikini top, short shorts, no shoes.

I keep telling myself I only let her over because she shares her food with me. Frou-frou junk, sure, but it beats the 50-flight climb. It was bound to happen, I just knew it.

“Hey neighbor, want some wine? ” Her uncle had a stockpile, mailed her some, she tells me. Girls like this are trouble. First it’s dinner, then wine, soon, you’re watching her instead of your own future, watching her pat down her chest every five minutes as the work day slips away. “Hot summer.”

No kidding, baby, no kidding.

She leans in, finally, tilts her head, grins, looks away, looks back real innocent-like.

“My apartment’s different than yours. I think. Can I see your bedroom?”

Here we go.