Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A bad dream and hypoglycemic thoughts

I'm on a trip, for some reason, thinking in terms of maps, like I'm looking at a GPS. Mom can't figure out quite how to use the GPS, so I have to help her figure out which way is North, so we can get to wherever it is we're going.

We end up at some sort of stripped-down place of worship, like a church auditorium or a fire hall. We're supposed to be participating in some sort of mystic, new-agey ritual, sort of like a group meditation thing, though what belief system it represents is unclear. We're instructed on our parts in a multi-part ritual, after which we leave for a while.

When I come back, I have a banal question about the ritual, which I pose to one of the group leaders, a young Caucasian female who doesn't seem to have any special looks or powers or significance. I want to know what's supposed to happen in Part 4. She doesn't even seem to hear my question...

She says, "In Part 4, you will burst into flames, and you will go to hell."

One of the other members of the organization overheads and, shocked, tries to chide her, but the woman seems to be in a trance, simply talking at me rather than trying to answer my question. I am torn between writing it off as ridiculous, and being absolutely afraid that I'm now the subject of a mortal prophecy. In that state of mind, I wake up.

I am somewhat low on blood sugar, so as I walk around the house, trying to shake off the dream, it turns out to be very difficult. I think of Galatea, the text-based game I've been playing recently, and how one ending led to the main character seeing everything as "portents and omens." I think the yellow light from one of the desk lamps, left on, looks like the light from a fire. I wonder why the little holes in one of the door frames are organized into a certain pattern. I keep involuntarily picturing myself on fire. My face looks weird in the mirror.

Eventually, the can of Coke and an hour or so working on a project seems to break the spell.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Supposed to Snow Tonight

The street wants the snow
So bad, now that it's midnight
And freezing fucking cold
And the guy on TV keeps saying
"70% chance of precipitation
Overnight!" So we wait
Forever, it feels like
For the first pinprick
To drift past the streetlight
Searching in slow motion
For the asphalt. You, me,
The street, the window,
The neighbor's Hyundai,
The open trash barrels,
A stoop and a stray cat,
No sound but a siren
From a few streets over.
No hurry, dark Eastern clouds,
We're all just waiting here
To feel the brush of your cold wet lips
When you whisper "Brooklyn" in our ear.

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Extension, Part 6

I glanced toward Marge. “Hey, hun, Janie's meeting somebody today... a Mr. Michaelson? Do you know who that is?”

Marge spent another ten seconds buried in her literature before she looked up to answer. “Yeah, that's her PET Mentor. They've just been assigned, and they're having their first meeting tonight.”

“Wow, already? They didn't do that with us until we were 11!”

“Well, he's 12, dear, and yes, they're doing it earlier these days. Kids want to be prepared as early as they can be.”

I set the Tablet down; I had no interest in the day's news, nor in what I was reading at the moment. I got up and started digging through my wardrobe, which was lean, but versatile and effective – Marge and I had put a good deal of time into licensing just the right articles, cultivating a variety of colors and styles, so we always had a range of different outfits. I tried on a pair of stained jeans, and then threw a synthetic t-shirt over my hairy chest; after a few seconds, I realized the jeans looked too artificial with the t-shirt, so I switched out into a more modest pair of khakis. Marge's comment put me in the mood to wear that tweed jacket, and she was right – the hat was a great little accessory at the top of the ensemble.

Marge, perhaps inspired by my perkiness, decided to get herself out of bed as well. She put on a robe, her old standby for lounging around the apartment, and picked up a plate of pastry shells she had made the previous night. I heard her take them downstairs to the common area of the building, where she could have some people try them and give their opinions. She said she liked the social energy down there; I suspected she also liked the occasional bit of attention from passers-by. Left alone, I put on an audite-book called The Dismantling of Private Transit: A Story of Reclamation, and took notes on my Tablet while I listened.

I was still listening when Janie arrived home a little after four. She changed into a more comfortable outfit and picked up her Tablet almost immediately. I switched off my audite at the end of a paragraph.

“Getting started already?”

“Yeah! Come on over. I want to finish my core subjects before dinner.”

“Very enterprising! Are you going to have anything left for your meeting after dinner?”

“No, dad, that's why I'm getting started now. It's not supposed to be a study session or anything... just an introductory meeting.”

I sat down next to her at the table. She was pulling up today's sub-lecture and assignments in differential mathematics. “Well, it sounds exciting,” I said to her as I synced my Tablet up to hers. “So let's get this out of the way, I guess!”

(The RSS for this serial fiction can be found here.)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Extension, Part 5

I got the confirmation of my time worked the next day. I was fairly sure I wouldn't be called in for at least a few more days, maybe even the rest of the week. My morning was languid and aimless, as I like them to be... I poked through a few books, then finally, around noon, I went to the athletic hub and jogged a few laps.

As I took the HighWalk home, finally fully activated for the day, I thought about my father's stories. He had lived through the final wave of automation and public restructuring... when he was young, you were still expected to work every day, sometimes three or four full hours. Dad found it a nagging obligation to exercise in his free time, and he said he wouldn't have done it if he thought he could stay healthy without making it a habit.

This was one of the many ways our generation gap showed... by the time I'd finished my tracking cycle, the manual labor work week was compressed to only a few hours a week. I had no idea what it was like to have my time usage dictated by an employer; my peers and I had so much free time that were able – indeed, we were forced – to really put some effort into creating a productive structure for ourselves. Balanced, holistic fitness routines flourished as we found three- or four-day-long pockets of spare time to distribute.

Varn, my late father in law, said it was becoming a world of gym rats, which is a sentiment I've never fully understood.

I still missed Varn. He was a nostalgic, romantic old professional-class patriarch, with a house full of small, interesting objects that he'd secured on long-term exclusive licenses. He liked collecting, which is harder than it used to be, with all the strict license-enforcement lately. He mostly got them transferred at refuse markets and deprecation sales. When the old man died, I tried to keep a hold on his stuff... I applied to put posterity locks on thirty-five of his licenses, all the collected curiosities he had accumulated, which was totally excessive. Nobody wanted that many useless licenses lying around.

Maybe I'd go back and read some of Varn's old notes later. He'd become quite a productive memoirist in his last few years.

I got home to find the house very quiet; Marge was sitting in bed, reading on her Tablet, which she was accustomed to doing after lunch. I retrieved my Tablet from the bedside table and sat down on the bed to go through it.

General Interest News Items: 14. High-priority news items: 0.

Dependent status: Janie is out with friends. Last update: Arnold's creperie, 17th Street.

Message from Janie, recorded 9:28 AM: Be back by 4, daddy. I'll have my homework done before dinner.

Dependent notification: Janie has a new appointment today. 6 PM – Trend Michaelson. Location: Your house.

I glanced toward Marge. “Hey, hun, Janie's meeting somebody today... a Mr. Michaelson? Do you know who that is?”

(The RSS for this serial fiction can be found here.)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Extension, Part 4

I looked at Janie for another second, and then Marge and I drifted off toward the kitchen, as if to check that we had enough food for the three of us. Marge settled in behind our mini-bar and started pawing through the cupboard for some ingredients. I watched her for a second, and then turned to our dining area to see if anything needed cleaning up before we sat down to eat. I noticed a beautiful red velour hat on the table, a sort of squat little thing, with a small feather tucked into the band.

“What a cute little number,” I said, picking up the hat to get a closer look.

“Oh, yes! The pork-pie!”

“The what?” I felt like I had heard the term at some point, but the syllables seemed to dissipate before I could put them together.

“The pork-pie! Do you like it? I found it at a Hattery in the old market today! Licensed it for you, second-hand!”

I picked up the little hat. It fit snugly on my head, of course – CONTRACT would have alerted Marge if she tried to license me a hat that didn't fit me. I turned and looked at myself in the mirrored partition of the Southern wall. The pork-pie was fetching on me, although I didn't fully approve of the way my hair tufted out on the sides.

“Thank you, Margie. Love it.”

“Wonderful! I think it'll be especially nice with your purple tweed jacket. Remember to hang it up when you take it off.”

The evening meandered forward. I joined Janie for the last bit of her homework, and then we sat down together for dinner. This was our peaceful life, here in our little home, out at CONTRACT District KX Extension C.

(The RSS for this serial fiction can be found here.)

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Extension, Part 3

“Sure thing. I'll see you next time we cross paths, Bannon!”

“Good luck on your dates, Bill!”

I took the 5th Street HighWalk to the 28th Avenue UnderWalk, cruised under two blocks of local foot traffic, and came up about a hundred yards from my unit, which was a modified 21st century Stacked Brownstone, situated in a row of the same structures between two office towers. I went up the West Office Tower... it has a rapid-lift, and we have an entrance from one of the interior catwalks. Stepping from the matted beige office interior to the lush, wallpapered hallway of my own building... it was like a gust of warm, perfum'd air, a breath of comfort.

From the hallway to my front door... a retinal scan, a quick bioprint (we were thorough with our home security), and the outside door unlatched and let me into our foyer. I could hear Janie at the end of the hall, tapping away on a Hand Tablet.

I looked into the rear study and regarded Janie for a moment. At 9 years old, she was already beginning to look like an adolescent... her frame gradually lengthening, her red hair falling luxuriously across her shoulders. She was very smart, too... CONTRACT had pushed up her Rigor Curve a point last week, and she was still knocking out her homework 41 seconds ahead of baseline. She still had a few years to go before she entered her secondary track, but Marge and I were already thinking maybe she could be a level-6 or level-7 specialist... not a level-3, like me, stuck as I was with routine maintenance jobs.

As I watched her touch the Tablet, lightly, with intricate caresses, I felt a soft hand on my shoulder. I turned around to find Marge looking at me with a warm, sleepy smile.

“Napping before dinner, darling?” I put my arm around her and pulled her into me. I glanced back at Janie; she hadn't looked up at us.

“You look at her like a little boy in love,” Marge said softly.

“Yeah, well, it's a nice scene to come home to.” I pulled Marge in and gave her a kiss; at this, Janie glanced up for a second, and then went back to her homework. “Did she go into Primary to get the Tablet scanned?” I asked Marge.

“Yes, spent most of the day playing with some friends, then stopped by Primary before she came home. Now diligently doing her homework, before she eats us out of house and home.”

“That's what it takes to grow that fast, I guess.”

“Well, she eats so much, we're practically over allowance for this period.”

“Seriously? Are you being serious about that? We can raise our Appeal next period...”

“No, Bannon, I am not serious. Between you and her and my snacks, our Appeals are big enough for two families.”

I looked at Janie for another second, and then Marge and I drifted off toward the kitchen, as if to check that we had enough food for the three of us. Marge settled in behind our mini-bar and started pawing through the cupboard for some ingredients. I watched her for a second, and then turned to our dining area to see if anything needed cleaning up before we sat down to eat. I noticed a beautiful red velour hat on the table, a sort of squat little thing, with a small feather tucked into the band.

(The RSS for this serial fiction can be found here.)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Extension, Part 2

That would probably take about an hour. After that, I would spend another hour filing reports: where was the data surge? Where was there extra noise in the data? Which transistor had come loose? Was everything else up to code? And then it would assign me a general clean-up... another half hour. Then I could go home. Pretty routine. I've had much worse assignments.

I stopped to talk to Bill again on the way out.

“How's everything on your end, Bill? They keeping you here much?”

“Nah, a few hours a week. Probably not much more time on the clock then you, honestly. Gonna spend this week rewiring my synth setup, and then got a couple dates later in the week. Nice-looking ladies, set up for me by CONTRACT's personal connections service.”

“Oh ho ho! THAT must be why she's lagging! Bill's love life's gonna take down the local extension!”

“You're too much, Bannon. Just a couple girls from around town, and one older lady from B-extension. Then going up to the Adirondacks next week, just to get out of town for a while.”

“The Adirondacks? What's up there?”

“Oh, I've got an uncle up there... old Uncle Harvey. He's got a little cabin... lives like a monk. Has the fewest licenses of anybody I've ever known.”

“Just the essentials, eh?”

“Well, he's a bit of an eccentric, ol' Harvey. When he was a really young man, living up in Canada, there were still seditious sects, trying to stay completely unregistered. So even now, he's a little weird about CONTRACT and licenses.”

“Well, maybe you'll bring back some stories from old Uncle Harvey, huh?”

“Damn right I will! So Janie and Margie are doing okay, huh? How about you?”

“Oh, fine. I'm following along with Janie in her lessons. Western Imperial History, differential math... stuff I almost forgot about since my own Primary years. Glad she's letting me study with her a little.”

“Oh, that's great, Bannon. She's a good kid.”

“Yeah, I know. And Marge is making the last few adjustments to her recipe. It's a lot of review, a lot of testing and calibration. The kind of stuff I wasn't so good at in Primary.”

“So she's planning to file it with Maker's Registry?”

“Yeah, pretty soon! I'll keep you up to date on it. But hey, I better get home. They're probably antsy for me to be done the work.”

“Sure thing. I'll see you next time we cross paths, Bannon!”

“Good luck on your dates, Bill!”