The Future is Now

The Future is Now

Status: Finished

Genre: Literary Fiction

Details

Status: Finished

Genre: Literary Fiction

Summary

Mild Sci-fi, since it is set slightly in the future. Political overtones, while addressing technology (ie. video games) and their influence on an individual and societal level.

Summary

Mild Sci-fi, since it is set slightly in the future. Political overtones, while addressing technology (ie. video games) and their influence on an individual and societal level.

Content

Submitted: November 10, 2009

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Content

Submitted: November 10, 2009

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Holographic banners fly high over two armies lit on the dark side of a moon, cut with greens and purples from laser blasts. You move right, flanking your team along a crag of rock and waste, controlling each member with hand signals. Then the enemy is in front of you, insectoid beings infused with bionic hardware and brightly colored carapaces. Electronic blasts and the grit of large explosions sound together as your second in command explodes, while you see her eyes zeroing in on you with an intense look moments before, the two white bubbles bulging tight, before she is seared into pieces by a neon green zap. Her arm, now detached from the corpse, is still clutching her machine gun as you coolly pick it up and collect its ammo. Using it, you gun down some smaller enemy pawns, observing them bursting strangely colored fluids, recognizing fear entering their alien visages moments before death. Then, a huge creature, having circled you, yells some strange battle cry, crushing you with a flash of a melee device that glows and hums. Your chest pierced, you grunt and scream, hud going dead with a blip and crackle, vision fogging and fading into a fuzzy circle—darkness.
 
The new game was out, and Joe had paced his way through the routine of his day to build to the moment when he could retrieve it: copies and coffee, emails and phone calls, each task attended to and answered with a building expectancy. Occasionally, he fancied himself a break from such tension, to think of his girlfriend in bed, his arms around her so tight he was squeezing the breath out of her. Finally, assuming the appropriate space in the high-rise’s elevator, he turned inward, hardly containing his excitement over his future purchase. 
The commercials ran through his head. Inside a carrier ship, soldiers heavy with armor, futuristic mechanisms, the glowing green of huds switched on at once, followed by gold shields raising to position to protect faces, the muffled scratching of the war babble of the other squads in the fray pumping in. The door opened and they spilled out onto some meteoric wasteland, cracked and broken with edges of light from some distant moon until a green crack blazed and soldiers fought shooting, weapons held to their shoulders, aimed skillfully in different directions, advancing and killing. The soothing melody of the lobby lured him awake from his reverie, and he walked out onto the light reflecting tiles to find himself amid a bunch of slack-jawed faces staring up at the walls, their hands limp at their sides holding briefcases, files, umbrellas.
He noticed his coworker Jim and sidled up beside him, fixing his attention to the screen.
“It’s happening.”
The news program showed a craggy desert full of dust and haze, metal machines the same color lumbered forth, tiny men interspaced in between, helicopters hovered thickly overhead. A reporter with a Kevlar helmet and a dyed black mustache shouted to confirm Jim’s comment that indeed it had begun. He described what it was like. He said it was exciting, incredible, frightening, but optimism was high. He said, “The invasion of Kasniastan has begun. The troops have been waiting for this moment. They have good connections with central command. This is an exciting time we are living in. This particular unit has got the drop enemy combatants early and has plenty of reserves.” Gunfire could be heard on the screen and the reporter went down in bubbling blood as the story switched back to studio with lightning graphics and a rush of sounds.
“It’s about time. They’ve been talking about this for months now,” Jim said.
Joe agreed, “I think we should get rid of any country with an ability to obtain weapons of mass destruction and setup a thinly veiled human rights violating puppet government." 
With a sideways glance and a nod, Jim seemed to agree with this, “I suppose there isn’t any other choice.”
“Damn right there isn’t. Hopefully, this won’t be yet another quagmire we have to pull out of.”
The people seemed to gather themselves, slowly mutating and gaining locomotion from the slack positions they had been in. Some conversed weakly with one another, trying to find the voice for small talk, while others meandered by the walls and windows, peeping about at the world as if it was new. Then everyone seemed like enough was enough, taking un-fascinated airs, and exiting single file through the revolving door.
“Wanna come with me and some of the guys to the corporate bar on the corner? I think it’s Happy Hour.”
“Nah, I have something planned tonight.”
“Whatever.”
Joe exited into the mass on the streets, full of clapping shoes and revving engines, thinking of the bumping of heads up and down as they walked like an ocean of waves up and down, of ants in a rain forest carrying leaves, thinking of videotaping his girlfriend in the shower with the tinkling of water and the echoes of her voice, thinking of that commercial for cola, where it was poured into a glass, bubbling and foaming, smiling faces and music, dancers and flashes of color, He ducked into the video game store that was across the street from his apartment building.
“Hey man, you still got any?”
“Oh, boy, are you lucky. A new unit just arrived. We were bombarded last night cause Dave got the drop on ‘em early, plus, you know, he’s got good connections at the distributors. You know, the video game companies, so we’ve been even keeping some in reserve.”
“Sweet!” Joe maneuvered around a couple of people milling about, holding copies of the game he sought. He gave a wry smile at this and took a moment to look through some of the older, dated games remembering moments playing them, achieving their small victories, slaughtering half-dead Germans with a only a screwdriver to plunge into their eye sockets, into their gelled brains one New Year’s Eve he did not feel like going out—the sounds of people and fireworks muffled through the glass windows of his apartment. That was a good time. Of course, this was before touchable holography became mainstream, and the layers of sensing the video game became more and more advanced: the curved screens that could project holographs up to ten feet, the ultrasound that delivered up to five grams of force to parts of your body, the Gameguns® that looked so realistic, the voice and face recognition…he took the game to the counter.
“Did you hear we invaded on the news?” Joe asked
“No shit? That’s not right. I mean, you know, it’s just gonna be another bogged down fruitless war. What’s the point?”
Joe looked down, then up, “Yeah, you think they would learn from the other countries, but…they just keep doing it.” Keep invading, keep kicking up dust and setting up camp—using weaponry and technology, words like objective, tactical, combatant—fancy terms such as visibility and kinetic example. 
“Whatever, that’s why I work here, in a videogame shop. So, I don’t have to deal with all that bullshit.”
Back at his apartment he threw down his keys and his suit coat, heading straight to the game console at his multimedia display, putting the new chip in to download its contents, then throwing it away when he was finished. He sat so the large curved screen encompassed his vision. He picked up the Gamegun® and turned a switch.
Everything went black. Softly, synth sounds began far away, getting closer and closer, joined by marching drums. 3D red and green letters flared up in front of him with a crescendo of the music and a cymbal crash. As he hit start, a rush forward, as if through a vortex. All was black again. Then fuzziness.
He did not know how long he spent playing. He remembers disemboweling an enemy alien soldier, it’s acidic neon pink guts melting the floor and walls as he geared down the mini chainsaw attached to his machinegun. Then, on level 2, he was the torturing an enemy combatant. Taking off parts of its appendages, slitherly tentacles, in order to get it to tell where a thermal-plasmatic bomb was on a naval class space destroyer. He died slowly, but the squad got the information. Then it was decision making time, covert or overt operations? Daisy came in about this time, turning off the screen, the virtual particles fading around Joe to expose his apartment, his sofa, his girlfriend.
Instant meatloaf for dinner. They were going blue collar, she suggested. Joe shrugged and thought about the new game. It was good. So many options of what to do militarily. He had sacrificed a whole platoon on the first level. Luckily, his character was hyper-advanced, not only in rank but in strength, technology, and battle skill, so of course he survived the game’s hurdles. The detail, the use of holographs, was more comprehensive than any game he had playedit was definitely worth the wait.
“Well, uh, how was work?” Daisy asked.
“Fine.  Nothin’ new.”
“Well, I had quite a day,” and then she was all into it, telling about her reactions to other people, how someone had screwed her over, how she had to do this when it wasn’t her job. Joe thought about him, well, him in the game.
In the bedroom, she debated whether she should stay the night or go back to her place. He bit her neck hard and she went limp. She responded by biting one of his nipples till it bled a bit. He grabbed her around the neck, and she slapped his face twice in succession. He squeezed her until she had no air. After that, they said goodnight. They settled down for sleep kissing each other once on the lips.
In the middle of the night, he woke from a dream where he was running through the corridors of a hospital with a gun in his hands and a counter at the top of his vision. Men and women in white coats came at him in the flickering of green and red lights, their hands outstretched like frankensteins yelling obscenities. He blasted each one into gory heaps as the counter rose, but he was not allowed to shoot women holding newly born babies, for his counter went down. 
He went into his living room. From there he looked out at the night city, lit up and flashing, through the wall of glass windows his apartment featured in the ad for the place. He stared out thinking of distant lands, and in them, deserts that lead to shanties that lead to suburbias that lead to glass and metal metropolises. Of armies gathering strategic towers and hills and targets. As the sun rose, fractaled into a bursting star over the city scape, he imagined planes rocketing through the city around him dropping laser guided bombs and crushing the glass of the city into millions of sparkling diamonds that would rupture his fellow citizens into parts and pieces. Helicoptered strike teams would deploy, and he could almost see them in the prisms of the glass of his apartment, coming to grab him, the superhuman savior of mankind, to lead their troops to glory in space and beyond. And as the sun went behind the large multinational bank becoming a translucent green, he saw himself reflected in the glass of his apartment, a bit overweight, hairy, his penis limp and dangling between his legs.
He picked up the Gamegun® hoping to get in a few more levels before work.


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