Showing posts with label fiction. Show all posts
Showing posts with label fiction. Show all posts

Thursday, March 25, 2021

"Oncoming Traffic" By Stuart Warren

 


There was traffic on West 580, right in front of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. 

Traffic rarely happens. When it does, it usually inspires fascination, even wonder. The passing traffic does not stop. Motorists spying in the moments between moments. Life oncoming, then gone.

This time was different though.

There were two cars hedged off to the right shoulder: a 2038 Tesla sedan and a 2018 Honda Civic. The rear crush points on the Tesla were pancaked—what remained of the trunk space, mostly gone. I glanced out of my window and saw the two drivers in a heated fight, a paramedic between them with her hands up. A police officer was dragging a dumbbell set—ejected from the trunk of the Civic—off the center lanes while we waited.

By 2028, most of the Bay Area was autonomous. By 2032, the rest of the state followed. The current Administration established a buy-out program for manual-pilot autos, encouraging the conversion. But, among the millions, a small minority held out. Mostly older men, and a younger generation galvanized by passionate rhetoric to retain their “right-to-drive.” When accidents happened, it always involved a manual-pilot car. There would be a highlight on the evening news—national coverage if the collision was big enough.

The Civic’s owner was red in the face with anger, spittle ejecting from her mouth. It wasn’t about the car. She stood her ground. This would be on camera, the pavement her stage. Ten-thousand talking heads explaining the nuance of car ownership, the “right-to-drive.”

It was something we debated at work, before our managers would step in to re-establish office etiquette. At church, I would argue the nuance of scripture, how the church adjusted for cultural changes, while others flatly denied my points, on the basis of free will and choice. In school districts some advocated—think of the children, they would say—for manual-pilot school busses, that it was unconscionable to entrust students to the cold will of the onboard intelligence.

But as passionate and antiquated the logic was, we all knew that 94% of auto-accidents involved manual-pilot vehicles. 100% of all autonomous cars were zero-emission, and manufactured by carbon neutral companies. Average commute time was lowered by 30% as the speed limit was raised by 25% across the western United States.

The police officer signaled to the line of stopped cars to proceed after a few minutes. I cracked open my book and thumbed to the page where I left off, feeling the pull of my body into the seat, the scene disappearing from view.

Where 580 merged with 101 North, brake lights crept up along the frontage road.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

"In Observance of Space Time" - An Original Short By Stuart Warren


 Seems like everyone is doing a video with DeepFake these days: a technology that allows the over laying of a digital face onto a real body. (But of course you know that.) It made me think, “why not a DeepFake for reality?” Once we know the ingredients of the universe, what’s to stop us from baking?


In downtown Santa Barbara, in the Neon District by the train tracks, venture capitalists gather at a coffee stained countertop, cramped with cracked cell phones and money clips. Across from them a haggard grad student in a threadbare T-shirt—once red, now pink, perforated around the neckline—types into a simulator awash in cyberpunk highlights. He’s about to change the world.

It couldn’t be possible, even in Frazetta-scaped science fiction rags, they said. The universe is made of strings, infinitesimal and taught with reality. One needs only to equalize the frequencies, mix spectrums across the dimensions, and you can be an astronaut-ballerina, that puts out fires and has x-ray vision. For one hundred million dollars and change, pocket dimensions fit in your coffee tin, palmed like a silver dollar populated with sentient life.

Anthony sits in his living room, plastered with melting clocks and anorexic giraffes. The Napa valley sun, wet with dew, stabs rays through the crystal endtable. In his hands is the DeepReality™ projector. It’s shivering in 5 dimensional light, and Anthony can’t shake the image of liquefying porn stars from his mind.

Madeline is on her way into the office, lying on a pristine private beach in French Indonesia. On her customized planet, orbiting three suns at the edge of the galaxy she named “M-243”—M for Madeline—she is the majority shareholder of Fabian Micro Technologies. She is experimenting product rollouts there, and in sixteen other dimensions to predict Fall projections. Platinum lily sells better in the Asian markets. Chrome olive didn’t test well in QA due to poor color retention.

Thugnanimous is at a golf resort with his menagerie of publicists and promoters. In the hotel sitting room, a pound of cocaine is being haggled over. Out on the impossible green—an emerald island outside of Phoenix—his girlfriend is training for the US Women’s Open. Far away from his lawn chair perched on the deck, he is a child, running across a beach with his father (who stayed) and his brother (who wasn’t killed in a drive by shooting when he was 3 years old). Afterward, they are going to get ice cream in Cardiff, and then drive back to Carlsbad.

Despite the personal testimonials by tech moguls and pharmaceutical companies, the premier success of DeepReality™, as reported by the New York Times, is the testbed of constitutional reboots and experimental politics. “Despots, 39% of the time, avert ecological catastrophe by implementing climate change policies at the onset of the industrial revolution, whereas democratic socialists have a mean of 85 years before open hostilities between constitution adopters and anarchists erupt into full-scale genocide. ‘DeepReality™ succeeds where all speculative fiction and philosophy fails,’ said the company founder, Horus Cort. ‘It’s the ultimate thought experiment, the wet dream of R and D firms everywhere…’ When asked about the controversy over the sentience and preservation of life within these fabricated dimensions, representatives for Cort declined to comment.”

There is no actual way to escape into the facsimile realms, according to experts hired by the DeepReality™ Board of Directors. Despite the advancement of aggressive bacterial strains, overpopulation, and radioactive contamination, “We are here to stay. This is our world to fix, not to escape and do it all over again.” Outside the DeepReality campus protesters wear lead lined ponchos and pound the gates ineffectually. Horus’s son is escorted by military contractors to and from school. Melanie Cort is putting flowers on her parent’s grave at Hollywood Forever. Within minutes they shrivel and boil like salted snails. She is thinking about her husband, and his dirty secret.

By the time the last leaf falls on to the polonium caked earth, Osmund Cort, steps into his private projector with his girlfriend, never looking back. The sky is oily and metallic. The air is phosphorescent. Vacant skyscrapers covered in ash stand silent, their skeletal remnants melting together on the horizon like Lovecraftian horrors. Here, on Earth Prime, not even the cockroaches survived.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

"The Wake" - An Original Short By Stuart Warren


Awash in cerulean light, I’ve walked under the firmament all my life. Never left the hanging city though... Scholars and natural philosophers debate to no end what is, or what could be, beyond it.

Like them, I live in the Wake, where waters flow eternal, from pole to pole.

The hanging city goes by a proper name. The elders call it Loo’alblo. Still, most just call it the Wake: the everyday “Average Joe” folks. Hardworking schmucks. Myself? I’m a priest and, or, local informant—should the need arise. I interpret the scrolls of time. Long ago, the Great Sculptor held his chisel, and he hammered into the coral to make our world. Like mold, we grew in the crevasses, spawned in the open air of sunlit plains. Our first nomadic ancestors journeyed here, following the living path—the algae, grown in the rock. Divine times. Good times.

While I meditate on my mat in the great light, I consult with those seeking the will of the Great Sculptor, occasionally making a deal or two in the same stride. Lots of kids… Young, eager to be closer to the source. Some are cheaters. Want to spawn with another mate, recreate on the side—I have a notebook for that, when opportunity knocks. It’s a simple life. Mostly, I enjoy their stories: to be connected with the culture, the mire, the gestalt of commonality.

For instance: a farmer came to me once, confided in me, said that his living path was dying, that the great light was too great, burning it. I proceeded through the “thees” and “thous,” naturally. The beasts beyond the firmament came up. Titans and giants, treading the horizon, afterimages projected onto the sky full of cosmic terror. Wild shit, I know…

One of my regulars, who spawns for payment, came to me scared out of her wits by a “vision.” She told me, quite confidently, that the eternal gods that be were to shut down the great flow of aqua. After that, the great drying will come, and we will burn on the surface of the coral, forever and ever, again. It’s “routine,” she said.

I sent her away, promising her peace, diffusing the chaos, making her feel all warm and fuzzy.

Later now, I regret that. Their fibrous hands, their sweet looking faces, their implements and the tremors produced by them, cause quakes that shatter our homes. They seem to like their work, the bastards.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

"Sight Without Sight" - An Original Short by Stuart Warren

His coat was a charcoal grey, faded black, from months of exposure in the noonday sun upon the saltflats. Now he knew, what is was like to be hunted, a fear potent with the tang of sweat and urine.

In the cataclysm, the great war between the United People of Corvelia and the rest of the known world, he was a janitor at the Camp of the Sunless, a place where prisoners of war were sent to go mad in sensory deprivation. Moping up feces and sick, he would hear their screams outside, encountering each other in the abject blackness.

He was once called to the recreation room, where bloated generals stroked what remained of their graying hair in the polish of aluminum. In an argument over cards, one of them had flipped the table, spilled some coffee and trays of boiled cabbage, served with salted potatoes. And as he cleaned, covertly, he would look into the void at those who had not yet died, shambling forward with spittle on their uniforms.

Sitting on the transit platform, waiting for a railcar to take him to the park, Lawrence closed his eyes, trying to forget.

Two hours later he was in a park, thrust into the center of the green that defiantly remained despite the breath and scope of New Halberad.

As he sat on the bench, feeding the rats that skittered around between his legs, another body approached. He could hear the tapping of a stick against the cobblestone streets, and in the periphery it sat beside him. Lawrence glanced sideways and saw an elderly woman perfectly still, with rummaging fingers diligently retrieving a leather sack of mouse feed. Etched into her arm was a black sun, with edges faded like spilt watercolor.

Stories of the Camp of the Sightless were varied. As to how the political prisoners and activists lost their sight is up to interpretation. Many simply entered and could no longer see, met by a blinding whiteness that burned out their retinas instantly.

She hummed the tune of a ballad, scattering the feed across the ground.

"Well? I'm here. Will we talk, or are you just content to sit there?"

Lawrence straightened up, sniffling.

"Good day to you," he said, attempting to smile.

"Is it? I can't tell..."

The words were like sinking barbs, tearing at his flesh. Nevertheless, she chuckled.

"I'm giving you a hard time, Lawrence... I can feel it. The sun is out. It must be beautiful outside."

Lawrence had met Cordelia at one of the amnesty dinners, five or six years previously. She was slightly older than him, having been twenty years old at the time she was taken from her college dormitory. He never asked why.

"I had the dream again," Lawrence said, leaning forward. His knee bounced up and down under the ball of his foot. "I'm sorry. Please forgive me."

Cordelia chuckled. "I don't know if I can. But you are here. That is, at least, something."

A rat crawled up his leg to Lawrence's hand. Open palmed, Lawrence pressed his eyes shut and let it feed.

"I could have done more. I was a janitor. I had keys..." he shivered, waiting anxiously for the rat to leave.

Cordelia snorted with a laugh that shook her whole body. "What could a boy do?"

"Something..."

"We are here, Lawrence," Cordelia interrupted. "That is enough."