You could say I come from a broken home. A broken planet. Physically and figuratively. A leftover of an era when we still talked. Fellow citizens weren’t afraid to look one another in the eye, and friendships were still a thing. In fact, one of the fondest childhood memories I have is of Lira, our neighbor. Our families were close before I was born, so she would be in our apartment at all hours of the day. Lira would usually come in to chat and gossip with my parents or hang out with my grandma when she babysat me. Other times she would ask for eggs or sugar or whatever other scarce commodities she needed. And we did the same because I remember one time, I was bringing home some milk she had bought for us. Of course, I was running, and as it would frequently happen, I slipped and fell; the glass bottle shattered, and the stairs were covered with white liquid. Grandma wasn’t happy about that. Anyway, that specific night was an occasion for their family. She was baking a cake for their daughter’s birthday, her third birthday. Of course, my parents would help in any way they could. Even if it meant we had to ration some milk and sugar for a few days until they were available in the market.
The third rock from the Sun has many names now; some call it a colony, others a battleground. The latter is undoubtedly true, especially if one is unlucky enough to stumble upon the flurry of audio and video transmissions the media mega-corporations spew into outer space.
But I digress.
At the edge of the town, nestled near a series of fields and hills, was Section Eight. The west-most neighborhood of the city where I grew up. It was filled with three-story red brick buildings. The one we lived in had four entrances, three families per floor. Each family had more or less two children roughly my age. The summer afternoon hours were the loudest of all seasons. Because we had no real toys to play with, we would run laps around the pot-hole-ridden run-down side-streets, which seldom experienced any traffic.
Sighing, I placed the back of my hand near the lit yellow circle on the right side of the white doorframe. Above it, a number, 38. These blocky white numbers label all units which, at times, would be out of place. In fact, the next unit was number 115. The door rapidly dematerialized, revealing the inside of my personal living quarters.
I didn’t know who designed these accommodations, but I could feel the psychological soothing they projected. The bottom of the interior wall was painted in a milky-white color, which, going up to the top, gradually faded to blue. About half-an-inch in diameter, several small LED lights, sparsely laid out on the ceiling, evenly illuminated the area.
I dropped my bag on the top of my bed, on my left, and walked inside the room. The front door materialized, muffling the persistent electric hum of the generators and transformers that were on the other side of the building, by the magnetic traffic lane. I walked into the bathroom, which was on the furthest left corner of the room, turned on the faucet, and put some water on my face. Raising my head with my hands on my face, I felt the water dripping from my chin. I stared at the mirror for a few seconds, my eyes slowly focused on the TV-wall unit behind me.
“Open the window and show me the commercial district,” I commanded it as I pulled a towel from the shelf on my left.
The TV-wall had a remote control. It also had a little booklet with all the possible voice commands it accepted. I didn’t know all of them, but most were based on the System, intuitive. This one wasn’t. Though I could clearly see why it existed. These units had no windows.
Multicolored pixels rapidly flashed as the large monitor flickered and displayed a slow rotation of live video feeds taken from different cameras near the commercial district.
“Stop here,” I commanded the screen again. Finally, my favorite feed came to display. Likely a camera mounted on top of a streetlight pole. It showed the tall neon-lined commercial buildings, which projected advertisements on their sides. In the middle of the screen were the traffic lanes, all three layers of it. As transports and the occasional train moved on the ground floor, others floated on the second and third levels. After drying my face, I threw the towel back on the shelf and crossed the room to the small kitchen area.
“Play some ambient music,” I commanded the TV-wall once more as I took a clear plastic cup from the shelf on my right and opened the fridge. There were three tubes labeled by tiny LED lights in the shape of a water drop by the handle. The one with a blue dot dispensed drinking water—half an inch to its right, another labeled by a white dot, milk. The one next to it had a different color, depending on what drink was dispensed that month. Inside the refrigerator, there were several compartments, bread, fruit, vegetables, and so on. The System would replenish whatever I would consume. My account would be billed based on what I expended for the month—no need for a neighborly chat. I picked a box labeled fruits and looked inside. Not feeling like eating any of that, I closed the door.
I had everything I could need as far as eating and drinking, yet I wanted nothing. Then I remembered that drink I bought a few days ago, in the sealed metallic mug.
As slow but steady ambient sounds played from speakers nested in the ceiling, I sat on my bed, pushed my pillow out of my way, and opened my backpack. Tucked in a special pocket in the main compartment was the tablet I used to read daily news and entertain myself during my commute. All the way to the bottom, there was my water bottle, next to it, the sealed metallic mug. My mouth salivated before I even reached for it. What a strange feeling to have. I knew that what was inside wasn’t tasty. The smell of fermented liquor immediately emanated as soon as I twisted the cap open. It reminded me of homemade grappa. It reminded me of Earth, home. Something my dad and his brothers used to drink when they would come for a visit.
Though the lady assured me this drink wasn’t what I thought it was. Taking a sip out of it, I immediately felt the alcohol burning its way down my esophagus, stopping in my stomach. As a familiar buzz clouded my head, I kicked my bag on the floor, adjusted my pillows against the wall, and sat on my bed. This drink, whatever it was, did not taste like grappa. Soaking in the sounds and sights from the wall-sized flat-screen TV, I took another sip of the alcoholic drink. Though the wall in front of me displayed images of the futuristic city I was in at the moment, my mind drifted home. I took another sip.
Leading with [C-3] LiveFeed, C-3 meaning Colony Three, of course, the obligatory chyron scrolling on the bottom of the screen displayed stats of the stock market across the colonies and news of the day.
Expected release early 2022
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