In The Future We Will All Have A Chance…

12JUN2011 – The last of the great mindships had sailed from sight and his shoulders were sore from waving goodbye when he noticed the blank sheet of paper lying on the patch of sunlit grass at his feet.  Reality gathered like a cold grapefruit in his gut; the visitors were gone, but the page was still there.  One was a dream.  The other was very much a fact.  Days after the incident, he still couldn’t write.  Nothing made sense anymore and the ideas he’d birthed a decade ago were useless children to him now.  Meatland technology had caught up to his imagination rendering him null, if not void…

2004 – That late night December flight to Dutch Harbor really did it for me.  In the weeks preceding the wreck of the Selendang Ayu, I’d been reading a Ray Kurzweil book, one I own but cannot remember the name of.  It prophesied the impending Singularity and spoke of a fantastic host of futuristic possibilities that set my hungry brain spinning in more directions than I could count.  It was the right tool at the right time.

During that skeleton era I was writing for pure escapism; my boss wanted me dead and I was experiencing my first Alaskan winter on the poor.  The credit wolves were sniffing constantly around our door, although the use of the word ‘our’ in this sentence is questionable.  My already-troubled union was falling further and faster apart and, adding insult to injury, the fridge was always empty.  I was down to my high school weight.  (There was always milk and peanut butter for the young John Connor but Sarah and Reese were left to fend for themselves.  Once close friends, they now hid behind library books, reading an odd or amusing passage aloud now and again from opposite ends of the room.   There was no Internet, no television and nothing resembling a social life to distract them from the awful glare of silence.)

I looked forward to Friday nights; I’d put the Padawan to bed, fix myself a cup of heavy fuel and descend into the dusty black of the basement to a red-lined writing room in the bowels of the House That Drunk Built, armed with a stack of burned CDs, a piece of shit IBM ThinkPad and what was left of my imagination and I wouldn’t leave my desk until the morning sun insisted upon it.

It was during this time that KnoWare Man was born.  I genuinely believe that book saved me.  I put everything I had left into it and it made for a good read.  It began as a short story in 2001; the dialog took a few years to focus and the plot was streamlined over the course of a hard winter or two or three.  Or four.  I finally released it in November of 2010 while working a case in Grand Isle, La.  There were no trumpet calls or angelic choirs when I hit the ‘send’ button.  Instead, I watched this video and took a moment to imagine I’d be rich someday.  Then I took a healthy slug from a box of wine, made myself a bologna and mustard sandwich and began writing cutlines for work photos I’d taken earlier that day during a trip upriver in an aluminum boat.  I’d already outlined my next novel so I thought I could just “whip another bottle into fire” while the crowd was still laughing, shocked by the explosion of breaking glass.

Not so fast.  It turns out I’m too comfortable to write now.  I live in a nice apartment on a nice street in a nice neighborhood in Brooklyn and my bills are paid in full each month.  My boss is only half kidding when he says he wants to kill me, and my credit score is good.  Really good.  I drink coconut water like it’s my fucking job and when I get antsy I do chin-ups on the bar above my bedroom door. (Sarah and John are taken care of to the best of my ability.  She wisely decided we should part ways for the continued preservation of our little tribe…)

Caterpillar to Agent Monday.” – A man spoke those words into the cuff of his jacket one afternoon last month during my subway ride home.  He was standing about five feet away from me and just to my right.  Maybe he was crazy, or maybe I misunderstood what he’d said.  I misunderstand a lot of what I see, hear or read.  That’s not a flaw.  It’s a goddamn gift

//

The sign on the truck said Green Renovations:  An old man with wild eyebrows wearing a painters cap and a work shirt that’d seen better days stepped down from the cab of the truck and blinked for awhile, double-checking the address.  After a smoke break, he supervised the offload of a cumbersome grey box and an industrial-strength tripod from the back of the truck  as it was carried up two flights of stairs to a room at the back.  The gear took a little time to set up; measurements were taken and calculations were made, switches were flicked and dials were turned.  The warming machine reeked of hot ozone.  Goggles were donned.  When all was ready, the tech took a remote in his hand and depressed a single button with a gnarled thumb.  A pointed apparatus at the business end of the device flashed once, twice, three times before a bright red line leapt horizontally across the top of the wall, leaving a hint of shadow across the paint.  More adjustments were made and more dials were turned.  Another trilogy of flashes filled the room before a second vertical line was scored across the left edge of the wall at a right angle, intersecting with the first.  This careful procedure would be repeated for the baseboards, ceiling and remaining edges of every wall in each of the empty rooms, wrapping around doorframes, windows and outlets. 

Across this burn line, the nanites would not venture.  This was important.  Once they were let loose, they’d eat everything up to the line and down to the treated plaster — nails, scraps and all, smooth as good whiskey.  Renovation without the fuss, dust or noise.  Care must be taken, however.  If the box of lines weren’t properly closed off — if the lines didn’t intersect, if they didn’t go deep enough – well, there’d be almost no stopping a swarm of nanites.  Accidents were common in the beginning.  An inexperienced tech was responsible for an entire block being consumed by nanites thanks to a tiny gap, a simple miscalculation.  Fortunately, the lifespan of a nanite is less than twelve hours so the other side of the street was spared.  There are very few businesses in this city permitted to practice Green Renovation but their reputations are gold…

In an apartment down the block, a child strokes and plays with her seedCat in the triangle of sunlight pouring in through the open window of her bedroom.  As the animal purrs and arches contentedly beneath her hand, small puffs of dander are released on the breeze, clinging to the splinters on the windowsill and the burrs of the brick wall beyond but not taking root.  Not here.  It isn’t safe.  The stronger seeds will drift out to the buildings and rooftops below where they’ll begin to germinate.  In just five months, a squat thorn bush with dazzling green flowers will produce five small pods the size of walnuts.  Two months later, those pods will erupt with a slight pop and a crop of seedCats will tumble to the ground, blinking, mewling and ravenous for flies, leaves and twigs…

Sign on the walk: “Grand Ma Seizure’s Chicken Shack.”  A line of ambulances as far as the eye can see….

Ben-wa Albuquerque, the exquisitely spoiled teenage daughter of a mega-wealthy businessman saunters down Fifth Avenue wearing little more than a smile, led along by a pair of Bengal tigers adorned in matching diamond collars.  She rents them by the hour from the estate of the deposed Queen of England, who packed her bags and boarded a fast freighter for Brazil in the dark of night with nothing more than the clothes on her back and the Royal Pool Boy in tow when the shit got too real.

Ben-wa gestures and points at every object she desires in a dreamlike, languid manner, every detail of her experience having been addressed to the nth degree.  Ben-wa doesn’t look at price tags, she doesn’t speak to a sales-anyone and she damn sure doesn’t want to damage her two-thousand-dollar manicure by carrying fucking parcels.

This week’s hot item: sex slaves built from salvaged vagabonds and rehabilitated paste junkies.  Hose ‘em down, clean ‘em up, give ‘em their shots, get ‘em to a gym and feed ‘em a steak now and again.  They’ll gladly withstand the excruciating pain of the gold-leafing sessions on a steady diet of Betty Ford’s Ashes.  Frequent use turns the pupils of the user a soft, milky white.

Ben-wa’s purchases will be airlifted by silk dirigible to the roof of her enormous handcrafted Manhattan loft and arranged to perfection by temperamental interior decorators with one-word names; prepubescent protégé’s who panic and flail like windmills in a hurricane if they’re not served a brand of Swiss mineral water so exclusive it doesn’t even have a fucking name.  Each portion is filtered through Natalie Portman’s twat and served in a one-of-a-kind crystal decanter made by a blind French designer whose name is far too A-list to be listed here, and chilled with icy blue shavings from an endangered Alaskan glacier…

It’s raining outside.  I’m waiting for a friend in an oxygen and blood boutique on the Upper East Side.  The room is populated by three scowling androgynous bicycle messengers, two Greek housewives and one trans-gendered DJ with LED sub dermal implants that jump and flash like eels in a fish tank.  A nice girl-from-next-door type serves mood-enhancing ice cream behind the counter while hololamps alter the decor to match the mood of the music, pouring forth from liquid glass speakers painted across the ceiling.  From where I’m sitting, I can see an old woman exiting her luxury apartment.  She’s wearing the pelt of a freshly-slaughtered hipster; the empty eye sockets, the intricately tattooed flesh and magnificently waxed moustache perched high on her left shoulder as his draining irony gland weeps down the back of her dress like the trail of a snail.  She’s assisted into a white stretch hansom drawn by a team of black supermodels…

R.E.S.C.U.E comes to the aid of an advertising executive who finds himself pinned down in a daytime firefight between warring cabdrivers while he’s enroute to a planning meeting.  Seeking cover behind a rusting dumpster, he winces at every ricochet, emptying the contents of his regulation-issue stainless-steel briefcase onto the filthy pavement and cowering beneath it while frantically pressing a small red button on the handle, praying to fuck that his recent work on the SupraTec account has been up to par.  (Employers reserve the right to discontinue their employees’ Esc@pe accounts without prior notification.)  “Welcome to R.E.S.C.U.E.  Please wait while I triangulate your position and plot your escape route.  If you are presently in a situation which threatens your safety, please seek suitable cover…”

15JUL2011 – Good morning from 42nd gear.  I am:

Listening to: Iron Maiden, Fugazi and KISS, three of the four basic food groups.  Speaking of the fourth, I’m:

Drinking: Venti iced coffee (black-eye, sweetened) made with average care by some cute little barista who slaves away at the corner Starbucks.  She’s got big brown eyes, perfect teeth and the good graces to laugh at my dumb jokes when I’m in the mood to make them.  I like my coffee like I like my women: way too young to interest me.  (I am to 4 p.m. what 3:30 is to 1:15.)  And I’m:

Functioning: But barely.  This week has been an experiment in sleep deprivation.  I’ve been awakened every morning at 3 a.m. by the chirp of the Batphone.  Sometimes every half hour.  And each time I’d settle back into the soothing syrup of slumber, the motherfucker’d chirp with news of an oil sheen or a vessel collision, a swimmer lost to the appetite of a rogue wave, a jet skier grounded on a sand bar, a report of a bridge jumper or a body in the water.  The lines between sleep and awake have begun to blur…

Outside my window, sunlight-dappled Battery Park is full of well-rested tourists going on about their happy affairs, expensive cameras slung around meaty Midwest necks as they pause to take snapshots of the first skyscrapers they encounter when they step off the Staten Island Ferry — which is weird, because there’s nothing on Staten Island to draw them away from Manhattan in the first place except mafia housing, sandwich shops, a methadone clinic and a boat rental agency.  The once-idyllic fishing village has earned a bad reputation for being the Island of Misfit Toys and brother, when those Toys come a-charging out of the ferry tunnel like B-Boy baby bullets with bad attitudes, you don’t want to be standing in their way.  A parade of used-up harpies, strung-out scarecrows and burned-down buildings of human beings trickle into the heat of the morning sun like blood from a gut wound, searching for a free cigarette and a park bench to snuggle up to, squawking at each other across the busy pavement about nothing you’d ever want to hear once you’ve washed your face and hands…

In the future, we will all have a chance to bite the hand that feeds us,

TWM

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