Fireflies pulsed across the cityscape, reflecting off the towering glass windows, multiplying their neon glow. The air was acrid and dry. The fading daylight produced waves of coolness with every breath of air. Along the silent street the occasional rustle and hacking cough emanated from makeshift dwellings and nylon tents which the city’s homeless population inhabited. At first glance one would think it piles of waste or garbage, but these dilapidated nests were a permanent fixture in the great city, and home to an entirely separate community, with their own culture and ways of survival.
At the top of the tallest building were two men reclining in chairs, hands folded behind their head as they gazed out the transparent windows separating them from the city beyond. They stared into the distance, at the fading daylight, watching as the last rays of sun licked at the horizon and sunk into the ocean. Below the high towers, beneath the flaming sky reflected in the tower tops, were dark empty streets, interrupted by the flicker of fireflies and the ambient lamps of the occasional patrol car.
“I need to get home” one of the men finally said, looking at his watch. “I told Angela I’d pick up Kylie.”
“But it’s almost eight o’clock?”
“I know. She’s in an after school program. Our schedules got so hectic the past year, and the program is subsidized. We just couldn’t afford to keep calling a babysitter last minute.” The man compressed an illuminated display screen into an eight inch glass cylinder and placed it on the inside of his jacket pocket.
“Hey man that’s life!” said the other man swiveling from the window to face him. “Hey John.” he said.
“You’re doing well. Keep it up. Get some sleep tonight and say hi to Angela for me. I’ll catch you tomorrow.”
John paused and looked at the man and let out a half hearted smile. “Thanks, Carlos. You too.”
John exited the frosted glass doors enclosing the private corner room and walked through the spacious hall lined with glass cubicles. Every few cubicles he passed was illuminated by a digital glow. Fellow employees seated motionless, conducting work flows through the VisionField headsets they wore across their eyes. He arrived at the elevator and paused, before a sheer whiz and bing opened a set of doors. “Hello John.” An automated voice greeted him as he stepped into the pod. “Hello Siri. I need to pick up Kylie at the CadetAcademy on my way home. Will that be a problem?”
“No problem at all” the voice replied as the doors sealed. As John approached the seat the cushions automatically adjusted its contours to fit his long frame.
A robotic harness snaked across his body and secured itself. John looked at the display in front of him. A digital picture of his face from that day shown on the screen along with a variety of metrics, including his social credits, transportation credits, food credits, labor credits, and health credits. A map populated a corner of the screen with an arrival time of 4 minutes and 38 seconds, and the total cost of credit for the ride.
With a blank expression he inspected his floating image on the screen as he thought of today’s meeting. He fastened his gaze into the eyes of his digital image, as if searching for some answers. The pod dimmed its lights and John could feel his stomach rise as the pod dropped in space and zoomed to its next destination.