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Science Fiction Speculative

Andre Jackson loved life. His apartment was small, but he had everything he needed and everything was of the finest quality. He could dine out at amazing restaurants for every meal every day, and drink at fantastic bars every evening. Since all the manual labour became automated, nobody went without. You could work if you wanted to persun a craft or intellectual pursuit, and of course there were still artists and celebrities, but the hardships and worries of his parents and grandparents generations were consigned to history. "What a time to be alive" he would think to himself.

Today was a typical day. He awoke at 9am and ordered the shirt he saw is a few days ago and loved, it was ready in minutes. He had a shower and got prepared for the day, his cologne bottle gave a brand new fragrance and he was ready for the world. He left his 10 foot by 10 foot apartment, which suited him, as he wanted to be around people. He went to his favourite little cafe and ordered pancakes with maple syrup, some grapefruit and a glass of orange juice. He looked around at all the beautiful people in the cafe with him, and he was beautiful too. Everyone was now, another thing that has been fixed in the world. He had a sudden shooting pain in his head for about 2 seconds and his vision blurred, and then some ringing in his ears too. And now perfectly fine, as if it never even happened. A woman approached him from a nearby table and asked if he had company for the day, and if she could join him. Most people spend their days like this now, it turned out that in the past long term relationships depended on people being separated for at least nine hours a day to make them actually pleased to see each other. Some people made relationships work, and good for them, maybe someday he would too. For now he will spend the day with Lydia. They took a taxi to a secluded beach which had a little cafe and just four other couples. They relaxed deck chairs in the drinking cocktails and getting to know other. He got the headache again, his vision blurred and it sounded like hundreds people all talking at once along with an awful smell and taste in his mouth. It went away just as quickly. His parents got them occasionally he remembered, before moving to a retirement community, he'll ask when next phones them. The trip they took is one way. He misses them, but he'll join them in a few years so he wasn't that upset about it.

Lydia was telling him about some adventures she had been on. She loved going on jungle safaris and taking photos of all the plants and animals. They decided they go tomorrow. They had light lunch at the cafe and talked about music. He really enjoyed Lydia's company and thought they might spend months together. As the day rolled by, more couples arrived at the beach and few people bought instruments with them. Andre and Lydia spent the evening around a beach fire listening to people singing as the sun went down. For a moment, just seconds, he thought he saw hundreds of scruffy people around them. He told Lydia but she was too engrossed in the music. It was probably Just the alcohol, but would ask his dad about it anyway. They got tired so they went to stay in a nearby hotel.

The next morning they decided that they would go to the Peru end of the Amazon rainforest. Some suitable clothes were printed, colonial khakis, and a taxi arrived. They had breakfast in the taxi and they had trail food in their packs. Andre was excited, this was a completely new experience for him. The skies were clear and blue as they flew down to the drop site. The taxi would stay close by and collect them when they were ready to go home. They trekked for hours, he couldn't believe the variety of life. So many beautiful flowers and insects, trees so huge he couldn't see the tops and the animals and birds, just wow. Lydia took photos of them all, and amazingly the creatures were not scared, nor did they seem to want to attack. For a moment he thought that he was in a crowd of people, he could hear Lydia's voice calling.

"Andre, where are you?"

"I'm over here "he called back to her. She didn't hear him. "Andre" she called again. 

"I'm right here" he called back, as he suddenly seemed to be in the forest alone with Lydia again. 

He tried to tell her what happened later, but she just wasn't listening. It was all the excitement, he'll be fine. There is a pill for everything now so nothing to worry about. They stayed in the tent for the evening and spent another day exploring. He was getting the flashes and headaches every four or five hours now. When they got back he went to a med center and the machines examined him and gave him some pills. He seemed fine for the next few days, and he and Lydia put together a book of her photos and arranged a gallery. He had never worked before, school didn't count, but this was fun. The gallery opening was a month later and it was a huge success, people loved Lydia's work. She had got herself an office in the town where she did most of her writing and sorting through photos, while Andre would arrange things with publishers and galleries from their new home. They had decided that they would make a go of it, the time appart working made a bigger difference than they expected and they were genuinely glad to be together. Every week they would explore a different place and they would often go back and revisit places to explore further or just to see the differences as the seasons changed.

A year had passed without incident and they were having lunch in the cafe that they had first met. They were planning their next expedition, the Serengeti, and suddenly the headache came back. This time Lydia's skin looked worn and blistered, he recoiled. A moment later she looked her usual self, with her usual flawless skin. She didn't seem to notice his reaction and carried on talking about lionesses the whole time. He took one of his pills and tried not to think about it. But he did keep thinking about it. He had never seen real blisters or even blemishes, except in history books. People dressed up for halloween and there were movies, but they were not real, not like what he saw. These moments came a few times over the next week. One time he saw, heard and smelled the crowd as he went walking through the park. The stench was foul and overwhelming, people were in dirty and tattered clothes, but the faces were worse. So many old faces, blistered and discoloured, red eyes and cracked lips. The younger people didn't look any better, except they were wandering around as if they were in a dream. Some of the older people noticed his staring and approached him, they asked if he was ok, then suddenly they were all gone. The younger people a remained and looked normal, and beautiful as usual. He was going straight to the med center.

The machines did their usual tests and he sat in a waiting room. He had never been here this long before. Occasionally he seemed to see the room fill with people, who would then just as quickly vanish.

"Andre, this way please" said a man, who then walked him to an office.

"Please take a seat Mr. Jackson" Said the man

Andre sat down, nervously.

"I didn't know people worked here" he said.

"It's just me in this center, I'm Dr. Huges"

"What is happening? What's happening to me?"' he asked.

"This is going to be difficult for you to understand" the doctor said "You and everyone you know have an implant, called an R.T.G. that filters the world, and yours is being rejected. It happens to everybody. For your safety your implant will deactivate itself this evening. I will give you strong anti-rejection drugs to get you through the day." 

"What will I tell Lydia, what will I do tomorrow?"

"I can't tell you what to say to Lydia, but sometimes couples reunite after both of their implants have been rejected. I can tell you that if you attempt to tell her the truth about the R.T.G. she will not hear you" the doctor softened his tone "the best thing now is to go home and make your peace back here after 8pm and we will help you with the next step. I'm sorry I cannot give you more time" He gave Andre an injection and wished him well.

Andre went to Lydia's office and asked her to take the day off. They went to the beach that was their first date and he told her that it was time for him to move on. They were both tearful, but Lydia took it well. She was in a good place with her art, and she thanked him for their time together and for staying for so long. And that was that, it was over.

Andre returned to the med center at 8pm. The doctor took him to a room with a bed and a couple of chairs. The doctor asked him to lie down and he placed a device on his hond. A moment of a sinking feeling and the room looked different. The layout was the same, but it seemed grimier, and there was a smell. The doctor saw him scrunch his face.

"you'll get used to the smell"

The doctor looked different, more worn down, like his clothing, Like Andre's clothes now come to think of it.

"There are a pair of mark ones on your side table, it may help to put them on while you transition," the doctor said kindly.

Andre put the glasses on and everything looked normal to him again.

"What are these?"

"They are Mk 1 R.T.G.Bn, Rose Tinted Glasses, the precursor of the implant. The filters that change photos to look like cartoon characters or monsters on your phone, these are for the world. There are too many of us for this world and the machines can't keep up yet. So the world seems more tolerable everyone gets an implant when they are born, or in the case of my generation some of us chose it, but they only last about years before being rejected and sooner for some people"

"And that what has happened to me"

"yes"

"So what do I do now?"

"You live your life without illusion, no more exotic adventures and fine dining I'm afraid."

He was trying to take this all in. 

"There are some visitors for you Andre" the doctor opened the door "you can come in now" he called to the hallway

Andre's parents walked into the room and the doctor took his leave. Andre was shocked to see how they really looked, but he was happy to see them anyway and hugged them. He was glad to see that they were still together and even both happy despite how the world now appeared. They asked him to join them in home and their work helping the elderly and sick. The machines were good at a lot of things, but they are not a substitute for human connection. 

Months later Andre had adapted, He missed all the flavours and textures of the food from before and he still had to put the Mk 1's on while eating the grey mush. He was getting used to things like the crowds. Less children were being born now and the world was getting a little less crowded each year, and now healing a bit too. He often thought of Lydia and how she loved the world. She will be upset to find that so much of the beauty of nature she would photograph is long extinct, but he hopes that when she sees what humanity is doing to prepare the world for the future, all the sacrifice, her art will continue. When her time comes, he'll be there if she wants him.

November 13, 2021 17:06

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4 comments

Clair Whitmer
16:01 Dec 02, 2021

I agree with the first commentor: this could be a Black Mirror episode! Really good concept and I love that he's waiting for her at the end. But the editing mistakes were distracting. As for the style, I think it read like an old-fashioned fairy tale. Assuming that was an intentional style choice, I think it actually worked for the story, like a fable instead of science fiction.

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Dale Newman
19:01 Dec 02, 2021

Thanks for the feedback. I am so annoyed at myself for rushing it out with so many mistakes, but lesson learnt, I will be much more careful with the next one I submit. I didn't think of it as a fairy tale/fable, but I do like that description and I think it fits most of my writing

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Melissa Balick
21:50 Nov 24, 2021

What a fascinating concept, one I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. I didn’t know where it would go at the start and was surprised/impressed by how the plot turned. I do suggest that you watch your editing more closely, make sure you spell words correctly, fix typos, capitalize and punctuate consistently. Also, this is really hard to learn to fix, but much of the story reads like summary, rather than placing us directly into the story, especially at the beginning. However, I think the story has a lot going for it—it’s quite a beautiful idea...

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Dale Newman
18:02 Nov 25, 2021

Thank you so much for your feedback. I'll definitely take more care with spelling and grammar next time, as well as filling out the story from the concepts. I reviewed it after the edit button disappeared and kicked myself for a lot of the mistakes I left in. I'll re read your feedback when I finish the first draft of my next story for reedsy.

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