Flash Fiction: Future Present

When attention is a currency, where is there left to gaze?

‘Untitled’ by Iona Lee
“We have no idea, now, of who or what the inhabitants of our future might be. In that sense, we have no future. Not in the sense that our grandparents had a future, or thought they did. Fully imagined cultural futures were the luxury of another day, one in which ‘now’ was of some greater duration. For us, of course, things can change so abruptly, so violently, so profoundly, that futures like our grandparents’ have insufficient ‘now’ to stand on. We have no future because our present is too volatile…”
 — William Gibson

Adverts scream and blare in your retinal feed like artillery fire. Toggle down with a flat palmed gesture and enter Private Browsing, mute the audio. The verts de-rez and drain of colour, becoming generalised, quotidian.

Audio dampened, you hear the metallic buzz of thousands of miniature rotors. The sky is black with drones, choking the blue in algorithmic waves as they sweep the pavements for analytics data, measuring gait and posture, profiling along race and gender lines, weaving new demographics from their market research surveillance.

Other UAVs are on delivery vectors, aimed like missiles at consumers, or transacting black market auction business to augment the incomes of the underemployed populace.

Turn the opacity on your shades to 70 percent and double-tap the latest franchise spin-off — a fanfiction holo voted Most Popular in this weeks DisMal hustings. Superheroes demolish architecture and immolate citizens, you are a voyeur of collateral damage as you perform the awkward shuffling tango required to negotiate a crowded underpass.

Above the heads of the crowd and the black swarming drones, a dark crimson streak cuts a swathe across the sky, photonic fallout from the latest coronal mass ejection generated and then farmed intensively by the solar cell satellites which ring the sun.

Your watch is singing a melancholy song. You are late for work again. The cubicle calls dully from the cortex farm, awaiting the insertion of your skull into the shimmering global network of brain-meat for rent.

You are an empty lot, a hollow shell, a transistor awaiting current in a vast network of batteries. You are defined by what you consume. Your attention is currency.

You snap the bluetooth RFID function back to active and bathe your eyes in the spectral light of a million pornographic popups. Around you are a hundred identical meat puppets, gazes locked on a hallucination which long ago ceased to be consensual.

The city watches you. None of you will ever escape the baleful gaze of its compound eyes.

Written December 2013 | bramegieben.co.uk