Cobblestone rolled under his stumbling feet like tiny hills. The night air was still and bathed in thick humidity. Blue light from a late-night gelateria washed his skin with a welcoming glow, but Max was searching for something salty, something to satisfy his boozy stupor. He turned down a darkened alley toward – hopefully – another night market or square that would be bustling with tourists and snacks.
A familiar buzz began behind him. The hum and whirl of rotors. It got louder and louder, quickly passing over his head. A drone. What kind of knob uses a drone at midnight, Max thought. The drone spun around near the end of the alley and began speeding toward him. Closer and closer it whizzed toward Max. Concerned, he looked over his shoulder, and back to the drone. It wasn’t stopping. The drone looked like it was aiming for Max, it was getting close, the buzz of the rotors, too close. Max braced himself and ducked. It stopped – hovering half a metre from his head. Max could feel the thrust of the rotors, like knives spinning just an arms length from his face. A speaker on the drone shouted,
“Metti il telefono, l’orologio, il portafoglio e i gioielli sul terreno e vai via!”
Confused, his hands still guarding his face, Max barked, “what?!”
“Put phone, watch, wallet, and jewellery on ground and walk away!”
Max couldn’t believe it. “You’ve gotta be kidding me.” He stood for a moment with an annoyed look on his face before turning around to walk back toward the gelateria. The drone buzzed over his head, just grazing his hair.
“Give your valuables or we will kill you!” The speaker on the drone shouted. The drone spun around and made another attempt at Max’s head. He ducked, but this time the drone dropped charges. Tiny little snaps of gun powder popped around Max’s ankles. Dancing in pain, he looked down in disbelief to see abrasions on his legs from metal scrap in the charges. Clever bastards. The drone spun back, and shouted, “Put valuables on ground!”
This time Max obeyed, dropping his valuables. He ran back toward the gelato shop as the drone collected his belongings and whizzed away. “I just got mugged by a drone!” The shop owner looked puzzled, “Gelato?”
Thanks for reading. Apologies for the butchered Italian. I’m Shawn Cole, a futurist and storyteller. This work of fiction is something I’ve had in notes for quite some time – originally written after a trip to Rome in 2015. Please check out Humanistic in the coming weeks for more speculative futures and outlook on the design and strategy industry.