Authors note: All posted excerpts are rough, uncorrected text only. Updated 9th August 2019. Full video reading available here.
This is an unfinished work in progress. A longer version may be forthcoming.
An ordinary megacity morning in the not too distant, routine future. In the early hours of artificially augmented daylight, in a data hub far, far away, something trivial. A file fragment, data stub corrupted during routine automated upgrade and transfer. The record attached missing one tiny part of one insignificant field. Cause? A simple fugly AI transposition error or data transfer algorithm fault? Cosmic ray fluctuation or voltage glitch? A tiny half hexadecimal data error overlooked by the autocorrect feature? Who knows? Effect? Record dumped as ‘corrupt’. No sweat. One tiny, insignificant record. AutoTech Support says De nada. Everyday stuff. Escalate to administration and all will be fine. Ah. But in this artificially intelligent world-system there is no longer a human administrator to tick the box, fill in the correct form, oversee the system. So….
System update: corrupted file dumped into electronic oblivion with a whole bunch of Tweets, Pokes, Emoji-mails and other messages. Global impact is; Huh? Lots of inane stuff will be reposted. No harm, no foul, right? No further action required. MemDump. Mematrix reformats the global data space for more of the same.
Update: A small apartment, anywhere megacity, in this brave, flawless world of auto-retinal recognition.
Blink: Hey. Lights aren’t working.
Blink: Hot jug won’t switch on. Okay, it’s broken. No crappy morning hot drink. Look out of window onto pedestrian way. Yay. Local cafe open and serving goodies. Treat for breakfast. Fine. Not so bad. Cute Barista is on shift, the one with the nice smile and taut package. Yum-ee.
Blink: Clothes in closet look stale. Want to look good for unbearably cute Barista. Set 3D to print gorgeous bling, and new shizzle. Take a shower, ten minutes and you’re lookin’ dangerous baby. Dressed to kill. Look out world, here I come. Party starts here.
Blink: Huh? Autocloset 3D print not working. Power must be out. So no new shizzle and stuff. Have to wear rumpled old crap from last night. Shower don’t work. Means I’ll stink. Cute Barista maybe not such an attainable life goal today. Hmm. Blood sugar needed. What goodies in Coolster? Something sweet maybe?
Blink: Won’t open. Wha..? Panel reads: ‘Record not recognised – Have a great day’. What’s this ‘Conserve Power’ crap? My frickin’ Coolster’s locked me out. What in Gandalfs name is going on?
Blink: Power standby light on phone is cool. Hey, all little red lights are on standby. Wall screen, Web terminal, Mealcooker, Coolster. Even the toaster and coffee machine. Power not out. But nothing’s working. Glitch or what? Pull on rumpled clothes. Feel and look like like crapola. No shower, no wash, I stink.
Blink: Come on, work will you? Blink. Blink. Blinkety frigging blink! Aw shee-it! Gotta call repair guys. Means three hours in a call centre queue so late for worky stuff. Sit down. Swear. Hey. Not all lost. Call work with a brill excuse. Spend rest of day ogling cute Barista. Maybe date, get horny and grunty. Look on bright side. Miss boring meetings and crabby Boss Manager. Hey. Things looking up already. Okay, calling…… Whaa..? Phone won’t accept ID? Now have to go or get bad mark on employment record. Not good.
Blink: Door sticking. Won’t open. Whaa..? Hate it. Junky moronic door. Open up. I wanna go get coffee an shizzle. Wassallthis ‘No known record’ crap? Kick door. See red button on access panel. Hah! Emergency override. Door opens. Ta-daahhh! Suck it, techno crap. Call tech support when get home. Call centres always jammed in morning. Genius me got all the answers. Better do worky thing first. Dull, dull-de-dull-dull. Major yawn. Get credit to fix crap techno stuff.
Blink: AutoBus won’t let me on. Hey, what is this? I ain’t no low-life. Got job. Got credit. I am not a nobody. Homeless guy carrying coffee cup laughing at me from sidewalk. Big blush. Walk away. Humiliation. Turn away to hide face and get walking.
Blink: Even transit gate won’t let me through. Walking sucks. Feet hurt. Feel dirty from sidewalk garbage and stuff. Life is crap. Least not far.
Blink: Whaa..? Worky place door won’t open. Securi-bot software’s locked me out. Hey. How come? Hey dimwit malware, I work here. Let me in. Got big important meeting thing. Hey flunky ap. You’ll get your worthless ass upgraded to electronic hell, pal.
Blink: Ow! Front door Tazers me. People walk past and over like I don’t exist. Manager from upstairs sees. Knows me. I’m on her team. Says she’ll contact security. Gotta wait at door. Aw bitchin.
Blink: Security guy on screen with Manager in lobby. He’s shaking his head. She’s pointing. Yeah, right, flunky. I key team player. Hot shot on way to top. You better let me in or, or….
Blink: Manager at door, shakes head, says no go. Security glitch. Go home, full pay. Not your fault. All fixed tomorrow. Can’t let me in or every single security door will tazer my ass. Everywhere. See you tomorrow. Have bitchin day.
Blink: No bus. Gotta walk. Blisters! I got pigging blisters! Hurts. Hate it, hate it, hate it! Rain. Hate that too. Junky, shitty rain. Don’t like wet. Hair all tangled and fugly. Look and feel like crapola.
Blink: Coffee store. Go ogle cute Barista. Yay. Caramel Mocha Latte heat drive the cold out. Brill idea me.
Blink: Watcha mean, no credit? I got credit. I live there. That block, that apartment. See? You seen me before. I’m a someone. Not a nobody.
Blink: Cute Barista firm head shake. Get out bum. No credit, no Caramel Mocha Latte. Bi-atch behind in line tells me she wants her order, so can I respectfully GTFO? Walk away, head down, hot tears, cold rain.
Blink: Apartment block won’t open. Whaa..? I live here crissake! Lemme in! Slump. Cry. No one stops. Why won’t anyone talk to meee?
Blink: Same homeless guy sitting across passage. Cardboard city creep who needs to lose that suck-ugly beard. Why’s he grinning? I wearing clown mask or something? “System shut you out? Aww. Poor bay-bee.” He gets up and walks away laughing. A-hole.
Blink: Neighbour just walked past. Guy plays Fender Strat with a band part time. Didn’t even see me. Cop Drone arrives. Blue shiny light in eyes. Don’t like. Hurts.
Blink: Cop drone moves away. Like it don’t see. Homeless guy reappears when Cop drone moves on. Whaa..? He’s grinning. What’s he know?
“Welcome to the life invisible.” He’s laughing at me. “What do you do?” Some kinda fine mesh stuff hanging from the brim of his scabby baseball cap. Weirdo.
Blink away tears: “I don’t know no more.”
“Uh-huh.” He nods like he’s waiting for something profound. Don’t hold your breath, scumbag.
“I just want to go home.” Is all I can say. He seems to find this way fun-ny. “I got home. In there.” Point at apartment block. “Fifth floor. Corner apartment. Real nice. Had to work hard for it. My stuff is in there.”
“Not now it ain’t.”
Blink: Homeless Guy helps me up. Hands scarred and dirty. Cracked fingernails. Gross unwashed smell. Double euw.
“Come on kid. I cain’t stand seeing a body starve. You eaten today?” He says.
“No. I got food.”
“Yeah, yeah. In the apartment you don’t got no more. C’mon.”
“It’s my place. I want to go back there.” I lean back on the smooth plasticrete wall. I want real. Just to feel I’m not floating free. Don’t like.
“Not any more.”
“Stop saying that!”
“Hey. Drone. It’s true.”
“I just gotta get to tech support. They’ll fix it.” This seems to annoy him. He kinda hunches up and does an ugly snort. Like what I just said was disgusting.
“Tech support. No better than Turing ‘bots.” He wipes his nose on a dirty coat sleeve. Ek.
“I just want to go home.”
“Kid. You got the stupids so bad, I’m worried if it’s catching. What part of you cain’t go back doncha unnerstand? You’re a lockout. Your numbers don’t work no more. Like me.”
“Nooo.” A Lockout? Me? Why? I was good. I din’t do nothin’. Din’t say no hatecrime. I’m a good citizen. Why me?
“Yeaaaah.” SOB’s mocking me now. “It happens. Get over it. You ain’t part of the machine no more.”
“The civilization machine, Drone. The megacity.”
“What are you saying?”
This seems to make him more angry. “All these offices. The bright lights an’ shit. The mega-retail and endless party life. This massive super city from ‘Couver to Sisco. You ain’t part of it no more. They deleted your file. You. Do. Not. Exist.” He waves a dirty finger.
“My Manager knows. She saw. She’ll fix it. I’m important. Key team member. Management potential on the fast track.” There, that’s him told, a-hole.
He laughs. “Yeah, right. Drone, you still don’t get it.”
“Stop calling me that word.”
“What, Drone? Hey. It’s what you are. A tiny useless cog in a big machine that don’t even know you’re gone, and don’t care neither. The camera looks, but it does not see. Well, most of the cameras.”
“But the cameras are our friends. They keep us safe.” Doesn’t he know this? Dumb-ass.
“From the bad stuff. You know. Earthquakes, hurricanes, volcanoes, the climate. The stuff we cause. You know. Outside.”
He seems to find this way fun-ny. “Is that what you think?”
“Hey, it’s true!”
“Drone. You gots to get yourself an education.”
“I got education! I got a Masters in Social Business and Administration.”
“Huh.” The single syllable drops like a sarcastic lead weight.
“I can get a new job.”
“Sure Drone. I got a Ph.D. In Cybernetics.” Homeless guy shrugs as if it’s nothing.
“No shit, Drone. I worked on some of your system. Your perfect world-machine. I know exactly what it can and cain’t do.”
“So how come you’re out here?”
“Your record got corrupted. So you don’t exist. Your apartment, your stuff, your life.” He leans against a perfect wall and gives a snaggle toothed grin. “Don’t exist no more. Like me. Cleaning will have cleared your place and reprommed all the codes by now.”
“But yays.” Why does he find this funny?
“Hey. Homeless guy.” I give him a look. He doesn’t twitch. “You’re so smart, like how come you don’t run the system?” Hah! Gimme an answer to that one, bog breath.
He gives me another dirty toothed grin. “Because no one runs it, Drone.” He takes a breath, like he’s taking a run up at a complicated thought. “It was designed to be autonomous.”
“Able to function without human supervision.”
“No programmer back doors, no guest account, no system admin. I know how it works, but I couldn’t get in if I wanted to. You think I like living in the great out here?” He sniffs, then euw gross! Spits into his empty coffee cup. He gives me a look of his own. “A tip, Drone. If you want to stay out of the systems way. Guard your DNA. Just ’cause the system don’t know don’t mean it cain’t find out.” When I stay quiet, he says; “The system don’t like anomalies. You just became an anomaly.”
“Wassan an-on-alee?” This creep is real tin foil hat material.
“Anomaly.” He clears his throat. “Something that deviates from what is standard, normal, or expected.” The words come out like he’s some kind of bad drama construct or worse, a Teacher. His voice takes on an urgent edge. “Drone, if the system don’t know you, it’ll try to expunge you. It was designed to be perfect. Perfection does not like deviations. Deviations get erased.”
“What do you mean, expunge?”
“Erased. Revoked. Removed. Killed. Dead. Recycled. Forgotten.” Homeless Guy shrugs.
“I don’t unnerstand! What did I do?” What’s he talking about?
“Nothin’ kid. Like the rest of the Drones, you stood right on by and did nothin’ while the big corporates built your urban mega-prison. Generations of you. Nothin’.” His tone becomes sad. “Now you got no credit, no place to live, no clothes, no toys. What’s that make you?”
“Nothin’.” Head droop. Shame.
“Cool. You finally got it. Now you got to get elsewhere before the cleaner drones come round.”
“Hey, the Cop Drone ignored me.”
“The Cop Drone saw you all right. It just didn’t recognize you, is all.”
“There’s probably a cleaner scheduled to pass on by in a few minutes. I wouldn’t want to be here when it arrives.”
“Cleaners do the erasing. The tidying up. They keep the streets clean.”
“Drone, you either wake up or die. Just don’t say I didn’t try to help.” He starts to walk away.
Cleaners? He means the street cleaners? They just pick up garbage and stuff. Not people. This guys a fruit loop. He stops. Gives me another one of those looks. “C’mon. I’m gonna show you somethin.”
“Because I don’t like seeing people, even dumb drones like you, get zapped on their first day of nothinghood.”
“Who says I’m gonna get zapped? Whaddya mean by zapped?” Huh, what does garbage breath know?
“Hey, don’t mind me. I’m just helping out a fellow human. Maybe I’m making a mistake.” His head turns sharply, a look of fear stretches his mouth like he’s heard something really bad. I give it a glance. It’s just a cleaner turning the corner. What’s he afraid of? Scaredy cat.
“You wanna be breathing after the next two minutes follow me. If not, feel free to hang around.” He starts to move off, real quick. I’m following, but these blisters really hurt. Can hardly walk. He looks at me, no, behind me. What’s he looking at? He sure does look funny when he’s scared. Hey, he’s gone. Round the corner. Where’d he go? What’s tha……….
Blink: Cleaner Drone 8112956 Sector 231 LVS District 8 reporting. Anomalous entity removed. Reported contamination neutralised, collected and in recycle mode. Recovering 51kg organic mass via accelerated enzyme breakdown. Recovery hoppers at eighty four percent of capacity. Returning to recycle centre for slurry dump and enzyme reload. Report download in progress.
Blink: The massive gaily painted bulk of the cleaner drone whirrs almost directly underneath the man with the beard and dirty coat wedged three metres above street level on an ornate architectural feature. The unkempt man is obviously disappointed and sighs with profound resignation. Just another dumb kid. Someone else who learned too late in their perfect world that all that lies between them and extinction is……
Blink: In a data centre far, far away the self replicating, self managing system finds a dumped record stub. A deletion from backup. A record with a small flaw. A half hexadecimal error. A box unticked. Measured population total mismatch. Cross check indicates that recorded anomaly no longer exists in space and time allocated. File auto-deleted. Records contiguous. All is well………
The end. Maybe.