Thursday, October 14, 2004

Prologue To A Future - 2

Harry swatted at the flies again, then fumbled through the pockets of his soiled jacket until he found a half-smoked butt and his old Zippo. He lit up the butt and hauled off on it a few times. The dizzy euphoria spread through him and smoothed his head out enough to let him take stock of the situation. So where do we go from here ? Harry thought.

With the net down, a lot of those young Special Forces soldiers down there would be bare-eyeballing it for the first time in a whole lot of years. The holowraps these kids had grown up wearing were good - too good. But if you had the credit, who could resist a designer reality? Or ever want to go back to realworld? Once you were hooked, the only escape from it was the old cold-eyeball, and that took some getting used to if you had been wearing a wrap since you could walk. What made it even worse for those young soldiers down there was losing the terrain scanners built into the holo-arrays of their battle helmets.

Jesus, those guys are running around like blind dogs with their noses cut off! He shuddered at the thought of how strange the world had become.

You're old man's money is no good here, kid - take a good long look at the real world. It was bound to catch up with you sooner or later.

"Seeing is believing!" The words hissed unexpectedly out of Harry's mouth, startling him. The reflection of his voice off the surrounding rock walls sounded like someone else, and he didn't like the sound of it.

He knew it really wasn't them he should blame. Maybe it was more his fault in the end than theirs. After all, he had been born into that world in the not so distant past where you trusted your own god-given senses - not the narrow lens of someone else's VR machine. Maybe he was as much to blame as anyone for letting it get away from them all the way it had. Not that it mattered now.

Harry lifted the cigarette to his mouth again and realized it had died. As he cupped a hand around it and thumbed the Zippo to relight it, he heard the helicopter return. He squinted through the smoke. This time it came into view, though still at a distance. It was an ancient twin rotor Chinook dressed in flat army green with the powder blue Virtual Nation Cavalry insignia painted on its nose.

Astonished, he watched the the thing fly past, blowing a long trail of blue smoke behind. It moved away to the far end of the valley, fading out of earshot for awhile, gradually beating its way back again to full volume as it passed by below his position. The helicopter was working its way up the mountain slopes, getting closer each time it returned. He knew it must be looking for him.

Where the hell did they dig that relic up from? Harry thought, shocked at the sight of the thing. And where would they find a crew to run it? Maybe the government had been prepared for the Net going down. Or at least the military. They couldn't all have been lulled to sleep by it.

Harry took another long drag off the butt, feeling the heat of it against his fingers.

They got burned. Boy, did they get burned.

The military had relied heavily on the Net; like everyone else they had bought into the idea that it was indestructible because it was everywhere and nowhere at the same time. They had gambled on it to give them the virtual eyes and ears they needed to wage successful war. They had gambled and lost.

Well, they weren't all that stupid, thought Harry. They must have had a bunch of old surplus stuff salted away for a rainy day like today.

He knew it would take awhile to reconfigure computers and cockpit displays before getting their flyers back into the air. One thing hadn't changed - you still had to be able to see where you were going. With the old Chinook all you did was look out the window and there you were. WYSIWYG. What You See Is What You Get. Beautiful. Couldn't be simpler.

Seeing is believing!

Harry ground the butt into the dirt beside him. That was his last, and he felt the ache of an uncertain future begin to open up ahead.

The ocean winds began to rise, sweeping up into the valley; sighing like surf as they pushed their way up through the thick stand of forest surrounding him. The winds brought the cold of the sea with them, filling him with an awful dread. He didn't want to die here like this; his bones picked clean by wild animals and left to bleach on this pile of rock. Would anyone even miss him? Probably not. He had no family that he knew of. He'd met more good women in his life than he deserved, and he'd turned his back and walked away from them all. He'd been a fool; he could see that now. It came to him now with an alarming clarity that he may have left the most important things in life too late.

Why do we always put off these these kinds of realizations until the worst of times?

Harry had never felt so alone.

He pulled himself back further into his rocky shelter as the chopper roared by again, quite near now, raising clouds of dust as it buffeted the air with its big blades. It might be a relic, thought Harry, but the waist guns the crew manned were deadly medium lasers.

The world will have to start all over again.. Will we learn anything from our mistakes?

Harry didn't like being a pessimist, but his life had ground it into him, one bad day after another. He looked up into the remarkable blue sky above him and he laughed: at his present predicament, at everything that had happened in the last six months, at his whole life up until that moment. He laughed until his leg began to take notice and sent him a message that made his face knot up in pain again.

A weariness swept over him now that could not be resisted. His eyelids, heavy as tombstones, slid down and locked shut. There was some kind of writing chiseled in wavy red strokes across the back of them, but it was too close to focus on. Anyways, he was more interested in watching his feet; they were slowly being swallowed up by a luminous hole that had opened up in front of him. A white flourescence shone from somewhere deep inside it, licking first at his feet and now his lower legs, surrounding them with a warm lambent glow. He could hear voices as well; one of them he recognized as his own. It was telling him he should run, run as fast as his legs could carry him. But it was useless to run any further, he told himself. Fact was, even if he could, he didn't want to. He wanted it to end now, one way or the other.

There was no running left in him.

2 Comments:

Blogger Travis said...

So far so good. I'll def. be checking back. Keep it up and good luck.
p.s. - If you wanna check out my blog that'd be cool.

October 14, 2004 at 4:19 PM  
Blogger BUGGER blogger said...

NICE! wooo... but wads a wrap?

November 27, 2004 at 1:11 AM  

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