In this futuristic world of eugenics and threat of virus pandemics, love is revolution
Slices of Life is a collection of short stories or vignettes that provide an immersive and entertaining experience of diverse scenarios of life in motion. They are slivers of existence with the ingredients of plot and characters, sprinkled with human emotion, pervaded by the aroma of human dilemmas and served in the platter of lucid language. Sometimes searing with agony and often pervaded with beauty and yearning in the midst of travails in a contemporary or futuristic reality, they explore relationships and the human struggle to find meaning amidst chaos. They describe the consequences of our choices and characters who are at the threshold of a discovery or have reached the zenith of tolerance. The universal themes and enduring images of commonplace individuals in the swirl of life are embedded in a mixed bag of genres ranging from bathos and futuristic Sci-Fi to grim Realistic fiction and a suspenseful Whodunit.
The door of the IM Brosch EV with a rear-mounted battery pack and a certified electric range of 900 miles per charge sprang open as Kevin approached and the light on its bonnet glowed a translucent yellow to signify its status. As Kevin lowered himself into the spacious front seat and enabled the Automatic mode, the light transited to green and the car slid silently on to the outgoing lane for EVs.
Kevin was doing something revolutionary in 2090: he was taking a road trip alone from San Francisco to Los Angeles as people did in earlier times. During the trip, he would emerge from the automatically controlled environment of his habitat and the motorcar into the unaccustomed quirks of the natural weather. The temperature in San Francisco during early February was an average of 22°C during the day and 14°C at night; decidedly warmer each year but still not uncomfortable. The elimination of fuel emissions had halted the advance of global warming but not the unpredictability of weather conditions. Sudden snowstorms and hailstorms accompanied by a steep drop in temperature were common and one could arise in the morning to see a blanket of snow where there had been none.
Even more surprising was his reason for travel in a world where adults moved out of home only once a week to an automated Mart to buy necessities and once a month for the Productive Forum meeting. They hardly visited one another anymore, relying on thought transmission and instant messaging. Human contact, in fact, was not preferred by the Centre. It could spread germs, for example, the SPAC virus pandemic that had killed 60,000 people in 2043 in a more social world. With reduced human contact and locomotion, common people such as Kevin lived in an artificially controlled environment engaged in directing and monitoring motons, humanoid computers that did all the tasks formerly done by human beings.
Kevin was travelling 560 miles to meet a lady friend without permission from the San Francisco City Council, whose permission was required for out-of-station meetings with the opposite sex. Even within the city, an unrelated couple was given permission to meet based on their inclination and genetic constitution while permission for cohabiting or having a child was based on larger aspects such as the growth or decline of the world population, the desirability of the couple’s progeny and the medical history of the partners. The Council refused permission in case it would endanger the safety of others, produce a feeble offspring or violate the rules of propriety listed in the Handbook.
As Kevin got into his car, he received a thought transmission from his mother, “Where are you headed, son?”
The live transmission from his house would have informed her of his unusual departure; he relayed back to her, “To Los Angeles”.
“Why?” Cities were now uniformly similar, and Los Angeles was hardly any different from San
“Just feel like meeting Jo, mom.”
He sensed her stunned reaction. People never did anything just because they felt like it. Human emotion was an unreliable and untrustworthy ally, and people had learnt to switch it off and be guided by their intellect.
“To meet Jo?” came his mom’s horrified reaction over the mind waves as she registered the second part of his sentence. “Drive such a long way to meet her!! Will she be prepared for your visit?”
To prepare for a visitor, which was as rare as once in three or four weeks, one had to enable the erection of a temporary partition to avert infection, request the Food Department to disburse extra pills and inform the City Council about the reason for the visit.
Jo and Kevin had liked each other in childhood when they had both stayed in San Francisco and had met during Education meetings, held twice a week for Homo sapiens below 16. However, after they reached maturity at 16, their Application for Cohabiting (AFC) was refused by the San Francisco City Council because Jo was classified as Grade E, the lowest grade in terms of desirability for breeding. Since then, they had decided to stay in separate cities to reduce the temptation to meet. They knew the repercussions of giving in to a romantic impulse: being debarred from any visitation and the final dreaded outcome, eviction to No Man’s Land.
“I’ll inform her just now,” his mind wave signalled as he reached for his android and sent Jo a message. A mental transmission would not work unless she was tuned into it, which was unlikely. He was always tuned into receiving transmissions from his mother every morning. She liked to know what he was up to, even though it was not very much.
He had been suppressing his yearning to meet Jo for four years now. The City Council considered him a suitable candidate to be a father and had tried to team him up with several women of the right age and attributes. However, he had rejected each of them despite their beauty, intelligence, and physical and mental qualities. He loved Joe despite her feebleness and the fact that their children would not be the strongest specimens of humankind. According to him, meeting other women was a betrayal.
To convince him, the Council had even showed him a prototype of their child if they would have one, with all the negative features listed, chief of which was a frail constitution. Though Kevin had acceded to their persuasion and distanced himself mentally and physically from Jo, he hadn’t been able to forget her. She preyed on his mind, and the mental power–building skills he had been taught failed abysmally to erase her memory. And now, after four years, he would finally meet her.
A message flashed on his mobile screen: a response from Jo. She said she would prepare for his visit and asked if he had informed his City Council.
He seemed to be doing tasks in reverse order. He had departed for her house before taking the Council’s permission. But, he had better do so now. He texted the San Francisco City Council member, Geoff, whom he reported to and told him he wanted to visit Jo.
“Hold on,” came the text response. “Reason for the visit?”
“After four years of maintaining a distance?” Geoff knew his statistics pat, just as he knew those of each of the forty-five civilians allocated to his supervision.
“Just want to say ‘Hi’.”
“You know we don’t encourage it, Kevin. It’s best for you in the long run.”
“I’ll meet her briefly and come away.”
“Why are you driving instead of taking an air jet?”
Smart mobility had changed air travel into a flawless experience tailored to individual needs, right from the bags being automatically checked in and scrutinized to being delivered to one’s doorstep at the destination and being able to pass through a technologically advanced terminal by a single swipe of the finger. An avalanche of biometric data was released by the fingerprint that simultaneously enabled an assessment of the risk posed by the individual, security screening and check-in.
[Excerpted from the short story ‘Future Love Story’]
Buy this book at Amazon