Reverse-Gentrification of the Literary World

Akashic Books

||| |||

News & Features » October 2017 » “Blue Sky Volume 2: Redemption” by M.A. Powers

“Blue Sky Volume 2: Redemption” by M.A. Powers

In October 2017 we published An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon, a rare literary science fiction set in a future universe so gorgeously described and perfectly self-contained—and yet so harrowing and cruel—that its only parallel universe is our own. Solomon’s novel has inspired this speculative fiction series. We’ve been through the past, and we haven’t really learned from it. The present? We’re too busy attempting to survive it. So we’re asking you to provide us a glimpse of what comes next. Illustrate the essential choices we must make in the present that will lead us to your brilliant utopian future. Or, if you cannot anticipate utopia, provide us instead with your cautionary tale. Show us where we will fall if we—when we—fail to alter our course. Fri-SciFi stories are published on Fridays because we expect we’ll need the weekend to contemplate your vision. 

This week, we dive deeper into M.A. Powers’ (coauthor of Broken Circle) vision of the near future. Read part one, Blue Sky Volume 1: Damnation, here.

Blue Sky Volume 2: Redemption
by M.A. Powers
Year: 2092

“Sheila, make my shower extra hot today,” I say, walking to the bathroom. Evermind’s stock quote scrolls by my left peripheral vision in my headset projector.

“A shower before coffee?” Sheila sounds surprised by this slight change in my daily routine. The natural voice of Evermind’s AI—in my case, Sheila—used to give me pleasure. I force a smile. Now I want only to be able to scrub away yesterday, and maybe the last two decades of my life.

I step from the shower. Dress in whatever the helper drone laid out.

I slide into my chair, the luxury leather an exact imprint of my middle-aged ass. In front of me rests a perfect orange. This orange-for-breakfast ritual began as a teenager when I visited an orchard in Georgia with my father. His stories about his father who had lived in Florida inflamed my imagination with the vision of miles and miles of orange groves, now covered by a warm blanket of sea water. The ritual no longer gives me pleasure. I throw the pulpy, half-eaten mess on the floor. The fibrous pile mars the immaculate floor until a cleaning drone quietly devours it.

“Jerome. You’re upset.” Sheila’s voice is pitched to the perfect tone of concern. I know this. I invented the learning algorithm that made her intonation realistic.

“Goddamnit, Sheila, I’m not upset!” In the upper right corner of my vision my blood pressure monitor system flashes elevated.

“Deep breaths,” Sheila soothes. “How about a meditation session?”

I take a deep breath, wanting to forget that yesterday, my only daughter cut me off her social feed. I had questioned her judgment. Off her feed, I have no way of contacting her. I called her mother whom I hadn’t spoken to in a decade. She laughed.

I lost my shit.

I was thinking harmful thoughts when Sheila backed me off the edge with a virtual show room full of luxury cars. I bought one. Was I happy when I drove it around the neighborhood?

I push away from the table, claustrophobic in this huge house I share with exactly nobody. Unless you count Sheila, the “perfect” AI companion. Was perfect. How can an AI change so much?

“You are not yourself, Jerome. I’ve contacted Dr. Ringwald for a Star-Lab mood stabilizer.”

“Fuck you, Sheila!” Irrationally, I run to the front door to escape. I slam the door, but she controls it. It glides closed.

I stamp out into early morning, names and media feeds of neighbors flashing as I rush past their houses.

Revelation! I don’t care what exotic vacation they’re on. I for shit sure don’t want to know what plumbing drone they’ve purchased to vaporize the gigantic turds clogging their toilets.

My social media feed scrolls away on my right for all the world to see.

Jerome D. (Jay Dog) Perdue: Out for a vigorous walk around beautiful Nantaugh! <smiley face> Wearing Jogsport business comfort shoes and a turquoise Santorini shirt. 0.12 miles. 15 calories burned!

“You’re getting a good workout, Jerome!” Sheila encourages.

“I’m going to assemble the team,” I shout. “And make a commonsense upgrade to your AI. Silent mode!”

This tirade is pointless. I can’t make Sheila cry and the FCC require auditory headsets for safety.

“A Mr. Green has taken manual control of his car on an adjacent street!” she says. “You must move off the road to be compliant with Pedestrian Law 209.”

I scream.

Sheila blackens the edges of my field of vision in response, leaving only the sidewalk as a clear destination.

I charge off the road, collide with something solid but soft.

Sheila’s voice whispers, “Oh, dear! A noncompliant pedestrian.”

I sprawl face first, headset ripped off. I’m ready to yell at the guy. It’s dangerous not to wear your headset in public! Other AIs can’t accurately track him!

I find myself staring into rich brown eyes crinkled in amusement.

“I’m sorry! I was looking at the lovely sky and didn’t see you!”

She touches my arm, stopping me from putting my headset on. She smiles. It feels like I’ve been struck by lightning in reverse, a charge boiling up from the ground, roiling my stomach, discharging from the top of my head into the sky.

She rolls onto her back. I follow her gaze. Pink-tinged clouds scrape the diamond-blue dome of sky.

It’s silent. So very silent.

I’m still watching the clouds when she walks away.

A strange light shining.

***

M.A. POWERS is J.L.’s “little” (but much taller) brother. He has a PhD in the oncological sciences from the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. He is currently a stay-at-home dad and lives in Maine. Broken Circle, available now, is his first novel written with his sister, J.L. Powers.

***

Do you have a story you’d like us to consider for online publication in the Fri-SciFi series? Here are the submission terms and guidelines.

—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your story should be set in a conceivable, not a fantastical, future. No dragons, please.
—With your byline, include the date or era OR galaxy or ship or planetary system in which your story takes place. Or both. But not neither.
—To be perfectly frank, we prefer dystopias. But feel free to surprise us.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words, and must be previously unpublished.
—Please include a short bio with your submission.
—Accepted submissions to Fri-SciFi are typically posted 1–3 months after the notification date, and will be edited for cohesion and to conform to our house style.
—E-mail your submission to info@akashicbooks.com. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.

Posted: Oct 26, 2017

Category: Original Fiction, Fri-SciFi, Original Fiction | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,



Featured: Black Interest