2080 – a short story

Emmi lay rigid with misery. Her eyes were closed but tears still leaked into the biofluid in which she lay. She couldn’t feel them anymore because the electrodes attached to her temples had switched off the moment she keyed the quit switch but she knew they were there because her throat ached in that awful way it does when you want to cry.

Long moments passed as the biofluid slowly drained away and was replaced by warmed air, except that it was never quite warm enough. When Emmi had complained about feeling cold the support tech had explained that that was a built in safety factor so users would know when it was safe to remove the breather tube but she remained unconvinced. How many alerts did they need? The tank always chimed when enough fluid had drained away and then that smarmy computerised voice would state the obvious just in case you were asleep or deaf. Having that first touch of air cold was just overkill and she hated it.

Of course Emmi hated having to leave the tank at the best of times and bitterly resented the two hour limit that framed her life. She understood why the manufacturers would impose that limit. They must have lost millions after those early models had allowed addicts to starve to death but it was ridiculous to impose such arbitrary limits on people like herself. At one hundred and twenty-two just exactly how many years did they think she had left? If she wanted to die online then she should be allowed to do so. But not today. Today she had fled back to the real world with half an hour still to go.

As Emmi’s face and chest began to tingle with goosebumps she lifted one shaking hand and pulled the airtube from her mouth. Like a genie escaping from a bottle her angry sobs filled the coffin-like tank with flat, animal noises. They sounded horrible even to her own ears but at least they were real and today she needed the slap of reality to validate what she had done, or not done. Yet even with her stroke-garbled sobs to remind her of who she really was the need aching in her groin was still intense.

The advertising blurb tip-toed around that aspect of the biofluid with the propriety of a 1950’s matron. “Trillions of nano particles giving that life-like sensation” was one of their favourite phrases. Cybering was closer to the mark, not that anyone under ninety called it that anymore. The young laughingly called digital sex ‘stimming’.

Brehak had not said anything about stimming. He had been all seductive touches and soft murmurs and she had found herself paralyzed with indecision. And shocked by how much she had wanted to abandon herself to the moment. She hadn’t felt that way in decades. Yet even as his fingers had begun peeling away the layers of soft black leather covering her body a part of her had known that letting him continue was madness. And wrong. Wrong in a way that only someone from her lost generation could understand.

The young called it OR, online reality and they frolicked in their digital bodies as happily as newborn lambs once frolicked in their meadows of lush spring grass. But of course there were few places on earth where lambs frolicked anywhere any more. Most lived and died in multi-story manufactories that recycled everything from poop to farts in an effort to keep the weather from getting even worse. Top restaurants had to pay a small fortune for free-range meat because it cost thousands of credits to let lambs out onto domed meadows free of pollution.

Maybe that was why the young embraced OR so fervently, because it was the only place where they could live in a way her own generation had once taken for granted.

I’m a dinosaur. That’s what I am, a rich, bloody dinosaur.”

The garbled sounds coming from Emmi’s throat were almost drowned out by the sound of servos as the lid of her tank slowly retracted to reveal the anxious faces of her personal attendants Gem and Mira.

“Is Madame unwell?” Gem asked in that strange, archaic diction he favoured.

“Nngh,” Emmi said with a slight shake of her head. “Gowgh!”

“Madame wants to get out of there you great fool,” Mira said as she reached down into the tank and gently wiped the last of the biofluid from Emmi’s face.

There was another soft whir as the mirror foam base rose up level with the top of the tank.

Mira wrapped warmed towels around Emmi’s naked body before stepping back to allow Gem to lift her out.

Since her stroke five years before Emmi had had to get used to being handled like a lump of meat – there was nothing sexual about her wrinkled, useless carcass after all – but she was still grateful for Mira’s understanding, especially today when her sense of self was already in tatters. How could she have come so close to forgetting who she really was? Ktah might be young and beautiful but Ktah was not real. Neither was Brehak for that matter but whoever animated that avatar was young. Had to be. Probably one hundred years younger than her.

A shudder of revulsion made Emmi’s body twitch and squirm as Gem lowered her into the gentle bubbles of her bed. She settled into the mirrorfoam and warm water with a sigh. She might be a dinosaur who had outstayed its welcome but she was a dinosaur with principles. That was who she was and that was who she would stay. Ktah would have to be deleted. Maybe she should try a male avatar. That should be safe enough…

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About acflory

I am the kind of person who always has to know why things are the way they are so my interests range from genetics and biology to politics and what makes people tick. For fun I play online mmorpgs, read, listen to a music, dance when I get the chance and landscape my rather large block. Work is writing. When a story I am working on is going well I'm on cloud nine. On bad days I go out and dig big holes... View all posts by acflory

24 responses to “2080 – a short story

  • acflory

    lol – sadly I’m worse at poetry than I am at thinking up titles! I did consider ‘The Gamer’ but I really wanted that to be something the reader discovers during the course of the story.

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    • Stephanie Allen Crist

      One of the things about titles is that a good title tells something about the story and separates it from other stories–which isn’t a hard and fast rule, granted, but a good guideline.

      How many stories could be called “2080?” Or “The Gamer” for that matter? Totally unique titles are hard to come by, just because titles tend towards the shorter side.

      And chances are a bland title won’t keep you from getting published, though it might be changed; more importantly, your title is a bit of marketing and bland doesn’t always cut it with readers.

      Now I’m thinking of cars…There’s a car called the Nova, which they tried to sell in Mexico. Except, in Spanish, Nova is too close to no va, or “no go.” Not a good “title” for a car!

      Another example: My step-son had to read a particular short story for his high school class. The title was bland and forgettable, so I assumed I didn’t have a copy and I’d never read it. Then, I printed it off for him to read–of course he didn’t bring his book or anything like that, just because the reading was due the next day–and when I saw it, it’s like “Oh, I know that story!” I’d read it, and I’d enjoyed it (in the uncomfortable sort of way you can enjoy a story where someone gets stoned to death for no good reason), but I’d forgotten it because the title didn’t really stand out.

      A good title, like a good story, is one you’ll remember years later; hearing it you’ll nod and smile, or maybe shudder a little, but the point is you’ll know it and remember it.

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  • Stephanie Allen Crist

    Try thinking of a title as a single line of a poem that encapsulates your story. That’s what got me over the obvious when coming up with titles. Though, admittedly, your title does set the time of your story in a way that no other part of the story does.

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  • Stephanie Allen Crist

    Great! I think it deserves a more illuminating title, but well done!

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  • johnlmalone

    first of all, the title’s got my interest; the strong opening kepty me going and the mention of biofluids which were intriguing as I didn’t quite know what they were; the genie simile is terrific; it got confusing twowards the end: I may have to reread this story. maybe you should submit this to a SF publication. it’s pretty damn good

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  • mypenandme

    Dear Acflory,
    I have nominated your blog for the TELL ME ABOUT YOURSELF AWARD. Please see my last blog posting for more details.
    Best regards,

    Mary Ann

    Like

  • Courtenay Bluebird

    I found this story beautiful and unsettling. Although I read it a few hours ago, some of the central images are still floating around in my head. I LOVE the fact that you’re playing around with short fiction.

    Firstly, your story has a great trajectory— gosh, you really *get* the short story mode.

    Secondly, the main character, Emmi, felt real to me, and the short story works best when you have a character-driven plot. (What intense internal thoughts!)

    Thirdly, the textural details are amazing. I’ve been haunted by the image of this woman being lifted out of the tank and into the mirrorfoam by her employees. WOW.

    More, please. Just… you know, more stories. Lots. Thank you!

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  • lorddavidprosser

    Brilliant ! Not short on pathos and a little ‘twinkle in the eye’ ending. You have a lovely light touch acflory and created a nice length of story to draw us in, allow us to enjoy, and spit us out again chuckling. I love that poop and farts are recycled in the future.
    Time to stop prevaricating and get that book out now.
    Loved it !

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  • Candy

    Wow! Cool story. Looking forward to more. I especially like the detail of the expensive free range lamb raised in the domed meadows. The image of a ‘domed meadow’ is so on target.

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    • acflory

      -blush- thank you! This is literally my very first short story and I’m kind of dancing around because I didn’t think I was capable of writing anything ‘short’. Maybe blogging has been good for me 😉

      Like

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