Charlie Flannigan woke on a Saturday morning, his eyes caked with crust, and his head pounding from a rough night. Once again he had too much to think and he worried about the consequences.
It was Winter Day, December 25, 2100, and he had let his guard down for Winter’s Eve festivities. He stayed up until the wee hours involved in a worldwide podcast celebration, watching hologram comedy sketches by various performers and voting on his favorites. Shortly before midnight he participated with his fellow man in a virtual toast to the Global Community, downing a shot of Euphorka and watching the digital frenzy build. He retired to his room just as an image of the sun appeared on the windscreens of his living room.
Charlie rubbed his eyes and glanced at the bedside led screen, which was blank. He felt his left ear lobe. The clip-on cord wasn’t attached and he began to panic. But his composure was soon regained when he realized the alarm hadn’t sounded. He must have only been sleeping for a little over two hours because the alarm only sounded when people were disconnected from their home grids for more than three hours.
Such people were in danger of infiltration by RealTime Thought and Emotion, which could wreak havoc on the system as a whole. Leaving the mind vulnerable for even a few hours could mean disaster – scanning was vital to proper integration and acceptance of positive emotional experience. For some reason, developers had not yet been able to configure the wireless signals to keep monitoring human systems during sleep, or in their initial moments of rising, so a clip-on cord was attached to the during these moments. Charlie picked up the cord, snapped it to his left ear lobe, and waited for a signal.
“Good morning Charles,” Davida, his automated scheduler and informer spoke. “Please hold while I scan for mental and physical systems updates.”
A dinging noise, similar to what might be heard before a captain speaks on an airplane, sounded when the scan was complete and updates had been installed.
“Configuring systems, it is 8:07 a.m.,” she said. “Would you like to sleep in?”
Charlie tried not to think of anything more than Davida’s question. She would surely send an error report to the Bureau of Information Technology System Enforcement (BITSE) if he kept screwing up. Lately thoughts kept entering his mind without provocation. He both feared and hated these moments.
Last night had been a disaster – Charlie had found himself thinking of the past, remembering lights, sounds and smells that had long ago burned out or been suppressed. At the height of the cheering and screaming, when the Winter Tree was set on fire in the nation’s capitol, as a symbol of world unity, strange songs of old crept up on him.
“Deck the halls with boughs of hollie,” he thought. “Fa la la la la, la-la, la, la.”
He had quickly downed more Euphorka and turned the volume up on the sensory screen.
The only way he had avoided an error report, and a subsequent trip to the Department of Technology and Social Engineering (DOTSE) for system maintenance, was because the system also had one other glitch. It couldn’t monitor mental status during large podcast celebrations. Activity levels were too high and the data couldn’t be processed. And in the instance that it could, it took DOTSE months to decipher all the code. A bill was currently before Congress which would outlaw such large celebrations, which were the last vestiges of a time long forgotten, once and for all. It was sponsored by a vast collective of global representatives in the name of security from cyber threats.
Charlie rubbed his eyes once more and stretched.
“Sleepaid 4.0 is now available,” Davida chimed. “Would you like to install?”
Pharmatex Worldwide provided emotional stabilizers and other chemical enhancements for system maintenance. Using chemical agents, similar to LSD from the 1960s, their products were integrated into the body simply by sending placing the hand on a touch pad connected to the Gateway system. The technology was first used as a way to take heart or diabetes medications in the mid 2000s. From there the technology ballooned, and chemicals were synthesized to create a multitude of emotions to enhance virtual and automated experience. The firm even synthesized tastes and smells to add to a user’s happiness.
Pharmatex Worldwide had an exclusive contract with the Department of Technology and Social Development, and only the oldest of homes and apartments had not been plumbed with Gateways. Gateways were complex systems involving medical tubing and fiber optics which entered homes and provided instant access to emotion or states of consciousness. Eventually laws were written requiring everyone on the grid to install Gateways for security purposes. Then certain Pharmatex updates became mandatory on a weekly basis. Databases kept track of who installed the required weekly updates.
Charlie double clicked his right ear lobe and a hologram menu appeared before him in his bedroom. It displayed his daily wake-up options. He browsed over his options – SleepIn, Sexxx2.0, BeauTful Day or Routine. He decided on waking up to BeauTful Day, pointed at the icon on the hologram and double clicked his right ear lobe. His bedroom lights came on and the sound of birds filled the room as light crept in through the windscreen. A strong aroma of coffee drifted through the forced-air vents and the taste filled his mouth. A jolt of energy filled his body as he swung his legs over the bed and stood up.
Once the wireless systems were configured Charlie disconnected the cord from his left ear lobe and bedside monitor.
“Shower at usual temperature will start in 30 seconds,” Davida said. “Soap will dispense in three minutes. Remember to flush your interior systems before showering. Your vitals read that you had a bit too much Euphorka last night.”
He walked into the bathroom, sat down on the toilet, and clicking his right ear lobe, read the Morning Holograph. The standard News Feed, which he subscribed to, entered his field of vision.
“BITSE captured four more viruses-at-large and purged them from the external system,” the broadcaster’s voice blurted. “They were considered RealTime cyber threats and suspected of wreaking havoc on system configurations. No new threats have been detected, and the external system is safe at this moment, but BITSE and DOTSE warn everyone to maintain their systems through proper updates, and to always be watchful for suspicious activity.
“In other news, a special podcast will take place tonight at 9 p.m. for the 50th anniversary of the death of Miley Cyrus and the 70th anniversary of the death of Sir Paul McCartney. The performers were an inspiration to us all and are remembered as pioneers in early social programming and engineering.”
Charlie got up, flushed the toilet and stepped into the shower. He let the water run over his face before the soap dispensed from the aerial mist heads. Soon he would step out and let the air systems dry him before heading to get dressed. Davida always selected the day’s clothing for him based on current style updates.
He hadn’t selected anything other than the usual multi-vitamin shake for breakfast in a long while and he glanced at the holograph screen in his mind’s eye after he was dry. The screen displayed his breakfast options, all of which were in shake form and sponsored by Pharmatex. He chose a blueberry pancake shake from the menu, it was Winter Day after all. He entered his room to get dressed and first he put on his undergarments, which were all standard issue for men, before stepping into the walk-in closet.
Green checkmarks with white backgrounds appeared above a pair of tan slacks hanging in the closet. He put them on. Then a check appeared before a red and green sweater hanging in the closet. It had the image of a burning Winter Tree embroidered on it.
“This shirt is what everyone is wearing,” Davida informed him. He pulled it over his head.
The blueberry pancake shake was ready on the counter consol when he entered the kitchen. He slowly sipped it and waited for Davida to chime in.
“Would you like to head to the complex to buy yourself something for Winter Day?” she asked.
Charlie browsed through his options – yes or try again.
“Yes, Davida, thank you,” he said, setting his shake down on the morning table, which flashed images of last night’s celebration on the LED top. The chime sounded and Davida spoke again.
“The car will be outside in 10 minutes,” she said. “A notification will be sent as a reminder.”
He finished drinking his blueberry pancakes and set the glass back on the counter consol for washing. Some things, like the washing of a glass, didn’t even need to be requested. The systems had been configured to act almost automatically unless Charlie requested something new from the millions of applications available. If he forgot to place the glass on the counter consol, Davida would chime in and remind him.
He heard the car pull around and he grabbed his coat and put his iShades on. He started to browse through his options on the iShade screen for the car ride.
“Davida,” he said. “Let’s take the scenic route.”
“Configuring,” she chimed. “System set to open door.”
Charlie stepped out of his dwelling and saw the car parked in front of him. They pulled out of the driveway and a beautiful countryside appeared on the iShades. Charlie sat back and relaxed. It would probably be a busy day at the complex and he wanted to get there early.
To be continued….