Sunday, June 19, 2005

Historian

The shadow of an airship darkened his steps a few moments, then moved on, intersecting the shadow of another along the way. No one paid them any mind, and no one looked up. He'd stopped looking up, finally, but it was hard sometimes not to stare at the shadows.

Airships. A sentient city. A world free of want or disease or deprivation. This was where he'd ended up. He wasn't prepared. He'd been headed to the 14th Century, to study the plagues. But something had gone wrong in transit and he'd wound up in the future. That was almost two weeks ago, and he had no way of knowing if he'd ever be going back to his present. He--

A woman lurched out of an open door, stumbling into him. She gripped his shirt, mumbled gibberish, then collapsed at his feet. He looked around, suddenly realizing where he was. This was Slumtown, a place for bored citizens to go and wallow. It was a relatively new concept, as most vice and depravity had also been eradicated from the world. The Slumtowns had been the brainchild of a theme park conglomerate, and quickly gained in popularity with the people. Most of the people, at any rate. There were some who considered the Slumtowns a step backward, while still others lobbied the government for new laws. The conglomerate was one of the owners of the government however, so not much was done. Most citizens tried slumming only once or twice anyway, preferring the order of their daily Routines. Enough others did it on the weekends and vacations to make things profitable, and only the very few found themselves unable to ever leave. He'd only need to walk a block or two south to the prostitute's quarter to see where some of them end up.

He looked up at the building the woman had staggered out of. The sign over the door said Le Galleria. He recognized it. It was an upscale vice den that catered to "slummers", as they were called. The woman at his feet was clearly enjoying their 4-day, 5-night all-inclusive junkie vacation. Judging by the fact that no one came out to get her, he could only assume it was the 5th night. The hotel threw its junkie guests out to sleep on the street the 5th night, and refused to let them back in the next day or to give them more heroin. He stepped over her and walked on, hoping she'd paid extra for the withdrawal package, or she'd have a tough time getting back to her Routine.

The Routine. That was the hardest thing for him to adjust to. Every citizen of the world had to do the same thing every day, barring vacation time, with slight variations on the weekends. Each person had a different routine from the next, but each day in that Routine was exactly the same as the one that preceded it. Same bedtime, same waking time, the same food at the same time and the same tasks at the same job, every single day. His Routine involved wandering the city all day before sleeping at one of the city's free housing centers. Everyone had their basic needs met no matter what they did, but those who were willing to work could earn themselves better lives. Regardless of the work chosen however, that would be the only work done by that person for the rest of their lives, until mandatory retirement at age 120, followed by mandatory death at 135. He'd been thinking about the kind of work he could do, and if he'd be willing to do it for the rest of his--

The familiar hole in time opened up around him, depositing him in the mid-14th Century. A woman coughed violently, then fell down in a pile of filth next to the rutted dirt road. He smiled. This was more like it. He pulled out his datapad and began taking notes.

He'd be sure to complain to dispatch about the whole future glitch when he got back, but for now that textbook wasn't going to research itself.

1 comment:

Lisa said...

oh, so this is what a real writer does!!! I'm awe-stricken. So tight, such flow. I think I might be breathing heavily... am I coherant? what I mean is...it's a pleasure to have been directed here and not find crap, or some variation thereof. no, this is more like that there stuff you might find in a lie-berry. sorry, my false-hick accent comes out when I'm excited.