Earth is fucked. In Joshua’s opinion, there is nothing to salvage. The fields are dry, the limestone soil aborts its young before they bud. The sick sun only gives the city a handful of hours a day – or what’s left of it – to feed the plants. Either way, his meager heat isn’t enough to stimulate their wrinkled leaves. The stems lengthen desperately, the shoots become exhausted and spread out the better to return to the earth. Since the Fall, this planet is nothing more than a big corpse.
— I disagree. An old plastic bag full of dirt in hand, Eli shakes his head. — There are solutions, he insists. — Are you talking about your garden on the third floor? — That works. I grow more and more stuff.
The third is the last part of the building that did not collapse. The walls are torn without logic, like cutting a sheet by pulling on its ends. It is reached by a staircase that lets in the rain – when it deigns to fall. Eli requisitioned it to start a vegetable garden there and, since then, it has disappeared for hours over his head. Joshua doesn’t care. He takes the opportunity to read old books that he collects from the common library, when he’s not fixing something old or testing his connection. In vain. Few still manage to access the NewWeb today.
— Hey, Josh. — What ? — You would not want to let go of your machines, sometimes?
His machines. That’s what Eli calls his tampered radio and the computer he managed to revive. With the energy he diverts, he manages to light them for an hour a day. It’s little, it doesn’t do him much good. But that’s all he has left of his great pre-Fall passion.
— Why ? — I have something to show you. Joshua shrugs. He abandons his things to get up. — Can you take the pallets by the way?
He catches them without answering. The weathered wood is clear against its black skin. He strokes it briefly to check for splinters, then he loads them onto his shoulders. He is muscular, much more than Eli. Even if he never did anything for it. Joshua has always preferred the silence of a bedroom to the sun of a summer day. It never really worked before. It was… complicated. It’s always been complicated. He is one of those who welcomed the end of the world with relief. He climbs the stairs at his own pace. Outside, dusk awaits him. If the building they are squatting in was once a proud building, it is now nothing more than an amputated pillar. Broken walls and, in the middle, a pile of pots and planters where Eli spreads his plants.
— You can put it there. Joshua drops his weight. — Come.
He does not understand what the other expects of him. He was never good at gardening. If he tried to pull a shoot from his soil, he would probably break the stem. When he wants to water them, he drowns them, and he can’t guess what disease is turning their green leaves into funny yellow spots. No, Joshua does not understand plants. Their nature intimidates him. But he likes the little cries of bats that rise as night falls.
— Eli? — It’s over there.
He sees her blonde hair fluttering on her neck. Cut with tears, the rough locks are surly forms. Like leaves scorched by the sun. When he passes his hand over it, the material reminds him of the dead earth they tread on every day. This too hard soil where nothing grows anymore. Almost nothing. Every time he looks out the window, he sees only a dry world that is dying. He does not understand why Eli strives to plant his little seeds. Even if he likes the shape of the leaves of the tomato plants.
— here. An empty dirt container. Good. — Looked.
Since he’s the one asking, Joshua leans down unbelievingly. He observes and looks at this soft and humid matter which seems to be moving. She swarms. Move of his own volition. It’s weird, but he understands better what is going on by discerning the pink shapes which move in the middle of each other.
— What’s this ? — Earthworms. — It’s ugly.
Elijah laughs. His voice, more powerful than his, explodes in the night.
— It’s not made to be beautiful. — It’s sticky.
Of course, Joshua knows earthworms. He’s seen it a long time ago. Several years.
— And it’s crawling. — I say. It’s not very pretty to see. — Why are you putting them there? — For the compost.
Compost. He’s heard that word many times, but he realizes he doesn’t really know the definition. Compost. It looks like compote. Except he doesn’t want to bite it.
— I do not understand.
He never understands gardening, anyway. And he doesn’t understand why that makes Eli smile either. Instead, he would be offended.
— It’s for growing plants. To feed them. — And after ? — There is no after. We mix it with the soil and wait for it to grow.
He takes his hand to drag him to his pots. Not those who sleep outside, no. Those in the big greenhouse. Where he sees two small green circles which are probably future tomatoes.
— That’s life.
— It’s plants.
Eli strokes the ceramic rim of a pot. Joshua does not imitate him. He hates this material which catches his fingers.
— We haven’t been able to plant anything for years now. The fields are bursting. But that… That, that pushed. With a little effort and patience. He caresses the underside of an incredibly green leaf.
— Of course it’s nothing compared to what we could do before. It takes time and we don’t even have enough to eat. But it pushes.
There are zucchini, more, far. Their long serrated leaves make it think of teeth. Those of bats. Joshua is very fond of bats. The curled up cocoon that their bodies form when they hide in an old parasol. Looks like a twisted seed ready to bloom.
— What are the worms for? he asks, pointing to the tray. — It enriches the soil. They aerate the earth by digging holes, it also promotes the penetration of water, and… It’s complicated to explain, but that’s why the earth isn’t completely punctured. Aeration, enrichment. It’s fuzzy in Joshua’s head, but Eli says it with such conviction. He sees him running off to grab a book – a big, heavy book with a cracked spine.
— I picked this up at the Chardons bookstore. Must believe that gardening did not interest the looters, he explains by turning the pages. There are things to do. Even if it’s shit, we can still grow plants, Josh. He catches her eye. Eli has eyes that are too blue, clear as a glass of water. Eyes that can’t lie. — And as long as you can grow plants, there’s life.
A gust of wind stirs the leaves around them. Those of the shoots that do not sleep in the greenhouse, under artificial lights. Joshua scans the material they have amassed here. These treasures that they struggle to keep alive with their stolen generator. These little lives that sink their roots into a black earth.
Most of the time, he doubts that anyone will ever be able to grow as many stems out of the ground as they need. He got used to old cans found in an abandoned apartment that hasn’t been stripped yet. But when Eli’s gaze lights up for a sprout that points the tip of its muzzle, it’s stronger than him. He finds himself hoping.
Here is a little story that touches me a lot because there is a lot of me in it so I hope you’ll like it.
A shadow. Suspended above the void, I freeze. Breathe slowly, don’t move, don’t let go. Expect. Do not make noise. Behind me, Elton has stopped too. One minute, two, three, four. The shadow has not returned. Slowly, millimeter by millimeter, I advance my hand along the cable. I grab the next handle, then slide my whole body forward. The friction of my clothes against the metal causes slight vibrations that reverberate throughout the structure. I feel them under my skin, right down to my bones. Elton follows me. The platform is not very far away. The palms of my hands are sweaty, I need chalk. I tighten the grip of my legs then, feeling my way, I look for the bag attached to my harness, slip my fingers into it, grab some fine powder. It clings easily to the calluses and roughness of my hands. A few more meters before security. I see the edge of the plateau, so close. With a contortion, I throw both my arms at him, grab the sharp edge of metal, and pull myself up on it, oblivious to the pain. On my knees, I catch my breath while Elton clings to his turn before collapsing next to me. A moment of calm, during which we both contemplate the great void that makes up the majority of our universe. It wasn’t always like that. I still remember very well what the city looked like before. Before my mother, before the creature, before fear, before death. Before secrets.
It is cloudy today, humid, and the mist is dense. The silhouettes of tall towers of corroded metal surround us, ghosts of the glory of the Hanging City. Rusty cables disappear into the gray of the sky, the remains of bridges sway gently in the cold, gloomy wind that glides over our skin and makes the hairs on our arms stand on end. The Hanging City, so beautiful, shining in the light of day, is nothing more than a rotting corpse, rotting at the slow rhythm of fear. Elton pats me on the shoulder to make me turn to face him.
“Night will soon fall,” he signs. “Let’s hurry home. »
I nod. We get up, legs a little wobbly, then we approach the opening cut in the side of the tower. A bay window, surely, when the glass hadn’t yet shattered and disappeared, reduced to sharp dust. Cautiously, I step inside, Elton on my heels. Not much of the furniture remains, but the apartment must have been comfortable. Now it’s mostly depressing. And unsanitary. We sink into the bowels of the building, far into its depths, where the light is only a memory. I light my torch, with which I sweep the shadows around me. The atmosphere is thick, the smell of humidity invades my nostrils, but I still prefer that to the mask. The walls, bare and dilapidated, torn in places, reveal their metal frame. Elton waves at me and points to a door to our right. We enter.
The apartment is not very big, in a surprising state of conservation. Most of the walls still have an identifiable color, which I hadn’t seen in a long time. I put my bag in a corner, scan the place of the eyes, before returning to Elton.
” So ?” he asks with gestures. “It will be very good. » He smiles at me, brushes his hand against my cheek. ” I will bring food. “
I nod and watch him walk away, then disappear into a narrow opening. I then begin to activate myself. I set up our meager possessions, the tent, the mattress, the blankets, the electric stove. We should be able to stay here at least a few days. I frown at our stash of batteries. It has never been so low, we will have to make an expedition to the towers of the northern zone. And the northern area is dangerous. In the evening, we heat up one of the cans that Elton has brought back. Vegetables, no doubt, maybe ratatouille, it looks like it anyway. Elton cleans the pan while I make sure our bedding isn’t on a piece of ground that might collapse overnight. I slip under the covers and Elton joins me. He settles against my back, caresses my hips with his hand, goes under my sweater to grab one of my breasts. I feel his hot breath on my neck, his erection against my ass. I shift, just enough to be able to take off my clothes. He kisses me, everywhere, on every piece of me that passes within his reach. I feel his lips burning on my skin, drawing marks of fire and making shivers of desire hatch in me that go up along my body. Well, we’re both naked. I spread my legs and I feel him entering me, slowly, as he knows I like. I sigh, close my legs around him to pull him closer, arch my back, digging my fingers into his back. He accelerates, he always accelerates too soon. Never mind. I let myself be overwhelmed by the pleasure that I feel growing deep inside me. I scream. I bury my face in his neck and close my eyes. I can live like this until the end of time, with Elton inside me, forgetting the world and the fear.
A moment later, Elton is sleeping, his arms around me and his head in the crook of my shoulder. He always falls asleep like that, as if to protect me from the world, or maybe for me to protect him from what’s outside, I’m not sure. I stare at him for a long time. I wonder about him, about me. And as always, my mind drifts and ends up returning to the past. To my mother.
I was born deaf, a genetic anomaly whose name I have forgotten. It never really bothered me, because I didn’t know what I was missing, so I turned down the hearing aids. But my mother did not accept it. At that time, the Hanging City was at the height of its glory and its laboratories were state of the art. For years my mother worked on crossbreeding and genetic manipulation of guinea pigs to try to find a cure for my deafness. It did not work. And then one day there was an accident. One of her creatures mutated in a way she hadn’t expected, in a terrifying and destructive way. My mother was his first victim.
I don’t know exactly what species she encountered, but the result caused the downfall of the entire city. The creature fled and hid in the cloudy depths of the city. No one ever saw it, or no one lived long enough to tell. A shadow was just a shadow, impossible to find, impossible to eliminate. On the other hand, everyone heard him. And his cry became the nightmare of all that lived. For that scream was so horrible, so strange and monstrous, that it drove everyone who heard it mad. Most people preferred to die. Many are those who have jumped into the void. Some began to kill others. Madness or mercy, opinions are divided. They called her banshee, because nothing could protect her from her cry, that cry which brought death. In the end, those who remained preferred to pierce their eardrums. In a few months, the Hanging City, the pride of men, a marvel of technology clinging to an endless cliff, sheltering several million souls, had become a ghost town, populated by a few hundred deaf people surviving as best they could. I might have laughed if it hadn’t been so tragic.
I feel Elton’s steady breathing against my ribs. He’s the only one who didn’t abandon me after the disaster caused by my mother. He had already learned sign language for me. When he took out his hearing with a few drops of acid so he couldn’t hear the banshee’s screams, he told me he didn’t see it as a sacrifice. I almost believed him. To fall asleep, I think of my memories of the Hanging City, as it once was. Its sparkling towers, its white, wispy clouds, its air bridges that sway gently in the breeze. No one knew what was underneath and no one wanted to know. My mother said that the sea was there, I had chosen to believe her. As for knowing where above our heads the sheer wall on which we were clinging finally ended, everyone also did not know. Perhaps our ancestors knew this a long time ago, but this knowledge had been lost. Our world of metal and wind was enough for us. Some elders claimed that our people had come from the stars in the distant past, but these stories only served to make the youngest dream. I think of the reflection of the sun on the chrome, of the slow swaying of the bridges under my feet, of the smell of snow on winter mornings. I think of things more easily than of people. It’s been two months since we’ve met anyone in the City, and I’m beginning to wonder if there’s only us left. Just Elton, me and the creature.
I must have fallen asleep. When I wake up, Elton is no longer with me. He must have gone to search the surroundings to see if there are still objects that could be useful to us. We haven’t found much lately. Almost five years since the creature invaded us, perishable foodstuffs are becoming increasingly rare, and equipment in working order is beginning to look extraordinary. Yet we were good builders, I really would have thought our creations would last longer, at least long enough for the monster, fear, hunger or loneliness to kill us all. I straighten up when a figure frames itself in front of the window opening, letting the covers slip off my shoulders. Elton raises an appreciative eyebrow, walks over to me, leans down to brush my lips with his.
“Get dressed,” he signs, “I think we’ll have to go to the northern zone. » ” I say. We’re almost out of batteries. “ “That’s not the only thing we’re missing. And the northern zone is the only one that has been almost spared since the disaster. “ “Because it is his territory. “ ” Yes. “
We look at each other for a long time. We both know it’s dangerous, as we also know we have to go. Our survival depends on it. The northern zone scares me. She scares everyone, but my reasons for fearing her are different. She scares me because of my secrets, she scares me because of the truth. And above all, she scares me because of Elton. But I can’t tell her, so I get dressed and, with a shiver, strap on my harness. We are going to the northern zone, we need it. In the pale morning light, the City seems to have changed during the night. The wind has calmed down and the chrome of the towers shines in the sun like the torn chrysalises of oversized butterflies. The air is fresh, crisp, the cold grips without the rays of our star warming us up. I take a deep, almost painful breath, I hold my breath for a long moment before exhaling slowly. I check the straps of my harness, plunge my hands into the chalk bag. The shortest way will probably be to go through the lower floors.
I go first. It still is, I’m a much better climber than Elton, I better be the one testing our route. I’m very good at feeling good grips under my fingers and I have a good eye for sections of cables that are in danger of breaking. With caution, I venture onto a piece of bridge that is still intact. With my toes, I test the solidity of the ground in front of me before moving forward. After a few tens of meters, the bridge disappears to make way for a maze of large rusty cables. Some are in better condition than others, I have to choose well. I run a hand over one of them, up to a huge rivet that I cling to. My other hand follows the same path to another rivet, on the other side of the cable. I secure my hold then hoist my legs up and wrap them around the steel rope. So, slowly, I drag my body along this uncertain line of life. Below me there is nothing but endless emptiness. I can’t afford any mistakes.
When I have progressed a few meters, I wave to Elton and he takes the same path after me. We move slowly, to the slow rhythm of our fear, the sweat running down our foreheads and into our collars. I regularly plunge my hands into the small pocket at my side. Magnesia is one of the things we’re starting to run out of and hope to find in the northern zone. Because without magnesia, there is no climbing, and if we can no longer climb and move along the cables, we will remain stuck on one of the towers, doomed to starve in a long agony. Our progress is facilitated by the absence of wind and, a quarter of an hour later, we reach the next tower, a few floors below. With any luck, we will have reached the northern zone for lunch. Around noon, we almost reach the goal. We crossed eight towers and descended a few hundred meters into the City. Here, the clouds are permanent and the sun’s rays struggle to pierce the thick misty layer to illuminate the sad surroundings. I look at the dilapidated tower in front of me. The northern area is just on the other side, past a new chasm. I shiver, then jump when Elton’s hand lands on my arm.
“Ready?” he signs.
I nod and he shakes my hand briefly before walking past me. We step over a pile of rubble to get inside the building. Despite the lack of light outside, my eyes take a while to get used to the darkness. I don’t prefer to light my lamp here, not unless it’s really necessary. It is an old hydroponic greenhouse. Its large windows are drowned in greenish mold. The automated systems must have survived for a while since some rows of plants are still green. The others are just cracked skeletons, some crumble into brown dust at the slightest touch. Elton has already stepped forward to pick those that can be eaten. It’s a valuable find, but I can’t help but find this display of half-dead plants gloomy. Roots ventured out of their domains in search of nutrients they couldn’t find, but that didn’t save them. They hang from the bins above our heads, brown and withered, making the place look like a huge spider lair. It is however not the only greenhouse nor the first that I see. Devoid of any solid soil and cultivable land, the Hanging City subsisted exclusively thanks to greenhouses like this one, with others favoring agriculture by aquaponics or aeroponics. We cross quickly, recovering on our way all that we find edible. I’m uncomfortable, I feel like hundreds of phantom eyes are looking at me and judging me. I am responsible for the state of the City, responsible for the dead who populate it. Me and my mother’s madness.
I focus my attention on Elton. I didn’t realize I had stopped. I have the impression that this is not the first time that he signs my first name without my reacting. I give her a smile and set off again, no need to worry her with my stories of ghosts and guilt. The cable that should lead us to the northern zone is slippery, the descent is difficult. Every time my hands grip against the metal, I feel like I’m going to let go and fall into the void that awaits me like a voracious being below. Finally, we arrive. I straighten up on the platform that I have just reached, look around me. It’s even darker here, the humidity clings to my skin, which no wind comes to dry. I don’t want to be there, I feel naked, exposed. We move forward with caution. This is banshee territory. Elton wants us to split up, to cover more ground, to stay shorter. I hesitate, I’m afraid. He reassures me with gestures that make no sense in my blind fear. He moves away. I remain alone, alone with my secrets. I have to pull myself together. I have a part of the tower to explore, if I want to be able to get away from here as soon as possible. I start moving again, walking slowly towards the back of the hall in front of me.
Suddenly, something moves, on the periphery of my vision. A form, which appeared then disappeared. I freeze, my heartbeat echoing in my head like the pounding of fear. Wide-eyed, I wait. Another movement, perceived out of the corner of the eye. And then, a cry, echo of the dead it contains, tearing of an endless agony. Then she is in front of me, still far away and yet so close. She doesn’t look much human anymore. Her long hair forms a shroud around her slender, pale limbs. She looks wet, as if her skin is oozing thick liquid. Even at this distance, its smell is strong, the smell of the sea, of fresh iodine. The yellow-green tint of his skin gives him a sickly appearance, the darker green of his hair makes one think of a sheaf of seaweed torn by the tide. She looks like a drowned woman, come back from the dead to take us with her. The creature didn’t kill my mother, I always knew that. I was in the lab that day, the day of the disaster. I don’t know what she injected. She had no human guinea pig other than herself, no other choice in her obsession. It didn’t work out the way she had planned. My mother became the banshee. I never told anyone. This secret, I kept it deep inside me for all these years, certain that it would be my downfall, the end of everything. I ran away from the laboratory, I told that my mother was dead. Then I fled, as far away from her as I could. Far from the truth.
For a very long moment, we remain facing each other, separated by the large empty and dark room. We look at each other. In some of her features, I still recognize my mother, the one who raised me, who watched me grow, who loved me. And what does she see when she looks at me? Does she even recognize me? She doesn’t move, seems frozen, anchored to the ground, her bulging eyes with huge pupils fixed on me. Footsteps behind my back. Elton. I feel panic rising in me. No no no ! Not now ! They grabbed me by the clothes to pull me back. I let myself go, eyes still riveted on her. Elton drags me to the outer platform and then starts shaking me, his eyes full of storm. He then lets go of me so he can sign violently, his face twisted. “Sin! What is that ? It’s the banshee, it’s her, isn’t it? It’s your mother, I’m not blind, it’s her! You knew it ? Tell me you didn’t know that! » I don’t answer. What could I tell him? He will forgive me, he has always forgiven me. He continues to gesticulate, screaming silently with his hands. I am watching him. He’s no longer afraid of the banshee, now that he knows the truth. No longer afraid of her scream either, since he is deaf. He’s not scared anymore, but he’s angry like I’ve never seen him before. A doubt grips me. What if he didn’t forgive me this time? A howl rings out behind me, so mournful, full of unspeakable pain, like the song of the end of the world, the sound of the victory of death over life. I turn quickly. She is there, at the entrance to the tower, looking at us with her shark eyes, cruel and soulless. She seems to be waiting for something, or maybe someone. Maybe it’s me she’s been waiting for, she’s always been waiting for me.
I turn to Elton again. He’s calmed down, he’s looking at me funny. His eyes go from me to the creature, then to me again. I’ve never seen that expression on his face. Very slowly, he raises his hands and asks the one question that shouldn’t be asked. “Sin, you hear, don’t you? You heard her scream, that’s why you turned around. You couldn’t know otherwise. » I don’t know what to say to him, but he doesn’t need to. He understands that it is the truth. I’ve been hearing for five years. Five years since the scream of the banshee gave me back my hearing. From my mother’s first scream, that scream that drove others crazy gave me back the sense I was missing. I’m the only one to hear beauty over death. She wasn’t so insane, my mother, after all. His experiments eventually paid off. She healed my ears, as she had hoped, even though it didn’t happen as she had planned. Elton stares at me, as if seeing me for the first time. As if he didn’t know me. As if he didn’t like this stranger in front of him, this stranger lying to him. I don’t like his look, I don’t like what I see in his eyes. That hurts me. His eyes always said he loved me. Now they say he’s gonna leave me too. I raise my hands, caress his cheeks, place them tenderly on his chest and smile at him. Then, with force, I push him. He doesn’t let out a scream as he topples over and falls into the endless abyss, as if he’s forgotten how to use his voice. His eyes no longer seem to want to leave me, they only express surprise, the immense astonishment of death. It’s better, better than the eyes that leave me. And very quickly, it disappears in the clouds. I stare into space for a moment, staring at the slice of mist in which I lost him. My eyes then return to my hands. They don’t shake, it’s strange. I turn to my mother. She is still waiting for me. Very well. At least I won’t be alone.
Wednesday night with Priya and her boyfriend, we watched old movies including Modern Time with Charlie Chaplin. I love this movie but I was exhausted and I fell asleep in front of it and I had a funny dream which inspired me to write this story. It deserves to be a little more worked but I hope you will enjoy it anyway!
I had just taken my service, behind the machine, as usual, like everyone else. On my right, in place of John, in front of the machine, stood another machine, this time sophisticated. An android. It had been a good two months since John had been at the factory. Unfit. It could no longer keep pace and the experts who had come some time earlier to improve space management for better performance had been unable to do anything. The diagnosis was clear: “ Performance disorders ”. From now on, the health services took care of him. Take the chicken, turn it over, remove the giblets, put the chicken on the conveyor belt, take the chicken,…, eight hours a day. John receives the chicken on the chain, hangs it on a hook. He cuts thighs, wings, fillets, thighs,…, eight hours a day. With John, we were able to adapt to the rhythm of the channel. Sometimes I slowed down, didn’t send the chickens too fast. It was only a few seconds gained, but over eight hours it was felt especially when the pain appeared. But that day, the android was going fast, very fast. He was waiting for the chickens. Each time, for a moment, he stared at me with his eyes like cameras. The same as those suspended from the ceiling. When the siren announced the end of the day, I returned home. The android stayed. An immense anxiety came over me. His gaze had something strange. The next day he was still there. The chain started, he came to life, turned his head, looked at me, waited.
— 35 years in the shop and 75% organic matter, John regularly threw at me with his smile tinged with a slight bitterness.
He was a funny guy. Still a little angry and a little disillusioned. It seemed to belong to another time. He often spoke to me about a guy from the beginning of the 20th century whose name I have forgotten. It’s called an artist, I believe.
— You see Louis, this film tells our story. The guy, he screws bolts on an assembly line and the line goes faster and faster. So he accelerates, but he can’t keep up. Suddenly, he finds himself caught up in the cogs, turns inside the system and comes out mad. This guy was a subversive genius. But you see, he was also a comedian and we only remember that, comedy. So everyone laughs, everyone applauds, and everyone goes back to screwing their bolts. But shit, that guy was an anarchist!
A loud beep snapped me out of my thoughts. It was off again for eight o’clock. This android was going really fast. The channel is the boss. She sets the pace. It’s hard on the body. John said that it was called Taylorism around the middle of the 20th century and then Toyotism at the beginning of the 21st.
— The right gesture in the right space. Make the gesture as precise as possible, the most effective, avoid useless movements, limit the loss of time, limit space, erase the singularity, eradicate the error, adapt to the chain. But do you think Picasso could have painted all his work on a chain?
Artist ? Anarchist? Picasso? Taylorism? Toyotism? Where did all this come from? I tried to find out about the web. Since I couldn’t find anything about it on the official corporate websites, I wondered if John was going off the rails a bit. The buzzer sounded again. The android was waiting.
— Louis. May I call you Louis? Our studies show a drop in performance in your job. It looks like your pace has slowed down a bit. In front of me, they were three. Malfunction department agents.
— But don’t worry, we’ll help you find your initial skills. We see in your file that you have already received treatment for your knees.
— Yes, I started with the orientation of the goods. The knees, it was from bending down to lift the boxes.
— Hmm, I see. We have spotted that the failure would now be located in your wrists. You will be received by the health services so that a diagnosis can be established.
With my new biotechnical wristbands, I thought everything would be better. But I kept thinking about a discussion I had had one day with John, at his house, after work.
— I don’t understand John. The guys when they work, they yell at the bosses and when they don’t work anymore, they still yell at the bosses.
— I’ll tell you Louis, it’s very simple. They yell because they are morons. Yes morons. Frankly, to spend eight hours a day with your nose in a chicken’s ass really has to be a moron. But the worst is when they get fired. After all we’ve done for this factory. I spent thirty years of my life there. And now ? Which ass am I going to put my nose in? No, but what do they believe? That we’ll roll out the red carpet for them for service to the Corporation. Yes you are right Louis. When they work, they yell at the bosses. When they don’t work anymore, they yell at the bosses. I’ll tell you. It suits them. Like that, they tell themselves that they are not responsible. But you know, to put your nose in the chicken’s ass, you have to lean forward a bit, sometimes you even have to squat down, and there generally you don’t get a nose. Can you see the painting a bit? At first it hurts a little, and then you get used to it, maybe you even end up liking it. But there is something that really hurts them. That’s when it stops. Because there they find themselves alone in front of themselves. Forced to make the sad statement of their miserable condition. And that is unbearable. So they look further. A guy sticking his nose in the ass of a cheaper chicken. And there it’s even more unbearable, because he has at least an ass he can stick his nose in. So they choose a leader. A manager who will save them. They even vote for him. That way, if the manager doesn’t save them, they can always say it’s his fault. So Louis! Ask yourself! Whose ass do you stick your nose in?
John stood in front of me, his elbow resting on the table, his forearm vertical. In his hand, a life-size, wooden, carved rump.
— Take it, it is for you. And do not forget. The truth is in the chicken’s ass.
On my way home, I looked for this rump. I couldn’t remember where I put it, but I found it in the back of a drawer. I took a hammer. I typed sharply. Inside was a gigamax hard drive. Quite rare and rather expensive. I slipped it into the plug provided for this purpose, behind my right ear, and there: An infinity of data, an immensity of knowledge for which a thousand lives would not be enough to go around.
I no longer have the heart to work. The buzzer sounded three times today. — Louis. Allow me to call you Louis. The corporation has decided to offer you a “ Performance Rehabilitation Program ”. The health services will come and get you. I went to the workshop to pick up my things. As I left, I turned one last time to the android. We looked at each other. It seemed to me that he was crying.
On this mild spring day, Jacques was spending the afternoon in his garden digging. Gently, he prepared the ground for the planting of potatoes while leaving the poultry cackling at his feet. Without the slightest caution, the hens dived under the spikes of his tool to swallow the visible earthworms and fought for the biggest ones. Sometimes the gardener had a few seconds of respite, when one of his poultry decided to run away with a particularly appetizing worm. The other beasts, bad ones, then set off in pursuit to steal from its beak without worrying about the insects left behind. At the other end of the garden, wasps were already circling around the first raspberries and trying to leave as little as possible for humans. And as Jacques was returning home to enjoy a well-deserved lemonade, a tiny ship crashed among the magnolias, petunias and hydrangeas.
The craft bounced from leaf to leaf and shook its occupant unceremoniously. Fortunately, the thick grass was enough to soften the fall to allow the machine to land without significant damage. A few minutes later, an alien set foot on Earth for the first time. A full suit surrounded him and completely hid his body while revealing a humanoid figure. From the top of his two centimeters, Qzar rushed to conquer this new land. Equipped with a recorder in his helmet, the alien described his environment in detail by trying to compare each thing to an already known object. The yellow, round flowers were therefore mussratts, the small red speckled with black dots were ivirs, and the green tufts were grsazs. A few surprises still awaited the newcomer. The flower petals were inedible, the earth had a strange brown color instead of the usual yellow, and strange eight-legged creatures wanted to eat it.
The first time Qzar encountered such a creature, he simply noticed the presence of shlarks on the planet and continued on his way without paying any more attention. Although the color was, of course, slightly different and the beast a little bigger, there was no doubt that he had come across a peaceful creature. He was even thinking of the shareholders who were delighted to see a new breed of the most popular pet in the entire Znays system appear. This discovery risked bringing in a small fortune, except for him, a miserable explorer paid for with a slingshot. Could he at least hope to give his name to this discovery?
After a quick turn, a walk of well five meters, he decided to return to the ship to explore a more distant area. However, on his return, his gaze was caught by a strange wire sculpture hanging at the bottom of a hedge. The latter, quite fine, represented a sort of slightly imperfect circle. Pure white, Qzar remained a few seconds admiring this astonishing spectacle. Was it a work of art? Without a doubt. An intelligent species must therefore already be living on this planet. The alien decided to take the time to explore the surroundings to try to find the creator of this incredible work and thus take the first step with the locals. Unfortunately, instead of encountering any living beings, Qzar only found dead insects and works of art. Many sculptures linked leaves and tall grass to create different shapes. Circle, square, oval, triangle and rhombus jostled and mixed to give ever more unique works. This little patch of land no doubt served as an artist’s studio, but the remains of corpses sometimes even stuck in the white sculptures seemed to indicate that the place had been deserted for a long time. Qzar heaved a small sigh of discouragement, but continued to search the work area all the same. He even inspected the tips of the legs and the remains of the wings to verify that they were indeed bodies. Certain that the studio was deserted, Qzar allowed himself to inspect the sculptures themselves and couldn’t resist touching them. Gently, very cautiously, he grabbed a thread and, startled by the sticky contact, he tried to pull his hand back immediately. Without success. The alien then understood the deception and forced more and more on his arm. What creature could be cunning enough to lure innocent people with such beautiful traps?
Quickly, a new shlark arrived near the small alien. The latter ignored him and continued to tug on the wire in an attempt to pull it out. He was, however, forced to pay attention to this eight-legged beast when it bit him on the shoulder. Surprised, he hit her with the back of his hand without even thinking about it and the creature, furious, threw itself on him without waiting any longer. Its mandibles clacked close to Qzar’s face and the image of the peaceful shlarks immediately flew away. In this struggle, the beast broke many sculptures and freed the alien who, without worrying about the damage, fled as quickly as possible to join his ship.
And the earth shook. The leaves stirred, the flies flew away, the ants fled, and Qzar kept running. Seeing his ship, he couldn’t help but smile, but a huge rubbery green thing crushed his precious vehicle in one fell swoop. Stopping dead, the alien contemplated the few remains of the ship without believing it. More slowly, he moved forward to get a better look. The front door, under pressure, had been kicked out to smash against a salad and a few shards of unbreakable glass lay strewn across the floor. Unable to leave this planet and even unable to warn his colleagues, Qzar simply admired the rubble without paying attention to the huge feathered creature near him.
Was it an insect, a worm, a seed, leftover dough or even an eggshell? The hen was unable to tell so, in doubt, she swallowed it.
Today I offer you a science fiction story inspired by the latest IPCC reports. It’s not very optimistic. For me it is high time that we move our ass to act but I have the impression that most world leaders do not give a damn because it won’t affect their generation. I promise I’ll try to be in another mood for the next story.
A single tear that will never fall clearly stands out on my right cheekbone. My name is Tear. At least, that’s what the inhabitants of the Burrow call me. I have long forgotten the first name chosen by my parents, perhaps I never even knew it. — Tear! Tear! Bring your butt, we found something! It’s Cio’s voice. I wonder what they could find this time. I take off at a run. I descend the steep slope overlooking the Burrow. A mixture of sand and loose stones rolls under my feet, I will soon have to think about getting back on the road. Cio is waiting for me at the bottom of the drop and leads me towards the crowd. I jostle the pock-faced twins Rari and Tul. They let me pass without flinching.
— What is that ?
— We do not know. We thought you would know. I lean over and look at the metal box pitted with rust, it almost crumbles to dust. “How did you find that?” — It’s little Marr, he fell to the bottom of a crevasse. We tried to fish him out, but it was too late, he was in bad shape, his legs where his arms were, if you know what I mean. I nod in silence, I’ve seen too many bodies dislocated by the fatal falls that are repeated at each bivouac. Rari continues by cutting Cio off: — At the bottom, we discovered a kind of very hard piece. Half of it had collapsed, but we were still able to get in. There were plenty of empty boxes except one, and inside was this. Another box. I look again. They have just opened the small chest. Cio protests: — I’m the one telling! It was me who found the box, so it’s me who tells… Do you understand? Rari and Tul start laughing.
— Ok, chief, it is you who tell. I really like both boys, they live by their own rules. They follow the Walkers, but rarely mix with the Pack except when rescuing one of our own. This time, unfortunately, the rescue came to nothing. Petit Marr went there, like many. Cio is carefully taking out a rectangular object wrapped in a sort of dry, cracked skin, and opens it very slowly, as if he was afraid that the inanimate structure would suddenly come to life. — Oooooh! marvels little Lota. A book, a real book, as old Roy described it to us. This one is different: instead of the words we can’t decipher, there are color drawings. Everyone tries to see over their neighbor’s shoulder, the jostling begins, and it’s still the twins’ turn to calm the little band gathered at the entrance to the North maze. Cio places the book in my hands, a proud smile on his chapped lips. I open to the first page, a few words are drawn on the top of the document, I squint, we don’t know how to read this, nobody knows. I continue, the rest is easier, these are images. I know what it is. Old Roy, before he died, explained everything to me. That’s why others respect me, I’m the one who knows.
Our history is oral, we no longer write it. Each Pack has a Storyteller, guardian of memory. I am a Storyteller, I have the memory of the world. I sit on the ground, in the dust, and look at the orange sky. Our lookouts have not sounded the alarm, we still have a little time before the rains arrive. I raise my arm and show the first image.
— It is a tree. I hear “oh” and “ah” all around me. One after the other, the band settles on the ground. — Is a tree what feeds the planet? asks little Lota, the smartest of the group in my opinion. She has not reached the age of eight and I hope she will survive a few more years. I’ll teach him the history of the world like old Roy did before me. — Yes, Lota, the trees fed the earth and the earth fed us. — I would like to see one for real, exclaims Cio, the dreamer. Everyone nods. — We are the Walkers, one day our steps will take us where the trees still exist. — Is it true that trees make clear rain? I nod and turn the second page. Another tree. — Plants create clear rain and offer it as a gift to men. — Why aren’t we allowed gifts? It’s Sven’s voice, I didn’t see it coming. I can’t take my eyes off his dirty face, his blue eyes shine fiercely, he is my rock, my stability, my reason to go on and on. — The elders have decided otherwise,” Lota answers tit for tat. Definitely, this little one surprises me from day to day. Sven sniffs and drops to one knee before whispering in my ear: — Come on, I need to talk to you. I get up and give the book back to Cio.
— Put it back in the box to protect it and bring it home, with the rest. Has anyone notified little Marr’s mother? The twins nod and I smile sadly at them, then join Sven who is waiting for me a little further. — What is it ? — We have to leave. — When ? I never question Sven’s common sense. He is not mistaken. He knows the stone, he guesses the moment when it will no longer hold and will end up burying us all. — Tomorrow, the day after tomorrow at the latest. — The Trackers have found a location? — Yes, but the walk will be difficult. We are going to lose people. I sigh and lean my forehead against his chest. He says nothing, but uses me against him. — We’ll take Lota. The twins and Cio will follow. Sven rests his chin on the top of my head.
— As you want, but in case of rain, it will be every man for himself. The law of the strongest, as always.
The watchmen’s horn sounds. A long hoot followed by a shorter one. This is the signal to warn of impending rain. Sven sits up and grabs my hand before running. I check in passing that the gang is no longer outside; they must have bolted at the first warning. The northern maze is ours: Lota, Cio, Rari, Tul, Jay, who has found his place among the Trackers, Sven and me. This is the most dangerous part of the Burrow, we are used to it, we always choose the least easy, the least livable. Over time, we became strong and independent. Others fear and envy us. — The lookouts have shit in their pants again, laughs Cio. Lota interrupts him: — Better too soon than too late. — Well, it’s not as if we had ever narrowly failed to dissolve the mouth. We all have a scar to prove it. His gaze passes over the tear that digs into my flesh and makes me look nostalgic. Forgotten memory of my childhood. I don’t know how it happened. My parents died a long time ago, I have always carried this symbol of sadness, this mark that nature engraved on my face.
Acid rain began hundreds of years ago. It all started with the disappearance of oil. The last stripe sucked from the bowels of the Earth left the world in total disarray. Other energies were put in place to fill the gap, but the demand was too great. The wind turbines did not produce enough, the nuclear ended up being abandoned during the last accident which made Japan and Korea disappear unified. Tidal and solar power was used until the last moment, but the brown cloud definitely put a stop to any future attempts. The earth is turning in slow motion. The sunlight hardly reaches us anymore, we die slowly, drowned in a muddy chiaroscuro. Old Roy told me all that, and even more. At first, American researchers had the brilliant idea of melting our waste to reproduce the lost fossil energy. For a few years, the world regained its former flamboyance. Planes flew in the sky, machines worked for the well-being of the population, trade had never been so flourishing. Then the Day of Tears came. The first acid rain took everyone by surprise, ravaging cities and countryside, killing animals, crops, people. During the first decades, scientists were hopeful that everything would stop and that the water in the sky would become pure again. Unfortunately, the years passed and the land turned into a desert. The survivors became hermits, protecting themselves in the caves, the only ones capable of resisting the acidity of the sky. Water and food soon became a problem. There was no shortage of acts of barbarism, the strongest survived. We are piss children, as Cio says. We learned to distill urine. I never drank anything else. Life expectancy has been halved. We don’t have many old people among us. Their urine is too ammoniated, they live together and die together, poisoned by their own fluids. We feed on insects and anything we can find edible and smart enough to avoid the rains. We have become nomads. The rock protects us, but wears out quickly and we need to find something stronger day after day. The Trackers locate the habitable places, it is up to us to make them our home for a few weeks before the inevitable march which will not fail to arrive sooner or later. Pregnant women are the most protected, if we don’t want the human species to die out, we must reproduce ourselves in sufficient quantity. Sven is ready, he thinks we should try. Everyone is free to choose their partner, but sometimes gangs of Reproducers arrive, they only target women of childbearing age, we have never found any of them. Old Roy only divulged the history of the planet to his successor: me, in this case. He said it was no good taunting survivors, that if we understood what the planet had once been like, jealousy, anger and disappointment would destroy what little hope we had left. I do not envy our ancestors. My limited imagination cannot envision the extraordinary.
We find Cio and the others in the northern maze. They have all heard the news of the imminent departure and are already packing up their meager possessions, except Lota, who remains motionless in the middle of the dark excavation.
— What is it ? Cio stole your rag again? – this piece of ageless fabric that she drags everywhere. She shakes her head negatively.
— I do not want to leave. — We must leave this cave or we will die, you know that very well. — What if the rain stops? — What if she didn’t stop? Lota sighs, she has no choice, she has to walk. Sven pulls me into our corner, his gaze serious, his jaw tense. — I spoke with Jay, the Stalkers who returned brought with them a Walker. A rumor is circulating. He stops and tests my face with his eyes so blue.
— A rumor ? You know rumors have killed more men than the rains. — This time it’s different. The Walker comes from the West, he says the rains have almost stopped there. He has made it his mission to transmit information as far as the Russian republic. Sven raises an eyebrow, he doesn’t know what the Russian republic is. The Walker is a Storyteller without a doubt. I explain in two words where the place is located and ask: — What does Jay think? — He says it’s the first time a sane traveler has come to us. He speaks coherently and can answer questions without rambling. — What have the Stalkers decided? — That we would go west. — Do you really think the rains will ever stop? — No, but we’ll go west all the same. — What will we find there?” A toxic ocean that we can never cross. We know it, you and I have seen it with our own eyes. The world stops at the seas. Do you remember the swamps? How many died? Ten, thirty, a hundred? Sven grabs my face between his two hands and follows my motionless tear with his fingertips. It has a strange delicacy that only I can see. — Lota needs to believe it. Cio says nothing, but he’s scared. The twins told me that they had heard him cry in his sleep. And you… I sigh. My eyes, accustomed to the darkness, spot a gray bat, with thick fur and fangs several centimeters long. She will not hesitate to attack. It too must survive. I push Sven to the side and throw the stick I keep in my belt. He twirls around and catches the animal’s wing, which falls heavily to the ground. Sven picks it up and snaps the back of his neck without flinching. We will have meat tonight. He faces me now and resumes as if nothing had happened:
— And you ? Wouldn’t you like to feel safe? He raises the poor animal which hangs limply at the end of his arm and continues: wouldn’t you want to eat your fill every day?
— And if we fail? Sven points to the cave with his hand. — We’ve failed before, we just have to start over, doing better this time. I nod slowly and meet his gaze. I read there the determination and the fear too. Lota joins us, she drags behind her her travel bag ingeniously equipped with wheels, an idea of the twins. The little girl’s eyes are circled in black. Concern can be read on his young face.
— Everybody is ready. We are the vanguard, we will lead the way and if we survive then the Pack will follow. Sven ruffles her hair. — Go find Jay and tell him we won’t be leaving until tomorrow, we’ll be walking at night when the rains are less frequent. Lota walks away, her steps lightened by this respite of a few hours. My eyes betray my incomprehension.
— Why tomorrow ? ‘Because this will be our last trip. My heart squeezes painfully in my chest. We will only travel west once. Our group is dying. — We will create our own world, better and wiser. We will live in the open air and the trees will watch over us. You have told us so often. I want to see the earth as it is described in the books you jealously guard. I want to have children and I want to grow old, he explains to me with new seriousness. I nod without being able to say a word, my throat tight. Hope is foolish, we shouldn’t get attached to it and yet… Tonight we will sleep in each other’s arms and tomorrow, with bellies perhaps full of new life, we will walk.
“ You’ll see, it works, I read that in a magazine of the time.” While remembering the advice of a friend, Ed Hill took a deep breath in order to bring down the anguish. Hopefully, the torment his stomach was inflicting on him will fade away in a saving breath of air.
The air entered his nose, bringing with it the scent of his freshly applied perfume, then rushed into his lungs and finally escaped from his mouth. This sensation, as new as it was, gave him an intense surge of oxygen to his brain, blurring his sight for a few seconds. On the other hand, his stress did not decrease, lack of pot.
Hidden behind the black stage curtains, he could already hear Brian Schmitt, the electrifying robot everyone was raving about. “ Welcome to New Encounters, the show where the world unfolds before your eyes… ”, he perceived from afar. Brian presented the most watched TV show in France and just before joining him, Ed dithered. He was just a scientist, not a star. Why inflict such pressure on yourself?
Nevertheless, the commitments were made, the distribution contracts signed with the hand of a wise automaton and the spirits heated to the bone. It was no longer possible to go back. Her life had just changed drastically and, deep down, Ed hoped that she would upset the lives of many others.
— Ladies and gentlemen, please give a proper welcome to Doctor Ed Hill! Brian declared with conviction.
A resounding thunder of applause rang out from the audience, while a tech robot made sweeping gestures compulsively for Ed to enter the stage. Hesitantly, the latter advanced towards the light, touching in the process the dark fabric which separated him from the tray. A gentle heat caressed his right arm before disappearing in a blinding glare.
— Welcome ! Can I call you Ed? Started Brian to relax the atmosphere, while asking his guest to sit down. — Of course. he replied, intimidated.
Apart from the stage, illuminated by powerful lights, everything was completely plunged into darkness. The red sensors of the cameras were pointed towards the center, where Ed Hill was going to be filmed for the first time.
— How are you doing ? You look radiant to me. — I’m glad to be here, Ed said, a grain in his voice.
— You see me delighted. I understand that the events we are going to talk about this evening have not been easy. Will you find it difficult to confide in yourself?
— Don’t worry, I’m ready. You have before your eyes the fruit of several years’ work, as tedious as it is fascinating, Ed confided while pinching his forearm in front of the lens. — Ah! Was it painful? Brian asked, laughing. — Let’s just say it tingles a bit, Ed ventured, smiling broadly.
— What humor ! Applaud him, ladies and gentlemen! Doctor Ed Hill! cried Brian.
Cheers broke out from the audience.
— Very well, then Ed, let’s not wait any longer! Tell us about Hangar 66? Brian continued in a calm voice. — Do you remember your birth factory Brian? — Like it was yesterday. — I will put my hand to cut that it looks like two drops of water. In any case, hangar 66 is identical to mine, I was inspired by it. A particular atmosphere hovers there, full of questioning and doubt, but also of excitement and desire, necessary for the development of a marvelous future. The only difference is that it is not robots that come out, but human beings. — And what a success, cried Brian, waving his arm at his guest.
Applause rang out, then the presenter continued.
— Ed, tell me, why did you want to be first? — That’s a good question, Brian, Ed replied, brushing his hair with the back of his hand. Quite simply because I am the instigator of this experiment. I would have blamed myself if harmful side effects had occurred on people other than me. — Precisely, have you had any side effects? — Not yet, except ravenously hungry,” Ed joked, feeling more and more at ease.
The audience followed him in his euphoria.
— What did you prefer to eat, since your rebirth? — When I woke up, they brought me what the humans called an Emmenthal ham sandwich. — How was it ? asked Brian, microphones dangling from Ed’s lips. — Delicious, I cried. — Cried, you hear that! Brian cried as he stared at the camera, his voice laced with passion. New emotions overwhelm you? insisted the presenter. — All the time. It’s only been a few days, but already I’m lost in the twists and turns of my sensitivity. Empathy overwhelms me when I see robots in distress, anger overwhelms me when I observe the price of electricity, and fear immobilizes me when I launch into an interview like this, my brain is boiling and my body reacts accordingly. — Stunning! How do you handle all of this? — For now, I suffer more than I manage, I’m not going to lie. We still have a lot to learn. This body is like an alarm bell on constant alert, it’s disconcerting. However, it makes you feel awfully alive. — What hell ! laughed Brian, while throwing his arms in the sky. — Nothing to do with god, I assure you, Ed joked.
The spectators burst out laughing.
— Everyone here wants to know Ed., how is the operation going? Brian asked, regaining control of his broadcast. — The trickiest part is the making of the human body. They are so complex, it’s fascinating. Then just download our consciousness into the brain and you’re done, Ed explained proudly. — It seems so simple. But, for what reasons? Why do you want to revolutionize the world in this way? — This experience was born from an observation, which I realized after my first birthday bolts. Like many others, I understood that our mechanical eternity, as important as it is in our eyes, leads us towards a suffocating gloom, in which surprise and adventure no longer have any place. Our archives prove to us that at the time of humans, the world was full of creative energy of all kinds, making the slightest bit of boredom fleeting. Me what I want is to discover what the audacity of mortality can bring to our world in loss of imagination.
A long and heavy “Aaah” escaped from the audience, approving the doctor’s words.
— And do you feel a new energy? — Just imagine that just this morning, I was wondering what I was going to be able to do with the time that was allotted to me. You see, the fatality of death has a spicy taste of adventure, it’s gripping. — And what are you going to do with this time? — I don’t really know, let’s say I’ll take the time to think about it, Ed said humorously. — Funny! Brian stated firmly. Finally, do you have a message to convey? — I must say that for the moment, I live an extraordinary experience. My body is only 20 years old, my senses are awake, my brain is fiery and I have only one desire, to share my life with other human beings. To know joy, sadness, love, melancholy and who knows what else. With our robotic wisdom, acquired over our millennia of existence, these emotions are real sources of inspiration, so don’t hesitate! If you feel like living life to the full and dying with panache, head to Hangar 66! — Magnificent ! It was Brian Schmitt, with Dr. Ed Hill. The first human is reborn from his cybernetic ashes! I wish you a good evening, and see you tomorrow for new new encounters! concludes the presenter, under the ovation of a conquered public.
From Andy Cline’s Ready Player One to Judge Dread to Black Mirror and Pacific Rim, near future works are endless. Close anticipation is not a genre, it is an approach. Common point of the corpus: the stories must take place in the near future. Something to get excited about and also often fuel the nightmare machine.
What is sience-fiction?
Science fiction is inextricably linked with anticipation. It is about imagining possible developments in science and technology in order to explore possible future possibilities. In their time, the forerunners of Mary Shelley (Frenkenstein), HG WELLS (The Time Machine) and Jules Vernes (Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea) marveled at the advances of their time to build wonderful philosophical stories. or terrifying. These, among others, invented speculative fiction. Imagining the future, even on the basis of facts and cutting-edge documentation, is still science fiction. SF is written in the conditional, not in the future, and always feeds on the context in which it is born. And too bad if its projections fall short of reality or become obsolete, sometimes in just a few years. Because even when they claim to talk about something else, the works are full of the mindset, values and knowledge of their time, and of their author. It always speaks of the present, and has effects in the present.
The case of near future.
The genres of the imagination, including fantasy and SF, are therefore always situated in relation to the real, and the works of near future undoubtedly hide this even less than the others: their plots are close to their context and time. of creation – and close to us who receive them. For the British writer J.G. Ballard, the near future would be a means of talking about the “true future”, the one that we “see approaching”, as opposed to hypothetical elsewhere, in eras and galaxies far, very distant. On the contrary, from space opera or mythical fantasy, the near future does not open the door to escape, it immediately announces “in not very long” and implies “right here”. Ballard himself was adapted (Crash by David Cronenberg).
In the continuity of Ballard, many works – novels, films, comic series, games – have placed their plots in a futuristic universe, without necessarily exploring a supposed immediate future. Problem: all fiction implies a distancing from reality. Near future works consciously break this convention with the help of a distorting mirror. Everything is familiar and so different.
But why are these works often so terrifying?
Seeing the future negatively, is it for ease? Where has the reassuring cocoon of our daily comfort gone? Do we no longer have the right to dream, to imagine? This is a crucial question. Most of the near-anticipation works outbid the existing, adding a small dose of dark futurism, freewheeling technology, eerie androids, triumphant capitalism, and permanent cops. Just what it takes to smash the glass in our comfort zone. The reassuring daily life becomes deadly, your intelligent vacuum cleaner seeks to kill you, a spaceship is planning its worrying shadow over the city, even it is absolutely necessary to chip or get vaccinated so as not to fall on the cost of law and order. . (get vaccinated guys, this is important) In the preface to his full short stories, Ballard cautioned against this trend:
“The future […] is a dangerous, heavily mined area that tends to turn around to bite your ankles when you take a step forward. “
Too late the damage is done. Many works anchored in the near future stage an imperceptible and perpetual shift where each technology, each authoritarian drift, each change in lifestyle or degree of global warming, testifies to the fact that nothing will ever be the same again. Rather than the completely reconfigured worlds of the post-apocalypse, where everything was destroyed and then recast, this is about the cycles of life and death of civilizations. The collapse is not imminent, it is immanent. History is on the move. It happens continuously. In the fluctuations of a pandemic, the British series Years and Years, or through the words of Chuck in Fight Club:
«This is your life, and it’s ending one minute at a time”
Paradoxically, it is also this perpetual end of the known world that allows all hopes and allows utopias to flourish, however diffuse they may be. Dark futures fuel the emergence of new horizons, new battles to be waged and new hopes to be nourished. Suddenly utopias exist mainly to legitimize the fights waged against them. In reality, the great battle of imaginations, ideas and values is fought deep inside each of us. The fight is brutal, merciless, it spares none of our received ideas, our intuitions and our usual thinking patterns. And test what we think we know as the disgust, fear or revolt that arises over fiction becomes able to inspire us and spur us to action. For example, the treatment of aliens in District 9 strikes us as despicable, because it inevitably reminds us of the plight of refugees around the world. What is terrifying about this distorting mirror is less the distortion it conjures up than the fact that we recognize ourselves in it.