In one possible far-flung future the world finds itself radically altered and populated by an increasingly isolated human race. They took a wrong turn in Ecclesiastes and kept going until the inevitable dead end.
The real estate agent says these are going like hotcakes. I’ve never tried a hotcake. Mastication isn’t all the rage these days, unlike this neighborhood. The estate agent says this neighborhood is good enough to eat. “To die for,” he guffaws. Insensitive, I know, but he’s young and I imagine one goes that way when you’re young and stretched thin, pushed into something, serving the last customer in the loser end of the line as the world circles down the drain. The multiverse gurgles.
By the time my generation came along, people had given up the ghost on perpetuating the lie that we were all special. A sucking noise brings me back to the present. People no longer spend a great deal of time around one another. The agent puffs on his standard issue nebulizer. Network archeologists have decoded digital evidence of long ages of discord and miscommunication among our people. Now we have LED implants. The hue is the mood. We read one another rather than talk. Like the mythical “rattle snake.” The agent’s hue returns to serenity status with a puff. I think he put a little fun in the tank. I don’t hold it against him. He’s a morose feller. The weight of the world is upon him. He’s the guy tasked with turning out the lights and locking up.
“You should really get a girl.” I pair the joke with the appropriate humor hue. Funny.
As the old bedtime fable my automated holographic father figure used to read me said, “We lost the Entwives.” They headed east.
We’re still here.
I am moving into this unit alone. I have never mated. Nobody alive has. Women stopped being born, and the few who were lost interest. We lost interest in one another. Our lives have been prolonged but we have failed to overcome boredom. Generation after generation used to discover anew the same old joys, but here at the end of the world we’ve lost the will to keep the gears going for the sake of going. Hence, this new, gated community dealership I find myself bored in at the moment. Shiny white neighborhoods of particle decelerators, “For sale here!” read the late night memory-gram. I’m kicking the tires on a brand new unit today. Here, they say, we’ll finally be alone. Unplugged. Un-melded. Undone and unraveled into our most basic elements. The ultimate detox. The ultimate retreat. Unlimited data and no need to use it.
The real estate agent’s color indicates he is not amused. This is why people don’t go outside. What’s the use?
I once merged with the memory of an archivist concerning the ancient custom of inhaling toxins into one’s lung cavity from a fiery wad of vegetation. The archivist remembered that there was a certain mystique to it. I’d like to “smoke ‘em if you got ‘em” just one time before I buy this unit. It’s got to be more life-affirming than this nebulizer.
The religious embraced their fate. They knew they were bad people. Musicians told them so. A lot of women went with them, what with the promise of monogamy and everlasting adventure and communion with one another. What a bunch of gutter-glitter. Long ago a great swath of Canada converted to religion. Those were dark times. A lot of people got scared down here. The real estate agent is too young to remember all that.
The idealists strained until they were enveloped in violent hues to keep space free from religion. However, as fear of Canadian religious fever spread, a new hue dawned upon us. The idea came slow and soft like tyranny so oft does: that space isn’t actually all that nice. Earth is the prize. Earth is the oasis of the Milky Way. The Canadians were convinced—and encouraged by helpful laws—to blast off in search of freedom and heathen aliens to evangelize. They established New Canada. They say they’re still out there, praying for us.
We achieved everything we set out to do. We are a people who have endured the perfecting of the neighborhood. We drove out all our scapegoats and demons and are now awakening to the rude truth that they are gone and everything is still horrible. I’m sure you can see why the appeal of these gated communities has grown. Just a quiet particle decelerator next door to other people of good hue.
The real estate agent is no longer joking. He’s selling a nice corner lot unit situated under a shady Dandelion tree. I like that. Bury me beneath the Dandelion tree. If I’m lucky my particles will fly away on the wings of a Dandelion tree seed. Maybe I’ll be replanted in the greater western ragweed swamp, or if the winds are in my favor, I’ll be blessed enough to float around one of the polar pollen clouds for a while.
Robots failed. Memory-merging failed. Who would have predicted how bored we would grow with one another when we no longer had to unearth lovers like archeologists? My grandparents called relationships “the big dig.”
The contract reads my hue and knows I’m all in.
The agent looks relieved, as if he has only now recovered from the brain fog.
A fleeting desire dances in my mind. I wish I had one of those hot cakes I remembered about, or better yet a packed wad of dry vegetation to light ablaze in my hand.
The unit is homey. The prompt asks me if I know the particle deceleration hue. I do. The hue is my only prayer, my only creed, my only mantra, indeed, the culmination of all human wisdom: the five words.
I shall answer the hue with my own voice, I shall say it out loud with my body sounds.
“My favorite color is darkness.”
Cover image by hao wang.