Sunday, 9 July 2017

In the Bubble

[Media prompt] Facebook wants to add a mixed-use ‘village’ to its California headquarters.
In the Bubble

From his bed, Jack Cronin looked out the bay window. It was six o’clock and the lights had already gone off along Sandberg Avenue. He looked at the touchscreen display on the window, which flashed up the day’s palette. It was #4538, a wash of hydrangea violets, pale winter blues and egg and corn yellows.

“What’s this one do?” said his wife, rubbing her eyes as she sat up.

“Mid-range motivational,” he said, swinging out of bed onto the hard wooden floorboards. “I need to be in by half-past.”

When he came out of the shower, Macy had laid out his clothes and made coffee and toast for him.

“They say not to go anywhere near Southside,” she said as he dressed. “Somalis killed a Mexican last night. Things are going from ugly to nuclear.”

They hugged briefly. Jack felt her body trembling against his.

He stood at the bus stop, the sun warming his back. The roses in the Millers’ front yard had started to drop petals. Ed had poured more water on them than the Niagara River did over the falls, but the Millers had been moved on. Macy said she had heard they were going to hand the house over to a visa family, but there had been no official announcement.

At his desk, he glanced through the morning reports from Europe and Africa. Anything urgent would have been on a touchscreen display at home, so he gave them scant attention. News had somehow leaked out about the killings in Southside, but the AIs cleaned it up. At ten he took a pill to help him concentrate, and instead of eating lunch he went for a brisk walk. By two he was seated in the auditorium to listen to the weekly lecture. The president’s face filled the screen, beginning an energetic presentation about his first class at Harvard. Every time he laughed, the audience joined in.

Jack caught the bus home directly afterwards. He sat by a window looking for glitches in the colour palette. At the top of the hill, he saw down into Southside, a thin braid of smoke rising from the russet brown of decay.

When he arrived home, Macy was passed out on the sofa. Jack sat down next to her, stroking her leg as though she might open her eyes and smile. He sat there until the streetlights came on, then showered and took a pill. They replayed the president’s speech on the touchscreens. After they showed tomorrow’s colour palette, he got into bed. Macy complained about their life here, but there was no point. It’s not as though they could ever leave. Willow Campus was their home, their life.

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