I don’t think I’m smarter than these people, but I know I’m cleverer. I’d say its’s more admirable because it requires constant discipline to attack the day in a way nobody else does. For example, people like to make an entire day out of shopping and might even subconsciously spread their errands across many stores. That’s not me. That’s never been me. That’s why I go to one store, and I exert control where the day may lead me astray. And everything that Madison wouldn’t want me buying is on my radar.
When you walk into any interior, the cacophony lets you know you’re where the action is. The convenience store by my unit is my favorite. The suction of the gate washing over me and massaging every pore, that experience being wholly and uniquely mine. Kaleidoscopic bulbs swooping in and attempt to guide my way, before ultimately abandoning me once I signal that I’m rogue. The place expanded since I was last in, just like me. We live in a post-Madison world and I appreciate every inch of every familiar interior; columns of inert lightning that took a century to reach full charge and complete sync with our rotation, the dreamscapes of movement stamped upon every brick creating fractals of smokey illusions. Familiar things, child’s fascinations, and I’m right there with them. At the entrance there’s a display for Eye DyeVY, and it’s telling me the new formula lasts up to 6 months. Madison didn’t want me to get a custom message around my iris. “Who’s that for?” like someone else would get close enough to notice. I’ll show her. I’m gonna get something treasonous.
There’re not so much other customers as there are citizen broadcasters, and they’re all gathered along the edges of the store by the halo of screens running along the ceiling, unbroken and morphed together like a paint smear. It’s a kinetic constellation of information, each section tuned to whatever whomever activated it wanted. I track one woman adorned with red lines from her shoulders to the floor raise her elongating fingerprint to the reader and instantly load up her desired media, the transaction forever tethered to their electrical identity, now forever stamped however insignificantly with her name and her intention and her existence right here right now. A transaction of existences that were occurring anyway, but irrelevant. So now she believes I owe her and it my attention. I deflect their subtle sneers with a smile I’ve never done before. I scan the aisles for soldiered cylinders, but in their place all I find are stacks of paper informing me of a recall, and I should never have wanted chips to begin with. It’s addressed to me, and it purports to be written by me. I flip through the pages, and evidence of my misfired desire is compelling.
The people beneath these overhanging screens, they fear some far-faithlocked man is going to look up their name on the ledger for their legacy. They want to see me fascinated. I refuse to be fascinated. “You deserve power,” the screen and the woman in a pink jumper beneath it tells me, “you deserve everything.” It looks like it’s about pens.
I browse the aisles like a surgeon across daydreams to jog any memories of anything I should bundle in to beat the system. An entire shelf of the Creams of the PeopleVY. I handle a can titled Valentine’s DayVT; it’s unpressurized smoke on the inside. It informs me it will make eternity feel like an instant. Out of the corner of my eye, beside the woman in the pink jumper’s broadcast, the news is telling me that we have collectively – in the spirit of all humanity – reached the landmark of 50 terraformed, saved, and colonized planets. Each one unique and bent to our will in incomprehensible ways. Centuries of work, new races evolved in the symphony of triumph and wretchedness. They say man is what he does, and where he can go. I don’t believe that, but they say it. Madison said she liked the one covered in the moss mountains, she said it looked like music. Instead of building upward, they started at the peaks and build towards the ground. It affected everything about them over time, including their language, their entire worldview. Irrelevant poetry.
50 planets, along with their peoples. The Central GovernmentVT tells us this is a time for celebration, and the mirth is mandatory since it I widely forgotten that at least 20 planets are in full rebellion against us, with another 15 not even identifying as human anymore. I used to see stories that three of our closest allies had generously received a cosmic force beyond comprehension, and they appear to have lost interest in communicating with us. No other planets were contacted, and there was no indication there was conflict. We assumed they were trying to get to Earth. Maybe it’s not worth remembering. I can’t find records of those blips anywhere. They’ll only survive in my memory if I choose to let them survive.
Only things that are relevant matter.
They’re not going to let us talk to what they found beyond our solar galactic boundaries. Nobody wants us in on what they’re doing. We’re still on Earth, with the Creams of the PeopleVT, and they need us. They’re willing to die for their planets, for their new civilizations. Whatever they found out there, they don’t think we should know about it. This is the third time they’ve reduced the price on Cone-o-PomoVT. Jungle CupsVT. They don’t come in slim boxes anymore, they’re in single-use bags that are nanofibers you can stretch out, allegedly forever. I hate seeing a business die. Someone put their entire life into making that work. All it would take is a little sacrifice to make sure this whole thing keeps going. Nobody cares about the world.
By the time I’m at the back of the store I realize I’ve sleepwalked past some things I might have needed. It doesn’t matter. I can grab everything on my way out, since they not only have my entity scanned but they’ve probably already figured out what I was going to buy anyway, and it’ll be on my file anyway. But I’ve already paid for this SequelVT and I can use it in store, and they know that I came in here looking for it, they know what I’m going to do, and they know what I’m going to think about it. They will write a better day for me tomorrow if I participate. This thing I intend to do will keep it all running.
I unbox the tiny planetoid and hold it softly in my hands. You don’t need to hold your breath when you inspect it if you know how to breathe out of the corners of your mouth; I’m told they think it’s exciting. They make it the size of a skull because it’s like looking into someone’s face, following all the lines of civilization along its surface, each one unique to the people genetically engineered to seed it. There’s no oceans from what I can see – you don’t want to move it around – just lakes, rivers, and masses of green bleeding into the dancing lights of the people. I use one of these every time I have an important answer, even though they’re designed to be used for any question. My hands are trembling against the metropoles grazing my palms. I can feel they’ve harnessed the core of their planet, informed of the box like the warnings say. I watch what could be signal flares, ships, or projectiles dance off in every direction, from the lights and the green in perfect harmony. I’ve often imagined that these moments feel like years to them, but nobody wants to talk about that. I inhale through my nose and ask, “does Madison think about me?”
As the words leave my lips, I can see the catastrophic reverberations sweep across the landscape. An awesome smear. It’s hypnotic, and I focus on these moments to decipher the result. The entirety of their civilization takes to the air to escape the cacophony of the question reducing the surface to an unbroken typhoon of dust. I watch the maneuvers of their impressive ships, which must be the size of entire cities, signal a response to me. Something deep in my mind is triggered and I think back to how much she wanted to leave.
The memory is as clear now as it was 500 years ago, and with the latest recommended elevation new details have sprung into sharp relief. As long as I keep changing, the more I will understand. She didn’t wash her hair the day she left. Their ships fizzle back down to the surface and slam into the barren landscape, sending cracks spreading across the planet. I drop it to the floor, and it shatters on the static fuzz. I already knew the answer to the question. I’ve asked it many times before.
They were lucky, they got to live for something.
Only things that are relevant matter.