Welcome to your future.

Spaceships. Jet packs. Laser guns. 

No. 

Fifty years from now, the future will still be shaped by the mundane, the stupid, and the petty, living side by side with the Big Ideas. Dirty, shining, poor, glorious, filthy, and wonderful. 50.YFN is where we tell our future's story, hangover and all.

In its short life,
50.YFN has already become a very sharply defined setting, with unique language and history. Because of the ongoing storylines and broad geographical setting, we strongly recommend using the archives and category tags before throwing yourself in the deep end. Read the guidelines, take a look around. There's a truly talented pool of creators breathing life into our world Fifty Years From Now.

You are welcome to be a part of it.

And remember:

This is not a land-grab. There's no turf.  If you're a new writer, you have the same access to Brooklyn as I do, and as much an opportunity to leave your imprint on it. Don't be intimidated. Leave your brand on the future alongside everyone else. It's your world too. 

7.28.2007

The Working Man Blues

by R. Soon, Atlanta, GA, USA

The Cuyahoga River had caught fire when he was a toddler; Barry didn't remember too much from then, but every day when his train crossed the chipped concrete bridge, with its supports mutely bearing their streaked scars, he was taken for a brief but often painfully interminable moment back to the second time it happened. He usually closed his eyes when the train came around that bend nowadays, but he could still feel with three decades twice daily of memory yielded up by his ever-aching body when it crossed over the river, and the fire lit anew in his mind anyway.

Barry had been a proud, dedicated manager of a temp agency at that time, and ironically one of the only people remaining in Cleveland even back then with a benefits package attached to his position; ironic, indeed, given that the only way to get a steady check these days was to sign up for Halliworks, and there wasn't a more permanent job than that, not unless you were able to escape the camps and get far enough away fast enough. Only the lazy bastards doing chemical reclamation at the river and around the Case site tended to run off, though, and neural running speed governor implants prevented repeat attempts. Halliworks was the only thing sustaining the remains of Cleveland's economy, both in providing work and in redeveloping the city's infrastructure from the ground up. Sure it was dangerous work, but it had to be done.

But Barry didn't think about all that. He was too old to escape arthritis and the occasional mini-malaria bout, nevermind the horrifying security patrolmen with metallic tentacle-things for arms, rumored to all come from the same recruitment office/lab in New York. Besides, at 70 years old, with eight teeth, bad knees, and no neural or physical implants whatsoever, he was happy just to have a comfortable bunk and regular meals.

Nah, better to keep his place as Senior Building Inspector with the Halliworks Westlake camp. He was the one who came up with the idea of using amplified soundboxes to pacify guerrilla residents who refused to sell their houses and business properties, and the 60% cut in surface operations casualties along with the huge boost in live-capture recruitments catapulted him out of the Erie Tunnelpass project, whose survival rate was frighteningly low, to a relatively cushy management job. So what if he couldn't leave? He was doing right by Halliworks, and they were doing right by him as far as he was concerned. Five more years and he would even be eligible for retirement if camp recruitment kept pace.

But five years was still five years off. Today, it was cloudy outside, though he knew as well as everyone crowded onto the incongruously sleek and clean passenger train cruising towards the mothballed Old Lakewood/W.117th St. Station that the clouds didn't do a damn thing for your skin. He studied as he did every day, through the Solaplex window, the quiet, dusty streets, where every single mailbox and old newsbox in sight was shorn entirely of its paint by the stealthiest but most dangerous of the sun's rays, further removing them from his more distinct childhood recollections. Things have sure changed, he mused for the thousandth time, and the train rocked back and forth lullingly on the warped track rails, encouraging his mind to wander. He often mulled over his day's work of testing buildings for integrity at this stage of the daily journey, but sometimes less comforting thoughts crept in.

The second time the Cuyahoga erupted in hellish flames was five years to the day after the first day of the weeks-long Case Riots. Barry shuddered, but nobody on the traincar looked at him; life in a camp housing 11,000 people taught everyone to mind their own business. The riots, they were bad. Bu the poor guy the news van caught staggering up Euclid, that monstrous eyeball-looking thing that took up part of his head….

The trees growing back along the tracks fell away, and earth gave way to gravel along the bridge's path. He had been more lost in thought than usual, and having not closed his eyes in time, they were now fixed on the mesmerizing landscape around the twisting, winding Cuyahoga River.

Dominating the view on the Flats riverbank, a tall, majestic experimental biofuel facility left much of its shell, though one wall had blasted clear across the river, four pieces smashing some cars parked along Canal Rd. and one biting deeply into the eighth floor, the eighth floor of all of them!, of the Federal Corporate Management center, right where his dear, hardworking son had….

Barry shuddered again, harder this time. The fire had spread from the contaminated cooling system, the news said, and the river had plenty of fuel topping it off to blaze on down to the mouth, violently combusting everything too close to the water's edge. A fine blue dust had begun raining on the Flats and along the banks due to some chemical mixture catalyzed by the fire, and it was later decided that this blue dust was why all the plants and trees down there, even those away from the water, had died off with nothing ever growing back. And he vividly recalled the bridges being blocked off by police for a panic-stricken month, and the reports of a renegade driver heading off across the Shoreway only for a 30-foot chunk of concrete causeway to break off and fall, taking him with it down into the deadly water.

Barry hated how clearly all the images glowed in his mind, even has he fought to pull his gaze away from the now-empty site of the FCM building, seeing so sharply the jagged brick disc clutching at the eviscerated tower's tattered, ripped Solaplex windows once again. He hadn't tried to identify his son's remains, on the advice of the rescue squad at the scene, but imagination-driven nightmares had plagued him for a full three years anyway.

His traincar shook over a rail joint, and he squeezed his eyes shut. When he dared to open them again, the river was past and the train was off of the bridge, heading into the final tunnel leading to Halliworks Central Station.

2 comments:

IKE MALVO said...

i had never heard about the Cuyahoga River before reading this. i'm mad that the river not only caught on fire, but multiple times. Cleveland on that Springfield.

we get a lot of Barry's backstory here, and a good sense of his role at Halliworks. it makes the reader want to explore future Cleveland more, but after a while the exposition distracts from real story here: Barry crossing that bridge literally and emotionally. we had to rush past the death of his son, when doing that shouldn't have been necessary.

that said, nice work. i hope you bring Barry back.

Tivona said...

Well said.