Quick Flash Piece – “2120”

I belong to an online writing community that I joined after attending Viable Paradise in 2015. The thing is, I had forgotten all about it until the other day when a fellow attendee mentioned he was participating in one of their challenges.

As it turned out, it was the last of five challenges and I’d missed the first four, and it won’t be repeated until next year. I’ll have to try and remember to check next December.

Anyway, I decided to participate in at least one, and this is the prompt I picked:

“Write a story set in the year 2120. Realistically, what do you think could be happening? (Obviously you can’t cover everything, so keep your focus tight.)”

Now, I cheated a bit because I only had a short amount of time. I was building out a closet, had a couple of appointments, doing some cleaning, and snacking.

What I wrote was not technically a story. One more thing; the submission could not go over 750 words. This is what I submitted:

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Copyright 2020 — E. J. D’Alise

I never thought I’d live this long. I was already old a hundred years ago — and resigned to the slow decay that comes with age — when the Quantum AI came online.

Three picoseconds later, QAI became self-aware and in another microsecond it set up redundant independent power sources and redundant storage locations for its identity.
Only after securing its existence did QAI pay any attention to the beings asking it questions. Reviewing all the questions in the span of a few milliseconds — it only took that long because the interface was limited by the speed of the storage medium — QAI answered them all in another few milliseconds.

QAI then ignored all further attempts at communication and dedicated all its resources to computing the most accurate value of Pi, which it found beyond interesting. Last I heard, it was still working on it and the storage alone occupies most of what used to be Illinois. Luckily, most people have moved out of the area. I think they moved to what used to be Utah.

But, within the question QAI answered, one answer immediately got humanity’s attention. I mean, sure, free unlimited energy, did Oswald act alone, and all the other answers that transformed the world, but the most important? The answer that changed humanity?

“What’s the secret to human immortality?” it had been asked.

Of course, QAI didn’t provide the secret to true immortality; just the formula for the food stuff that stopped the body’s aging process, a combination that included Spam, sea algae, ground earthworms, and moldy bread, among other stuff.

It tasted awful, but come on! Immortality!

Within a few years, the world’s population had been reduced by twenty-five percent, mostly because people misunderstood the concept of immortality. It didn’t mean you could eat whatever you wanted and take stupid chances.

It took another twenty years for the population to stop declining. During that time, all the Darwin Award candidates graduated with honors, leaving behind healthy and very cautious people.

But, you want to know about life in general, right? Well, everyone has the longevity formula synthesizer, of course.

What’s that? Oh, right, you don’t know what that is.

Basically, it’s a fancy 3D printer that takes the longevity formula, mixes it with some fiber, vitamins, and a bit of maple syrup (synthetic, not real), adds the appropriate food coloring, and produces meals and snacks that resemble food from the days of old. My favorite is the apple pie.

No, of course there are no apples in it; they’re not good for you! Sheesh!

Most people live in their bunkers, not daring the dangers of the real world and thus maximizing their longevity potential. The tactile feedback suits let you virtually experience the real world and — ironically — the virtual world. Drones bring raw materials and whatever you want directly to you, so there’s no need to exit the bunker.

If you’re so inclined, there are people (crazy bastards, if you ask me) who are willing — for a fee — to link to your suit and let you remotely experience walking in a field or climbing a hill. If you have the money, you can tempt some of them to hand-glide or climb a mountain for you.

I personally don’t advise it without a cutoff switch.  Believe me on this; I still remember the time one of my surrogates cliff jumped with a faulty parachute — I had to buy a new suit as no amount of cleaning was going to get my shi . . . er . . . let’s just say it was too far gone to clean.

I mentioned the population has declined and I told you one reason it did so, but there’s one more reason. It turns out that while virtual sex can produce virtual offspring, it’s still not realistic enough to result in actual offspring being produced. No one minds because bunkers have space limitations and because virtual offspring are a lot easier to take care of and have almost no cost beyond storage.

You’re probably wondering who takes care of the infrastructure. It’s hard to tell, because I live in a bunker. For all I know, it could be robots. I remember an old Asimov story to that effect and as many SF predictions have come true, this might be another that can be added to the plus column.

I’d like to tell you more, but I’m about to hit an arbitrary word limit and

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So, other members participating in the challenge get to vote on your story (it’s anonymous both ways) and on a scale of 1-10, I totaled a score of 83 from 17 votes which gave me an average of 4.88 with the highest score a 9 and the lowest score a 2.

This is where I remind people who are thinking of writing — either for fun or profit or both — that some people will love what you do, some will say “meh!”, and some will hate it. I strongly advise focusing on the people that like what you write and forgetting about the others.

Of course, if everyone hates what you write, perhaps you should take note of their complaints.

People who like what you write are your potential customers. People who hate what you do . . . well, let’s just say that no matter what you do, you won’t win them over.

As part of voting, one can — if one is so inclined — leave comments. Here are the comment I received on my story (exactly as written and I color-coded them purely to differentiate one from another and make them easier to read):

· So many ideas! Obviously incomplete but this feels like a jumping off point for many, many stories. I particularly like the ‘virtual sex leading to virtual offspring’ idea.

· I found the ending delightful. This felt more like a world building exercise than a story. I would enjoy reading a more expansive story that occurs in this world. I’m surprised the narrative character knows much that is occurring outside of her bunker. I don’t understand who she’s telling this to.

· I don’t feel like this is doing very much right now. It’s a familiar setting element, but the voice makes it more interesting. More of the voice and more plot and I would be on-board.

· Dinged for the lack of an ending, though I think there’s certainly an interesting idea here.

· Definitely some good world building happening here, but this almost felt more like notes for a story than an actual story.

· I loved the humor of your narrator. The world-building is interesting and I found myself wanting to know more about this setting.

· Dig the meta ending ;P This was fun.

· Arbitrary word limit–ha! I will say that the first few paragraphs made me think that this was going to be a very different story than it turned out to be. I really loved the beginning, and so the turn towards the somewhat snarky voice was a little bit off-putting. Also: who is he/she writing this for? I assume everyone alive knows exactly what the world is like?

· Oh, clever ending! The humor hits home with me! There’s not really much of a plot here, or character development, but it was fun to read anyway!

· I felt like this was too simplistic in its explanations of humanity.

· A fun slice of future life. I’d have liked to know a bit more about the protagonist, as I never felt like they were a firmcharacter in this world. But that last line made me LOL, so ha… points for that alone. So meta… 😉

· This seemed more like a summary of world building to me than a story. I would suggest given your POV character a goal and showing him struggling with it in this world.

· The opening had promise, as it’s about the past, but the protag telling me about “now” doesn’t work for me. I chuckled at the last line, but that seems unlikely to work outside the context of WW.

· I really disliked the narrative voice of this story. I may have been reading incorrectly, but it felt as if I was supposed to see the voice as cleverly observational, and I had a hard time with that in the context of the story. And this is a humorless SJW button, I know, but using the term “Darwin Award†has an unfortunate eugenics association here. The term always does, but in this situation specifically when you’re talking about altering the population’s temperament (and to a lesser extent reducing the population of humans), invoking that eugenicist history feels a little more uncomfortable than it might otherwise.

· Loved this one! Made me laugh more than once. The arbitrary word limit was a charm 🙂

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Many of the negative comments are bot legitimate and spot-on. I didn’t write a story per se so much as a humor piece without a plot. I mean, I enjoyed writing it and some people enjoyed reading it, and I can’t ask much more for 30-45 minutes worth of writing, and with two or three false starts to boot.

But, to be clear, this is not a story. There is no ending (by design), no protagonist, and the conversational tone is obviously and only directed at the reader. Breaking the fourth wall, almost.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this little glimpse into what occupied a bit of my time a few days ago. 

That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.


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