Ray...what keeps you here, even time ceased to exist.
The winding track took us to the centre of the city. It was Sunday; the commuters filled every available seat in the coach, almost twenty hundred from all walks of life, ready to scavenge the big city. It was almost noon when we reached the Grand Central. Stepping outside, Ray looked at the distant horizon, at the edge of Earth where the galaxy seems to be flowing like a river suspended in space and in the middle, the North Star shining, sparkling like a twin of our own Sol, so far away. So immense is this world, even shared a million times, it will still be big and mysterious.
The misty edges of the city almost shroud the great ocean, Eternity. This world we discovered long ago, a few hundred years back, is many times bigger than our real home, our real earth. On this new Earth, we don't have nearby stars to sustain us, we are just one of the hundred planets in complex orbit of this system a few hundred light years from earth. The only star in the system, the sun of this new fountain of life is a hundred light years away. We landed here in stars ships, shipped out of earth because the corrupt men swept and fed of oil and would not want to share the dirt. We boarded these giant liners, where the last of the greatest scientists slaved to give us hope and not to die in vain for the greed of evil men. The year we left, to be exact, the week we left, the Middle East was decimated by a fusion bomb. The force so destructive, that even the millions of souls of dead children that linger there were exorcised and the land turned into glass and dust before the rest of the world could wake up. And now it was half a millennia since we landed here, this new home, and rebuild a future. The future of humanity, deep in space.
The weekend turns the city into a giant circus. A marketplace where every soul north of Earth gathers to spend the days away and meet people. Ray was there for the travelling book fair. The only place in the future, nearly a millennia since Gutenberg, aeons since humans drew prophetic cave paintings, where paper backs could be found. Ray inherited a rare affection towards printed materials; books, posters anything and piles upon piles of the stuff decorate his apartment each anticipating a nice cosy home in a cupboard one day. Walking slowly, his foraging eyes counting the stars on the sidewalk towards the Gigamall, he could see in front of him. Still a few hundreds meters away, the mall completely blocks the sky. This has been his weekend ritual for the past couple years, ever since he moved to this city to study and work.
Blazing through the stinging sulphur fog, the children ran, sneaking past a few broken fences, into a concrete structure at the far end of the street. Explosions and gun fire continue to compose elaborate tunes into the night sky, night time until daylight. When the sun finally rises, its rays crept, bleeding into the corners of the city. From the sky, the helicopters, the medic and peacekeepers could only see bodies, littered, covering every open space. And in their eyes, the grass grew covering their graves in minutes and seconds...
Ray is still single. He had this momentous imagination or let’s say, the desire in him to find love unexpectedly, and make it look like he planned everything. Ray is a miserable old lad, his friends married, time passing by. The future was imagined by a thousand science fiction grandmasters, yesterday, a future where we will forgo our differences and live together for hope and love. Each star on the sidewalk is dedicated for the real survivors, the souls who fought and defended the space liners when they started the journey. And like the visions of the grandmasters, the Earth was building on their souls and their hope. Imagining a future such as this, he remembered must have been the greatest challenged of his ancestors. So we fought for everything, fought with weapons, then books and finally science. But we could not stop earth decaying, and finally we left. Ray was imagining his unfinished story, his wandering mind now jumping decades seeing himself as a grandmaster. In the far distant city, in a room with open windows, his manuscripts scattered around the room, blown by the sea breeze.
The city is enveloped in a cold mist, and the mercury drizzle creating illusions of the neon signs along the street stretching towards the mall. He stepped into the mall, and walked a few steps before stopping completely. A mob swarmed him, and in seconds cleared and his shirt actually fluttered to the wind they left a few more seconds behind. He could see thousands of people in front of him, in every store, in every island and every escalator lining like fine platinum chains around the centre court of the fifty story mall. Destiny, struggling to get people crammed into small places, for not knowing what to save the larger spaces for. But humans thrive in small spaces. His mind now in philosophical rage, his depression mixed with liberation and something of everything. He walked on to the fair, searching for the vague signs, for a small hall where eventually he would find a few hundred bookies...bookphiles like him swarming pots of honey, reminiscent of a trading floor. But for now, he had to find the place first, and all along the way, colours and jewellery and children greeted him in a strange ghostly feeling.
Karma, as a friend once said, complete with an epic progressive rock ensemble in the background, is the will of the universe to kill and end lives effectively in the easiest known way. For there is and will always be more life to be born, lived and suffered from, and endless cycle. And when everyone had a different thought, and everyone prayed to a different God, there is not enough karma to cleanse every soul. And so we fought for centuries and maimed every single life, nearly wiped ourselves out of this gifted rock. But sanity prevailed much later in the 21st century, and like the wind that was all so natural to this world, so was humanity, which lived through much pain and suffering and still survived. And we lived, and we fought again and everything conspired against us again. And we left. Forever.
He always dreams of endless night, endless evenings where the sun will always set and when it will always rain. Well actually, one part of it is true. The whole north hemisphere of the planet is centuries into a thousand year rain. Caused by the weird orbit, the distance from the central star itself and the gravitational web of nearby stars that pushes and pulls this planet, the cycle of rain and drought is caught in its own aimless web. A poets dreamland, and somewhere no one could have build a city, but they did. Being away from the homeland, far away from his ancestors, and like the millions of which he is one, the new world opened opportunities in a myriad of ways. New science, new arts, new ecology, the new world had everything to sustain humanity. Ray tried to blank this moments of epic thought that he always seem to have, the air conditioning freezing even the strands of cotton sticking out of his crumpled t-shirt. Occasionally we would stop to peek into the central opening, after a few escalator hikes and the shrinking size of the bottom dwellers will rush him into another scenario of existence.
Almost all the store had softscreens and ambient music of every sort 'created' by humans from centuries before to the ones of tomorrow playing tunes that induces the mind into some sort of drug laced atmosphere. The trade discoveries of the late 25th century, the ‘acoustic drug’ are a special tune incorporated into the normal composition that actually alters the brain waves into the construct of a stoned drugged person. A mild stimulation that actually is not, this music will sway the minds to try to influence them to purchase a PlayStation embed or another Ipod-Cornea and the new age hippies will stay fed forever. The discreet hall found, on the 40th floor, at the end of the home depot store, a full square mile of furniture salvaged from earth. Antiques are the biggest trade anywhere on the seven planets inhibited by humans, and even Ray owns an oak wood bookshelf and a grand father clock. The neo-Asian owner slipped in a few more incense stick pills into the odo-generators that transformed the whole area into a 21st century Siam. The strong frangipani laced with jasmine and a thousand other tropical smells brought more memories into him that he could ever have conjured on a rainy night. And more ghostly images. He increased his pace and walked into the fair.
All around him are books, of all shapes and sizes, and most importantly made of paper. A rare commodity over at the North, the incessant rain never lets natural forest to grow and in a funny twist, ending eco-warriors campaigns for felling trees. And the synthetic papers face enormous taxes brought by the electronics industry who pushed the palm e-books onto every hand that can imagine a 21st century Nancy Drew and feel amazed that we actually read paper books in the past. The ads on TV will almost always feature an old man holding a paper back and rotting into the day’s bygone and a palm e-book brand reader remaining youthful forever. The utopia of the 25th century couldn't sway the minds of ad drugged society. And communities of book traders like this have a cult following among time jumpers like Ray and a few wanderers who actually follow them across the system. One day Ray hopes to wander the planets, going book hunting. A few minutes into the fair, and he spotted a familiar face, a holographic 3D image of Stephen Baxter. Probably the greatest hard SF writer of the 21st century, many of his visions came true, his GUT liners were the very space ships the colonists used to travel across the local galaxy to this system, softscreens and his extreme physics postulations. Ray had all his 500 plus books, and are now hunting for the illusive collector’s editions, the rare first print signed editions and the ones embedded with personal message oled-screens, a mid 21st century craze.
A few hours of tilted head, and neck pain, scanning shelves after shelves for the one title that he doesn't have and everything else that might complete his ultimate science fiction library, he decided to leave. Almost everyone in the fair, the few dozen of them, mostly females tilted their necks in unison, and a few sat there like zombies reading bad movie adaptations scripts. Book clubs, fairs and traders are mostly females. Everywhere he went, every fair he participated are made up by females, who contrary to the politics of the old Earth, actually stays home and doesn't go to office. Not strange at all since, most of the greatest present day scientists are women who envisioned discoveries from the laptops and home Quantum computers. The males went on the hunting trips, gathering almost every imaginable useless stuff on the market and returning home to an almost robotic existence. Even the future, where the concepts of old Earth religion and race died, the soul is still lonely.
Hunger sending migraine signals into his synapses and his hand strap flashing his body sugar diagnose, he walked on to hunt for food now. His heavy backpack bulging almost bursting its Velcro but it feels sweetly weightless knowing that he filled them with his love. Walking past the myriads of food stores, franchises, McDonalds and Dominos, the almost extinct KFC having no presence here being partly responsible for the old Earth fat revolution that nearly wiped out the industry, the bakeries and salad joints and health food dungeons, he scanned for a remote stop where he can read in peace and...another hand strap flash and food crept in to complete the sentence. He tapped on the Bvlgari titanium embosses and the hand strap went silent. Reaching the end of the half a mile long chain of food stores he eyed the Burger King and whipped up his lunch. Manned by no one, the fast food stores are mainly made up of softscreens where the meals are ordered or food booths where anyone can 'build' a lunch set. Piling chicken slices and tomatoes onto the giga-sandwich loaf, Ray tapped his hand strap and swiped it past the waitress softscreen. Finding the farthest table away from the walkway he munched into the sandwich, the mustard and ketchup dripping onto the table. Moments after the hand strap flashed again displaying the calorie content of the now mangled sandwich. Carefully wiping his fingers after the feast, he popped a few LDL pills to make the cholesterol disappear and his blood rhythms returned normal. He sunk into his favourite pick, and sucked endlessly onto the chocolate shake, which never seemed to finish, and at the bottom of the mug was a liquid generator, pumping the sweet concoction every time the level dropped below half.
His mind now lost in space, battling aliens in grand battles across the universe, he almost did not realize the crystal eyes starring at him. His flashing hand strap startled him and in the moment his eyes locked into the most amazing blue eyes he ever seen. It took a moment for him to gather his thoughts, and with one eye dropping a look, like a sniper eyeing his prey, and trying not to laugh or do anything silly, he tapped a few commands into this hand strap. A name flashed, Shakti. He rigged his hand strap to scan for unencrypted identi-chips. Shakti was for all the powers of the seven planets, reading a book too and it was a Brin, another 21st century grand master. Ray quickly cleared his table, the rubbish, the war torn plate where his giga-sandwich once defended proudly and finally wiped his lips. Another hour went past and she got up, and it took a mighty big blast from his inner will to actually muster the courage to get up and follow her. And he knew no love will materialize by stalking. So he walked towards the Grand Central to catch his maglev back home. And there she was waiting at the same platform. And in moments the Route 79 came and Ray slowly boarded the train, still eyeing her and she turned and smiled at him. And then the maglev sped along their magnetized track leaving behind the great mist city. And her eyes remained etched in his memories for days to come.
[-] ...who else will dramatize his weekend adventures into a science fiction story, who else! And the block quotes contain short essays of my protest to the Zionists atrocity in the Middle East.