u.n. 001

The following text is an excerpt of a short story written for Carla Leitao’s Programmable Matter research seminar at Pratt Institute.  The full text can be found here: 001_narrative


Charlie thought still, alone in the darkness, ‘Isn’t the digital looping clear enough? Although, I guess when you’re oxygen-deprived, you don’t notice much.  Who knows, maybe it does grow, maybe it’s all this DSL I’ve been mashing up lately.’  He argued with himself frequently these days.

Charlie Blake was careful not to say all the things he was thinking out loud – especially inside  his own house.  The street was one thing; his house was a beast of another sort. He may be schizo, but he wasn’t an idiot, he knew that for certain.  The ability of the house to recognize, categorize, and sort each statement to suit his ensuing moods and needs had become increasingly bizarre.  And grating.

Each morning, his rising grunts and groans would be tabulated and his daily routine adjusted ever so slightly to compensate for whatever malady he had dreamt during the night.  Billions of sensors reading traffic patterns, government warnings, news alerts, utility production and consumption, would be seamlessly integrated with catalogued personal preferences, latest synth-music choices, taste-bud life spans, nutritional requirements, exercise regimens, and mental well-being to form the ideally optimized sequence of events, all before having set his feet upon the floor.  Everything connected.  Everything intelligent.

That very morning, his wall had flashed an early alarm due to a minor back-up from a Patch, a decade old utility line that hadn’t been part of the Reconstruction.  This was a rare event, but that’s what the systems were built around, turning the unexpected into an accounted for adjustment.  Just a minor tweak and it might as well have never happened.  As the alarm bleeped, the diode-embedded floor flashed a line to the bathroom and he heard the faintest of clicks as the coffee maker woke itself up.  By the time he touched the shower curtain, the intelligent water heater had compensated for others in the building who ran on similar schedules; the temperature and pressure produced a mediocre cool-to-luke-warm dribble.  Not something he quite enjoyed, but it was his environmental responsibility to compensate.  Luckily, this meant his breakfast of oatmeal and whole grain wheat toast would be extra hot.  Charlie must have been ingesting a bit of the roses he was tearing up in his frequent DSL episodes, as his cholesterol had spiked a severe .00398 grams.  The oatmeal would make up for that.  He hated oatmeal.

Sitting down, Charlie inwardly cursed the slop he was swallowing and attempted to externally project a slightly dozy passivity. The apartment seemed smaller that morning.  That would happen; it must be a heavy production day today, the apartments on his sterile, tidy block decreasing in size to compensate for electrical usage in the industrial sector.  Charlie wondered what would happen if they had to make an absurdly large batch of oats.  Had the Echelon solved that problem yet?  He had heard of a few accidents here and there, but was unsure of the rumors’ veracity; everyone just assumed the problem had been solved.  Just a few human sacrifices to make sure the internal environment survived.  Charlie recalled something about making an omelet and breaking eggs but was unable to finish the thought – his mouth watered at the thought of eggs.

To the left of his plate, his table flashed a pale fluorescent time check and an updated traffic schedule.  Dumping his half-eaten bowl into the metallic smelling tepid water of the awaiting SaniSink, the floor lit up towards the garage door, as if he wasn’t aware of its location. The communal Fly-Trans attaché model CtR-LZ had been powering for the quick jump to the expressway, but only after his coffeemaker had shut itself off and transferred the power switch to the garage.

Charlie had been feeling quite lonely that morning and had been trying his best not to let it distort his already misaligned facial features and mildly bent frame.  Frankly, he had rather wanted to feel that way, bitter and aggravated, mildly resenting every object that had flitted by outside the window.  Unfortunately, his chance to muck around in the mental darkness didn’t last very long as the CtR-LZ was just as attuned as his house.  Waves of green lines swept his body in constant, gentle, affectionate caresses.  The attaché must have picked up a twitch he didn’t know he had, automatically tuning into Easy Morning Company Show.  Chipper voices bit chunks into his maligned brain, endlessly repeating a stream of propaganda so foul by the time he fell out of the attaché, he knew the acrid taste of their flawless island, perpetually flaunted, would stay with him throughout the day.



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