A Soft Scifi written for the final round of the SciFi Smackdown 1.5.
Hope your thoughts are provoked and your senses are delighted ;)
As always, would love to hear your thoughts!
“Hey, watch it!” The man grumbled, stepping away. He quickly scanned my features, looking but not.
He was using his Scroll.
Disgust flashed across his face; he turned his attention back to the line. I didn’t blame him.
My coat was dirty, my hair separating in honey-colored strings around my face. The showers in the center had been crowded last night. By my turn the choices were a cold wash or nothing. I opted to go without.
But that look. That look was more than just fear of having his pristine suit jacket soiled.
As soon as he saw me with his glazed-over eyes, he identified me as an unplugged—one who by choice or necessity had decided to go without the newest craze. Three years since the Scroll’s debut, the former were becoming more difficult to find.
In the last statistics, half of Americans over the age of sixteen had been plugged-in, ninety percent of the upper echelon alone. It was an instant status symbol. It was no longer enough to have the world at your fingertips; no, now it had to be a part of you.
Someone walking down the street could distinguish the owner of a Scroll from an unplugged by a small circle at the corner of their right eye. When it was running, the circle glowed a faint, incandescent green.
I did not have that circle.
The crowd in the streets went to extreme measures to avoid my eyes. They were here for the update. Scroll had just released its newest version: the S3. They walked in, paid their cash, and walked out a more productive, plugged-in member of society.
I put my head down, walking around—between the crowd and the medical personnel who were hanging around in case someone’s update didn’t go as planned.
I would have avoided them altogether if possible. However, the center where I last stayed was out for the night. There weren’t enough cots and it wasn’t cold enough for them to double occupancy. So, it was another night on the streets. My usual spot was a few blocks past the whitewashed storefront.
A bitter blast of wind caused me to pull my coat tighter. Pulling up my hood, I ducked and quickened my pace. It’s going to be a cold one tonight. A few long strides brought me around the corner into the already darkening alleyway.
Hair fell into my face. I reached up to push it back behind my ear and suddenly hit something solid mid-stride.
I bounced to the concrete, scraping my hands across the rough surface. I rubbed them together, trying to loosen the dirt and rocks from my skin. Someone grabbed the front of my jacket and hauled me, off-balanced, to my feet.
Rancid, hot breath spread over my face. Without thinking, I flinched.
“What do you think you’re…” two beady eyes squinted at me, causing the faint green light of his Scroll to distort. He brought one half-gloved hand to my hood and jerked it back. “Look what we have here, Andre. A lassie.”
Someone sighed further down. The wind stopped, and the smell of clove cigarettes tickled my nose. Andre looked over his friend’s shoulder. “She’s dirty, Hal.” He turned his head and exhaled. A bright green light made me blink. Someone had placed it too close to the surface of his skin. Must have been an underground job. The thought turned my stomach, but my body stayed still.
“Yeah, but that can be fixed.” He smiled at me, yellowed teeth glinting under the light of his Scroll. He moved his cold, hard nose towards the side of my face, “You scared love? That’s good. They like them scared.” He moved back again taking in my features, “She’s blonde. We haven’t had a blonde one to sell in a while. They would pay…”
As soon as he said sell, my adrenaline surged. Never moving my eyes, I lifted my boot and brought it down hard on his foot.
He let go in surprise and pain, cursing.
I didn’t stick around to hear.
Three more steps… two…
Suddenly, my head jerked to a stop as my feet kept going. I landed on my back with a thud, the air wooshing from my lungs. The same hands that had grabbed my hood pulled me to my feet, slamming me roughly against the wall.