By Xuenan Cao and Rafael S. de Souza
The news is both exciting and upsetting. The date of the Union is set not in the next month, not the next week, but an hour.
The biometer reads 3.7 lust.* The screen displays your emotional state, "an unusually high level of anticipation, achieved when, for example, a lover is drawing close with ready lips for kisses for the first time."
You have been leaping forward in a harmony that all those behind you have never felt. For most, the reading on the biometer stagnates between 1.0 to 1.9 lust, values attained when one waits at home for the return of the spouse, with the correct doses of soma.** Unlike them, it takes you little to urge yourself along that path towards emotional intensity.
There is a truism the Union would give 6.0 lust. People have doubted if they genuinely desire to unify because that would forever separate them from the feelings of anticipation. Years of building up the suspense, yet in a blink of an eye, it might be over.
"Your life will change."
All your fellow trainees are ready to celebrate you, and that gives you some relief. But as to what you could hold onto after the ceremony, you do not know.
"Just imagine what will change after you unify."
Maybe it is the prospect of freeing an old self - or is it creating a new one? Who knows the spectrum of desires and emotions of being a spontaneous and vulnerable human. Such fortune only goes to those who have instincts for ardor and passed all the lessons in the Rainbow program.
Photon-rays pierce through the stained glass window, casting a rainbow on the floor. The somatic training sessions of the Rainbow help you stay buoyant in your mood swings—1.0, and 3.6, then 3.0, and 5.1 lust, a record high for this week. This level is annotated by a term that you had never seen before. "Florence syndrome, a vertigo one feels when exposed to objects of incredible beauty and antiquity, all in one place, all at once." Thinking it will be for your own good, you take a tablet of soma. A steady arousal sets in. The biometer reads 5.0 lust.
The time has arrived, a fresh hour after some mild rain. Just minutes now before you breathe the air of the other side, rising above all the other unfeeling social primates. A sugary voice came through the Rainbow, a colorful salon where Union candidates unite with their true selves every year:
"Today we are here to celebrate the brilliance of another alpha.
Capable of feeling the broad spectrum of emotions
That the humankind has lost over the years
Due to the effort to overcome
Anger, sorrow, bitterness, and with them, passion, affection, and anticipation
The Rainbow resuscitates the human potential of vulnerability and creativity.
It welcomes the new alpha.
Who can end the stagnation
Of the humankind in its unfeeling, invulnerable states."
The new alpha tries to sit up, shoulders clench up, hands barely supporting the weight of the upper torso. The sensation is strange when the knees tremble when putting the body up. The eyes went starry for a moment. When the vision returns, the alpha sees this barren landscape that looks like a lab. The alpha leans back against a rusty wall that seems to have been there for eternity, thinking that the other alphas must have all arrived a long time ago. Then, a reflection in a metal surface startles the alpha: a sag shell without a biometer but full of winkles draped under the breasts, around the waist, under the cheekbones, and eyes. Do other alphas look like this? Where are they? In the emotional desert, nobody has seen them, though everyone assumes their existence.
This place after the Union is not down on any map, the alpha remembers. Beyond the Rainbow, only ambiguity and sorrow remain. The alpha looks around for anything familiar. A mainframe computer? Or is it just a piece of junk metal? The heavy body etches towards it. A translucent display turns on:
"Rainbow is a quantum computer built to map humankind's limbic system via procedural meta-reality generation. You, as a past subject plugged into the simulation, can exit the unfeeling society and experience the cognitive architectures of emotions."
When did I get hooked up to the Rainbow? Something stirred in the alpha's memory. Before the Rainbow, there was a period when people turned to artificial means to experience temporary happiness. They took well-timed intakes of stimulants to overcome fatigue, bitterness, and the despair of living. Depressants, antidepressants, and other run-of-the-mill pills make life a monotonous line. Rainbow was perhaps used for medical purposes to cure the generation of people who were incapable of feeling.
The unification with the body has brought back not just memories but a gradual sense of despair. Breathing hard, the alpha felt the pores opening up to this lab's dry and hot air. Who keeps the lab running while most are plugged into the Rainbow?
Now the alpha is alone, deprived of a clear sense of purpose. The unified body feels more like a specimen from the past. Despair slams. Humankind could not be saved, after all. The program preserves the echoes of what it once was. Maybe the Rainbow should be destroyed for giving false hope. The lab should be burnt down. That would give this Union an appropriate desolate look, except that the alpha dislikes the prospect of ending everything right now, right here. The job, the alpha realizes now, is to keep Rainbow running. Perhaps another alpha could come through.
* Logarithmic Units of Strain and Thrill.
**Soma is a sensory enhancement pill commercialized by the game industry to increase dopamine levels in players.
Xuenan Cao email@example.com
Rafael S. de Souza firstname.lastname@example.org
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Beyond the RainbowScience Fiction
"Beyond the Rainbow" reflects the daily reality of apathy, stimulant abuses, and toxic competitions, which the authors (a Brazilian astronomer and a Chinese literary critic) have been experiencing for years, not only in academia but in the society a...