Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Ledge

(This is my third and final piece of future fiction. At least for now. It's last week's story from a different point of view.)

June 11, 2035   What I saw last week in the park.

I was standing right here on the ledge like I am now, and I zoomed in on the park to the left of my building. I’ll never get over the thrill of hyper-vision. Best invention since the air-shield that keeps me from falling off this open ledge and hitting the walkway. I spend a lot of time out here and a twenty-story drop would take out even a hybrid like me.

Anyway, last week I was out here thinking, you know, about business. And I watched a crowd gather around this kid. He was small—not old enough to be out by himself. But that wasn’t enough to draw a crowd. He wasn’t in a restricted area. Wasn’t playing around or anything. Then I saw the problem. He was reading a book.

I was as surprised as the people on the ground. Paper books are rare, but those of us with the right connections have a few. I’ve got twenty-two. Souvenirs. Never read any of them. So I figured this kid was from a wealthy family and he snuck out with a book. And that’s what caused the stir. It brought a smile to my face. Interesting kid.

At one point I thought he looked up at me and smiled. But I guess he wasn’t looking at me. He just looked up. Then he went back to the book. I couldn’t quite make out the words on the page but the book looked really old. Whatever the kid was reading, it seemed the crowd couldn’t get enough. They just stood there. Listening. Until the drones showed up.

They were ten minutes later than I figured they’d be. They flew right past me—three of them—and hovered over the growing crowd. As soon as one of them shot a warning laser, those people lost interest in the boy and his book. All but five of them. Two men, three women. They looked to be under-optimum. You know the type. Then this patrol showed up and let one of the men have it—a blast between the shoulders. He dropped. And then…the weirdest thing. The rest of them dropped too. And they just knelt there for a minute. Until the patrol snatched the boy up and shoved him into a containment pod.

I watched the idiots get up. Well, maybe they were smarter than they looked because none of them so much as glanced at that book again. It was still lying there where the boy had been sitting. The five went on their way. Didn’t seem they had anything to say to each other. I thought the patrol would come back for the book, but once he had the kid contained he drove off.

Then this lady—another under-optimum—walked over to the book and picked it up. She lifted her head, and I thought for a second she was looking at me. Then she looked back at the book. Her lips moved. And then she tucked the book under her sweater. And she walked away.

I had to laugh. A poor, unenhanced, under-optimum woman going home with a book. What would she do with it? Besides get herself into trouble.

Well, that was last week. Today the park is empty. As it should be. The water memorial provides a pleasant view. The rolling lawn is freshly tended, and I see it’s roped off now. Good. That’ll keep out the little kids and their books. Nothing unusual going on in the park today. Nothing at all.


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