As regular readers of The Skwib may know, I moonlight as a writer of speculative fiction. And from time to time, I like to feature a little bit of it here. Readers coming from humor-blogs.com may be surprised to see this is not primarily a piece of humor, but they will probably like it if they spend any time on the Internets at all. This story was recently published in Abyss & Apex (you can find the entirety of it here.) And for any Canadian (or Canadian resident), if you like it, you can nominate it for an Aurora Award here. (It would go in the “Best Short-Form Work in English” category.) Let me know if you did, and I’ll email you another story that’s not available online. Photo credit: Cayusa.
Under the Blue Curve
by Mark A. Rayner
When Elisa sat down for lunch, Henry Overduin had no idea how much she was going to change his world.
She and her colleagues from the Department of Corporate Oversight sat in Henry’s section, but he would have noticed her even if they hadn’t. There was something different and magnetic about Elisa Taper. The rest of the diners at Le Fou en Mer were unreserved cyborgs. Most of them wore their cranial implants in a showy style that was the vogue among the rich; Henry found the fashion tasteless. But Elisa’s jet black hair was cut in a bob that just covered her implant. It was elegant. Her eyes were a startling emerald green, and there was something about the intelligence in them that captured Henry’s attention.
She seemed completely natural — just like Henry.
Of course, he had no implants of any kind. Even on his waiter’s salary he could have afforded one, but there was no point, because Henry was noneact. He had been unable to access the datasphere his whole life. When he was young, the world had begun integrating with it, and now the world was the datasphere. The latest generation of implants let humans access sensory experiences as well as information. Apparently, it was more real than real, his regular customers told Henry. Henry never wanted to be a waiter — he wanted to tell stories. But he had no audience. Without the datasphere, he didn’t even have a medium. There were no books, no magazines, no newspapers. There wasn’t a real movie industry anymore — it had all been swallowed by one all-encompassing ubermedia. Even conversation had been subsumed by it. The irony was there was a desperate need for Henry’s originality in what the Germans called the weltgeschichte — the world story. But Henry’s tales weren’t part of it, because he couldn’t be heard.
At least, not beyond the routine of taking orders and fetching drinks. Henry tried not to resent his job. In some sense, he was lucky he was able to work at all. Le Fou en Mer wasn’t so expensive that a human chef ran the kitchen, but it was trendy enough that the clientele were all served by real humans. In addition to Henry, the other staff that day included two students from the city’s main academy. For them, the job was something they would remember fondly after they had graduated to work remotely, or dynamically in the datasphere, depending on their abilities.
But for Henry it was one of the few jobs that he could hold, all thanks to his faulty, noneactive mind.
He tried not to dwell on it, while he walked over to the table where Elisa sat with her colleagues. He let them know the chef’s specials that day, trying to be pleasant, and asked for their drink orders; it might have been obvious he found Elisa attractive, but he tried to disguise it. No matter, Elisa saw. She asked him his name, and was somewhat perturbed when he completely ignored her routine subvocal query.