The roads of my city aren’t roads, but tracks, tracks that sit like birds on high-wires. The citizens of High Life have to travel by rollercoaster. Platforms that lead to town hall or to the school or to the store are in collected masses on what we call earth level, although we are still quite a ways from earth – only the clouds are higher. We can see the tips of the kings of trees and the gods of summits, and more commonly, the sky’s reflection as it shimmers and shines up at us in seemingly endless liquid sapphire, but we can never return to ground where our ancestors thrived. About the only new thing we have is our technology, given to us who-knows-when by who-knows-who, our brain chips that allow us to sync with the rollercoaster cars so that we can summon them, accelerate them, stop them at will. Still, there is no lack of essential equipment like building material . . . or the guns that my enemies fire at me.
Carrie fingered her reprimand collar at the library table. Her legal guardian, the house AI, kept one on her and her sister for discipline purposes. The shogi game in front of her awaited her move. She ran her fingers between her collar and the flesh of her neck, avoiding the sharp pointed electrodes that held it in place. She tried imagining not wearing it.
“Any month now.” Keith’s voice jolted her. He whisked her away to the library for a game of shogi any time the house AI became too annoying.
“I know. I’m excited to get it off.”
“The game. It’s your turn. You know I’ll have your king. No shame in resigning.”
“It’s just not in me.”
“Even John the waiter couldn’t save you now.”
“‘John the waiter’?”
It was a Saturday afternoon in the autumn of the year. The sky was cloudy. A cold wind had just started to blow. A figure, male by appearance, possibly between age thirty and forty, walked along a lonely sidewalk. He had black hair, frizzled, reaching down to the collar of his green windbreaker. He sported blue jeans and decrepit running shoes. The zipper of his jacket was broken, requiring him to hold the two halves shut with his left hand in an attempt to guard against the wind. He had a twitch, his right eye lid opening and closing; making it appear that he was constantly winking. He ground his jaw from side to side, a habit of decades that was slowly wearing down his teeth. He mumbled to himself, low and inconspicuous sounds that could have been words, easily lost in the noise of the neighborhood. The locals pegged him quickly as peculiar. People who saw him ignored him or made distance, establishing a comfort zone that could be as far as a city block.
Major Pax’s bony hand rested next to Sam’s eliminated white pieces. A light bulb illuminated the chessboard they battled on to pass the years.
A bomb from a previous conflict had started the war, a mindless mechanical device that exploded at an unfortunate time. They—the Blancs—took less than an hour to launch the missiles from the safety of their cubicles. The Noirs did the same, and the thriving world was gone.
Sam had to contact each Blanc citizen to determine his or her status. He had compiled a list of numbers to call long ago, but had forgotten the original source or if it was in a particular order. Sam started calling once the radiation levels allowed.