Verbatim Thirst

Author: Gabriel Land

In every direction, there was nothing but baked dirt, tumbleweeds, and flat death. The blazing sun weighed down on me. I didn’t know which way to walk, and I didn’t know why. How I’d gotten there was long since forgotten.

Being lost wasn’t the pressing problem. No, the immediate threat was that I was thirsty, more than I’d ever come close to knowing. I was stumbling thirsty, the kind that makes you hallucinate refrigerators where cacti stand. This was the kind of thirsty that killed within a day.

I stumbled and I fell. I couldn’t get back up, not past my hands and knees. Now I was the kind of thirsty that killed within an hour. Still, I clawed my way through the dirt. If I kept going perhaps I’d reach a ravine, some shade, a spring, anything. In such a survival situation, everything’s a gamble.

Then I stopped. There right in front of my face was a Gulp Brand hydration pouch, the kind marketed to athletes and mercenaries as a way to boost performance on the field. The neon purple package sweated, with beads of condensation collecting on its surface. I didn’t believe my eyes but I picked it up anyway. It was ice cold in the palm of my hand.

After wrestling with it with my weak grip I finally tore the cellophane open and drank. Saccharine electrolytes cascaded down my throat and cooled my guts. There had to be few contrasts in life so stark as that between deadly dehydration and the relief bestowed by chilled, life-saving liquid.

“You have arrived at Century City,” the speakers inside the Tesla Taxi said as the curbside door opened.

The wireless neuralink connection to the taxi’s system was severed. At once I was snapped out of virtual and back in the real world, my commute over.

“Due to your participation in the paid Gulp advertisement, your wallet will be deducted a reduced sum of only fifteen Satoishis.”

“Great,” I said as I exited the vehicle, briefcase in hand. “Only fifteen.”

The car didn’t leave. I looked up. It was a hot midsummer Los Angeles day. Beyond the top of the nearest skyscraper, a cloud seeding blimp floated across the sky. It wasn’t doing its job very well. There was no rain and the sun beat down on me again.

The car door closed as I stood by.

“I’ll be sure to purchase a pouch next vending machine I see,” I said.

“We can service you from the on-board supply, sir, at the cost of only one Satoishi.”

I held my hand out, open palmed. It was good for one’s social credit rating to demonstrate brand loyalty.

“That’ll be fine.”

A pouch shot up out of the Tesla’s sunroof, like a single slice of bread ejecting from an over-zealous toaster. I reached to catch it then slipped it in my briefcase, wiping the condensation from my hand onto my shabby corduroy sports jacket.

The Tesla sped off as I walked towards the doors for my job interview. The distance was only a hundred meters but it was also a hundred degrees outside, so I started sweating beneath my suit. Good thing I had a Gulp brand hydration pouch on standby.

6 Comments

  1. SimonJM

    Love the seamless shift from VR to RL, but hate, hate, hate the concept this displays. Great job.

  2. Amy

    Social credit rating. As someone who actively avoids social interaction and obligations, this is a nightmare of a future, but I do like VR so I guess I’m ok with it. Very well done, I enjoyed every word.

  3. Clapboard

    Now I’m thirsty! Thanks a lot

  4. Jae

    Nice. The line – or lack of it – between virtual reality and hallucination done well.

  5. kohlersc

    I was very much enjoying the story, and then kept getting a bigger and bigger grin on my face the whole way though as the next turn was taken. Very much loved it.

    Only questions (maybe just me), but I had to read and re-read a couple times, “hallucinate refrigerators where cacti stand” because I couldn’t figure out what a Cacti Stand was…and it just wouldn’t click. Not sure if that is a punctuation, sentence structure, or simply me issue, but figured I would mention it.

    • Amy

      A cactus, and where it is planted.

Submit a Comment

Random Story :

  • The Assassin

    Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer When Mati Forish was …

The Past

365tomorrows launched August 1st, 2005 with the lofty goal of providing a new story every day for a year. We’ve been on the wire ever since. Our stories are a mix of those lovingly hand crafted by a talented pool of staff writers, and select stories received by submission.

The archives are deep, feel free to dive in.

Flash Fiction

"Flash fiction is fiction with its teeth bared and its claws extended, lithe and muscular with no extra fat. It pounces in the first paragraph, and if those claws aren’t embedded in the reader by the start of the second, the story began a paragraph too soon. There is no margin for error. Every word must be essential, and if it isn’t essential, it must be eliminated."

Kathy Kachelries
Founding Member

Submissions

We're open to submissions of original Science or Speculative Fiction of 600 words or less. We only accepting work which you previously haven't sold or given away the rights to. That means your work must not have been published elsewhere, either in print or on the web. When your story is accepted, you're giving us first electronic publication rights and non-exclusive subsequent publication rights. You retain ownership over your story. We are not a paying market.

Voices of Tomorrow

Voices of Tomorrow is the official podcast of 365tomorrows, with audio versions of many of the stories published here.

If you're interested in recording stories for Voices of Tomorrow, or for any other inquiries, please contact ssmith@365tomorrows.com