Author : John Carroll

I wade deeper into the syrupy present as the drug saturates my blood. It is a hallucinogen. The deck party envelopes me like a parrot’s wings. The air becomes delicious. Through the interactive viewscreen of this observation deck that extends outward from our glittering orbital city, Jupiter can be seen hanging in space like a bloated satyr lounging grotesquely on a black hammock. I devour genetically modified lobster imported from Europa’s vast subsurface ocean. Deafening music rattles my sternum.

The music becomes dissonant and arhythmic. For hundreds of seconds, the impetus of our dance still jerks our limbs through space, and then the parrot’s wings cease their fluttering. This is not arhythmic music. An alarm is shrieking.

The city’s supercomputer overrides my personal computer and throws a video message in front of my eyes. Even when I close them, the vid plays against the wet blackness of my eyelids.

On Europa, Jupiter’s prison moon, prisoners harvest the bounty of the underocean and send that harvest to our glittering city. Enormous, terrifyingly powerful drilling lasers carve access tunnels through Europa’s surface. The prisoners in Faust District have commandeered their drilling laser. I am watching all of this happen in real time through Faust District’s camera feed. The laser is pointed skyward. Slain guards lie entombed in their own visored interdiction suits. A blinding pillar of energy leaps from the laser’s maw, slicing through Europa’s artificial atmosphere and out into space.

I have to turn off my computer completely to stop the video. I have never turned off my computer before. The loss of its whisper is like a blow to the stomach. I turn it back on and the video has stopped. The parrot shrieks and beats its wings with hurricane force. I retch. I whirl and run to the viewscreen. My numb hands swipe ineffectively at the complex interface like wooden planks. After hundreds of seconds I get the view I want. It is the view from the starboard side of the city. The side facing Europa. I see the laser beam bearing down upon us like a golden snake. In seconds we will be vaporized at the speed of death. In seconds I will be ready to die.

I wink my left eye twice and the supercomputer inside me sinks its tendrils deep into my brain, releasing a host of chemicals. The machinations of my mind accelerate to inhuman speeds. My perception of time slows to a crawl. From the sea of blissful smiles surrounding me, I can tell that many of my fellow partygoers have chosen this option as well.

I experience another one hundred years of life in four seconds as I stand before the viewscreen and wait for the laser. The hallucinogen courses through my veins for the rest of my life. For a while I watch my own vaporization with fascination. The laser devours me atom by atom at a glacial pace. It doesn’t hurt to lose one atom at a time. Eventually I retreat inside my computer and spend all of my time in the Net. I interact with other computer-enabled citizens who managed to activate slow-time with a few seconds to spare. We create a virtual city identical to our own and construct virtual avatars thrice as beautiful as our real bodies within the Net and live out the remainder of our lives there. Then, four seconds later, one hundred years later, the laser consumes us. We all die with a smirk.

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