Author: Joseph S. Pete
Clive never thought it would come back to haunt him, what he wrote for one of the more widely read zines on the punk scene, even if some disparaged it as “Big Brother’s Little Brother” or a “bullshit preacher of phony authenticity,” even if it were lashed for promoting a uniform sound both gospel and generic.
He contributed reviews decades ago back when he was looking to find outlets for his creativity, maybe become a writer and part of a scene bigger than himself. Clive wanted to drum up as much attention as possible, which he tried to do with throwaway jokes about euthanizing the poor, castrating CEOs, bathing toady congressmen in acid and smacking around Richie the Rich instigators of class warfare until they bled molten gold.
He never paused to think about such half-assed jokes and offhand musings might be received in the future. He never thought about the future at all.
As he understood it, Johnny Rotten was right. There was no future, no future for him.
Only a few decades later, haggard, saggy-eyed and tired all the time, finally realizing why dying young was romanticized, Clive took a long look at himself in the mirror early one morning, when the lack of sleep weighed heavy on his eyelids. He was headed off to direct an augmented reality tour for the City of Chicago, in which virtual reality would allow visitors to fight the Legion of Doom along with third-tier Justice League members, learn about architecture and delve into the depths of Chance the Mayor and Rapper’s discography while strolling around the Loop.
The phone on his dinner table buzzed. Ominously.
He was being let go. Clive had unthinkingly cut off the manager of a Moo & Oink in traffic after encouraging him to hurry up and ring up his groceries, and that neck-bearded mouth-breather had proceeded to dig up his past reviews and forward them to his employer.
Chicago had to maintain a family-friendly facade; that’s how it packed it 110 million international visitors a year, by offending no one, for any reason, ever. The corporation could not stand by the ideas of wanton violence or a revolutionary overthrow of the U.S. government. These tours were supposed to be devoid of any political content and Clive had become a liability, he was a professional and surely he understood.
Clive thought about using the virtual reality tech he used day in and day out to wow the unending stream of tourists to erase any memory of the untoward reviews that so nettled them now, to wipe his record clean. He had worked out a hack while playing around during his downtime and knew the VR could eradicate any recollection of this incident in the human executives’ minds. He could craft and implant alternate memories that would make this all go away.
But if anything, Clive realized, he should blank his own mind, eliminate any trace of selling out, of leading his creativity to such crass commercialism, of forsaking all his youthful ideals as he debased himself to make a buck.
He was once free and pure and radical, but now he just was.
He couldn’t help but to be bitter.
“No one ever read that crap,” he thought. “No one. Hardly anyone at all.”
He fired up his VR projector, maybe for the last time, and thought about what he should do.
A steely determination came over him.
“To hell with it.”