It’s 2032, and all the recovery from the recession twenty years ago has done little to lift the spirits of the country’s citizens. In fact, times could not be worse in the present, like the Great Depression has reared it’s ugly head again for a comeback of a higher magnitude. But unlike the great dustbowl, the scenery is laid waste with shiny, metallic surfaces, not tumbleweeds and barren farms. Farms have disappeared altogether approximately six years ago, and instead, laboratories house the crops of plants I barely recognize anymore. I rattle my tin can along a fence on main street, but tin is just a title, not the substance. Aluminum itself has long been depleted, despite recycling’s best efforts, and now everything is just an alloy of, well, everything.
I’ve been looking for work for quite sometime, now. I keep telling myself that it’s only been a few weeks, but I know the reality is so much greater. For thirty years I worked for a newspaper, loading the reams of print and tending the lithography machines. The shift to complete digital set my position in front of the block where the guillotine loomed above. But I, I am not the only one. Every business has gone digital by now, cutting millions of jobs for people in order to keep up with consumers’ desire to have everything in the now. The moguls built on technology have created a chasm in which the wealthy few relax their fat and happy selves on one side while the rest of us scrounge in poverty on the other.
I never needed to be up with the times, my job never required it, and I saw no reason to make it a hobby for myself. Before the lay-off, I led a comfortable life, living alone in a quiet suburb completing crossword puzzles and taking walks in the park. Technology sprung up around me, at a rate I can scarcely remember, and I lived fine without it. Who knew it would be so all consuming, not just a whim for convenience or entertainment. Who would have thought that it would cause a rift in employment, that left those on the outside of advancement in a state of helplessness.
My savings, which I have managed to scrimp and live off until I found a new job, is slowly draining, and I am at my last option. I’ve walked the ten miles to the government office building to request unemployment. Raised in a family where hard work and sweat were law, my pride, thus far, has kept me from doing so.
Walking through the streets, I pass young men and women in abundance with their faces glued to devices, moving as naturally as if they could see straight through them. The technology has consumed more than objects and buildings, but the minds of those who developed with it.
I dispose of my empty beverage in a recycling bin by the door and proceed through the entrance. The young man at the counter eyes me steadily as I approach, and he carries himself with a fair bit of nervous tension.
“Good afternoon, sir,” he starts. “How can I assist you?”
“I have come to seek financial assistance. I lost my job some time ago and can no longer afford to live without an income. I have combed high and low for a job that I can perform, but it seems everything has turned to technology these days.”
“Yes, sir. It has. There isn’t a job available today in which technology is not involved,” he responded.
“Well, is there any way that I can receive help?” I ask.
“Unfortunately, sir,” he sighs, and I can feel the sympathy in his countenance.
“Recently, the government has disabled all assistance.”
“What?” I ask, completely bewildered. “Why would they do that?”
“The government has passed the series of initiatives as the ‘Exfoliating Clauses’ which prohibits the funding of anything that cannot make contributions to advancement.”
The bewilderment halts any flow of words from my brain to my mouth, and I stand in shock before the young man. Sensing my loss, he continues.
“Here, please take this. Some exceptions might be made, pending a screening. There are locations available where you can go. I’ve loaded the closest address.”
He hands me this device with a flat screen and text within. I recognize the address, a local humane society, and hand it back to the young man. I have no intention to keep something I didn’t know how to use. As I walk the several blocks to the address, I begin to wonder why the screenings are at that location, perhaps I didn’t realize they had renovated it into a clinic. In fact, when I approach the building, which appears as I had always remembered it, I notice a marquee where the sign used. It scrolled a sign to let me know that the new clinic is located here. Above the building, I notice a stream of smoke issuing from the backside of the clinic behind high steel walls which used house the outdoor play area. I grumble to myself about technology and pollution and make my way inside.
Stacks of mechanized cages line the walls of the one room building where all but one are empty. Inside the lone cage is a melancholic looking dauschund laying on the floor and exhaling harshly in boredom. The nurse at the desk takes my name, hands me a dressing gown, and I change in a curtained off area near the back. As I take a seat in the examination chair, I watch the dauschund restlessly watching me. Then, he stands up, whines, circles the interior, and lays himself back down.
Glancing around the rest of the room, I notice on the small table nearby is a single syringe. The nurse, noticing the direction of my eyes assures me.
“You’ll be needing a vaccination, for a new strain of virus which has evolved from the increase in technology.”
The nurse readies my arm for the shot, and the dog barks once at the entrance of a doctor from the back door. I turn to see the door slowly closing behind him, and I catch a glimpse of an enormous, strange metal furnace, a single blue high heeled shoe lay on the grass before it. The moment panic flits through my features, the nurses pushes a large red lever on the side of the chair that I hadn’t noticed before. It sends straps over my ankles, wrists, neck, and midsection.
The “Exfoliation Clause,” I get it now. Get rid of the dead cells to make room for the new generation. I wish I could find it funny, but instead, I cease struggling against the straps and brace myself for the push of the needle. The dog howls in unison to my scream.
Can you guess the prompt? Hint: there’s four separate topics that I had to include.