boom times

“Everyone thinks they live in a boom time,” I turned the words over and over in my mind like I was polishing them for something. I was looking for hope within them and kept finding none, but I couldn’t stop. I’m standing in one of the three different lines at the spaceport, watching the different people lining up. Watching the wealthy elites casually submit to a blood scan, the thin probes flicking into their skin like a snake tongue, watching them brush it off like it’s their burden in this world. 

I watch the snaking line of the discount class straggle through their inspection. The ones who didn’t pay the extra ten thousand or so dollars to precheck their suits are dragging their crumpled person-shaped husks along with them. The empty suits are varied in their conformity, mirroring the unique styles and tastes of their owners, as if each person in line was holding a dehydrated clone of themselves. Some of them have activated the built-in drink sack holders on the front of their suits, and bulging sacks from Starsbucks peek out from the molded hard plastic. 

The third line is full of mechs and the dispassionate faces of the permanent gig workers. They’re standing in for the people relaxing in lounges nearby, ready to swan aboard their vessels when the hours of processing are done. There is, of course, a fourth line that nobody on this side of the terminal will ever see, the ones who believe that things have gotten better for their societymates. There is no line for them. They skim the headlines and note that protests are down, prisons are full, and they sit with placid contentment knowing their investments are secure. 

Things have gotten so bad out there that some of us don’t even leave the spaceport between our visits to distant lands. A seat with a VR port is only 20 bucks an hour, and personally I’d rather clock out for a few days than pass through the endless stops and checkpoints so I can get home. Sometimes I wonder where it all went wrong but I know that it happened decades before my lifetime.

Things are better than they’ve ever been. I’ve seen the holos before my time, the people who talk about how it used to be. I’m glad that we’ve made so much progress in just 500 years since slavery ended. I know that we all were slaves once, at one time or another. I realize that we have so much freedom now to envision a bright future that our children’s children can enjoy in another 500.  

I toss my empty suck bag into a container nearby as I make my way forward. Everything is made of seaweed now, and everything composts on a long enough time scale. I saw a holo recently about the jellyfish colonies that live in the plastic piles of older generations, and I marvel at the wonders of nature. I don’t know how I would’ve survived in another life. I don’t know what kind of world that would be.

It’s so hot here. Maybe I would have hated the cold. The waters are great for the seaweed, and the jellyfish get turned into food for our aquaponic fields out in the newer parts of the coastline. Some of the best fruit used to come from the equator, and we can grow that stuff anywhere now. Mangos are such an extravagance, though they’re honestly not even that good. When I see them languishing under lights in stores I think about how the best versions of them can be tasted anytime through VR. It’s no contest. Every molecule of every scent has been preserved in vast memory banks I can access for half the price. Only the rich crave the excesses of produce that can go bad, experiences that are uneven. I think they love the variety. 

But the phrase, again, hangs on my mind like a tendril. If everything is a boom time, how can anything be? And if this isn’t a boom, what would be? The thoughts linger for a moment, then the line moves forward and it is forgotten.