Next Pair of Dimes


The sign blinked insistently, making Fredd really anxious. Not that he needed any help — the whole stupid affair had him on serious edge already anyway.
But that damn sign, over and over again: “Please insert 20 cents to continue the session.” Without this, the gate would close and the drones would arrive.
He had surfaced just long enough to access the net, thinking that he could send a message to the nearby cell, but now he was a dollar short (actually just a pair of dimes) and a day late. Who would’ve thought that things could get so bad that some loose change would make all the difference?
Frantically, Fredd fumbled in his pants, realizing in this moment that his very life hung in the balance…
*           *           *
Ever since the rise of the Fascionists, Lupita had been in hiding — well almost, seeing as there wasn’t really anywhere to hide from the pervasive grid, at least on anything more than a short-term basis.
As it became clear that politics was literally a popularity contest, barely an inch removed from celebrity culture and the infotainment screeds, all bets were off in terms of any pretense of stability and integrity. If there was an actual dog to wag, or a particular candidate or party or anything even worth imputing hope to, she might have cared.
But this was bigger than that, she thought, as she jumped from the emergency terrace down into the half-filled dumpster, heart pounding out a staccato rhythm…
*           *           *
Scot dreaded coming outside anymore. The blaring sun was more intense with each passing day, exacerbated by the fact that he only saw it on the average of once every few weeks.
He took the concept of “going underground” quite literally, existing in that nebulous underworld of sewers, metro tunnels, underpasses, windowless warehouse spaces, beached shipping containers, boiler rooms, abandoned mines, submerged city terrains (upon which new ones had been built), frozen tunnels, fallout shelters, deep storage units, and more.
It was amazing and horrifying that such spaces existed and that one could navigate them, but for Scot and his inopportune pigmentation, it was a life saver…
*           *           *
The Futurning was unlike anything else that had ever happened before, or would happen again. Sam and Dave were part of the team working at the high desert lab for the past few years, making up the dozen scientists still seeking an answer — the self-anointed “12 Angry (Wo)Men” collective.
When the system collapsed it was more precipitous and multilayered than anyone expected, with not only political and economic structures unraveling but ecosystems as well. The dispersed isolated pockets of remaining people faced different acute challenges after the chaos of the first weeks had passed — and after most of the population had passed.
Sam, Dave, and everyone else left alive were caught too deeply in a gravity well of calamity to change anything, yet still they worked to preserve knowledge…
*           *           *
Stew liked to think about foraging on open meadows and in green forests, but the reality of the moment was of course anything but that. Still, being a 4AGER was a pretty awesome gig, since you got to go outside the dome once in a while.
The fact that some folks never made it back was only a minor distraction, since some of them maybe found a better option out there, and the ones who dropped like flies and baked off in the sweltering uncontrolled heat at least didn’t have to return to the crowded, filthy, violent habitat that Stew and myriad others called home.
Everyone knew things were bad and probably not ever going to get better. But at least Stew could get outside…
*           *           *
Since before they could remember specific events in their life, Kiri had the “gift” of vision — or at least, that’s what people told them. Some gift: to be able to see what was there before and what could be someday, rather than only what was here right now.
This wasn’t just some poetic longing, either; Kiri literally was born without functioning eyes, but somehow had the ability to remember things from a bygone day in incredible detail, and also see things that might yet happen through equally vivid depictions.
Not all of what they saw came to pass, but some of it had, and people believed in them like some sort of oracle. Really, though, Kiri was just a scared and hungry pre-teen who only wanted to be normal…
*           *           *
What else was to be done? We would have to rebuild, asserted Fire. But not the same way as before. This was a chance to do it right — not something we asked for, but now there was no choice.
Fire had a strong voice in the circle; they were articulate, kindhearted, practical, and energetic. They were also a little stubborn, which made for a good leader, but Fire refuted the concept altogether.
No leaders but everyone, they said. Nothing for ourselves but everything for others, they taught. A little bit today and a lot more tomorrow, they encouraged. Somehow, the days seemed brighter and even the blue sky began to return, as the winds died down and the water started to flow…
*           *           *
Last week I had walked over to the wellhead with Satiya and started to crank the handle, when zhe stopped me suddenly. Zher warm complexion and sculpted features always commanded my attention, but I always felt so inferior in zher presence and probably acted awkwardly because of that.
“It’s time to start planting seeds, again,” Satiya said whimsically. When zhe kissed me right then at the well that day, I knew what zhe meant and was beyond delighted.
Things had finally turned a corner, the ground was stabilizing beneath our feet, and people would look up again when they talked to you. Someone was going to have to rekindle possibilities and regenerate tomorrows. Who better than us right here?

NOTE: A bit of titular wordplay here, revitalizing a story originally written in late 2016, using snippets to track a series of nonlinear structural transformations – obviously!