Big Echo

Critical SF

I Was a Foot Soldier in the Vox Day Putsch

by William Squirrell

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The future; it’s always a disappointment when it finally arrives. It was supposed to be mine. Nobody loved it like it I did. Nobody wanted it more. Nobody stalked it so persistently. Relentlessly. For years it was with me on the number 60 bus; for decades, centuries, millennia: ethereal, beautiful, untouched, inhuman.

Dingy, I know. You looked at me and thought: dingy. A small white man with bad skin and an indifferent haircut squinting at the yellowed-pages of a lurid, second-hand book.

Small?

Your condescension makes a lie of my size, of my power:  it condenses me, it reduces me, it concentrates me; I am Polonium 210; I am the Gom Jabbar; I am death. I could be. Don’t laugh. I could be. I really could.

Hanging onto the straps, putting on lip stick, your indifferent thigh rubbing against my shoulder, my cheap shirt slippery against my sweaty skin: I sat on the number 60 bus and burned with holy fire. I know what you saw: a harmless rabbit-man, crowded into his corner, choking on all that perfume, on cologne, on indulgent soaps, on my own loneliness. The whole world turned around me: galaxies, universes on universes rotated about me, stretched out in an impossible spinning vortex –out, out, out, turning, turning, turning – and I was its axis, its motionless center. It was all mine; it belonged to me; fabulous things; clouds of glowing dust that swallowed stars; space-time twisting and contorting at my touch; flurries of frozen nitrogen scudding across barren rocks; glittering airless wastes that dwarfed imagination; what is this place? Who are we? Why is there something? Why is there something and not nothing? What hope does humanity have in such a world? What hope? Perhaps… Perhaps it could be… Perhaps… Why not? Don’t laugh. Why not?

The number 60 bus arrived too soon. Like it always does: too soon. I scuttled my things together: my books, my water bottle, my backpack, my mittens. Too late for dignity, I scuttled, little rabbit-man, through a forest of dark dress pants, navy blazers, dress shoes, high heels, striped ties, white shirts, brushing against breasts and bellies and thighs, in and out, to and fro, squeaking at the driver: “Not yet! Not yet!” stumbled down the steps into the wind and there I was again; gasping; cold; alone; at the corner of 8th and Main.

There I was.

Again.

In the future:

And still no flying cars; still no domed cities; still no Barbarella; no Princess Leia at my feet; still no deus ex machina. Still no hope, no love, no peace; how come? How come? How come everyone gets a robot to fuck but me? How come?