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A work in progress

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Joined: 08 Oct 2008
Posts: 933
Location: Eugene, Oregon
A work in progress  Reply with quote  

It moves a little fast, so it needs some work. Feedback would be welcome. My first attempt at creative writing:


Wed Nov 12th: So… my sixteenth birthday is coming up. I know it’s a big deal and all but I still haven’t decided what to do. All my friends are going to the SOuL center to get their download done, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. There are lots of kids going into hiding over this whole thing, the streets are getting full. Maybe I need to go too. It would break mom’s heart, but my little voice is telling me that the download isn’t right.

Man, my head is killing me. The shower is too hot, my back hurts from that shitty mattress mom keeps making me sleep on and I just got my period. At least I won’t have to fight off Travis at lunch today. He just won’t take no for an answer. Ever since I let him get a little frisky last month he just won’t let up. That’s what smoking weed gets you, on your back, praying it’ll be quick. Boys are just really bad.

Not sure what to wear today, word is rain. All my period clothes are in the laundry. I suppose I’ll have to wear the black sarong. At least it’s still in. I threw out everything that went out two weeks ago. Mom was pissed, yeah yeah, “money don’t grow on trees…”

I walk down to the corner to catch the bus, Sandy is already there, looking great as always and flirting with five street kids. Bitch. “Hi Sandy. Ready for Ms Treson’s test?” I ask. “Sure, I guess. Nice Sarong.” She turns away from the kids, but not before she catches one staring at her boobs. She winks at him and laughs. Sandy is seventeen and has had her download. She’s nice enough I guess, but she’s one of those girls. Rich, pretty, popular, and on the fast track to conformity. We used to be really good friends. The kind you can count on, the kind you can trust with anything and know that they will never let you down. But after her download she changed, became less fun I guess. Most of my friends turned after their downloads, more responsible, more adult. No one really talks about it but after the Sanctity Of Life amendment passed, we all end up with our own private struggle. Conform or die.

“I saw the game last week” I said. “Brad had a great second half, you should be really proud of him.” “Yeah” she replied “He is really having a great year. Coach Shick decided to move him to starting quarterback after the game. It’s a really big deal for someone in his class to be starting. Mom and Dad are going to throw him a party next week, you want to come?” “Thanks, I’d love to” I replied. “You want me to bring anything?” “Just yourself” she said.

Tom rolled around the corner, dropped his hydraulics and lowered the bus to street level. We got on and scanned our passes. I looked around for a place to sit, “slim pickings today” I muttered to myself as Sandy slid into a seat toward the front of the bus. I made my way down the isle looking for the least disgusting opportunity as the bus effortlessly slid out into traffic and down the street. I settled on a seat next to a grubby looking girl a little older than me. She looked up and our eyes briefly met. She looked familiar but I couldn’t place her. I blew it off, probably just another street kid.

It was 9 o'clock when Tom dropped us in front of GWB High, home of the fightin’ crusaders. I had fifteen minutes to make it to my first class, introduction to biotechnology. “See ya” I waved to Sandy as I made my way up the steps to my locker. I was the first one there, sweet. No waiting. It sucks being an underclassman, they make us share lockers with three other people and my lockermates are total slobs. Too many kids, not enough money.

I grabbed my books for the first three classes, checked my makeup in the mirror. I dug through the locker looking for something to eat and found a soda and a pack of poptarts “breakfast of champions” I muttered to myself. I almost escaped before Jim got there. He’s nice enough I suppose, but he’s kind of a dork and just won’t shut up. “Hey Brandi!” he yelled, “leave it open will ya?” “Sure” I replied hoping it would end there. “Man I just gotta quit smoking” he wheezed. “I lost fifteen bucks playing poker on line last night. I had a pair of jacks and picked up another on the flop and went all in. Guy across from me called me, made his strait and took all my money.” Jim has a gambling problem. “You remember that Army recruiter who was here last week?” He asked. I stopped, “Yes.” “I saw him last night after I lost my ass. He was on the street corner rounding up street kids to take down to the recruiting station to enlist. I decided to go with them” He said. “Really?” I asked. “Yeah, he hustled us all through the back of the building and brought us to a classroom full of desks. Each desk had enlistment papers and a pen. It was kind of weird. I expected a blitzkrieg of patriotic brainwashing bullshit, but the room was cold and stark, the walls were plain grey cinderblocks. It freaked me out, like those rooms in the movies where the guy goes in and never comes out. Then he stood up front on this platform and told us to line up and show him our download scar. All the kids who didn’t have one stayed behind, he kicked me out when he saw I was only fifteen so I don’t know what happened after that.” I wasn’t surprised, I had heard rumors about the Army forcing street kids into enlisting by threatening to turn them in for not getting their download done. “Can I interview you for the school paper?” I asked. “I’m not sure.” Jim replied. “I don’t want to get in trouble. The last thing I need is the Army on my ass.” “Just think about it ok?” I asked. “Ok, see ya Brandi.” Man. What a break. A story like that would be killer for the school newspaper, I might even get public exposure.

I cracked open the soda and headed upstairs to class. Today might not be as bad as I thought.

I sat through my morning thinking about what Jim told me. If he doesn’t let me interview him, I might try sneaking in to check out what is going on myself. After morning classes I headed downstairs to dump off my books and grab some lunch in the caf. Unrecognizable crap in green-gray gravy on burnt toast was on the menu today, yummy.

All the usual groups were together. The highly motivated conservative conformists at the big tables in the center surrounded by the wanna-be’s just itching to get their download and move up to the grown up table. All the rest of us kids are off in the corners, hoping not to be noticed. Lots of the kids in the periphery seem to have an identity crisis; Goths, Punks, Hip Hoppers, Liberal tree huggers, each one wants to be special, different. But in our society only conformity is rewarded. Sure, drugs are bad, drinking is bad, don’t have sex until you’re married, Jesus loves you, blah, blah, blah. No one really cares about all that. All the pressure is on sweet sixteen, the download, and becoming a robot for the state.

The story is that back in 2020, a small biotech firm called BioLogic developed technology to download everything that we are internally. They started marketing it to the ultra rich; people who want to live forever. The company went public and the founders bailed out with huge fortunes. Each one of the original three founders disappeared from public life. You can’t blame them considering the chaos that followed. After about four years the government seized the technology and dissolved the company in the name of national security interests, but they didn’t destroy the system, they pulled a 180. The conservative nationalistic powers running the government powered an amendment to the constitution through, mandating that all people must get their download by the age of 16. They called it the Sanctity Of life Amendment but everyone calls it SOuL.

The actual process is pretty simple; during the download, a small chip is inserted in your brain along with a wireless transmitter. All our memories, experiences, neural pathways, personalities, everything that we are, are mapped and then downloaded onto a hard drive. Backups are sent home to your parents, and ever since the Sanctity of Life amendment was passed, the government gets a copy as well. Body heat and energy made through digestion power the system. Every day while you sleep, SOuL pulls another download of that day’s experiences and stores it on the hard drive. Downloaded information can be viewed at the leisure of the owners, including the government. Taxes pay for the program, so your download is the property of the state. The government claims that the main purpose of the download is to restore you should something happen. But they have found a lot of other much more creative uses for the downloads.

Before the government seized BioLogic and created SOuL, the company started a prosthetic division manufacturing operable prosthetic body parts. Lose an arm, leg, heart, liver, break your back, get your freakin’ head chopped off, they can replace it and make you good as new. In the beginning it was a miracle. Quadriplegics were cured, heart disease, cancer, polio, you name it, it no longer mattered. People’s lives got better and we began to live longer. You can see where this is going; replaceable hardware + replaceable software = replaceable you.

The SOuL amendment wasn’t voluntary however. And as people began to die, the government, believing that there is nothing more sacred than the sanctity of human life, rebuilt each person from the prosthetic body parts and their stored downloads. A backlash started to develop. Some people didn’t want to be revived. Many committed suicide in an attempt to escape what they considered a prison, and each time they did, the government would resurrect them through technology. They believed that it went against the laws of nature to indefinitely extend a person’s life. Some wrote living wills declaring their desire not to be brought back. People no longer had the right to determine the lengths of their own lives. The backlash increased and people began to fight back. They refused to go in for their download, and hid from the government.

The government reacted by starting the sweet sixteen program. They knew that kids were more easily manipulated than adults, and that at such an early age people are just getting a taste of what life has to offer, and are more likely to want to hold on. The sweet sixteen program mandates that if a person wants to get their download it must be done within a month of their sixteenth birthday, if it is not done within that window, you lose your opportunity forever. Shitty thing to do to a kid; sign up now or you’re screwed. Peer pressure and pressure from parents who could not bear to outlive their children becomes unbearable for some kids. They either buckle to the pressure, rebel, or run.

After lunch I made my way through the halls to my locker and got ready for the afternoon. I love afternoons at school; morning is for required classes but afternoons are all electives. I get to sink into my passion for art, music, and literature. I lose myself sometimes. The worlds created through color and form; melody and rhythm; and imagination spilled out onto paper allow me to travel outside my reality, to escape to a place inside myself for a little while. But before I know it, it’s over. Back to the real, cold, ugly world.

Tom rolled up to take us home. I wonder what he does in his off time, It never seems like he ever gets any. He’s always there in the morning to get us and in the evenings to take us home.

Sandy and I sat together on the way home and talked. Sometimes it’s like it used to be. We got off a stop early so we could walk the rest of the way. The rain had stopped and it was a pleasantly warm evening. We stopped off at the coffee shop for a latte and just bitched to each other about boys, school, parents, and life in general. Every now and then I get the feeling that she regrets her download. I’m sure she’ll get over it. We finished our coffee and headed home. “Thanks for listening Brandi, I’m glad we did this.” Sandy said as we parted. I headed upstairs to the apartment thinking maybe the download wouldn’t be so bad after all.


Friday, Nov 14th: Friday. Yay. I saw that girl on the bus again yesterday. She winked at me, I’m not sure what to think of that… I suppose she’s attractive enough though. Girls are so much better than boys…

I walked up to the bus stop expecting to see Sandy. Over the past few days we had some really good talks and I was hoping to pick up where we left off, but she wasn’t there. It was not like Sandy to miss school, but there has been a bug going around. I’m sure she is just laid up in bed watching TV and sucking down Nyquil.

I waved to Tom as he came gliding up to a stop. I decided to try to get to know him better and recently found out that he was married, but his wife died during complications during the birth of his only child. His daughter is about my age and goes to CHS across town. We are supposed to play them two weeks from now. Maybe I’ll see her at the game.

My new bus pal was sitting toward the front of the bus, I found a spot across the isle from her. She smiled at me. Her smile was infectious and I found myself smiling back. She had a sparkle in her eye as she turned toward the window and sort of gazed out at the street as it zipped by. We pulled up to GWB High, as I got up to leave she looked up, smiled, and said “Bye.”

I made it up to my locker just as Jim was closing it and leaving. “Hey Jim, you think about that interview?” “Yeah, I’m not sure Brandi. That recruiter saw me on the street again and pulled me aside. He showed me his appointment book, and my name and address were in it the day after my sixteenth. I’m not sure I want to piss him off anymore.” He replied. “You’re kidding right? What a psycho. They can’t be allowed to do stuff like that.” I said. “Well, with all the terror alerts and stuff, they can pretty much get away with whatever they want.” He replied. “Yeah, I guess you’re right. That’s scary though, sounds like 1984 came a little late.”

I opened the locker, three books fell on my head and empty soda cans and candy wrappers fell all over the floor. “Goddamn it” I muttered. I dug through my section, found three books that were not even mine, grabbed what I needed for my first three classes and jammed the rest of the crap back into any hole it would fit into. I headed upstairs to biotechnology rubbing my head and cursing the system that finds all kinds of money for the military and download technology, but cant buy a couple of fucking lockers for my school.

Third period is the most miserable experience of my day, but as it is biotechnology, it is a required course. They spout the benefits of the download system, the brilliance of the scientists over at SOuL, and show revolting videos of the download surgery, internal organ replacement, attachment of prosthetics, and reanimation of people after they had an upload. Today we’re covering chapter 7, prosthetics, probably the least disturbing of all the subjects covered because it doesn’t seem quite so wrong, and there is a lot less blood and guts. I could never be a doctor.

I opened my book, and realized immediately that there were not three books in my section of the locker that were not mine, but four. This had to be Jim’s. There were scribblings all over every page, every other line was highlighted, and stuff was falling out from behind the dustcover. I looked on the floor at the mess under my chair and noticed that not everything Jim keeps in the dustcover of his books is garbage. There next to my left foot was a cell phone mini chip. I picked it up and being the snoop that I am, I popped it inside my cell phone to see what was on it. The first several tracks was filled with music he had downloaded off the net followed by several tracks of twenty second porn clips. Boys. Then the screen went blank. I figured that was all he had on it so I put my phone back into my bag and tried to pay attention to the lecture. Ten minutes later my phone vibrated. I reached down to see who was calling, but nothing was on the screen. Then out of the blue a picture appeared on the screen. It was the first frame of a video file, so I hit play to see what was on it. There was a lean, sharp faced man with ice blue eyes and a military style haircut. He was rounding up street kids into the back of a white van with government plates. The video was shaky and the picture wasn’t too good. “You little shit Jim” I muttered to myself. “You got more balls than I gave you credit for.” He put the phone back into his belt clip, but left the video rolling as he ran forward toward the van, then the picture went black. I turned up the volume enough to hear what was going on. There was a lot of background noise but you could hear a man’s voice telling everyone to shut the fuck up, that they were all going for a little ride. I could hear the whispering of frightened voices but I couldn’t make out what they were saying, the noise of the van’s engine was too much to make anything out.

Everything went dead, so I put the phone back into my bag, but I left it open so I could see if it came back on. Fifteen minutes later, class was over and I headed downstairs in a hurry. I didn’t want to miss anything if the video started back up. I grabbed a cheeseburger and a Diet Coke at the on campus McDonald’s and headed out the door. I ran across the street to the school newspaper office and found a quiet corner where I could run through the rest of the chip to see if there were any other video clips. After ten minutes of looking I found it. The picture was still bad, and there was no audio, but you could tell that the man with the ice blue eyes was pushing the kids into the back of a building. It had to be the recruiting station. They were hustled into a small classroom. The man I assume to be the recruiter told all the kids to line up, he went down the line pulling some boys aside and sending them to the back of the room. Others he kicked out. He got to Jim and Jim showed him his federal ID card. The recruiter kicked Jim out too. After he left the room, Jim looked into the camera on his phone and smiled, then the screen went blank for the last time. There was nothing else on the chip.

I finished my lunch and headed back to my locker to drop off my books. I put the chip back into the dust cover of Jim’s biotech book and slid the book into his section of the locker.

Thank God it’s Friday. After this week, I’m not sure if I could stand another day of this crap. I headed down the steps to the game bus. I heard Jim calling out behind me. “Hey Brandi, wait up!” I turned around as he came running up. “You doing anything tonight?” He asked. “Just going to the game.” I said. “You mind if I tag along?” He asked. “Nope, love it” I said. We climbed on the bus and grabbed a seat in the back. I found myself actually enjoying Jim’s company. He looked different to me now, he had always been cute, but it ended at that. But now it was different, now he had backbone, and it turned me on.

We got to the game and found a couple of seats in the student section away from the fringe kids I usually hang out with. It was a chilly fall day and we were playing CR High. They were supposed to be really good. It might be a heartbreaker, oh well. Jim put his arm around me and I slid up against him to keep warm. He reached into his pocket, pulled out a flask and offered it to me. I took a pull and tasted whiskey. The fire in the liquor warmed me up and went to my head a little bit but it was nice. I relaxed, something I hadn’t been able to do in a long time.

At halftime we strolled down to the snack bar and waited in line for 25 minutes to get a couple of dogs and Cokes. By the time we made it back to our seats, CR had scored again. We were getting creamed. “You wanna get out of here?” Jim asked. “Sure, this is getting depressing.” I said. “Depressing was so 30 minutes ago.” He replied. We walked out to the bus stop. Tom made it there before Jim’s bus. “You want to go catch a movie?” I asked. “The night is young.” He said. We headed down the isle and found a seat. We stared out the window and watched the street lamps go by for a while. I turned to him “Jim, I’m thinking about staking out the back of the recruiting station. Would you come with me? I’d feel a lot better knowing someone was there to watch my back.” Jim looked over at me and smiled. “You had my Biotech book today didn’t you?” He asked. “Yeah… I just couldn’t help myself. Sorry.” “It’s okay. My mistake too. I grabbed yours accidentally and knew it as soon as I opened the book and all my scribblings had disappeared.” He said. “I can’t leave this alone Jim. I need your help. I know I’ll get in trouble if I try this alone, but ever since I saw your home movies, I just can’t sit this out.” I said. “Okay, okay, I’ll help you, but you’re doing all the research, I’m just security okay?” He asked. “That’s perfect. I don’t want to see you get hurt either.” I said.

We got to my stop and headed up the street. “You want to just get a rental?” I said. “Theaters are okay, but I don’t feel like fighting crowds, I’d rather pop some popcorn and sit on my couch tonight.” “Sure, no problem, but just so you know, I’m not that easy.’ He laughed. “No, no, it’s not like that.” I said. “That’s too bad.” He replied.

“What do you feel like watching?” I asked. “Something funny, I’m not in the mood for blood, guts, or tears.” He said. “The new Adam Carrey movie just came out; I hear he’s pretty funny.” I said. “Sounds good.” We found the movie and went up to my apartment. Mom was there just finishing up her dinner. “Hey sweetie, who’s your friend?” She asked. “Mom, this is Jim. He is one of my lockermates.” I said. “How was the game?” She asked. “We were getting our butts kicked so we left early and decided to come home and watch a movie instead.” I said. “Have fun. I’ve got work early tomorrow so I think I’m going to turn in.” She made herself a nightcap and headed for her room. “Goodnight mom.” “Goodnight sweetie.”

“If you set the movie up, I’ll pop some popcorn.” I offered. “Deal.” Jim said. In five minutes we were sitting on the couch watching previews munching on popcorn. We didn’t talk much the rest of the night. It was nice to just sit there.

After the movie Jim got up. “I had a great time tonight Brandi. How does meeting me tomorrow over at my place to go out and get some pictures and video on the recruiter sound?” He asked. “You bet.” I replied. “Tonight was fun, thanks Jim.”

I walked him to the door and kissed him on the cheek. After he left I went into my room and fell asleep thinking about tonight, tomorrow, and Jim.
And God said: 'Let there be Satan, so people don't blame everything on me. And let there be lawyers, so people don't blame everything on Satan.'

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