November 23 2008 / by Adam Cutsinger / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Technology Year: Beyond Rating: 5 Hot
At some point in the not-so-distant future, somewhere on planet Earth…
Beta Bogdanovsky’s Italian Cācio-model translator spoke with a decidedly male monotone, and had the vocabulary, albeit in 13 languages, of a 3rd grader. Her dog’s translator was nearly as well spoken. Then again, Tóse was a smart dog, an Illyrian sheepdog whose eyes expressed more care than those of most people, and he almost certainly had the capacity to communicate on levels beyond the short sentences programmed into his collar.
“Iz vee NEH tuh,” she said in Bulgarian to a rotund bearded man blocking access to the window seat next to him. A roundish silver and gold box hung from a beaded chain around her neck, and a small bas-relief profile of the Roman god Mercury spoke the Greek, “Syghnomi.”
The man’s posture shifted to make way even before he looked up, and when he did lift his head he was eye to eye with Tóse. Expressionlessly he made a symbolic attempt to scoot his plastic bags out of the aisle, and Beta sided into the seat, setting her gear on the floor between her feet. Tóse sat on his haunches in front of them both. Beta wondered why it was that people could not seem to rein it in in crowded public places and on trains.
As the ARMA Speed Tram pulled away from the passenger bay, the lights in the tramcar faded slightly as they always did between stations, and Beta closed her eyes and relaxed her neck, as she always did when she was commuting. Bitoli was five stops from the sea, as the tram tunneled through the Korab and Pindus Mountains, and then there were six more on the other side of the water before reaching Monopoli. This trip would be an opportunity to shut her eyes for approximately 2 hours, which was a very good thing, because Beta’s eyes were very tired.
Since teaching English in Albania had become inadequate to bring in enough money for her to get by anymore, Beta had signed on with an American marketing firm called Seer2Peer TechMarketing Inc. to do demographical research. She would not have to do anything: they would pay her simply to go about her normal business while her prescription iLenses received their satellite signal. She was contractually bound to watch advertisements in English for a minimum of 2 hours per day, with her eyes open or shut. She could earn extra money by watching them for longer, and was in breach of the agreement if she let the contacts’ battery charge run out. That was not a problem though, because Beta wore the solar-cell-equipped sunglasses that had come with the iLenses, and which also had earpiece speakers, pretty much all the time. She did not like people to know she was plugged in.
In addition to receiving a satellite signal with the ads, the lenses monitored brain and retinal activity, and returned a signal. To somewhere.
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Beta relaxed, soon oblivious to the other passengers. The person sitting beside her was replaced twice before they reached the sea, but she did not look. The lanyard connecting her to Tóse remained slacked. He was always well behaved. She kept her eyes closed and her neck relaxed, but she repeatedly told herself not to fall asleep. She was afraid the American company would steal her dreams.
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Her friend Diana had said she was lucky. She did not even have to have a job, per se, and she had enough money to live on. So what if she felt shiftless and without direction? What was the point of comparing herself to a bee in a hive, an ant on a farm. A cognitive cow giving away the special perspective that was her legacy, the legacy of women, or her countrymen, or gypsies, or whatever, away, like so much dairy milk to some faraway corporate conglomerate. And they call us consumers, she thought.
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Beta counted stops with her eyes still closed, by the lights fading up and back down on her closed eyelids, like lights behind a movie screen, and knew the tram had reached the sea leg of the trip where it crossed underwater from Vlorë to Lecce, a heavy drone dominating her ears. She turned up the volume on her cell.
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She opened her eyes. Through the tram’s transparent roof the passengers could see upward and outward through the blue, blue water of the Adriatic Sea. Schools of colorful fish and a few beaked whales paid no attention to the Trans-Otranto Tube or the trams that bulleted through. The stunning oceanic panorama became a backdrop for the commercial laser display.
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Beta touched an earpiece and the advertisements ceased. The thrum of the underwater tram returned. Her field of vision became a vast blue plane of opacity. She looked over at Tóse, and he met her gaze, as though he had been waiting all this time for her glance. The man currently occupying the seat next to her was dressed in the protective uniform of a rescue worker, it’s yellow and silver smudged with grime. She reached into her jacket pocket and retrieved her cell, sliding an index finger across the screen.
…claiming unacceptable voting irregularities. A representative of the Macedonian chapter of the NLA has confirmed that the current peace agreements will be upheld as further investigation continues. This is the BBC News.
Beta turned off the radio function. As the tram approached the other side of the Tube the blue water was replaced by the grayish purple of coral reefs. A few white jellyfish were visible near the steep rocky incline, and it took a moment for Beta to realize they were mechanical. Then the blackness of the tunnel swept the sea from view, and moments later the blinding white light of day upon the surface. The din was gone.
As the tram sped along the coast, Beta thought she could not remember the last time she had seen so much jubilant green vegetation. Grass and flowers waist high spread across fields and meadows to far-off mossy trees. She thought of her friend Diana, with her pet pygmy hippo, Bambino. She reached down into her travel pack and pulled out her elliptical lens case.