#SoCS – Social

From the notes of Patricia Hurley – 15 November 2023

“Each building consists of five thousand identical 72 m2 apartments, each with an open plan kitchen, dining and living area, one bathroom comprising of a shower stall, a wash basin and a toilet and two bedrooms,” extoled the guide, who introduced himself as Sam. “Solar photovoltaic systems power each building, but the lights and hot water in the apartments is centrally controlled so as to prevent excessive use by tenants. Showers are limited to 5 minutes a day per resident of the apartment. Each apartment has its own large screen TV which will air a selection of programmes and other entertainment provided free of charge by the world government.”

“I can’t believe there are hundreds of these developments being built all over the world?” I said aloud.

“It is rather astonishing,” said the guide with noticeable pride. Five thousand people will be housed in each of these apartment blocks with a total of five hundred thousand people being housed in each development.”

Sam led us into the building and into an elevator on the ground floor. He punched the button for the 50th floor.

The corridor was painted whited and the protective flooring was a dull brown. Sam withdrew a card from his pocket and scanned himself into one of the apartments. Slipping the card into the electricity activation slot on the wall, he said: “Isn’t it great.” The bright LED lights illuminated the tiny room dominated by a huge TV screen on the wall.  Sam grabbed the remote control attached to the wall and flicked a button. The dark screen lit up and a menu popped up showing the selection of available programmes. For your viewing pleasure, played across the top of the screen in large text. There was a choice of three news programmes, over thirty reality shows and a selection of soap opera style shows.

There’s nothing on the list that will stimulate creativity or innovation in any way.

“Are these all the options?” I asked.

“Yes, isn’t it enough? There are fifty channels to choose from. I don’t know why we need three news channels, but some people might like it. Very generous if you ask me.”

I smiled at this poor, misguided youth. “Yes, it is certainly very generous.”

He flicked another switch on the remote and another menu appeared. I squinted at the small incons displayed on the screen and realised that this menu set out a vast selection of social media choices. All the current favourites were featured including Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, WeChat, Tumblr, Twitter, Skype, Pinterest, WordPress, Facetime and many others.

“The buildings all have free Wi-Fi twenty four hours a day. All of the occupants of the development will be able to access the network using either their television or their iphone. Did you know every occupant will receive a free iphone? These will be upgraded every three years.” The glee in this voice was unmistakable. Our guide was one hundred percent sold on the development.

Sam held up the remote for general inspection by the group. “Look how nifty this remote is? You can type text messages on it just like a cell phone. You can also send and receive emails, if you want to.”

“I’ve saved the best for last.” Sam flicked the third button on the remove and a list of games came up. “All the newest games will be available to residents. It is unbelievable awesome.

“And,” he said, “there is no restriction on data or downloads, you can use as much as you like for as long as you like. The network doesn’t switch off at 10 P.M. like the lights do. You can watch all day and all night if you want to.” Sounds completely ruinous to people’s health and mental well-being, I thought.

“Don’t you think this system will make people antisocial?” asked one of the tour participants.

“Nah,” said Sam. “It’s great. I don’t have to get off the couch to meet my friends. I can just lie here and chat to them via Skype or Facetime.”

“But don’t you prefer to meet your friends face-to-face,” I asked. “Nah,” he said again. “I’m happy to do it from here.” A reflective look crossed his face. “Of course, my girlfriend can come over sometimes, but not every day. I’ve got a life to live, you know. I plan to go to the canteen for meals and I can see my mates then. The meal menus I’ve seen are not bad and I won’t have to do any preparation or cleaning up.”

There was a stunned silence and the man took this as a cue to guide us out of the apartment and back towards the elevators. When the doors swished open on the ground floor, I dashed out and through the revolving glass doors of the entrance. The cold air outside was bracing and settled my churning stomach. The man’s comments and thoughts, combined with the out-sized residential buildings and their surrounds that made me feel weak and ill. My nausea soon passed, and I was ready to re-join the group.

This post was written for Linda G. Hill’s weekly Stream of Consciousness Saturday prompt as follows: “Your Friday prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is “social.” Use it any way you’d like. Have fun!” You can join in here: https://lindaghill.com/2019/06/14/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-june-15-19/


#Bookreview – The Fireborn by Trent P. McDonald

book reviews

What Amazon says

In the shadowy area where myth and history collide, an unlikely hero is forced to save the world from an ancient Celtic curse. Dr. Elliot Everett-Jones knows that shadowy area well, having spent most of his life exploring its dimensions as given by a host of unreliable sources and imaginative speculation. Some would say he daydreams over the improbable plots of second-rate Romantic era authors. These fantasies, however, come to life after the discovery of the Cauldron of the Dead.

When the Cauldron produces the evil fireborn, Elliot is forced to confront an army of these mythic undead with nothing but his obscure knowledge and the hope of finding the legendary Lady of the Lake to give him Arthur’s sword. Even more frightening is the idea that he might have to confront his ex-wife, Eleanor.

“The Fireborn” is part joyful romp through history, myth and legend, and part fast paced adventure set in modern England and New York. The entire book, though, revolves around Elliot’s relationships with a large variety of characters. These relationships form the key that may unlock the mystery or lead to utter defeat.

My review

This is a clever and well researched story that superimposes the King Arthur myth on our modern landscape.

Dr Elliot Everett-Jones is the son of a famous archaeologist and his brother, William, has followed in his illustrious footsteps. Elliot was a disappointment to his father as he became a writer of fantasy and historical fiction and was not interested in archaeology to the same extent as his brother. Elliot goes to visit William at his latest dig and discovers that he has made a most unusual discovery of an ancient cauldron. The cauldron has an extraordinary mythical history and is believed to have been created by an ancient king who used it to create an army of invincible super zombies. According to the legend, the zombies, called fireborn, have blue skin and red hair that resembles a flame.

Elliot recognises the cauldron as the one from the myths and, a few days later when it disappears under mysterious circumstances, he predicts the re-emergence of virtually immortal zombies and starts posting warnings on Facebook. When his predictions start coming true, the army comes looking for him. The safety of the world is under threat and Elliot needs to find the modern day Arthur, Merlin and Lancelot if the human race is to be saved from this ancient threat.

I really enjoyed the character of Elliot and sympathized with his difficult childhood as the son that disappointed his father and the demise of his marriage to a woman he still loves. The author did a great job of developing this character and portraying how he develops due to the strange circumstances he faces over the course of the story and becomes physically tougher but more emotionally sensitive and intellectually astute.

There is a wonderful air of old English legend around this tale but it is uplifted and modernised with the inclusion of drugged up henchmen in league with the fireborn, sophisticated technology intermingled with visions and nightmares that become actuality. The author has a vivid imagination and a good knowledge of the Arthurian mythology.

All in a great read.

Purchase The Fireborn

#SoCS – Books

stream-of-consciousness-saturday-2018-19.png (500×500)

I called David and asked him to pack a bag for Kelly and me for our hospital stay. Not staying with my child was not an option, even if I wanted to leave her, which I didn’t. The Free Zone hospital was hugely understaffed and there were no nurses available to look after her. Keeping an eye on her and attaching the mask to her tiny face every four hours so that the automated nebuliser could administer the adrenaline and steroids she required was my task. I have never felt as useless as I did during that first illness, when my tiny baby lay inside the huge, see-through oxygen tent, labouring to breathe, with an enormous bandage wrapped around the intravenous drip in her hand that fed antibiotics and fluids into her immobile body, and with pads attached to her chest to monitor her oxygen levels.

I was shocked and dismayed that my baby had stopped breathing and had been admitted into hospital, but I was grateful that such a good paediatrician was attending to her. Dr Dream worked at a private clinic in the Work Compound, but she also attended to children in the Free Zone hospital twice a week as part of her compulsory community service. She was a philanthropist and cared about all of her patients, whether their parents were part of the working elite or not.

I didn’t think to ask her questions about Kelly’s illness at the time and didn’t think for one moment that this stay in the hospital would become the normal pattern of my life. No-one in my family had suffered from respiratory problems and I didn’t know that infants that contract bronchiolitis often develop asthma later in their childhood.

Our time in the hospital was uncomfortable for me. One parent was required to stay with the sick child, but no food, drink or sleeping facilities were provided. For three days and nights, I attempted to sleep sitting upright in one of the plastic chairs, with the automated medication co-ordinator waking me every four hours with a long and intrusive beep. I couldn’t afford to use the InstaMax machine in the ward as I wasn’t working and wouldn’t be paid for the days I missed. David brought me protein pills and tap water from our apartment and I had to manage on these. I felt hungry all the time as supplements never satisfied me the way real food did, even if it was a basic meal.

The loneliness was overwhelming as I had no family living close enough to visit us. I had my ipad and iphone, but these did not provide me with much entertainment other than free books which I could download from the internet. I could not afford to purchase expensive data to send or receive messages.

There was a huge television in the ward general area but this ran the never ending selection of reality television programmes that were supplied free of charge to the inhabitants of the Free Zone. World government didn’t broadcast any movies or serials on the free television channels that stimulated or challenged the mind. The unemployable and people in jobs threatened by digitalization were not exposed to anything that could incite resentment or discontent at their lot in life. Every effort was made to provide for our basic needs while maintaining the status quo and avoiding anything that could result in anyone questioning our futures or our becoming jealous of the more fortunate people living in the Work Compounds.

While better than the television, the books that were available to me were also limited. All controversial books had been banned more than fifteen years ago, when paper books became a luxury of the past. Trees were too scarce and valuable a resource to be used for paper of any sort. I had heard that there were vast numbers of books on display in the book museums in the Work Compounds, but even the lucky residents of these areas where not allowed to touch or look at them for fear of damaging the last printed books in the world.

This post was written for Linda G. Hill’s SoCS posts. The prompt this week is a as follows: Your Friday prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is “open book, point, write.” Pick up the closest book to you when you sit down to write your post. Close your eyes, open the book, and place your finger on the page. Whatever word or phrase your finger lands on, write about it. Enjoy! I picked books as I was a book fair today and books was on my mind.

You can join in here: https://lindaghill.com/2019/06/07/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-june-8-19/

#Writephoto – Choices

The monochrome image shows the base of a tree with a hole, like a doorway, through its base...

3 June – form the handwritten notes of Lisa Robinson

I am sitting in a worn office chair in the Free Zone 110 Hospital. Kelly is lying on one of fifteen beds in the long, narrow ward. Her dear, little face is pinched and white against the slightly whiter pillowcase and her soft moans blend in with the coughs, wails and cries of the fourteen other small children in the room.

My choices were limited this morning. I either skipped going for the job interview I had finally managed to wrangle and brought her here, or risked coming back to a dead child. Overnight, Kelly’s temperature had climbed steadily and, despite my lying her on the floor of the bathroom and filling the room with steam from the hot water tap in the shower, her cough had worsened, booming in her chest, and making her frail body shake with effort.

I picked up the thick file lying on the small table next to her bed and ran my eyes swiftly over the mixture of typed and hand written notes.

Name: Kelly Robinson

Age: 10 years old

Diagnosis: Acute bronchitis

Underlying condition: Brittle chronic asthma and a biofilm in her sinuses

Genetic microchip implant: None

Bitterness rose in my throat like bile as I read those last words. No, my beautiful little girl doesn’t qualify for a genetic microchip implant because of her parents’ status as unemployable people who were unable to adjust to the new labour market that came about due to mass-scale digitalisation in the mid 2020’s.

She wouldn’t be lying in this hospital bed in this sterile, white ward, if she had access to the genetic engineering options available to the privileged dwellers of the Work Compounds. The mutation in the gene responsible for her chronic asthma and impaired lung functioning could have been successfully treated through the biotechnology available in the microchip. Lisa didn’t understand all the detail, but she did know that the use of biotechnology could help to remove the negative consequences of the mutated gene that was causing her daughter’s illness.

Kelly had been such a strong and healthy girl when she was born. At that time, David and I were both employed and, although David’s job was under threat from the proposed impending implementation by the world government of the fully-fledged world-wide cyber-physical system, known as Bella, it had not as yet happened. I also had a job and was hoping to upskill from a bookkeeper to a role in financial data analytics. All pink and cute, Kelly breastfed well and the obstetrician had allowed us to be discharged a day early from the hospital because she was doing so well.

At three weeks old, she stopped breathing for the first time. Checking on her sleeping in her pram, I noticed that her lips had gone blue. Her chest was not rising and falling as it should have been. I grabbed the baby out of the pram and she immediately started crying, loudly and lustily. Wrapping her up warmly, I ran out of the house and used took the electric bus to the hospital. The journey was one of the most frustrating ones I have ever experienced. The electric bus moved slowly along its rails and seemed to stop at each and every stop. On arrival at the hospital, we had to wait in a crowded and noisy room full of sick and snotty children for the paediatrician to see us. The doctor was kindly, although the dark pockets of puffy flesh under her tired eyes told me of her exhaustion. She sent me to the X-ray department to have a sonar and x-rays of Kelly’s lungs and chest. It was 6 PM by the time we got back to overflowing patients waiting room and 7 PM by the time we saw her again. She examined the X-rays and sonars and read the various reports and then she diagnosed Kelly with bronchiolitis. Bronchiolitis is a virus that affects the respiratory tract. The infection causes inflammation of the tiny airways, called the bronchioles, which lead to the lungs.  The swollen airways fill up with mucus which makes breathing difficult. Kelly, and I as the primary caregiver, were admitted into hospital for treatment. It was a terrible time for us both. The doctor mentioned the possibility that nanotechnology might need to be used to treat her, if her condition proved to be on-going and potentially of a genetic nature. My heart pounded and my hands shook when she told me the astronomical cost of treatments involving genetic engineering. I prayed that we wouldn’t need this treatment.

This post was written for Sue Vincent’s weekly write photo challenge: https://scvincent.com/2019/06/06/thursday-photo-prompt-choices-writephoto/

#Bookreview – The Time Machine by H.G. Wells

book reviews

What Amazon says

“I’ve had a most amazing time….”

So begins the Time Traveller’s astonishing firsthand account of his journey 800,000 years beyond his own era—and the story that launched H.G. Wells’s successful career and earned him his reputation as the father of science fiction. With a speculative leap that still fires the imagination, Wells sends his brave explorer to face a future burdened with our greatest hopes…and our darkest fears. A pull of the Time Machine’s lever propels him to the age of a slowly dying Earth.  There he discovers two bizarre races—the ethereal Eloi and the subterranean Morlocks—who not only symbolize the duality of human nature, but offer a terrifying portrait of the men of tomorrow as well.  Published in 1895, this masterpiece of invention captivated readers on the threshold of a new century. Thanks to Wells’s expert storytelling and provocative insight, The Time Machine will continue to enthrall readers for generations to come.

My review

The Time Machine, even on the face of it, is an extraordinary story, particularly if you consider the time when it was written. The book is narrated by a third party who tells of the Time Travelers wonderful invention of a machine that can travel through time and of his experiences, travelling into the future.

The books starts with the Time Traveler explaining his theories of time travel to friends and others whom he has invited to a dinner party. He demonstrates his theories using a miniature time machine that he has built and tells them that he is nearly finished building a full sized one. The attendees of the dinner are most circumspect although they recognise the Time Travelers superior intelligence. His audience come across as slightly suspicious of the Time Traveler and it seems they think he is far to clever for his own, or anyone else’s, good and that he might be tricking them. The narrator reveals that he has pranked his friends in the past.

He is quite genuine though and does manage to travel far into the distant future on his machine. He discovers a world that appears to be on the decline, that is inhabited by beautiful, almost doll-like people, who demonstrate the behavior and intelligence of children. The Time Traveler, who is an intellectual snob, finds this very difficult to understand and speculates at length about why the intelligence and innovation of mankind has eroded so significantly. He initially comes to believe it is because the Eloi have evolved over time to have a perfect life, completely free of any sort of threats. The climate is lovely and temperate, there is plenty of delicious fruit to feed them and, as a result, they do not need to develop their brains in order to deal with adversity and to improve their chances of survival.

Soon after the Time Travelers arrival in this future world, his time machine is removed and hidden. He quickly works out where it must be stowed but he can’t understand the circumstances around the theft. As time passes, he soon realises that everything is not quite as it seems in this paradise. There is a threat and it is more horrible than the Time Traveler could have ever believed.

I already knew the basic story of The Time Machine before I re-read this book recently. The story is fascinating but I was most intrigued by H.G. Wells interesting analysis of human intelligence, how it develops and how it could decline. He also makes acute and accurate observation about societies and how the interaction between the employers and the employees could play out over time. There are some conveniences in the book which a reader quickly identifies, but for me, they did not detract from my delight and interest in this great story.

Purchase The Time Machine

#Writephoto – Yearning

a channel of water flowing out to sea, with the sun reflecting on the water.

Our days and nights were no longer clearly defined in this strange dark world. The sky was a dark all day and this deepened into an even greater darkness at night. The cold was relentless and I did not want to waste our fuel, not knowing how long this terrible black winter would continue, or even whether it would ever end, although Tom assured me that it would. “Scientists predicted that nuclear winter would not last longer than ten years, but would go on for at least two years, depending on the number of bombs dropped.”

This was not as helpful to me as Tom seemed to think, as a difference of eight years in his prediction was a really long time when metering out food, drink and fuel. The fuel was my greater worry as it took considerable space to store wood and, as a result there was less in proportion to the stored food and drink. We settled into a routine of lighting the fire twice a day, early in the morning and again in the evening. When we had enough coals, I let it die down and then banked it to retain the heat in the coal until it was time to rekindle it.

During the time when the fire was burning brightly, we settled ourselves around it and read or wrote. Sometimes we played some board games which we found in a cupboard in the spare bedroom. When the fire died down and the cold started creeping in, we prepared and ate a meal and climbed into our beds, dozing in the warm until the time came for me to rekindle the fire.

As the days and weeks passed, I developed a yearning for some fresh intellectual stimulation. Tom too, was bored and it made him irritable and annoying. He would lie for hours singing the words of popular songs from before the winter over and over to himself. As the days wore on, and his appetite for new information and intellectual challenges remained unfulfilled, he became more inconsiderate and careless about his appearance. He did not want to wash or maintain his appearance in any way, nor did he want to talk to me and had chats or discussions. He withdrew into his own world of anxiety and fear. If I stirred from the room with the fireplace, which we were using as our primary residence, he would scream and cry hysterically until I returned. He would not venture outside at all which left me on my own to bring in all the wood and other items we needed from the outbuildings.

I have to do something. We are going to have to try to drive to the town. It’s only ten miles away. We should be fine. The thoughts went round and round in my head, banging on like a drum. I finally broached it with Tom. “Do you think we should take Glen’s 4×4 and drive to the town? There is bound to be a library there in the town’s Free Zone and we could get some books to read.”

His face lit up with enthusiasm and I felt bad for not having suggested it previously. His own yearning for respite from the boredom and routine reflected in his eyes.

“What will we do if we run into other people?” Tom’s face puckered slightly with distaste; he had never enjoyed meeting new people. His PTSD and OCD gave him a distrust of other people and their motives.

This boy can read my mind. How did he know I was worried about running into other people? We haven’t seen anyone since we arrived at the farm and it’s been a few months now.

“Don’t you think it would be nice to see some people? We have been on our own for a long time now.”

Tom’s eyes darkened and a wary expression crossed his face. “What about if they are hostile? We have food, drink and fuel; other people may want to take these things for themselves.”

My own fears were laid bare by these few words. What if there were hostile people out there? What if we ran into trouble?

“We’ll take Glen’s gun.” I had found it hidden in a safe at the back of a wardrobe in the bedroom. The safe wasn’t locked. Well done, Glen. Lucky for us, of course, but really careless not to lock the safe.

Tom nodded. “Okay, I do want to get some books. I am so bored.”

Written for Sue Vincent’s weekly write photo challenge. You can join in here: https://scvincent.com/2019/05/30/thursday-photo-prompt-yearning-writephoto/

#SoCS – Silence

Your Friday prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is “silent/silence.” Use one or both in your post. Have fun!

From the diary of Jennifer Saunders

The view beyond the double glazed windows was one of complete desolation. There was no moon glowing brightly in the darkness of the night. Not a single star lit up the unwavering darkness. The thick layer of smoke and dust that had wrapped itself around the earth was impenetrable. The cocoon mankind had created for himself was complete and effective.

As I stood watching, the showering of snowflakes swirling and dancing in the air increased. They were difficult to see in the relentless dark. A splattering of slightly lighter grey in the greater darkness. Worse of all was the stillness. It is hard for me to convey the stillness. All my life there had been noise, the murmur of people moving about in the office or on the street outside, the chirps of birds welcoming the morning light, vehicles on the streets outside, televisions and other electronic devices buzzing in the background. The silence entered my head, bringing with it a horrible feeling that there was no life left on earth beyond this small cottage where Tom and I were bidding our time. A feeling of panic grew inside me, swelling and growing, threatening to overcome me.

“Mom,” said Tom, coming up next to me at the window. “Look at the sea, it looks so unchanged, doesn’t it?”

Saved by my extraordinary son from descending into a pit of despair and anguish from which there may have been no return, I looked at the ocean, watched it heaving and moving under the dark sky. I realised that I was wrong, the silence was not complete, and the gentle sound of the waves lightened my feeling of oppression and lifelessness.

I turned and drew him into a hug. I still have Tom, I’m not alone. I pushed any thoughts of John from my mind. The chance that my husband had survived the nuclear explosion in London was slight.

We had a lot to be thankful for. Glen left this cottage, his planned refuge, well stocked with long-life candles, food and fuel. His planning had been impeccable and in addition to the quantities of slow-burning oil we found in the house, the largest shed was filled with wood. There were also canisters of gas hidden in the cellar. It made me feel as if I was standing on a tinder pile that could go up in flames at any moment, but, it seemed to have been here for a long while and the house was still standing so my unease about natural heating supplies are probably unfounded.

I signed, thinking about my flick of a button heating at home. People hadn’t used wood or gas for heating since they had been banned by the World Government. How did Glen get his hands on all this wood and gas? Even prior to the ban on fossil fuels being implemented, they had been extremely expensive due to shortages. Beyond the financial reach of most people.

“Let’s make some dinner,” I said, draping my arm around Tom and walking towards the small but well-equipped kitchen.

Over our meal of reconstituted soya mince and powdered potatoes, Tom and I started talking about books. I was a great reader and I had passed this love on to my son, but both of us read on our electronic devices. These had reached the end of their useful lives due to the lack of power. Paper books had become unavailable for purchase by the public due to the ban on cutting down trees ten years ago. I miss the feel of a paper book, I signed wistfully at my memories of my youth when I had a whole bookcase filled with books. Most people read on their devices but there were still libraries which kept one copy of all books published.

“I wish we could visit a library,” Tom said. It gave me turn to realise his thinking was along such similar lines to my own.

“There is a library in the village. I did think about us driving to it and having a look around to see if there are any people about and whether anything was still functional, but I am worried that we could run into trouble. We don’t know what is happening in the world outside of this small piece of farmland.”

We haven’t seen a single person since we arrived about a month ago. Where are all the people?

You can join in Linda G. Hill’s SoCS challenge here: https://lindaghill.com/2019/05/31/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-june-1-19/