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Flash Fiction: Under a Sky of Stars by Kieron P. Baird

Under a Sky of Stars

by Kieron P. Baird

We all live under a sky of stars. Billions of them, all out of reach, twinkling away. Hidden by day and often obscured at night but there all the same. I often wonder if they each represent a human wish, desperate, selfish, yet heartfelt and unique to each dreamer. How often do our wishes come true? In this world unfulfillment is the norm, hopelessness is rife and a single life is held in lower regard than ever; I suspect not that often. We are too numerous and opportunities are too few, it’s the sad reality. Yet we dregs have another choice, an escape from our dreary lives to a better, higher state of being. Or at least that is the spiel we’ve all been fed.

I find myself at a crossroad. Do I continue to struggle on, in the hopes I eventually taste sweet success? Pray I get a break or just happen to ascend by sheer luck or hard work. Me, 35-year-old David Smith, long term unemployed, common as muck and with a name that hints at no proud lineage or powerful dynasty…or do I instead give myself over to The Simulation?

Unless you’ve been completely disconnected, you’ll have noticed we are living in an age of ‘enlightenment’. Recent technological and medical advancements have been nothing short of miraculous. For the former, we can largely thank our truest ‘friend’, artificial intelligence. It never sleeps and its sole purpose is to continually improve the lives of the privileged. Those that can afford all the gizmos and gadgets that our superiors, the algorithms and programs, churn out while we inferior sheep trudge on. The latter, however, has blazed ahead thanks to an endless stream of more than willing human test subjects.

It all began with TruL13F, and the unveiling of their technology that completely changed the world and redefined humanity’s worth.

“The Simulation – Where your mind is transported to whatever fantasy you desire!”

Everything is more real than a dream and more lucid than a hallucination. Almost indistinguishable from reality if you can believe it. There is joy, fulfilment and no pain or suffering within The Simulation. There is, of course, a price. The admission? Your body. It’s signed over to the corporation TruL13F for them to use as they see fit. Once you sign the dotted line there is no escape. You will only “wake” again if they deem it so.

These instances are rare but not unheard of. Part of the contract, in theory, is your life upon “waking” has to be an improvement. Example, you have successfully been modded with new generation technologies and they need your conscious data. Or you have a rare genetic quality that makes you desirable for a certain, ‘prestigious’, reassignment. Apparently, these new renegotiated contracts are quite favorable and not without monetary incentives. Willing compliance is less complicated and better for public relations than unsavory virtual slavery or mind washing. In short. Your own mind (and soul should it exist), remain your property but the rest is forfeit.

So here I am again, staring at TruL13f’s Sirenica Headquarters, one of many, with an important decision to make. The same decision countless others have made before me and that countless more will inevitably make in my wake. Do I literally sign my life away for the promise of something better or continue as I am? I’ve no faith in anyone but myself…yet pride hasn’t exactly gotten me far.

It goes against every fibre of my being to place myself at the utter mercy of an organization such as TruL13F but what other choice do I have? Realistically, can I ever hope to find any semblance of happiness in the ‘real world’, when the odds are so heavily stacked against people like me. The squalor and filth my kind call ‘home’ is a boon for the giant companies too of course.

Sure, I’d thought about The Simulation during my lowest points (doesn’t everyone?) but things just got so much worse after my wife’s death. Ah, temptation. Disease and ill health are unavoidable if you don’t have money or decent health insurance. She caught a particularly nasty strain of Black-I. Her eyes turned as black as night without warning one day, and by the next, the infection had reached her brain and that was it. She was gone. At least it was quick but it was far from painless…I still hear the screaming. Me and my daughter were immune, by some twisted miracle, and so it ended with Marcia. Little did I know at the time that the nightmare was just beginning.

Not even a year later, I lost our daughter in a car accident. Long ago did people take to the skies and soon after almost all ground transport ceased to exist. Now, only the wealthy ride any form of vehicle, the poor walk. One day Luna was playing on a disused stretch of road when a car came flying out of nowhere and mowed her down. Where the woman got the car, I don’t know? Oil stopped being used near a century back and the black stuff is exceedingly rare now. Enforcers witnessed the whole thing but the woman, being rich, was quickly deemed the victim. They said my daughter attacked her car and actually asked the murderer if she was hurt! She was blatantly drunk and could barely string an intelligible sentence together but it didn’t matter. I was apparently lucky just to get my daughter’s lifeless body back and leave with a warning. True justice is non-existent now…

I’ve thought long and hard about it but I’ve finally come to a revelation. Isn’t the tangible illusion of a fulfilled fantasy better than real suffering? I am tired of being cold. I am sick of being poor. Too long have misery and grief been my constant companions. I don’t want to be alone in our house anymore. My mind is made up.

I walk towards the ivory towers that rise up into the sky. From down here it’s easy to imagine that they touch the very stars which we’re denied. The weight of my choice is close to crushing but I continue on my path with head held high. I reach the literal golden doors, worth multiples more than most will ever make from a lifetime of servitude. After a few moments of final hesitation, I walk on, the automatic doors silently gliding open and then soundlessly close behind me.

The lobby is bright, white and spotless. Just sprawling, intimidating open space. In a world where floor space is at an all-time premium, gross wealth is on display here. There are no people around, just various robots, dutifully going about their business. There are many ebony Enforcers, high-security models, emotionlessly ‘watching’ me, weapons lowered, as I continue further into the lion’s den. Since entering, a little cleaning unit has shadowed me, relentlessly cleaning everywhere I’ve stepped. Clearly making sure the filth of my passage does not contaminate the sacred marble floor tiles. Simultaneously it spews mists of scented gas to mask even my uncultured scent. It hums and clicks away, almost seeming content in its duties. It’s been many decades since fallible humans were responsible for cleaning.

The building is even bigger than it appeared from without, which is saying something. It takes a surprisingly long time before I come across the signage I’ve been anxiously looking out for.

“The Simulation – Volunteers.” I say aloud, as I make my way right, down the wide, gleaming corridor with my personal little cleaner still following closely behind, acting almost as my personal chaperone.

There is no longer any doubt or fear within me. I know I’m making the right choice. Each step takes me ever closer to the place where I will sign myself over. The Simulation can only be an improvement as far as I’m concerned. I can’t wait to see my Marcia and Luna again. Where I am going there will be an endless sea of stars…

***

I’m standing on the balcony of my penthouse suite, far above the filth and grime of the world below. What happens down there is of no concern. It’s some time after 11 pm and the cool night air is gently blowing, billowing my night robe slightly. Even at night, the temperature is pleasant, the wind also agreeable. It’s rather serene actually. Life is slow-paced and filled with leisure and carefree enjoyment. After the unexpected inheritance, money isn’t a problem in the slightest. Truth be told, I’ve more than I know what to do with now.

I stare up at the clear night sky, basking in the light of the full moon. I can’t help but smile, thinking of Luna whenever I see it. They will both be back from the concert soon. She will be so happy that she and Mum got to see Shooting Star$ live. I love them both so much. I can’t imagine life without them…

The stars are out in force tonight and there isn’t a cloud in the sky to obscure the nightscape. They twinkle and shine down on me. I wonder if every one of them represents a human wish that has come true? Life is truly beautiful here in New Sirenica.

About the author

Kieron P. Baird studied Animal Biology at Edinburgh Napier University (2012) and received a First Class Honours Degree. This further cemented his love for animals, wildlife, conservation and nature as a whole. Kieron is an aspiring poet and writer, on a personal journey of self-discovery and improved mental well-being through the medium of writing.

Kieron was one of the winners of the Moorforge Writing Competition (16+) with his poem “A Toast to Our Artisans”. This same poem was readout on BBC Radio Cumbria – The Arty Show (18/11/2019) and added to Moorforge’s YouTube Playlist.

Kieron currently resides in the Scotland (UK).

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Created in 2014, Flashes is a privately owned literary website. We publish short stories, non-fiction, flash fiction and poetry. Our goal is to give talented writers a platform to showcase their creativity, with an emphasis on original voice, innovative style and challenging plots.

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