Future's So Bright
933 words long
It would be nice to give someone good news for once. But apparently it's only urgent to warn people about bad futures.
Notes from the author:
The title refers to a song from 1986, "The Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades" by Timbuk 3. It was a cheerfully sarcastic expression of '80s cold war pessimism, but a lot of high school classes adopted it unironically as their graduation theme song. This sort of thing happens all the time. See also every couple who ever danced to "Every Breath You Take" at their wedding.
I point this out because I realize I'm getting older and the kids these days don't necessarily get my pop culture references. You may all please kindly now get off my lawn.
My original idea was a version of the here-and-now augmented with a magic-realist twist: transparent solids will sometimes randomly go opaque. It's a known hazard. You just live with it. As a metaphorical element, it would provide fertile ground for subtext involving truth, secrecy, and denial; as a literal element, it would give rise all sorts of conflict. But the worldbuilding turned out to be too much work. I mean, just think about the transportation industry. Cars and planes simply couldn't have windshields. Goggles protecting drivers' and pilots' eyes from 70-mph grit would also be a bad idea. Maybe we just couldn't have rapid transit at all.
This was beginning to look like the work of a novel, not a fictionette. So I dialed it back such that the phenomenon only affects one person, and only their glasses, and only for a very specific reason.
My reluctant oracle isn't foreseeing nuclear war, but the irony of the song lyric would not be lost on him.
In the midst of his jump, his glasses whited out. All the light that normally passed through the lenses simply decided to bounce off instead. The backside of that reflection created a blindingly bright film where his view of the world ought to be. For a moment his heart pumped pure Arctic terror instead of blood. Then the edge of the platform met his lower belly with a welcome thump that knocked the wind out of him. He hauled himself into the box car and curled up into a ball, shaking with shock and relief.
When he could move again, he levered his glasses off his face and cursed. He knew without looking that the lenses were just as blank on the outside as they were inside, but silver-dark like mirror shades rather than flashbulb white. He was becoming familiar with the effect. It didn't happen often, but it had happened enough over the past few years for him to know the routine.
It meant a prophecy was coming through.
The first time it had happened, he'd been at work. (He'd still had a job then. He wouldn't for much longer.) He'd taken his glasses off and marveled. Why did it happen? How was it accomplished? He passed the anomaly around the office, watching his coworkers' reactions. "So you got a new pair of sunglasses, so what?" they'd say, or words to that effect. Then they'd put them on. "What the hell is this? Video footage of the sun? You trying to blind me?"
Eventually he reclaimed his glasses and called his optometrist. The phenomenon was amazing and inexplicable, but the fact remained that he was severely near-sighted without his glasses and needed to have a pair that functioned. Then he went to talk with his department manager. He meant to relay the bad news. He meant to say that he'd be regretfully worthless on the job until he got replacement glasses. He meant to ask for personal time off. But what came out of his mouth when he meant to say all that was prophecy.
And that was why he got fired.
He never knew precisely what he'd said; true prophecy can only be heard by its intended recipient....
This has been an excerpt from the Friday Fictionette for November 13, 2015. Subscribers can download the full-length fictionette (933 words) from Patreon in PDF or MP3 format depending on their pledge tier.
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