Countdown to Equality

short stories collection - a compilation of my short stories.

summary

It was December 31st, 2089 and I was feeling a bit hungry. The neighbors down the street were throwing a New Year’s party; they were a superstitious bunch and assumed all their savings would disappear on New Year’s Day due to a computer glitch. I decided to pitch in, though I’m not the superstitious type, just to show my appreciation. The parties from past years, after all, were quite a hoot.

A look at an extreme take on conservation and were it could take us.

It was December 31st, 2089 and I was feeling a bit hungry. The neighbors down the street were throwing a New Year’s party; they were a superstitious bunch and assumed all their savings would disappear on New Year’s Day due to a computer glitch. I decided to pitch in, though I’m not the superstitious type, just to show my appreciation. The parties from past years, after all, were quite a hoot.

I headed over to the store at half-past eight and got there before the morning rush. I carried a small basket with me and walked down the aisle, throwing in groceries as I went: a load of rye bread, couple crackers, can of salsa and couple slices of Gouda cheese. As I walked over to the counter, I rolled up my sleeves and stared at the bright blue numbers glowing a couple inches below my wrist:

Water: 3,402/3,605 gallons
Land: 45/50 acres
Air: 90/100 kg
Waste: 697/761.6 kg
Total: 4,234/4516.6+3,402

Good, I was way under and I would have roll-over for next year; I already had over three thousand in savings. I thought it was weird that they combine the surplus into one number; after all, 1 acre is much more valuable than one gallon of water. Anyways, I was always excited about my ability to reduce my footprint. Some people flouted their ability to calculate the exact buying habits needed so they would just hit the limit imposed by the government, but I found that to be quite stupid. The limit was based on consumption habits from the early part of the century, a safe level the government set to prevent depletion of resources. The Earth’s population had leveled off around nine billion after a series of epidemics reduced Indian, China and Indonesia’s populations to a large extent around mid-century. The pandemics were made worse by the world’s dwindling resources and droughts that hit the prime growing regions of the world. The United States was largely spared; we had ample reserves and the money to buy any surplus on the international markets. Nevertheless, this shocked the nation into action.

The RESOURCE project grew out of the mania. Several engineers in elite American universities produced a small device that could be implanted under the skin. This would allow the government to track the resources used by each citizen. The engineers, fearing they would be tracked by the new device, disabled its ability to give an exact location; it would send the data to the nearest wireless hotspot and since every packet was going to the same central server, it would scramble the sender location header. People’s fears were greatly relieved when this paper from the project’s leader was leaked. It also allowed rapid adoption of the new technology, spurred on by an unending series of bloody revolutions, famines and other events going on in Eurasia, Africa and South America. Thus, rather than a slow phasing out of the dollar, we elected a fanatical president who made a clean, quick break with the past. We were all implanted within a couple years and on January 1st, 2070 the devices were activated. All banks were closed and it was a hot mess for several years. But I think it is for the better. We all do.

Anyways, I scanned my items and put my arm under the reader, a few seconds later it flashed red and the numbers updated:

Water: 3,452/3,605 gallons
Land: 46/50 acres
Air: 91/100 kg
Waste: 698/761.6 kg
Total: 4,234/4516.6+3,402

I will probably buy something nice for Paul, my husband, next year; my savings were becoming rather large to safely walk around many parts of the city. I shoved the food into a plastic bag, even those cost something now and they also count the accrued land-use and waste due to landfills and plastics inability to easily degrade. It was rather warm outside and the sun shone unabated. I walked over to my neighbor’s house and rapped on the door. Kolin, the host of the New Year’s party, opened after several seconds.

“Hey! How are you doing? So nice you came,” she said and signaled for me to come in.

“Great, great. I went by the store and got some food. Thought it’d be nice if we had some sandwiches,” I said and flung off my shoes before walking in. The room was a bit warm; A/C costs a pretty penny nowadays. I never liked the cold anyways. I walked in to the smell of fresh fruits and steak grilling in the back yard. I hadn’t experienced this aroma in a while. Meat was very expensive; it used to cost the world hundreds of millions of acres to raise the animals and many more growing the food used to feed them. It was disastrous and, with subsidized farming, the price never quite reflected the true costs. But this new system solved all that, it was nearly perfect. Each person was allotted the same amount of resources and they stayed constant year-to-year. In the nineteen years since its initiation, the resources used per capita dropped considerably. Of course, there were some who did not survive the new regime (pun not intended) and shortages still occurred, but it largely work. And with improving technology, prices were under a stead deflation. Everyone won.

“So, what are your plans for Independence Day?” Kolin asked me as we sat ourselves in the dining room.

“Oh, that’s quite a ways off. My husband and I are probably going to sit on the patio and watch the fireworks. Nothing too special, you?” I said.

“Probably the same; perhaps we’ll get another steak.”

While I generally put up with Kolin’s spending habits, her taste for meat annoyed me greatly. “You know they have vegetable substitutes for meat, they’re quite cheap.”

“I know, I know. You’ve tasted real meat, right? At least before RESOURCE you did. You agree about the taste,” she said, smacking her lips and looking off into the distance. “No vegetable concoction can replace that. Damn the price.”

“How are you able to live with having no savings? What if something happens? You know they took away the safety net. The Earth has no room to wasting resources like that…”

“We know!” she said, a bit irritated. She tended to get this way when I ask her about meat or savings. “Stop preaching. It’s better to enjoy things now and hedge against a system glitch than hold onto meaningless resources. Plus, it’s not like in the past, there’s no interest. So why save?”

“Yeah, I just like to have them, you know, just in case. John’s trying to find work?” I inquired, changing the topic to something less intrusive. Her husband had been unemployed for a year now; RESOURCE didn’t allocate more resources if one worked longer, harder and faster. It was becoming a problem; many of the people who made this country tick, like John, now just sat around and watched TV or went into stasis to save resources. John used to have two implants; corporations were considered their own people with resources shared between the employees. But it had been a pain and the effort to manage the resources and avoid abuse proved too much. He quit and didn’t make a single gallon or acre off of the twenty years of hard work. Unfortunate that.

“No. He has no motive. I’ve been trying to get him to apply for menial jobs, so he doesn’t just waste away, but I’m growing tired. At the end of the day, it doesn’t make a difference. We’ll just be allocated the same resources as everyone else.”

“True, true. I’ve been having the same problems with Paul, he just sits about and does nothing,” I said and shook my head. I reached over and turned on the TV, the mid-day news was on.

“A new report from the Dept. of State shows that the Earth’s population is starting to grow again. The President and Dept. of RESOURCE Chair will be making a joint appearance before the nation to speak about coming changes in light of this recent development…” I reached over and turned off the TV. I never liked the news and much less hearing from the Dept. of RESOURCE Chair. Kolin and I walked over to the patio and found John and Paul there; Paul and I always arrived at parties or occasions separately. We didn’t want to appear like the clingy type. We continued to chat and waited for the announcer to begin the countdown.

One minute until the New Year. I smiled and looked again at my arm; I’d saved a good deal of resources this year. Paul got up and sat next to me on the patio as we all watched the dazzling display of green, red and yellow that filled the sky. Then the countdown began and the sky filled with massive numbers. I looked over at Paul and we simultaneously began the chant along with everyone else, “10…9…8…7…6…5…4…3…2…1…Happy New Year!” We screamed and I leaned over and gave him a long, hard kiss. I lifted up the sleeve on my jacket and took a look at my newfound savings:

Water: 0/3,505 gallons
Land: 0/49 acres
Air: 0/95kg
Waste: 0/751.4 kg
Total: 0/4400.4+0

“What the…Paul…look at your arm for me,” I whispered, a slight nervousness entering my voice.

“What is it honey? Didn’t get your savings?” he responded jokingly and gave me a poke in the rib. I batted his arm away.

“Stop! Just look at your arm,” I said again, my voice rising and a bit more crazed as I gave my arm another a look. Nothing had changed.

“Okay, okay,” he said and lifted up his sleeve and let out a small yelp. “What the hell?”

Kolin came running over, having come to the same realization as us. The system had glitched. “I told you!” she yelled and I glared at her. This couldn’t be true. RESOURCE never glitched, at least, not like this. I got up, ran to the TV and flipped it on. The Dept. of Resources chair was announcing something.

“…a planet without humanity is one without cancer and is healthier for it. On this day, RESOURCE's twentieth anniversary, some changes have been made to the system…”

-biafra

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©2006-2017 | biafra ahanonu | updated 19 june 2017
biafra ahanonu