In recent months, I did what I often do when I find myself in the midst of a few projects, where none of them are occupying my attenti0n completely. I went back to an old idea that never got finished, but which I felt pretty passionate about at the time. This idea was one a friend and I came up with while we chatted about human nature and genetic engineering.
Specifically, we talked about how people in the future might try to tailor their children to weed out self-doubt and the self-directed critical tendencies we all seem to have. That got the ball rolling, and in short order, I began writing the full-length concept into a story I called Genome. Unfortunately, this project, like so many others, lost my interest part way through and got stock in the Incomplete folder.
Luckily, writing for China Daily Mail got me interested in it again. You see, the story takes place in one of my favorite environments: the Northeaster Megapolitan region known as BosWash – aka. the Boston-Washington D.C. metropolitan axis. In the story, I decided to add a little symbolic feature known as the BWHM, or BosWash Health Monitor, which rates the cities pollution based on the Air Toxicity Factor (or ATF).
The scale was out of 100 and during the course of the story, it kept getting higher. Well after reading about China’s air pollution and the AQI (Air Quality Index) which has a maximum ranking of 500, but which needs to be revised to account for Beijing’s 700 plus ratings of late, I began to think I had stumbled onto something golden!
Or, I had simply stolen something without knowing it and ought to pursue it since it’s relevant. But of course, to make the reference accurate and work for readers, I had to since revise it to make the BWHM out of 1000 so people would know exactly how toxic and polluted this future, dystopic megacity really was!
In addition, I also began thinking I should do with Genome what I did with Whiskey Delta and begin sharing it here, chapter by chapter. And so here it is, the first-ever installment of Genome, which is the prologue chapter entitled “The Big Sink”. As you can probably tell, I was going for a real urban noire feeling, with some cyberpunk elements thrown in for good measure. This, you will find, is offset by some dry humor down the road…
Enjoy, and feel free to let me know if it’s any good, in need of a full-scale rewrite, or a short trip to the Recycle Bin! 🙂
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It was an evening like any other. The sky was ashen grey, rain clouds and thunderclaps flashing over the urban landscapes. Outside of the establishment, a few people lingered in the rain, taking in their carcinogenic fixes and staring with blank faces.
In the distance, the sound of thunderclaps and sirens set the nighttime scene. And the rain, it fell hard. So hard it could almost wash the scum off the sidewalk for another night. But even if it could, the scum would return tomorrow. It came in endless supplies, and the fight to keep it at bay was always constant.
Bastion stepped out of the twenty-four café and made a quick appraisal of the evening. The prospects were grim, much like the weather. No one to go home to, few women adequate enough to invite home, and a whole lot of pain and misfortunate to look forward to tomorrow. Another day of bills, alimony and hard-luck stories from perps, policemen and unaffiliated scumbags, nothing but the bottle and takeout meals to keep him company in the one bedroom flat that passed for a home.
Just another day in the life of a Detective working the Big Sink.
Sparking up his torch, Bastion lit up the stubby green tube between his lips and inhaled deeply. Everyone who stood out in the rain with him was taking their daily smoke break, sucking in the terrible tasting shit that was supposed to ward off the tumors and slow death that city living brought on.
It was a constant feature in the news, the build-up of toxins that was forcing everyone to ingest one kind of poison to offset the others, and every day the count got higher, bringing the city closer to the brink.
Last he checked, the experts said it was at a robust eight-hundred eighty-five on a scale that reached to one thousand, though that could be updated in the near future, as it had in the past. No one in his immediate surroundings could say with any certitude what would happen once they reached the top of that index, but all indications said it would be bad.
He looked around and gauged the people next to him by the tired, sunken looks in their eyes. Already he could tell how long they had been on the medication just by the look of them.
Sandra, the head waitress, the one with the yellowing skin and eyes to match: five years.
The gentleman in the nice linen suit with the bowler cap on: three or so.
The server boy with the terrible nostalgic get-up that was supposed to be the theme of the restaurant, red suspenders and a white collared shirt. A year tops. And then there was the old Manchu fella with the white hair and the terrible wrinkles, his skin the color of leather and just as tough: ten years!
Of course, he himself wasn’t too enthused about taking up this particular dirty habit. But the nice doc had summarized it for him thusly: Smoke it, and live to the ripe old age of sixty-five, then proceed steadily downhill. Don’t, and die of melanoma or an inoperable tumor at fifty-five. Twenty years was what he was buying with this terrible, stinking stick that was smoldering in the corner in his mouth then. It smelt awful and tasted a hell of a lot worse!
One could fit a lot of living in the space of twenty years, consuming one poison to kill another. And they learned a valuable lesson from it too. Just another gift the Big Sink provided for anyone lucky enough to be born into her. Just like life, it was a gift nobody asked for and was unreturnable, so you enjoyed it while you could.
If only, he thought, bringing him smoke to a quick conclusion and then stubbing it out on the ground. He checked his right side to make sure his piece was still there. On the way home, he might just get lucky tonight and have someone try to kill him. Then he knew he’d get the added excitement of a life or death struggle, a nice trip to the emergency room, and maybe a new lease on life. They always said you had to have a brush with death to find the value in living. Bastion was eager to find out.