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The lights flicker, go black. He walks out of his shack, sees that his abode is the only dark one and looks to the sky, as if for support. The glass towers glitter under a rocket arcing through the sky. Another mission to Mars, says his phone, the colonization process well under way. But the man, our man as it stands, didn’t win that lottery ticket, and so he only watches, the cool fall air tightening his skin; for a split second he can almost feel the warmth from the rocket.
The phone spouts on about quantum swarms soon to make the mining in Mars that much more efficient. The reporter starts a conversation with a scientist who is overlooking the breakthrough. Here on earth, the swarms will make war victimless. For another split second the man imagines being on the rocket, looking down on this city, feeling above the world. But a child starts crying and he’s back to the refugee camp on the outskirts of a city with towers so high and glittery that they simultaneously fill his heart with joy and also plunge him into the depths of a familiar despair for he is not living in the towers but instead is here in the refugee camp that stinks of fecal matter even though he is not a refugee.
Ifta, his neighbor, steps out, her sharp eyes absorbing and discarding him at the same time. Trying for small talk, he discusses the quantum swarms, the coming era of prosperity, of peace.
She shakes her blue haired head and explains that the swarms would do no such thing. The arms race they would usher in will be as bad as any other. The man is suddenly very aware that she smells like dirt and strawberries, and he is, now, very attracted to her. Maybe she senses this too, for she disappears into her shack with an offer for him to stay at her place if it ever grew too cold.
Maybe not. He decides that he needs to fix his electricity situation; his past due bill needs to be paid, or he needs to find wiring to leech off the grid. Either way and soon for winter was to burst at any moment, spitting its frozen crystals over the land.
The next day he finds a refugee who has the wiring he needs, though at a price that he doesn’t. He works as an English teacher for some of the refugees and so he adds classes trying to get money or items to barter. He goes two days on a single meal. He still doesn’t have enough money for the wire.
Seeing the Quantum Swarms
He walks by a store screening, in HD, the quantum swarm purifying a part of the world where evil has grown. The swarm is massive; it glitters and moves over the sea, a dusty hovel, a line of refugees. The show is beautiful, it first focuses on the scientists, their trials and tribulations, their immense problem solving skills, those initial failures of the swarms, the needed quantum computing for communications and calculations of some of the most complicated algorithms known. And on it goes: their families who missed them, the shoulders they stood upon; this was an inevitable growth from the past 500 years of progress. And then the big show against evil; the side which has none of the above.
Again, the swarm moves like a dancer across the land, purifying, making no victims. And the show is over, the evil is gone.
The man walks back to his dark shack. Though a pride has swelled in his chest, he feels something else in there: a rock. He is not sure why. A hate for that evil against which the swarm
is fighting bubbles up into his thoughts. His shack sits there, a cold reminder of his failure. He thinks on the swarm, the missions to Mars, he is somewhat elated.
Destruction or Demons?
Ifta sits outside her shack, her high-cheek boned face glowing over the embers of her pipe. She invites him inside, even though her eyes have taken him in and discarded him all at once all over again. Inside her shack it’s warm, and the glow from her computers seem to add to that feeling.
He talks in an excited tone about the swarm, the bright future. Her face turns harsh. On her computer, she flicks through images of flesh piled high. This is your future, she says or implies. He mumbles something about the needs to be vigilant about doctored images. She looks at him with such a disgust, that he wishes he were being absorbed and discarded instead. That rock in his chest grows.
He asks to see more of the images and videos. He forces himself to look through all of them. The rock grows. Suddenly, his shock seems like a minor problem, even here with the refugees and fecal matter and the wails cutting the air. He asks how she can deal with such images. She speaks with a silence and stillness that mean too many things to him. He asks if he can help. She says nothing. He asks again and she sighs. There’s nothing, go to sleep. He’s not sure if this is said or implied.
The next day he awakes to see her writing code. He realizes all the nights he had seen her up— before he slept, after he awoke—she was being driven by a demon. The demons were obviously borne of such vectors as the videos and images—of this he is certain.
That rock in his chest is growing heavier. He remembers that the images and video are all doctored, that his quantum swarm is a glistening majestic thing. The rock in his chest lifts and he walks out into the sun, hoping that he will have enough money to pay for the next month’s electricity.