Monday, August 7, 2017


This future is now.

It were comin’ down like rods.

Hard enough bein’ on a bike in the wet, but when it’s comin’ down so hard you can't hardly see…

Karen had seen some shit, driving, but to see the guy’s knee bent the wrong way like that still turned her over inside. She’d got the ping two minutes back, so the scene was still fresh as.
Bike guy was a delivery runner.
His box was on the wet slabs next to his well bent bike. He was shoutin’ at some woman an’ she was givin’ back equal and then plus.
Karen pulled up. Looked like she was gonna have to help him in. That didn't matter. He was on her clock now.
“I'll not apologise for trying to help you!” Umbrella lady barked back at bike guy for sayin’ something Karen hadn’t been there for. Karen helped bike guy into her taxi. His left leg bent at the knee but the wrong way. He didn't weigh nothing. Proper tour de France skinny. As she got bike guy in she asked “What’s her deal?” About umbrella lady.
“Aw, bitch went an’ called an ambulance on me, like I’m Jay Z or somethin’” Bike guy said through teeth.
“I called an ambulance because you need a bloody ambulance, you maniac!” Umbrella lady looked like she was gonna lift off. “Your leg looks like It’s on backwards for Christ's sake!”
Karen Yoinked the bike up onto the rack and pulled bike guy's bag into the cab as the siren from the ambulance started gettin’ proper audible.
Karen did one sharp before the scene turned into a proper scene.
Paramedics see a lot so can be proper staunch an’ since they all got put on commission they’re hungry too.

“Hospital?” Karen asked Bike. Bike nodded. “You wanna make that delivery first? You'll lose your profit ‘cause you're on my clock but you'll keep your stars.”
“Urrrgh! Forget it.” Bike said “My ratings gonna be worth nish by the time I'm outta plaster. I'll have to start again. Jesus!” The enormity of a restart dawning.
“Sub ya gig.” Karen suggested.
“Sub it? To who?” Bike replied “Everyone I know got their own rate they're tryin’ ta build.”
“You don't know no one blacklisted?” Karen asked. 
Bike woulda lent forward if he could move. “If you got someone who can run my gig while I’m laid up, they can take all the coin. All of it, if they don't drop my stars. I’ll get a loan for food or somethin’ ”
“He’ll not drop your stars. He got listed for postin’ shit about the system. Not screwin’ up” Karen assured.
“Aye well the system’s shit.” said bike “I got that app that tells ya if what you're gonna post will be unfavoured by the powers.”
“Bloop!” Karen screen notified.
“That’s me.” Bike said “I jus’ gave you the local for my drop. You're not bullin’ me wit your listed guy? He’s for reals yeah?”
“He's realer than you or me.” replied Karen.

Bike’s drop was way out, so he had time to get wistful. “What was that bitch thinkin’ callin’ an ambulance like that? Do I look like I can afford that shit?” He said lookin’ at the rain through the translucent ad playing on the window. The smart ad sensed his pain and was trying to sell him painkillers but he was just staring through. Ads are like anything. You see enough of anything, you learn to see right through.
“My brother fell an’ split his head when he were out one night. Woke up in the ambulance so couldn't argue the toss. Still ant paid it off. That were years back. Must have only been in there, like, 20 minutes.”
“Aye, I had my girl on 5/9. Went into labour jus’ when it all went off. My man was across town an’ couldn't get to us so I drove myself.” Karen told Bike “Did for the seat, but What’s a new seat up against a ride in one of them things?”
“You gotta kid?” Bike said “Where's she at now?”
“Home sleepin’.” Karen replied and sent the feed from one of her screens to the main screen in the back. A baby sleeping in a cot.
“Aw, she's instagram ain't she?” Bike cooed. He’d had something. Karen could tell. It was starting to work. Looked like he was leaving agony.
“How many stars you got?” Karen asked
“I got four baby!” Bike exclaimed. “Well, 3.8 but it looks like four on a phone and that’s what counts. More than enough to keep me busy. An’ I got enough ratings that if some ass hole one stars me it hardly makes a dent.”
Karen laughed. “I remember when I first started out. They give you two an’ a half as good will. They’re green, not gold, though so as folk know you're new an’ don't judge an’ give you a break.
So I take some suit from Heathrow to out in the sticks. He gets free Netflix all the way an’ I'm all nice. Like, couldn't be nicer and he one stars me! I’d only done a few fairs. It was, like, my first week so I hadn’t built up an average an’ my rating went through the floor! Didn't work for nearly two weeks after that.”
“Jesus!” Bike shouted “Suits, man. He knew what that’d do to you. They think shit like that's funny. I mean. I'm a pacifist but, I mean. I don't wish it on ‘em but when they get deaded like those two the other day I think, well, what do you expect, yeah?”
“Some of them go incognito now, to the office, you know?” Karen said “Try to pass for normal. Pretend they ain't vampires by puttin’ on a hoody, but you can tell they got a suit in that bag. You can see from the shoes, an their nails ain't bitten."
“This is what you don’t get with one of them drone cabs”. Bike said “Proper talk. No chat-bot”. He laughed at a thing that dropped into his head.
“I was pickin’ up near fleet Street an’ one of them new bubble things glides up an’ four suits were set to get in an’ then some legend in black. Like all black. Ski mask an’ goggles the lot, lobs in a foam bomb! It goes off, BOOF! Foam everywhere. I got some on me. It were all over the suits an’ the drone were full! Ha ha! It set hard in, like, five seconds. Christ knows how long it took to dig all that out. I bet it weren't robots what done the diggin’ either. So that's some work for someone there.”
“It’s guys like that, that mean I still got work”. Karen said.
“I won't touch anythin’ that uses drones. I'm staunch like that. One of them things wouldn't have picked me off the street like you did”. Said Bike. “I’m against ‘em deadin’ suits, like I say, but every drone some active shoots down I see as a gig for me. Deadin’ drones ain't terrorism it's job creation is what it is”.
Bike shifted slightly trying to get some comfort.
“I don't know no actives, but I’ll send a drink to anyone who puts a drone down.”
Karen had her eyes on the road. She’d forgot the baby feed was on the big screen in the back.
“D’you think there’ll be any jobs at all when your little un gets big?” Bike asked.
Karen sighed. There weren’t no way to know what the future had coming. It had taken more than Karen ever thought possible.
Taken shit she’d never thought could be took. An' you bitch an’ moan an’ say you can’t take that ‘cause it ain’t right.
An’ the powers say there ain’t no law against it.
Not no more, least.
So they say it is right ‘cause it’s legal.
But now you’re thinkin’ legal ain’t got nothin’ to do with what's right no more.
An’ if legal ain’t right then illegal don’t seem so wrong.
If all the jobs did go to the bots Karen’s baby would need to live on the rob if she wanted a life with more than nothin’. (Unless somethin’ changed but nothin’ ever changed ‘sept for the worse.) Forget legal an’ illegal go with what feels right. Get your own code to live by.
Draw your own lines.
Cross those lines least you can.

Unless it all collapsed an’ folk gave up on money all together. Wasn’t like there was much money left to give up on anyhow, what with most the world's money in those eight bank accounts.

Bike was out now. Sparked. Karen took the baby feed off the main screen. They were at bike’s drop so she made it for him. The girl on reception didn’t even look up. Jus’ pointed at the drop point.
Getting back in the cab woke Bike. “Hospital?” said Karen.
“You make my drop? What time is it? Took a slice when I was splayed on the street. Took another half when you was rackin’ the bike ‘cause the first slice weren’t touchin’ the sides”.
“I made your drop.” Karen replied.
Bike gave his screen scrutiny. “Who was it on reception? Tall an’ pink hair or short an’ blue?”
“Shit man. Half the time she don’t even rate. Some won’t pick up the ping for them no more ‘cause of h…”
“Bloop!” His screen notified.
“Ha ha! Yes! Four stars! Every higher than average equals a higher average.”
“How long you been on a bike?” Karen asked.
“Three years now. It ain’t so bad, keeps ya healthy till it kills you. Nearly got me today, but not quite. Was only ment to do it for a month or three. Till something turned up... You’re so done by the time you’re done though, you just flake. You eat, have a can, then it’s the next day. An’ you’re sayin’ tonight when I get in I’ll find something. Before you know it by the time you got your stats over to somethin’ better they’re thinkin’ What’s a bike guy wanna work here for? An’ there’s you in your slot for life till a bot comes an’ has it off you without tryin’. Bot don't gotta interview an' bow an' scape an' their posts clean. Bot's just get given jobs.
My Dad’s well militant. Would def be active an’ listed if his heart weren’t killin’ him. He’s got stories though, man. When he started out some, din't have a facebook or twitter. An’ that was alright. It was okay not to, an' it weren't suspicious. Then he says it started so you went for a job an’ they’d facestalk you. An if you were lookin’ like a bad fit they’d slide you by. But then it got so you had to have an account. If you din't they could look in your life and see if you fit. So then everyone’s gotta have a face if they wanna get booked.
He did alright though. Had a job an’ everythin’ for years till a bot put him out on his arse.”
Bike went less wistful, more wrathful.
“His heart’s killin’ him now though an’ we got no house to sell so that’s that in'it."

The baby woke the second the food van went an’ rear ended them, but didn’t cry. Karen was out the cab immediate. It was still comin’ down like rods. She popped the boot an’ pulled her girl outta there. Fetched her back to the cab an’ set her safe on the seat, then pulled a bat outta nowhere an’ went to bray the van or the driver or both but stopped.
The air come outta her again.
An’ she got back in again. She pulled a seat for her up from the passenger well an’ strapped the little un in an’ cried for six seconds. Then sucked it back down, an’ did off.
The air were proper thick in there. Wet off the rain an’ thick so as it’s hard to speak. What with all the feels an' all.
Bike had thought the kid were at her place. Maybes not with anyone. Which ain't right but hard to blame. Now it was clear they had no place.
Well why wouldn’t they be placeless? Bike didn’t know anyone his age who weren't placeless.
He was half placeless himself. Split his sleeps between a few places. A couch in Hoxton. A hall near Kings Cross. Under some stairs in Brixton. He found if he kept it to three nights then off an' he left a bit of wage or a slice, no one got rubbed the wrong.
Bike's dream were near the same as Karen's. The hope was to scrape the coin for a van. Then do it nice inside for living. You can even get a toilet in there if you can find a spot parked over a grid, but an over grid spot is rare these days.
That weren't too wrong in his head for the grown, but kids, he thought, aught to have a real roof. Even with his knee bent back, the pain he felt were for Karen.
He knew the powers had it all set so as there was no way up an’ out.
No one had a job they had gigs.
You didn't work for them. you worked for yourself, even if you only worked for them.
So you weren’t on the inside.
An’ there's no way up the outside.
The stairs are inside.
An’ saving weren’t a thing. The coin was set so low as food was an issue so thinkin’ about out else were out.
An’ her man was listed ‘cause he'd said what weren't right, weren't right.
Bike had that thing on his phone that gave him warns when his posts would list him. He knew others who had bots that socialed for them. A stream of lies to make ‘em seem like the perfect worker. Soon it’d be the case that no one would be writing their own feed. Another layer of bullshit. Gettin’ down to real was gonna take digital archaeologists one day.
They got to the hospital an’ Karen unloaded Bike an’ his Bike. She wrote down his ‘tails an’ his stats on a piece of paper with a pen that used ink, to have ‘em but keep ‘em low an’ did one back out into the shit.
Seems Bike’s name was Arnold.

Another long day ended sharp, but it didn’t take long to find a charge spot so there was that. Karen was down to three percent ‘cause she weren’t gettin’ no charge off the sky all day with the rain an’ all. The back seat of the cab slid forward up to the divider and the back dropped flat like a futon. With the back lying flat where the baby sleeps was shown. The underside of the boot painted sky blue with cartoon clouds.
Karen’s man showed. He had food. Paid in noodles plus for keepin’ a sick lifter near the top of a call sheet. (If you say no to a gig you get bumped down the sheet. Too far down an’ you never get called again.)
They fed the baby then themselves. As they ate Her man told her stars was halfway to bein’ money. Karen knew that to be true. If, back after that suit had one stared her, somebod' had said they wouldn’t pay but would five star her instead she’d have had their arm off. She put the VR goggs on baby. So as baby'd have memories of being in the countryside later.

Karen showed her man the rating Bike had give her… Five stars.

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some sort of artist or something. with problems and issues. I draw stuff
All cartoons and original writing ©Nigel Auchterlounie 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012