“I WILL LIVE IN THE PAST, THE PRESENT, AND THE FUTURE”
I woke to the buzz of an electronic alarm. The flip of a switch, several hours earlier, provided me with a private supply of hot water sufficient for a shower. All the water for ablutions and drinking was available at the turn of one of three taps connected to water pipes. A cold breakfast, left ready last night in a cold storage box, heated to a good temperature for eating after two minutes in another electric box. My chair-case had been packed the night before also, and it stood ready for me to pull behind me on its wheels.
After dressing, I went outside and boarded a hybrid-powered multi-person road vehicle. I paid my fare with a swipe of a very thin plastic card. The other passengers and I were driven over a few surface roads, then one road which ramped dozens of feet above that surface, and which crossed a large body of water at that height. The sun had not yet risen, so the usual daylight sparkle on the water was absent. In about an hour, the vehicle took me to a transfer point. After ascending to the proper level by a small room which rose and descended almost noiselessly, I boarded an approaching electronic rail vehicle. The destination appeared in several places in each rail car, in red-lit letters.
At the rail vehicle’s final stop, several flights underground, the other passengers and I ascended to street level gradually, to one level in another small room, and up to the street on a moving staircase. I walked around the corner and down a second street, into a large, echoing network of open spaces with rather low ceilings. It was full of four-seated road vehicles. Travelling below ground again, I approached one I had never seen before. Removing a different plastic card from my wallet, I pressed the card on one corner of the vehicle’s windshield. The tiny red electric “eye” in that corner lit, beeped quietly, and then the vehicle’s doors unlocked with a click. I breathed a tiny, ridiculous sigh of relief. I had identified the proper vehicle by its type, and by the name provided by data upload when I had reserved and hired the vehicle, and this was not my first such hiring. I was relieved anyway.
Loading the chair-case into the rear storage compartment, I got into the seat where the vehicle’s controls lay, and depressed the safety pedal with one foot while turning the appropriate switch, bringing the vehicle’s motor to life. I maneuvered the vehicle slowly, the road beneath me sloping upwards, until I exited the building in the late autumn sunlight. At varying interval speeds, I took the vehicle over surface roads and into an underground tube which crossed, and bypassed, a river.
After another hour or so, I turned the vehicle off the road onto a space provided for stationary vehicles. The signs on the building in front of me indicated this was an establishment where data-transfer equipment could be used for hire. Sliding yet a third plastic card from my wallet, I inserted it into one data-transfer machine, arranged to hire its use, and began collecting the data I was seeking, in paper form.
A long time later, I realized that I had spent too long seeking one elusive piece of data and must abandon that quest or I would not reach my friends in time for the data to be of any use. I closed down the hire, retrieved my card, hired a second machine to duplicate the papers I’d generated, and exited soon after with a pile of papers in my hand. I stored the new papers, restarted the vehicle, and resumed my journey. Several of the roads I travelled were tolled, the fees paid when I hired the vehicle and noted as paid when a “reader” machine in one of the periodic payment stations connected with a second sensor inside the vehicle. I used the small data machine that lived in my bag to determine my location and distance from my destination, once the sensor in the data machine connected with the positioning satellite.
Some time after my arrival, I greeted one of my friends, holding up a paper--
“I found copies of “Riu, Riu, Chiu” and “The Boar’s Head Carol” !”