Joanne Archer glanced at her MD and saw that it was almost 3:00 AM. “I have to go home,” she said.
“You said you were going to relax tonight and stay out all night,” said Steve Morely.
“No, I didn’t.”
“I can check it on cellcam.”
“I can change my mind.”
“You can change your position too,” he grinned.
Joanne liked Steve. He was intelligent and cool. He never got overheated or freaked out over ego things when he talked to you. He was balanced and saw the good in people, ignored the bad.
She admired him for this. He made her want to be better. She sat back and looked at him, listened to him more attentively.
Steve glared ironically back at her, Spock-like, raising one eyebrow. Sometimes he seemed so ethereal, wise.
That was what she liked about him. He gave her a chance to expand herself, to grow without feeling inhibited or inferior when he outshone her with wit.
It was his wit and sharpness that was the most attractive thing about Steven Morely. You could see it in his eyes like a kind of glint and you could hear it in his voice, his deadpan deliveries, with just a lilt of irony. He was smart and funny.
She looked at her MD again. “I read a blog about what words used to mean,” she said, changing the subject to something more interesting. “Did you know that MD used to mean “doctor of medicine”?
“It’s Latin,” he said “for ‘medicinae dottore’ … ‘doctor of medicine’ in English. Before replacements became common they used to fix limbs … and organs.”
“You read the same blog?”
“I learned it at school.”
That’s right, she remembered. Steve had gone to that posh Chinese school where they studied classical languages and logic and cultural universals. He was a member of the elite (MOTE), or at least he had been but then he had thrown it all away and gone to live in the Free Economic Zone. And he had come back.
Now he was just another resident in public housing in Earth Tower in West City; a neighbour, someone to talk to, eat with, make love to occasionally. Joanne had known him a long time and he had been a good father figure to her son, Teleos. He was like an uncle, but with benefits.
“And the first doctors were in Baghdad.” Baghdad was gone now. All that remained was a smoking hole after the Last Middle East War (LMEW).
“It always amazes me that you live in West City, in a public building. I mean you have even been to the FEZ … and come back. You have done so much in your life. How did you end up back here? How did you get back in?”
“In another life” grinned Steven Morely, “I thought that it was important to be important but in fact it is not. Rev Nev says … ”
“Don’t start about Rev Nev now,” said Joanne. She regarded her MD again. It was time to go back.
She had told her son, Teleos that she would be back by 3:00AM, although she did not know if he would be there. She had asked him but he had just grunted. He had been non-committal. … about everything. He was at that difficult age when it was not clear whether he would go out or where or with whom and when he would come back or if he would come back.
Of course she could track him on the cellcam, but that took the fun out of it, and the trust. There was no point talking to people any more if you just watched them on cellcam.
You could look anything up, find out anything that anybody had done, spy on anybody. But people who used it all the time stopped talking and just watched. It had happened to so many people. They stopped talking and then watched other people’s conversations for entertainment, then became alienated from people, then went to one of the hospitals.
It happened to everybody after a while. They just faded away into the darkness of the passive observer. In the end they just ceased to be.
Rev Nev had talked about it. He had said it was not a bad thing. Though he had not done it himself.
“It is New Year’s Day … early on New Year’s day,” said Steve Morely. “The old Chinese lunar one. There is no work for either of us tomorrow… today. We can relax, celebrate, sleep in tomorrow.”
“Do you want to sleep with me tonight?” said Joanne Archer evenly.
Steven Morley grinned easily. “I’m not so tired. Let’s just see what happens. Are you tired?”
“Why not stay here?” said Steve. “Have some fun. Go back when we want. It is a beautiful night.” He looked out the window and regarded the ocean.
Joanne looked around the taverna at the rest of the clientele. They were sitting at tables looking at their MDs. Nobody was talking except for a couple of guys at the bar who were smoking weed and drinking beer.
“Those guys are making fools of themselves,” she said. “And it will be immortalised on cellcam forever, for everyone to see.”
“Don’t think about them or cellcam” said Steven Morely. “There is nothing you can do about cellcam.” Cellcam was the ubiquitous miniature recording device, smaller than a single cell life form, which had changed life in the UROA completely.
It had been several years since the discovery of a rare but stable isotope of oxygen, which had the capacity to be used as a tiny practically invisible recording device and not everybody had embraced it, but everybody had been affected by it. It had been mass-produced and pumped into the atmosphere as a gas. Surveillance gas.
The air was full of tiny cameras now. Cell-sized cameras or cellcams. People breathed them in and out.
The medical applications were astounding and had revolutionised the practice of medicine. Broader applications of the technology were not as widely regarded as beneficial.
Surveillance had always been a tricky issue. The network, which was open to everybody, thanks to the UROA Snowden Laws, was officially called “Universal Surveillance Apparatus” (USA) but everybody referred to it simply as “cellcam” and it was available on a free app, called “cellcam”.
“There is nothing anybody can do about cellcam,” continued Morely. “It is here to stay. Be positive. It is the only way. There is a new year ahead of us. We don’t know how much time we have. Let’s enjoy what we have.”
“You have a wonderful attitude, Steve,” she said. “I really love you, you know? But I am worried about Teleos. I told him I would be home by three and I want to keep my word.”
“He won’t be home to check on you and even if he was, people can change their minds,” he grinned ironically, using the argument she had used on him. “We are all free to do what we want.”
“It is different if you are a parent.”
“I was a parent.”
“You were? You never told me that.” It was in the Free Economic Zone…a long time ago.”
Joanne paused and looked at him. He had never talked about this before. How had he kept it inside? Why was he telling her now after all these years? “I can’t believe you are telling me this now … after being with me for all these years … sleeping with me … being such a … wonderful father to Teleos, … it is just such a surprise … why didn’t you tell me about it before?”
“I guess I was not ready to talk about it.”
“You are funny,” she said. “In both senses of the word.”
“But am I fun?”
“How do you mean?”
“It is New Year’s Eve. Teleos is twenty-three. He is out with his friends. He will not be home till morning. He is having fun. Is being with us fun for him? Anyway you can check on him on the cellcam. I have the app on my MD.”
“I have it too,” she said. “Teleos showed me how to use it. Sometimes I wish he hadn’t. It was him that showed me how to download it, find the location of a conversation by tracking it to a room then using the Halliday co-ordinates … and now it has changed everything.”
“Life ain’t what it used to be,” shrugged Morely matter-of factly. “Change is the only constant. You gotta hang onto your hat, when that wind of change starts blowing.” He sipped from his wine. It was making him speak easy. He felt good.
It was a new year. It was a new beginning. The idea of new beginnings appealed to his personality.
“Now do you want me to tell you about my daughter or would you rather watch it on the cellcam?” he said grinning. “It would be easy enough to work out the co-ordinates with a genotype search.”
“I thought we agreed that life is better if you talk to people rather than spying on them,” said Joanne. “We agreed to do that…to talk and not spy on each other. We agreed to trust each other”
“I was being ironical. Of course life is better that way. It is the only way to stay sane for as long as you can.
Rev Nev says we should pray for the strength to change what we can and the wisdom to know the difference between what we cannot change and what we can … and have the serenity to accept what we cannot change. Serenity is what is missing.
Technology has ruined human life at the same time as it has made it convenient. We all know that. But we cannot put Pandora back in the box now so we just have to accept that we made a mistake and try to live with it.”
Joanne Archer nodded and sipped from her own glass. It was an expensive Margaret River variety. She looked at Steve Morely with admiration. She did love him, although she did not love him in the same way that she had loved Teleos’ father.
Those two loves were like different shades in the same rainbow of love. That was how Rev Nev described different types of love. Different colours in the rainbow: the love of the parent, the paternal or filial love of the uncle or other close family member, the love of the husband, the love of the lover, … love of Nelson and Jimmy and Alan and the other Great Saints. Religious love.
Rev Nev was like the Great Saints, Nelson and Jimmy and Alan. When Rev Nev died he would be voted one too. That was what everybody said. That was what usually happened to hierophants. That was why they were chosen.
“Tell me what you are thinking about,” said Steve, looking into her eyes with curiosity.
Joanne looked around the room. Everybody else was devicing. They had their MDs on the tables, in their hands; a couple of people were wearing glasses with live cellcam apps. They were not here at all. But Steve was. He was talking. He was here now. He was actually talking to her.
“I was thinking about Rev Nev,” she said. “I know I told you not to talk about him right now, but I find myself thinking about him anyway. I really don’t know how I would make sense of the world without him.”
Rev Nev was a self-help author who had influenced millions with his positive attitude and had been elected hierophant of the Utopian Republic of Australia. He was probably the most well-known man in the whole country.
“You don’t have to make sense of it. Just enjoy it,” said Morely.
“It is my nature to think.”
“It is the nature of everybody to think but Rev Nev says, if you want to be happy, you have to stop thinking and just … be.”
“It is a lot harder than it sounds.”
“Drink your wine and come around and sit on this side of the table. You can see the ocean from here.”
Joanne Archer glanced at her MD and saw that it was almost 3:00 AM. “I have to go home,” she said.