Fiction: Fireflight

The sound, like cotton fabric being torn on the other side of a door.  A glow of light, customizable of course, followed by a faint, almost pleasant push-pull of scented air as the vacuum — and nature abhors a vacuum – is created and filled.

And there sat Killian.  “Heeey, what’s up, Greg?  Did Joann come back?”
Greg took a deliberate sip of chai and looked out of the coffee shop plate glass window as dusk began its slow fade into the evening.  “Just reading, Kil.  No, she didn’t.  I don’t think she’s going to any time soon.  She’ll call.”
“Right.  So what are you reading? Wait.  Check that.  Why are you reading?” Killian asked.
“Because I like to read, Kil.  It feels good to pick up an actual paper book,” Greg said.  He placed the book on the table open pages down, preserving his place.
Killian picked up the book to look at the cover and skim the back cover.  He took out his quantum phone held it in front of the cover and it made a faux camera shutter noise as it captured the image.  “Boom.  There it is,” Killian said as the content of the book instantly appeared on his phone.  He sat the closed book down in front of Greg.
“And boom,” Killian said as his eyes blinked once.  “Uploaded and read.  It’s the 21st century, bud.  Get with it.”
Greg shook his head and Killian said, “Don’t give me that holier than thou Luddite routine.  You’ve got a quantum phone, too, low end though it may be.  Why don’t you use it?”
“I do use it.”
“Barely,” Killian said.  “I just quarked — instant downloading by the way — and uploaded that book to my onboard memory in, what, four seconds?”
“And what do you think?” Greg asked.
“I think it’s going to take you forever to read that ancient scroll.  Is that papyrus?  And there’s a typo on page five hundred forty two.  About half way down.”
Greg leaned back in his chair, stretching his legs.  He said, “That’s not exactly what I meant.”
Killian fidgeted in his chair and picked up a packet of sugar, kneading it in his hands.  “Yeh yeh, I know what you meant.  I read all the time, smart guy.”
“No, you upload all the time,” Greg quipped.
“No, seriously.  I just read that book ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ and all of the add ons this morning in the shower.”
The coffee shop bustled with activity and the patio outside hummed with conversation.  The rip-whoosh sounds and fragrances rippled here and there like fireflies on a summer night.
Greg, feeling his sarcasm continue to rise, said, “Oh.  Is that what that was?  Because the email you sent this morning said that you read ‘The 7 Hobits of Highly A-ffective People’?  Bilbo Baggins at your service.”
Killian gave Greg a quick sardonic grin.
“Well,” Greg said, “I’ve been waiting for you for about half an hour since you whooshed off to wherever you whoosh off to.  I guess that makes the first ‘hobit’ tardiness.  And the second is being inconsiderate.”
“Don’t be a douche,” Killian responded with a touch of annoyance in his voice.  “I came back, didn’t I?  Guy, I almost got laid.”
“So egocentrism and instant gratification.  Three and four.  I’m still with you.”
“Asshole,” Killian muttered.
“Ah, number five is vulgarity.”
Killian took out his quantum phone and began tapping its surface.  “Fine, if you’re going to be that way — I don’t know what your problem is.  I’ll see you later.”
Greg leaned forward with his elbows on the table.  “Leaving so soon?  You just got here.”
“I’m not putting up with you while you’re in one of your moods,” Killian said.
“Number six; impatience.  You’re highly effective, all right.”
With a whoosh and a glow Killian vanished from sight, his signature Axe cologne fragrance wafting after him.
Greg took a swig of his chai.  “Tardiness, inconsideration, egocentrism, instant gratification, vulgarity, impatience and — oh I don’t know.  Impermanence.  The 7 Hobits of Highly Effective People.”
He took out his quantum phone.  No emails but a few text messages.  Well, no real emails.  There were 57,694 email and text messages from marketers.  With a swipe of his finger they were all deleted.  His quantum phone, Quark model, informed him that two of the messages appeared to be from personal contacts.  He saved them.  Trying to decide what to watch that night he Quark surfed to a meta site of video on demand providers. All of the big boys and a few more indie oriented ones.  He picked three ultra HD 3D SE — for sensory enhanced movies — and with the tap of an onscreen button they, all five terabytes of them, downloaded instantly to his Quark ready to be played onboard, shuttled to his home theater, or projected on the nearest remote Quark wall, or uploaded to his cerebral onboard memory imprinting with retinal pattern compression insta-playback.  He saved them for later to watch offline.  He liked the feeling of sitting on his couch with the lights low, maybe eating popcorn and drinking a beer while watching.  Sure the insta-playback memories of the movies were more vivid and real since they were uploaded directly to your memory but still.

It started to drizzle a little outside but it was still a nice night, warm and breezy, so Greg decided to walk home.  On the cafe patio he noticed a man and a woman with a little girl at a table.  There was an obvious uncomfortable tension between them. The girl was coloring in a book and occasionally looked up at her father and then her mother and then went back to coloring.  Greg saw the woman make a “pardon me gesture” and with a gentle flash she vanished, a single paper towel blowing on to the ground by the shifting winds from the pocket of displaced reality.  The father motioned the waitress over and asked for the check.

Greg couldn’t help but marvel.  Teleportation had seemed like a big deal ten years ago when he was in his twenties.  Technological inventions every day but this was major.  First quantum computing. And then the quantum computing biological interface.  In other words, infinite processing and infinite storage capacity interfaced or “entangled” as the geeks liked to say with your brain.  It was virtual intelligence and creativity.  Technological innovation jumped by leaps and bounds, lead to more problems and then more solutions.  With quantum computing size and space were no longer limitations.
You could fit the power, speed and storage of a thousand million supercomputers into a device the size of a cuticle if you were so inclined.  Most gadgets were palm sized, though.  Some tablets of course and digital paper.  Any information, any time, anywhere.  Then it didn’t take long for the early adopters to jump on to the hand held quantum computers with the Go® plan.  As in Go® wherever your heart desires.  As in teleportation at your finger tips.
At a cost, of course.  Greg would have loved to pop off to Paris, Vegas or Miami but you had to pay to play.  Network bandwidth usage fees, the providers claimed.  That was bull, of course.   The cost was really about energy.  It took a considerable amount of energy.  Considerable meaning cosmic levels of energy to punch a whole through space and time and transmit a few trillion atoms in an organized and consistent fashion to the other side of that hole.
The ultra rich also enjoyed the benefit of having their DNA and cells “bleached” with each transmission.  If you could afford the Immorta plan you were golden.  Every fiber of your being, tangibly speaking, cleaned and perfected with every jump.
Bloody, turned-inside-out or “The Fly”-like mishaps were non-existent.  Or maybe they were but they were fixed on the fly by super intelligent processing machines with the capacity of what in the past would have been a supercomputer the size of a mid-sized planet.  So now it was just something to live with.  He had to admit that it was mesmerizing to see your friends avatars blip from one spot on the globe to another and then have them show up at your front door with an actual still chilled bottle of champagne from Champagne.  And he had just seen in the news that it would be a matter of months before antennae and repeaters were in place that would allow you to go gallivanting around the solar system.
Rip-whoosh.  Blue light, red light.  Oh that one was nice.  Kind of like fireworks.  All around you.  You could be anywhere at any time.  And yet here he was walking home alone.  He looked around and saw a surprising number of people also out enjoying the evening.  Eyes glued to their phones, though.
There was a buzz in his pocket as a message arrived on his phone.  He took it out to look at it and found 45,684 spams and one message from Killian.  He was about to open the message when he plowed into a young woman head on.  Both of their phones clattered to the ground.
“Oh hey!  I’m sorry.  Are you okay?”
She looked up at him.  Very pretty.  Big greenish hazel eyes, dimples.  She looked like she wanted to be angry but then gave up the sentiment.
“It’s okay,” she said quietly.  He handed her phone to her.  It was a high end model.  She mustered a smile.
“I’m Greg.  Sorry about that.  Must have been — you know.  Not in the moment.”
She laughed and said, “No harm, no foul.  Hold that thought, Greg.”
Then she was gone in a haze of violet swirling light and the smell of jasmine.
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