On Friday March 9th, 2018, Gryphon Development published an astonishing short story on their corporate blog. It is a piece of near-future speculative fiction written in the second person, that same technique used in the Choose Your Own Adventure novels that I devoured in my youth. The tale is a subtle take on a modern urban dystopia that’s part Ex Machina and part Ray Bradbury’s There Will Come Soft Rains mixed with J.G. Ballard’s High-Rise.
Any art that borrows or references from such signifiant and disparate sources deserves a closer look. Here’s my paragraph by paragraph speculative annotation of the short story Starting Your Day at Westbury. [Editor’s Note: the post seems to have been removed]
This is a work of satire.
It’s 7am and you are just settling in for your morning coffee on your private rooftop terrace at Westbury, admiring the mountain views. The sun has just finished its ascending climb and you see your neighbors June and Ian returning home from their morning jog to prepare breakfast for their elementary school children. You wave hi as you sip on your coffee.
You are the center of this story, the main character in this drama, living alone in a remote rooftop penthouse in a world where the sun reaches its zenith at 7AM. A spooky post-apocalyptic early morning world. Your neighbors are joggers who possess oddly normal names. You’re friendly with them but also silently judge them, their futile fitness regime, and their loathsome children from your position high above as you sip from a cup of ludicrously hot locally roasted artisanal dark blend.
“Hey June, how’s the parent school advisory role suiting you? You mentioned Crofton is doing a fundraiser luncheon next month?”
June, an avid supplicant to big pharma advertorials and self-improvement hashtags, has been advising various committees and panels through a soporific haze of chemicals and good, if somewhat loosely defined, intentions for several years. Crofton is an assisted-living compound located nearby that’s surrounded by 12 foot concrete walls and patrolled by armed commissars. Visitors are subjected to a ‘precautionary vapour bath’ before being allowed to enter the premises to visit their aging kin. The previous fundraiser luncheon took a tragic turn when someone brought out the wrong jello platter and poor Mrs Lansdowne leapt from the second floor balcony flapping her arms and loudly claiming to be a bird of paradise.
“Oh yes – we’ll have all the parents over to chat about the next overseas learning trip with their teachers to Europe and host a fundraiser to cover the cost of the trip. Will you be joining?”
Overseas learning trip is code for scoring some good Moroccan hash from the hustlers outside the Sagrada Família while your children stare with a mixture of lurid fascination and creeping horror at Gaudi’s famous frescoes.
“For sure – Kathryn has been talking about this potential Europe travel-and-learn for a while now, would love to learn more about it and support in any way we can.”
You are Kathryn and Kathryn is an alien shapeshifter who swallowed you whole and digested you overnight several weeks ago. Your disappearance has gone unnoticed. For years you’ve been receding from the world, moving from one remote strata living environment to another, putting more and more distance between yourself and the communities that you used to know until you finally, literally, disappeared.
You exchange goodbyes and you return indoors to respond to some emails in the kitchen, charging your laptop under the kitchen counter using the USB charging outlets. You steam some vegetables and fish in the steam oven to prepare a health-conscious lunch for the kids before going to wake them. The kids run to the bathroom to get ready – luckily the double sinks and mirrors allow both children to get ready at the same time. You get ready in your own bathroom using the makeup mirror with built-in lighting, a perfect detail your previous homes all seemed to miss. The motion-sensor lights turn on as you walk into the walk-in closet to pick out your outfit for the day and you make some tweaks to your accessories looking at the custom full-length mirror that came with the home, another feature you simply can’t live without.
The steamed fish are experimental organisms that you plucked from the dreams of Ian and June’s children several weeks ago. Keeping them in the freezer for quick lunch prep is one of your proudest human adaptations. The bathroom is a disorienting space full of unnecessary flashing lights and reflective surfaces and its no wonder that some humans become transfixed by this environment. They love to be surrounded by shimmering alternate versions of themselves in the artificial light of this doomed world.
It’s 8:30am and the kids are clamoring down the stairs without turning on the lights – thank goodness for the step lights on the stairs – and hastily throw their slippers into the drawers integrated under the first step of the stairs. You retrieve your boots from the shoe closet with built-in boot-friendly shoe racks and hurry the kids out the front and down the secure elevator to your car in the parkade.
The parkade is where you do some of your best work, it’s where your alien desires find their truest expression. Nobody has seen the janitor since Thursday and you know why. She was emptying the mop bucket in the disposal vat near the hydraulic scooter storage unit when you caught her with a deadly shiver of your prehensile tail. The beams of light from your eyes disintegrated her organic form but left the rubber yellow overalls and the starched white collared shirt with its star-shaped strata insignia for you to dispose of in the pressurized garbage chute.
Just another hassle-free morning at Westbury, where every detail is tailored to lower your stress level. Register today at sweetmotherofgod.com to discover the many benefits of hassle-free strata living within the prestigious Arbutus Ridge neighborhood.
Your stress level has been reset. Your hunger briefly sated and your reign over Arbutus Ridge has only just begun.