butterfly by thematthewknot

This is an Optimistic Science Fiction Story About the Future

In Fiction by

We all have jetpacks. I’m an old, overweight man with hairy legs, and I have a jetpack. No one judges and the jetpacks don’t care. They run on clean energy and smell like sesame seeds. The right-of-way laws are complicated.

The danger of jetpack injuries results in a new type of “helicopter parent,” though some opt for drones that follow their kids around. That’s tricky because most kids can hack their parental drones and send them chasing butterflies instead.

My children are butterflies, flitting through the sky in jewel colors. No one asks me if I’m babysitting, or who the mother is. I tie ribbons of parachute silk to their ankles as they leave home so I can track their swerves against the cloudless sky. (Weather control reserves cloud cover and rain for between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., weekdays. It manages this as a polite afterthought while keeping climates stable, cleaning up after messy humanity.) Rainbows of colour make every day seem like a pride parade.

In the future, we have perfected gaydar. Dating is much simpler. You can gauge a potential date’s interest by pointing your gaydar at his jet pack. Or his six-pack. Whatever grabs your attention.

No one cares that I’m gay. Politicians and even sports stars can be gay and admit it and be accepted. Fear comes from ignorance and shame, and we have working gaydar. Everyone is free to dress femme or butch or a mixture of the two because there is no need to throw signals, subtle or blatant.

There is, in fact, no downside to working gaydar.

Well, it can’t fix bad taste. Fashion is too revealing and unappealing to me, though I always thought I’d never say things like “Today’s fashion is too revealing and unappealing.”

Not the parachute silk ribbons, of course. Everyone loves those, and they should. Fluttery ribbons find their way into non-jetpack-wear. Bicycle chains and roller skates tangle. Parents post signs that say: “Cool kids know that jetpack-wear is for jetpacks only.” No one stops wearing ribbons to roller skate. Sidewalks are painted intense blue because the ribbon colours look best against it.

The sidewalks are soft underfoot, spongy and always clean. With controlled weather, I don’t have to walk on a twisted landscape of frozen footprints all February on my way to work. Or I wouldn’t, if I didn’t take my jetpack.

Why are jetpacks so important? I don’t know. They are more important than flying cars, which are stuffy and closed and really not much different from regular cars when you think about it.

To keep traffic simple, the cars only fly four feet off the ground. Because we don’t need to maintain a surface for tires anymore, the roads are planted with flowers. Rain filters naturally into the soil. No oil-slick puddles. Refreshing green and colour against the blue sidewalks. Hyacinths mean yield. Daisies mean no-passing zone. Hibiscus mark construction zones where gardeners diligently put in a new line of jonquils to mark the soft shoulder.

Because there are no roads, no flash floods, no oil-spilling gas stations, the water treatment system is never overloaded. The urban streams smell sweet and ripple with slippery little fish.

Maybe we don’t have flying cars, or jetpacks, but we do have gaydar, and children grown in jars on your mantelpiece from gametes of either gender so no one questions two dads, three dads, no dads. No one asks what makes a family “real.” All families are real.

In the future, we have heads-up displays that alert you when you’re about to stomp through someone’s feelings like an untrained Labrador. Confirmation bias is combatted right in your search engine. Privileges are pointed out with a friendly pink border. Possibly floral. We merge our lives like traffic. The politest, easiest traffic.

You can customize your holographic buddy who lets you know when you’re about to say something stupid—and he always lets you know before because he’s trained with thousands of hours of recorded you. He knows you better than yourself and will drop an agreed-upon hint. Something like “tangelo” or “That’s racist, asshole.”

Because you never say unfeelingly stupid things your chances are not blown with that gorgeous boy back in college.

Because this is an optimistic story about the future I won’t mention war and poverty; those are gone. Nothing goes extinct. We’re more concerned with AI rights and if our jetpacks are sentient enough to count as pets. The drones certainly are.

In the future, your drone falling in love with your child’s jetpack will be a common problem. There will be support groups and conflicting opinions—huge flame wars over whether to let them be or separate them or wipe their memories. Well, there would be flame wars, except we don’t have those anymore because our holograms stop us before we post anything vitriolic.

The internet is very nice in the future: 15% more kitten videos and 100% fewer Nazis.

Because this is an optimistic story about the future, you are probably expecting some inner darkness, some hint that all is not well in the narrator’s present. Something more than still feeling angst over that pretty boy in college. He had eyes like melted caramels.

Perhaps the writer lost his father in a car accident and that is why the flying cars are so idyllic and the roads covered in flowers are a veiled reference to the piles left at the accident site. Perhaps his mother hit on the wrong woman and was beaten brutally and that is why gaydar seems such a very important invention.

That’s not true. It was the girl next door’s mother.

What are you hiding, hairy-legged man from the future?

Perhaps the problems of the present just seem so insurmountable that any future at all is asking a bit much.

Nope. This is an optimistic story about the future. Even if the beautiful boy with the caramel eyes did marry that bitchy girl from organic chemistry, there will be other beautiful boys, shining like butterflies, soaring through the skies.

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Copyright © 2018 Marie Vibbert
Image credit: butterfly by thematthewknot, Creative Commons BY 2.0

Marie VibbertBesides selling twenty-odd short stories, a dozen poems and a few comics, Marie Vibbert has been a medieval (SCA) squire, ridden 17% of the roller coasters in the United States and has played O-line and D-line for the Cleveland Fusion women’s tackle football team.