This is a mini-fic I wrote for entry into a competition. It didn’t get anywhere. When I read the winning entry and the runners up I realised I had perhaps gone off at a tangent. Still, I quite liked my ficlet and it’s a pity to waste it on some judges who didn’t really want it in the first place. So here you are! A kind of alternative future.
Alice checked the power levels. Despite Michael’s film download things were fine. She was glad they’d moved south when things started deteriorating but even central Portugal couldn’t guarantee sufficient solar power and mountains bristling with wind turbines could also block the sun.
The flicker must be the ISP’s. After the US lost the wars and the oil ran out there were few options. Some solar-powered servers were in the newly independent American Bible Belt, the rest mostly in Saudi or Iraq. Aborigines, working with anti-internet fanatics, closed the Northern Territories to development. Africa was out of the question. Religious leaders controlled what most people could see. Michael chose an Iraqi ISP, reasoning that Saddam, not the most religious man, would be less likely to interfere with content.
But there were still power struggles, terrorists, bombs; half a world away but they could prevent Alice seeing what she so needed to see.
The screen cleared and steadied; she gasped as the young man seemed to walk towards her.
“Michael! He’s here,” she called.
“Hi Gran! Hi Gramps!” His infectious grin made her wish she could hug him.
They worried when Jake chose to spend his gap year travelling; when he settled in New Zealand they worried more.
“It’s a smaller world nowadays,” he said.
They hadn’t even been able to meet Jennifer in person. But now Aiden could visit them once a month, Hussein and Bin Laden willing.
Alice spared a glance at the blue skies beyond her grandson and tried to remember how con trails had once traced lace paths across the world.
They frittered away the precious hour comparing fruit crops and the price of sheep. Too soon, Aiden waved and blew a kiss.
Michael switched to their homepage.
“They’re accusing people of tampering with 3D chat services,” he said, “using a kind of photoshopping technique.” Alice dredged her memory for the term.
He shrugged. “They’re comparing it with postcards from concentration camps,” he said, “but surely we would know if things were that bad?”