The Thin Layer Over The World

The sun sets over the sea, painting leisurely apricot stripes over the sloping hills covered in dark green. White brick houses cluster easily in loose groups, their peaked roofs poking through the foliage like pictures I’ve seen of wild mushrooms. I try to ignore everything else: the signs to the best restaurants in town, pointing and towering over their targets; the minute-by-minute traffic reports (no congestions—surprise); the sea telling me that the temperature is just right for swimming, but remember to put on sunscreen. I’ve never realized how artificial the permanent AR layer over the world looks. The lights had fit snugly like locking bricks in between the glass and metal and gloss of the cities I’m used to, but out here in the wilds of human existence, where you can walk openly down a main road after midnight and people grow their own strawberries in gardens, the AR streams look absurdly fake. Like camera tricks, like badly done computer graphics from the last century.

Excerpt from my story Carrier Signal, published by Crossed Genres in 2010. Here’s how I described it, when I sent an excerpt in my application to a writing programme run by the local chapter of The British Council:

…this cyberpunk story follows a young man named Joseph as he attempts to get his fugitive younger brother “off the grid” in a not-too-distant future where use of augmented reality with biological implants has become as ubiquitous as smartphone use today.

The story was written for a competition that said “include REAL SCIENCE into your science fiction!” and I ran with an article about a man who became the first person to be infected with a computer virus– he deliberately infected an implant he was wearing just because. (Scientists. I should know — I used to be one.)

Funny enough, it seems as though a different aspect of the story is about to cross over into reality first, instead. Google Glass? I’m lookin’ at you.

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