Short story written for the Creo Animam concert.
The President’s Last Day
You wake up refreshed, to the soft calls of some bird. It’s much more pleasant than yesterday’s frog. As you clamber out of bed, ALEX, your digital assistant, informs you that it is call of The Greater Prairie Chicken: 7 left in the wild, estimated to survive only 3 more years. The sound is localized, broadcast on tiny speakers only you hear; so as not to wake your partner, whose sleep cycle isn’t quite ready to end.
You shuffle off to your VR chamber, a round empty room with no windows and excellent soundproofing (which has done wonders for your sex life and not in the way you imagined). Your morning routine consists of floating in a new part of the Milky Way while you stretch, do a few exercises of yoga, tai chi and kung fu, followed by some meditation and a grid check. “Mind flossing” you call it; it’s still a struggle, though, you’re not a morning person - even with the adrenaline mindtricks you’ve been practicing. Sure, consciously controlling your adrenaline is a cheap parlour trick, but it adds variety to your normal routine of compassion, altruism and flow state training. ALEX helps; using the small sensors embedded in your scalp, together you’re really getting a feel for your brain.
Things feel pretty normal on your grid, although; there is a twingle of something… just there… probably just your own insecurities: you’re old fashioned enough that losing your job makes you anxious. Funny… Because of sensations from your grid of implants throughout your skin you’ve literally felt the effects on the country as nearly everyone else became unemployed, embraced the Free Economy and universal basic income. You basically got elected because you and ALEX were some of the best at feeding economic data into your grid to experience it physically. But that was almost 7 years ago and a recent Consensus with broad support proposed that you step down. For good. End of an era. The last president.
You’ve accepted. Time to do something more useful.
It’ll be fine; you’ll still participate in government, using the polibucks people give you and spending them to advance your own agenda - same as anyone. You ask ALEX to put a hold on any investments today, political or otherwise. Your mood improves and the anxiety fades as your ties to the political economy come to a temporary halt.
And then you’re sucking back a shake at the morning briefing. It’s delicious; (the shake, not the briefing) some sort of bio-Wonka magic changing the flavour each morning and engineered to perfectly provide for your needs divined both from measurements from your embedded grid and the, uhm, smart toilet. There’ll be fresh fruit at the ceremony, hopefully freshly picked, not the printed fruit artworks your partner loves so much.
Once business is concluded, which isn’t long for a figurehead like yourself, you climb into a self-owned robocab. The Secret Service didn’t much care for you using a robocab and especially disliked the extra serendipity service you subscribed to, but it’s not like the serendipity AI would ever place someone who was a danger to you in the same ride, plus it was a big PR win. Lately though you’ve come to believe that the regular short, private talks with semi-random strangers, usually about their families, helps ground you in ways previous presidents would envy.
Todays mystery co-rider turns his seat towards yours and gives a sardonic grin, “Good morning President! Looks like we’re headed to the same ridiculous ceremony.”
What!? Ugh, it’s your favourite political opponent. His skin is now smooth and a beautiful shade of green while his teeth and hair are brilliant white. He’s re-engineered himself again to appeal to a small group of political patrons he is hoping will assign him their daily polibuck. He must be over 100 now and he is probably photosynthetic. What a jerk.
You wince as greenie volleys some witty banter, “Some of us are too old to retire, if you know what I mean. Too stubborn to ever give up. Haha.”
After a much too long short trip to the monument, you pause while watching him theatrically disembark. You feel relieved that this man will never, ever, take office; and it dawns on you that the serendipity service knew just what you needed… again. You overtip the robocab, just by smiling too long and wide. It thanks you melodiously; your generosity has just earned it enough to invest in the creation of another cab.
Stepping out into a blizzard of helirazzi sets off your grid with with privacy alerts; each of the countless digital eyes publicly broadcasting that they are watching, recording; that this moment lives on forever. It’s appropriate, you think, for this ending to be forever. If the cabs can manage by themselves; ownerless, leaderless; certainly the country can survive without a president.