This week’s challenge for Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction challenge is somethingpunk. It was a fun assignment. I’m not really happy with the story I created, but I like the ridiculous and over-the-top setting that came with it.
The following story is set in a world where mankind has mastered all forms of optics. It is a place where light bows to the whims of man. No photon was spared. This is Lightpunk (or Opticpunk, I haven’t decided yet).
Feel free to add your thoughts.
Flushing the Rainbow
“Hello, thank you for calling Stanley and Stan. My name is Stan, how may I be of service?” said a slim man behind a thick grey mustache to the projection on the wall. Stan waited. Image travels down the pipes instantaneously, but sound is another matter entirely. Some people call it progress. Stan didn’t. The fat lady looking at him started moving her lips. Stan knew what was coming next. “Good Morning. My name is Mrs. Kinsley. I seem to have some problems with the pipes, can you help me? Can you come today? I’m in a hurry. Can you give me a budget? How long will the repair last? This needs to be fixed as quickly as possible”. Stan winced. He hated the teleoptic communicator. Dialog had been a dwindling skill ever since that wretched device was invented. “You called the right place. We here at Stanley and Stan are experts at fixing all kinds of pipes. We just had a cancellation, so I am free right now. Unfortunately, we can only provide you with an estimate of both the time and cost after seeing the damage” Stan said. Another uncomfortably long pause. Stan was lying. No-one had cancelled. In fact, Stan’s appointment book was dangerously thin. “Oh wonderful. Please come quickly” replied the fat lady.
Stan grabbed his toolbox and walked out the door. On the brick road to his car he looked up. In school, Stan was taught that a long time ago men looked up to the stars for guidance. He had never seen the stars. Only the faint bluish glow of The Dome. “Progress” muttered Stan. His rusty car stood right below the edge of the LightLane. “Not everything is bad, though. At least the LightLane keeps Mrs. Pepper from spying the neighbours from across the street” thought Stan. Stan entered his car and followed his usual ritual. Adjust seats: check; adjust mirrors: check; sunglasses: check; polarize filters: check; extend mast: check. Now came Stan’s favourite part. With a push of a button, the bare mast started extending three silvery rods. Each rod dropped a silver drape that shone brightly in the blazing LightLane, slowly inflating as if a sail on an ancient pirate ship. It had a complicated name, Reflective Radiation Pressure Thruster or something like that, but everyone just called it a sail. Stan released the brakes and followed the network of LightLanes until his destination, a gated community in the expensive side of town.
Mrs. Kinsley waited for him at the door. “Thank god you are here” said Mrs. Kinsley. “I have an important meeting in the afternoon and I need to have this fixed by then”. Stan paused briefly before answering: “I’ll see what I can do”. She ushered Stan through the lavishly decorated house to the kitchen. “It’s the stove. I can’t get it to work. How am I supposed to make supper?” she said as her finger pointed to an impeccably polished stove. “Let’s see” muttered Stan as he approached the defective appliance. His first move was to turn it on. If this was a regular stove, Stan should be able to see half a dozen small beams of very powerful light converge on the center, where the food belonged. But this wasn’t a regular stove. It was one of those “revolutionary” new models. It used a light beam so powerful that it couldn’t be seen. Or at least, that is what Stan was told. Stan checked his toolbox and grabbed an Excitation Driven Fluorescent Surface, or smoked mirror, as he called it, and placed on the stove. The smoked mirror should glow in the presence of this mysterious invisible light. It didn’t. So no light, visible or otherwise, was coming out of the beam dispenser. Stan risked placing his eye directly in front of the holes in the dispenser. Only the darkness stared back. He flashed a flashlight into another of the holes. The dispenser glowed faintly. “Well, this seems to be in working order” said Stan, “the problem is upstream. I’d like to check the fuses”. Mrs. Kinsley guided Stan to the fuse box in the garage. Stan cautiously rotated the safety handle, placing an optic blocker in the path of the house’s Main Lightbeam. Then he carefully removed each of the fuses and meticulously inspected them against the light of the flashlight. “The fuses are very thin pieces of glass. If more than a certain amount of light passes through them, they overheat and shatter, dispersing the light harmlessly” Stan tried to explain his craft to Mrs. Kinsley, but she didn’t seem too interested. All the fuses turned out to be flawless. “This means the problem must be in the pipes themselves” said Stan as he scratched his head.
Stan reached for his toolbox and took a coil of thin wire and an overly used orange box with a large dial and a monochromatic display. He plugged one end of the wire to the box and inserted the other in the tube leading to the stove. He turned the dial all the way to the right and waited. The box sent short-lived beams through the pipe and measured how long it took them to come back. Stan waited for a few moments until the display came to life and showed a technical schematic of the pipe to the stove. Just two meters ahead, there was an obstruction. “I’ve seen the problem and I’m going to try ablating it. I suggest you avert your eyes” said Stan to Mrs. Kinsley. He turned the dial all the way to the left and a very bright light came out of the wire. Shortly afterwards, a burnt smell came from the hole as well. With a small pair of tongs he scooped out the remaining of the obstruction: a charred pyramid of crystal. “Do you know what this is?” Stan asked Mrs. Kinsley. “No” she coyly replied. “Kids use these things to get high. Light passing through these prisms is split into components that directly stimulate the pleasure center of the brain. I’ll have to call the police, and you should probably call a lawyer” said Stan as he walked out of the garage.