“You can’t go back to normal. I don’t even know what that is.”
Hydrogen Car, Unlimited
A Short Story of Fiction
-by James Legare
A Brief Introduction
I had never seen a dawn so bright as that in my mind as I had imagined that morning, early, before the first light; the sunrise yet to take place; the clouds yet to part near the horizon, to reveal its magnificence, bold and brash. In my mind, in my heart, the light would chase the darkness into oblivion. The perfect chasm of brilliance, so golden in its entering, there was emerald, that color would be…it would be.
I was in that place; in a place where I imagined myself to be. I was not, but, believed, momentarily, that I was; that I was there, if only I imagined it, if only the very idea of it, if to only see the image. The mere thought of it, that I could occupy that place, brought happiness; a happiness to remain, in what is true, what is real, and was is light. This would be what would remain.
I had merely envisioned the beginning of the story, the future, before it had arrived, that is to say, before its time. And, as I had envisioned it, finally, it began. The future arrives; but not with the staccato of a ticking clock, but the waves of light and time. This is that story.
“The last thing Charlie saw was the test car racing towards him on the sun-warmed asphalt, flying like the wind. Oh yes. Before I forget, it’s important to briefly mention how that part of the story ends.” – The scientist’s voice trailed off.
They surrounded the doctor. This was the part of the crowd at the party that had gathered on the patio, near the pool, separate from the other guests inside the Mid-Century house, to bask in the wisdom of their host, at the edge of the aqua-colored brilliance in the dying light of a Palm Springs evening. The doctor was in the habit of trailing off mid-story, sometimes even mid-sentence. But everyone gave him a pass, someone so obviously handicapped, and disfigured. One had to watch one’s reaction, natural, but rude.
“And don’t forget to tell them about the explosion.” -Irma chimed in with no little satisfaction – a work-a-day woman in sensible shoes and pant suit. The glass she brought to her lips hid her smile, but her ostentatious bracelet jingled. A pause before the draught.
“Oh, yes. Then there’s that.” -thoughtfully, the scientist replied. He paused in his description to ponder the amber-color of the ice tea, the glass sweating in his robotic hand, half-drunk. He was yet to feel at home with that hand, despite the years and physical therapy…then took another sip, gingerly, the robotic hand whizzing and whirring as he did so; a simple action for so many, for his friends standing around him. The motor made a small chirp at the end of the gesture, as though to signal its completion. His false hand, that’s what he liked to call it now; able to do so much, yet he still felt a prisoner from his own disabilities, in his motorized wheel-chair.
Technology still had its limitations.
Charlie had never done well in school. No one would have ever guessed that fact, certainly not now that he was so distinguished by his accomplishments in engineering and, more importantly, energy. He had struggled to achieve average grades in high school. Yet, he was accepted into The Academy. That was no small break. Back then The Academy was something new that rose up out of the wreckage of the economy, the devastation of the environment, and the increasing madness of a faltering global civilization.
The Academy was considered to be a light in the darkness, a butters against the chaos society was descending into. Its true nature and operations would remain a secret, out of necessity. This would have been the mid-twenty-first century. Some things had gotten better, at least for a small sector of society, the thin strata serving the oligarchs. Charlie was cognizant of being surrounded by some of the survivors even here at the party; survivors of the increasingly frequent blackouts, crumbling infrastructure, spreading plagues, the plain appurtenances of society disappearing. Here, around his pool in Palm Springs, this was the thin strata of society that did well. For them, life was better; this was destined; this was how the technocratic society worked. It’s how things emerged.
In a way, it was all inevitable.
Some would say that this acceptance into The Academy had been due to some improper influence. His grades didn’t warrant it, and he had come across as being a bit of a dullard. Although, certainly, there had been no strings pulled by Charlie’s father, who considered science to be:
“…a total waste of time. Be something real, and by that I mean profitable. Why tinker for years on an unproven theory and this and that when you could make cold, hard cash. We live in a short-term world: short-term gain. Get used to it, Dreamy Head. For you, two words: Right Now.”
Hans Voigt, the host’s personal assistant, an employee of the scientist’s, took the glass from Charlie, as it appeared to be too cold, perhaps causing some discomfort, sweating frigid, clear droplets running down. Although, the sensation would have been a false one, carried by wires to Charlie’s brain, inserted into the base of his skull.
The false hand delivered the sensations seamlessly. Although it was still clumsy with regard to day-to-day tasks. He had limited use of it, this robotic hand, which was still experimental. (The low-hanging fruit of technological progress long since taken.) Long metal tubes formed the robotic arm, prosthetically attached.
Despite the difficulties, Charlie smiled genuinely; he loved to entertain.
The false hand took its commands via a signal carried directly from his brain, over the course of wires which tended to get tangled in things if care wasn’t taken, by the Doctor and Voigt. The cutting-edge technology, developed in the 2020’s partly in an effort to repair the lives of so many horribly injured veterans of several unsuccessful Middle East wars, was still imperfect, and somehow made the fact of amputation more grotesque.
If the operation and therapy proved successful, the medical doctors would make the remaining necessary implants available for his remaining limbs. Or, more accurately, there would be more amputations and attachments. The burning had been gruesome. So far, the results were rather disappointing. As it stood, Voigt’s constant attentions were needed – as they had been since the accident.
The small gathering of guests did not notice this small gesture; Voigt removing the glass. He did things seamlessly, that is to say, almost invisibly. This had been his routine for some years now.
Dr. Charlie, he was a Ph.D now, somewhat close to the edge of the pool, dreamily recollected those early years as Voigt returned to the kitchen. ReIt was all different now. It would never be the same. A misty vail descended on all and all things for Dr. Charlie.
The small half-circle of guests, all with drinks in their hands, admiring the patio, were entranced further with the story.
The guest were what passed as the glitterati of the small desert-town, California, now surrounded by battle-worn concrete walls, barricades, riddled with bullet holes. However, as there had been mass migration towards the end, there had been free labor to divert the water via new canals, and power the pumping of water with ever more windmills.
The government and research had supplanted all real industry, all true entrepreneurs. But the centralized government grew weaker and more irrelevant – especially to daily survival of the population of what was once the United States. But, ironically, where would survival be most assured proved to be an area least habitable, that is, outside of the immediate area of the town proper, due to its natural inaccessibility.
The sun drew nearer to the horizon. Shadows grew, from the nearby mountain, spreading like spilt ink. The shadow around his wheel-chair encompassed the patio stones. The guests continued to enjoy the small oasis of comfort, of normalcy. Somewhat drunk with the story, burbling like so many waves; the aqua, the sounds, then silence.
In this telling, progressing chronologically towards the beginning, he resumed his story.
“First of all, Hydrogen Car, Unlimited, LLC, far from being a merely exciting investment opportunity, is the technological means of solving the environmental problems that now plague humanity.” – the company spokesperson addressed the small gathering of reporters, as well as the merely idle-curious. Charlie would never forget that noon-day glare, as he was outdoors, watching the spokesperson take questions, squinting from the glare.
The photographers vied for that perfect angle, with the hope they would capture what would prove to be history. This was during Charlie’s lunch break, a slight reprieve from the scientific work he was doing ‘Upstairs’ as it was called, its own department really – ‘the ideas are born here.’ -Charlie would never forget his first day of work at the company, officially as a contracted consultant. There would be many things about the endeavor worth remembering.
Harnessing the power carried by the Hydrogen atom, for the benefit of all of humanity, began as a high-enough ideal. However, technology becomes its own force, once its advance is realized; brutal practicality becomes a controlling partner; the paths of destiny become randomized; and, one’s vision takes an unpredictable turn.
The hydrogen atom, quite rare in nature when not a hydrogen molecule was not a source of energy for all practical purposes, but instead an energy carrier. By the time Charlie had entered The Academy, the decades and fortunes that had been spent on research attempting to bring about the practical application of the energy transfers that had been envisioned with such enthusiasm were legendary in the sense that history can be legendary – that is to say, safely abandoned. The new vision of the future was the utilization of hyperspace: that is to say, the tunneling through space and time, and utilizing the differences in energy flows that way. Just as a dam can harness energy with its design encompassing the fourth dimension, that of time, so too does the analogy hold with the 5th, through, 10th dimensions. Time travel itself can render free energy. Science had turned its antennas towards the far corners of the galaxy looking for wormholes far off as well as wormholes nearby that would offer shortcuts to the outer reaches of the expanding universe.
The sound of errant, undulating waves from the pool brought the scientist’s attention back to the present. His sight grew blurry due to his physical and mental exhaustion.
The sign, on the horizon, more suitable for a casino in Las Vegas, than a car factory, when illuminated, dominated the desert landscape. From only a few miles away, the one-story letters blared: Hydrogen Car Unlimited.
Here, in front of the pool, twilight was already gathering, with skyward hues of purple and orange-mango. The words would be brightly lit above the low, boxy, dark expanse of the factory, which was all but defunct, competing with the moon. But even after industrial civilization, branding would continue.
It would be just moments before the sun dipped below the horizon to the west. But long after the factory sunk into total darkness to the east, there would be the sign, blazing its message.
Yes. Now there would be no going back.
This has been Chapter 1 of a work of fiction written by James Legare – published 7-12-2021 – Copyright protected – all rights reserved.
“The Boomerang Nebula (our featured image – from wikipedia) is one of the Universe’s peculiar places. In 1995, using the 15-metre Swedish ESO Submillimetre Telescope in Chile, astronomers Sahai and Nyman revealed that it is the coldest place in the Universe found so far. With a temperature of -272C, it is only 1 degree warmer than absolute zero (the lowest limit for all temperatures). Even the -270C background glow from the Big Bang is warmer than this nebula. It is the only object found so far that has a temperature lower than the background radiation.link to wikipedia – Boomerang Nebula
About today’s featured image: By ESA/NASA – link – – Public Domain