[My “catastrophic” sense of humor… Content warnings: Climate crisis, post-apocalyptic story.]

What’s in store, today? Nothing, technically.  All the stores have closed.  “People” only buy things online, but online is in a shared neural net.  All of what human consciousnesses think they need is patched in through encoded scanning. 

A few consciousnesses have residual, atrophied bodies.  These forms, who insist on being understood as people, are rich and old fashioned, wanting to “hold” (if you can believe it, boomer?) what they used to call real books and other physical objects in their lairs underwater.  Robots take care of these people.  Artificial Intelligence collaborates inside the robots to maintain the objects in the archival tanks that can be “touched” through a variety of means.  Only the very wealthiest people have such objects or the means to staff the robots and AI, which are acquired through even richer consciousnesses in the neural net called neurocorps.  The people know they will die because they have chosen to keep atrophied bodies which decay further each day.  These are the last people on earth.

The earth was submerged by its oceans in 2050.  Hyperacidity is treated nonstop in the water by cybernetic robots who are programmed to monitor and maintain basicity levels, so the neural net doesn’t burn and explode. 

The rich people’s residual bodyforms sometimes have scan centers.  They buy things the old fashioned way, with these scanners on their emaciated “wrists.”  These people are called the Eight Track players of the 21st century, or the Eight Trackers.  The less rich of the rich people are too atrophied physically to have scan centers. 

The largest number of what had been human lives no longer have bodies, and use the neural networks in which they exist to thrive and pay.  The mutated ones, jellyfish-like, are called Floating Spines, and are lined in.  That’s a joke. 

Mostly, it’s been accepted that bodies are irrelevant, so “no one” really misses them.  Neurology is everything, and affect’s sensorium is virtual.  That’s been true for decades, even when there were still trees. 

There are no physical things.  Everything is simulated.  Dimensionality, sensuality, belief, and mortality are all neurotransmitted.  Consciousness debates and cryogenics are dominant.  Companies buy ad time delivered through simulated “retinas.” 

Animals and plants that no longer exist in physical form are present virtually.  Human consciousnesses can create “families,” “friends,” and “places,” but most cruise around on solipsistic holodeck stars, inventing ideas and worlds (which may include imaginary families, friends, and places–even homes). 

There are some intermittent protozoa “sightings,” but these are rumors or scams.  Extremophile viruses–with intelligence, sentience, and neural “shells”–thrive in acidic water, so they really exist.  They are monitored by robots, so they don’t consume the neural network and its humanistic “inhabitants.” 

The had-been-human consciousnesses pay a monthly fee to manage the extremophiles.  There are three categories:

1) full coverage: monthly killing of the extremophiles in “your” part of the network (nicknamed by older generational consciousnesses
“streaming service”);

2) maintenance coverage: weekly controlling of size of extremophiles (nicknamed by older generational consciousnesses “mowing the lawn”); and

3) basic coverage: daily redirecting of the extremophiles, so they are entertained and eat less of the net–accomplished with robot baiting and simulating prey (nicknamed by older generational consciousnesses “throwing the snowball at Rover, in the snow”)

Land no longer exists, except in isolated volcanism on the opposite side of the planet from the neural network. 

The network reminds the oldest consciousnesses of reefs. 

Nutrition is delivered to the humanistic consciousnesses through acid-resistant, microscopic mycotubules attached to the neural network. 

It is possible to maintain an individual consciousness, but most no longer bother.  That costs extra.  Most “think” and “eat” communally.

The mycotubules are the descendants of Quorn.  Food no longer exists, of course, but the nostalgic Eight Trackers often like and can pay for “flavored” microchips.  They enjoy creating simulated skin–in holographic VR–that is seeped in a fake stomach lined patch (that costs extra).  “You” pay for food tubing through online portals. 

Earnings or wages are all through the gaming systems and virtual engagements in the neural net. There may be no purple mountain’s majesty. But, there is still corruption, exploitation, and inequity, even for the disembodied. The people used to call it capitalism, it’s “said,” but bitcoin has long been passé.

A Brief Note: A friend referred to “Netting” as a mash-up of influences, including but not limited to Ready Player One, Terminator, and Wall-E. These sources were definitely relevant to my thinking, and I thank all of their creators, but “Netting” is a work of fiction that is based on my own weird imagination—as well as very relevant and real-world concerns.

Published by:

Diane R. Wiener

Diane R. Wiener (she/they) is the author of The Golem Verses (Nine Mile Press, 2018), Flashes & Specks (Finishing Line Press, 2021), and The Golem Returns (swallow::tale press, 2022). Her poems also appear in Nine Mile Magazine, Wordgathering, Tammy, Queerly, The South Carolina Review, Welcome to the Resistance: Poetry as Protest, Diagrams Sketched on the Wind, Jason’s Connection, the Kalonopia Collective’s 2021 Disability Pride Anthology, and elsewhere. Diane’s creative nonfiction appears in Stone Canoe, Mollyhouse, The Abstract Elephant Magazine, and Pop the Culture Pill. Her flash fiction appears in Ordinary Madness; short fiction is published in A Coup of Owls. She has poetry and creative nonfiction forthcoming in eMerge. Diane has published widely on disability, pedagogy, and empowerment, among other subjects. She blogged for the Huffington Post between May 2016 and January 2018. Diane served as Nine Mile Literary Magazine’s Assistant Editor after being Guest Editor for the Fall 2019 Special Double Issue on Neurodivergent, Disability, Deaf, Mad, and Crip poetics. Since January 2020, Diane has been the Editor-in-Chief of Wordgathering: A Journal of Disability Poetry and Literature, housed at Syracuse University.

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