Chapter 1

Chapter 1
Photo by Nick on Unsplash

Calvin opened his eyes, the sun was shining through his window so at first all he could see was a blurry bright glow. Ugh, it was a Tuesday - the longest day of the week, all the hard classes stacked in one day coupled with his annoying “GATE” program after school.

GATE stood for “gifted and talented eduction” and Calvin was convinced his parents put him in the program just to torture him. If he wasn’t teased enough at school before GATE, this certainly did the trick.

Calvin stood up, there was no more delaying the inevitable - Tuesday was going to happen whether he liked it or not. Rubbing his eyes one last time he reached for the AR glasses on his bedside table and put them on as he walked out his bedroom door. Descending the stairs overlays of today’s news, school bulletins, the weather, and of course, the most-watched Tik Tok in the last 24-hours dominated his vision. If it wasn’t for the semi-translucence of each window Calvin would have surely started his Tuesday tumbling down the stairs.

The smell of eggs and bacon permeated all thoughts as Calvin reached the bottom of the stairs. You’d think at age 17, having had eggs and bacon easily over 1,000 times, the smell wouldn’t phase him any more, but it was just oh so tantalizing, every single time.

Tom, Calvin’s Dad, was in the kitchen, also wearing AR glasses, sliding eggs from a pan onto a plate just in time for Calvin’s arrival. “Another Tuesday eh bud,” he said handing Calvin the plate, eggs still steaming as he carried it to the table. “Yeah, another Tuesday,” Calvin said with a defeated look on his face.

“You know, you’re lucky to be doing all of the amazing things you’re doing right?” Calvin’s Dad looked at him, sheer optimism painted across his round face. In his late-forties Calvins Dad was a “glass half-full” kind of guy, wearing a black t-shirt that fit too tight, he was neither very tall or very thin.

Calvin wasn’t even paying attention, he had overlayed three different Tik Tok videos that he was watching all at the same time, a fourth panel showed his favorite video game, a first-person shooter Battle Royale that was moving so frenetically it was hard to imagine he was able to make out any of the action.

“Excuse me, Calvin - a little conversion this morning, maybe?” His Dad sat at the table, a giant glass of orange juice sat in front of him, he took a big gulp leaving an orangish-yellow ring around his upper lip for a minute until he wiped it away.

“Look bud, I know it’s not always easy being 17, I was your age once, and the world was a much different place then, but there are so many exciting things ahead of you to look forward to.”

Calvin was still deep in Tik Tok land, a fourth panel was open and he was now watching so many videos his eyes could barely keep up. Then, they all disappeared. Calvin’s Dad had hit the off switch.

“Hello McFly,” he said tapping Calvin on the side of his head softly with his knuckles. “Any chance we can talk for a minute?”

Calvin looked up, teenage angst written all over his face.

“What Dad?” he said begrudgingly.

“Well I was thinking this weekend we could go outside, you know, not for too long but maybe take a pod out to the woods for a quick walk?”

Twenty years ago the air quality in every major city became so toxic that breathing the air could kill you in a matter of minutes without an advanced respirator. This lead to the development of an intricate system of air-tight pneumatic tubes running across the planet, replacing roads and allowing for safe passage from one place to another. Of course, with the growth of augmented and virtual reality, going to physical locations, filled with toxic air, wasn’t a very attractive proposition, but people still did it, in short stints.

“Sure Dad,” said Calvin, finishing his last piece of bacon and already heading for the kitchen. He tossed the dish in the general direction of the sink, a whirring sound could be heard as tiny air jets gently guided the plate through the air and into the dishwasher.

“I have to get to school,” he said, one foot on the first step, he bolted up the rest back up to his room. In the corner was a VR pod, a giant cylinder with a pad at the bottom that operated like a treadmill. Putting his AR glasses back on his nightstand he stepped into the pod and reached up for his VR goggles placing them over his head.

Whoosh - instantly he was standing in a hallway, more kids materialized in front of him as he walked towards the classroom. Another Tuesday.