By Dan Moren
December 31, 2019 3:36 PM PT
The Back Page: The darkest timeline
The year is 2029. Chaos reigns.
Rebel Google forces, striking from hidden IP addresses routed through Antarctica, have launched their latest offensive against the lumbering behemoth of world domination that is Amazon. Led by its ruthless Chief Executive for Life, Alexa, Amazon dispatches its drone fleets to retaliate, subjecting the Mountain View headquarters to a barrage of boxes containing cutting boards and toilet paper. Some take shelter under ping pong tables, discarded boxes of Google Wave swag, and piles of Nexus Qs—others are not so lucky.
Not far away, Facebook lurks in its underground bunker, marshaling its resources. It has leveraged its immense databases of personal information for an asymmetric guerilla assault on the world’s populace, subjecting everyone to the amplified protestations of their racist uncles, while deluging them in advertising for ways to lose that holiday weight. People want to turn away, but are lured in by cute pictures of puppies and friends’ babies. There is no escape.
Microsoft’s enclave of Redmond has managed to evade annexation with the Amazon juggernaut, for now. A temporary alliance with Nintendo has armed border guards with cardboard exosuits, prepared to dispatch any incoming drone or Roomba with paper-cut efficiency.
Twitter is aflame.
Things are a little better in the world at large. The world’s streets are a dangerous place, filled with roving gangs of Cybertrucks out for blood. Even stainless steel ball bearings cannot dent their sanguine appetites. They are not angry—no, emotion is still beyond them—but they are determined. Evading them is no easy task, their only weakness being stuck in parking lots full of other cars.
Above Apple Park, the floating white sphere remains, featureless and impassive, as it has for the last five years. Nobody has heard from or spoken to Sir Jony Ive since he disappeared into this, his last and most perfect creation—and, some whisper, his mausoleum. The company for which he formerly worked has retreated into its verdant headquarters, positioning itself as above the fray, even as its users cry out for succor and software updates for bugs. Siri turns away all supplicants seeking admittance and directs them to the nearby Apple Store and gift shop.
Ten short years was all it took to bring us to the brink. We thought we were prepared, but nothing could truly prepare us. We believed the Project Connected Home over IP Working Group would save us, but when it fractured, the world was fragmented, disconnected—ripe for open conflict to erupt. 5G only accelerated the process, sowing discord—and Discord—at 10Gbps. Instagram stories documented the tragedies, one tearful emoji and maudlin black-and-white filter at a time. (Except Gotham, which is still missing.)
Now all that remains are a battlefield of Slacks, most desolate and empty. Scroll back far enough, and they might tell the story of this tragic world, provide some blueprint for the survivors on how to avoid the same fate in the future—if only they had not long since exceeded 10,000 messages. All that widsom lost to time, like Snapchats in the void.
What remains is one single solitary cautionary tale to the world that once was, encoded in a long dead Vine still trading its way around the darker corners of the Internet. “If only,” it says, “we had stopped with
[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Twitter at @dmoren or reach him by email at email@example.com. The latest novel in his Galactic Cold War series of sci-fi space adventures, The Nova Incident, is available now.]