I keep being reminded, by things happening today, of things I wrote ten years or so ago. PLanning to insert chips into employees to ‘enable’ them to access amenities, reminded me of this one — unfortunately. And I honestly believe that is how the powers that be will circumvent the self-inflicted downfall of capitalism that is already in progress and that it will start as everything does, in small ways first. Thereafter they will just ‘enable’ us all to access some things and not others!

The future’s here and it’s SCARY.

The Dispensary

Tatum walked through the deserted high suburbs towards the low white buildings of the Dispensary. The only residents here were the feral cats and vermin. Life on the outside was too harsh for her now so she had come for aid. She had skills, qualifications. Maybe not the skills they wanted but she would do anything.

Last time they’d given her nutritional supplements and turned her away. “This one is a super processor,” she’d heard the chip analyst say, “Supplements only.” That meant she wasn’t from the genetic pool they wanted. She carried genes for obesity, intelligence and creativity. People like that had a tendency to be fat, physically lazy and imaginative enough to make trouble.

Tatum knew the buildings of the Dispensary well. She had helped develop the facility; had been instrumental in training some of the operatives. She had tried to give them a sense of moral responsibility for what they were doing. It was important that all the measures put in place to combat disease, provide employment and share resources be equitable and humane. Nowadays the operatives trained each other and left moral concerns to the Global Committee.

Tatum pulled the fur coat she’d found at the fill sites tight around her. She was more coat than woman now. Flurries of snow were beginning to fall. From this elevation she could still make out the coastline and the ever encroaching rubbish slick just off-shore. If the snow lay you wouldn’t be able to see where the land ended and the great North Pacific Gyre began. It would all look like bleached plastic. They’d probably put her to work on that floating toxic heap. Still it didn’t stink like… She looked back towards the land fills where she’d picked out a living. Life was rubbish whichever way she turned but at least this way she would stay alive.

The automatic door slid open. A mechanical voice said, “Welcome. Please place your left wrist over the consul scanner.” This had all been automated. She wondered what the chip analysts did for food these days. A barrier was lowered and she went into the booth.
“Chip expired,” said the voice.
“What does that mean, ‘chip expired’?” she asked, looking for the camera she knew was somewhere.
“Operator to booth 9.”
A young man approached. “If you’d like to step this way um, Tatum,” he said consulting an electopad.

“What does it mean expired?” Her voice wavered.
“The systems run off plasma processors now. They cannot interpret your chip. You will receive a new one.”
“Right.”
“Functions change. We will require fresh information.”
Tatum looked at the bland and Spartan surroundings. This kind of impersonal atmosphere was exactly what she’d fought to prevent. But efficiency and accountability had become expediency and dissenters to the new regime had been relocated. She wondered whether Dr. Fiche was still Director.

It was warm enough to remove her coat but she still shivered, missing its accustomed weight. In the booth there was a bed, a table and a chair. Tatum sat in front of the interactive screen and answered all the questions put to her, submitting with ill grace to the various scans.
“Age?”
“59…”
“Status?”
“Outsider. Super Processor.”
“Last employ?”
Paneuropia Dispensary G666 C grade.” It seemed a long ordeal. Each answer was verified by a RetNaScan.

“I will fit your chip,” said the operative coolly.
“Will it hurt?”
He didn’t answer. He swabbed her left wrist and removed the sub-dermal chip deftly. It hurt a little.
“Is there any work here? I’m a geneticist. I wrote, ‘Mutant Man,’ you know.”
The operative made no reply.
“Dr. Tatum Fenton?”
Still there was no hint of recognition.
“Dr. Fiche would remember me.”
The operative replaced the chip with one from the computer output tray. None of this technology was familiar to her and the young man, what was he? Some kind of robot?
“Can I get some food here? I’m so very hungry. I walked all the way down from the fills you see,” she said. “It took me days.” Her voice tailed off.
He remained impassive.

They brought her some real food if you could call it that. It looked grey and tasted synthetic. Afterwards she was asked to check the information on her new implant and confirm it with her secret pin number.
She waved her wrist over the scanner and the screen glowed green.
“There’s nothing on here but today’s date,” she said.
“That is correct. Please insert your pin.” The operative left.

Tatum keyed in the number. She felt the chip tingle in her arm and waited for the rest of the information to appear on the screen. Maybe it took a while to process. The young man had been so uncommunicative; she wasn’t really sure what she was supposed to do. She was so tired though – drained – drained from years scavenging the fill sites, tired from the walk, exhausted and confused by all the new technology. At least it was warm here and she had a full stomach. Still the screen was blank and somewhat distorted. It was a relief to go and lie on the bed. She felt a little dizzy and heavy – as if she was falling…falling…

Oonah V Joslin

First published 2008 in Static Movement