you bet your skin

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floyd flanagan 2005




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5 Just say paradise


Surveillance mini-cams follow Vinny as he walks through the neighborhood, commenting to his video diary like a tour guide.

"A lot of people on the street today. A mongrel bunch: white, red, yellow, brown, black, purple, tattooed, pierced, dyed. That guy over there looks like he's dead. Great material for game characters. You know, it's a paradox, the more different people try to appear the more they all look alike. But when you get right down to it, there really are just two kinds of people in this world, regular folks and trash. And you can always tell the difference. One look and you know instantly. It's right there in their eyes. And they know that you know. Hey, they know who they are. You can't fake quality.

"This area is getting upgraded fast. Still a few blocks here and there from the 1900s, row houses, old brownstones, boarded up storefronts, hangouts for trash. But they're getting pushed closer to the riverfront every day. I wonder where they'll go from there? Good luck. No, it won't be long before things are all cleaned up around here."

Vinny stops in front of a building undergoing demolition. Some trash are watching from across the street. "It looks like they're going to take out this whole block. These guys really know what they're doing. Look, they've wrapped that ten story in a steel bag. Now, they'll just cinch it up, smash it, drag it off to the compactor, and that's that. Incredible efficiency. Four guys can take out two blocks in one day."

A new habi complex is being assembled on a cleared lot. A stack of walls is fork lifted from a truck bed. Workmen snap on crane cables and the package zooms to the top of the steel frame. "Every panel is an 8x8 panel, chock-full of electronics, power, sanitation, light, food prep, and wrap-around surveillance. It's all in the wall."

The gray sky turns black as evening fades to night. Traffic is heavy. Vinny waits at a crosswalk. The light turns green; but the cross-traffic continues unabated, ignoring the red light in that direction. He waits for a break in the stream, timing his dash like a schoolgirl entering a game of jump rope.

Around the corner, "Another gas jam." A queue of vehicles stretches for blocks. Farther along, the sidewalk crowd is more prosperous, the broadcast ads in synch with the clientele.

"Give Ice a diamond and bring back that spark."

"Jaguar Unica, as rare as its namesake. Drive it if you dare."

Call from autobroker

"Vinny, the oil situation is getting worse."

"Yeah, did you see those lines?"

"They're everywhere."

"That's fantastic!"

"It's all about price."

"More bucks chasing fewer dribbles."

"Last ditch extraction."

"That's where EnerJetics shines."

"And when the oil's gone..."

"With their lock on methane."

"And meanwhile."

"It doesn't get much sweeter that this."

Vinny's InVision flickers and goes blank. In a few seconds it comes back on.

"Did you see that hiccup? Give me more leverage on EnerJetics."

"You know, you've already borrowed..."

"Whatever it takes."

"You should know..."

Another power flicker and everything on the street goes dark. After a moment it's normal again. No one seems to mind.

Vinny turns a corner. The mammoth structure of TheBox fills his view. InVision advertising covers the sides of the great cube with animated logos and action videos. A crowd of people queue up at the portal. He continues his commentary. "I could just stay home and shop the Face, but there's nothing like an authentic experience at TheBox -- I mean, just the scale of it. I can honestly say I'm proud to shop at TheBox. Come here every chance I get." He looks in the direction of a group of trash loitering across the street. "Another thing to feel good about: there's no trash inside TheBox."

He gets in one of the fifty security lines moving slowly toward the entrance. A guard asks the woman in front of him what she's shopping for.

"Just looking for stuff." He scans her bio-identity.

Status red

The guard hooks his thumb to the side. The woman protests. The guard puts his hand on his taser and she leaves. Vinny's scan is green and he enters. Inside, he gets in one of many lines, and waits again. The superstore walls are awash with live action models, perfect in face and form: running, jumping, dancing, flirting. Body parts are featured: pecs, abs, tits, and asses, all moving in sync with the driving music. Finally, he gets to the wall and a closet-size door slides open. A woman exits with a grin on her face. The door slides shut.



"Please turn off your InVision."

The door opens and Vinny squeezes into an enclosure. The door closes with a vacuum hiss. The walls are close. He reclines in a form-fitting lounge chair that adjusts to the memory of his body. As the light dims he is presented with a vista of outer space, constellations, novas, and galaxies fill the sky before him. The blue-green arc of earth rotates slowly at his feet. The crescent moon at his side is close enough to touch. He is alone in vast, silent space. He sighs.

A helper floats into view. "Long time no see, Vinny, and whatever you want, you know we got it."





Vinny selects









As Vinny runs his index finger over the list each category expands into a montage of animated offerings. The choices are as vast as the cosmos in the background.


The dark night of space dissolves into the bucolic landscape of a picture-perfect park. Pigeons circle in the sky. Swans drift slowly on a lake. Families picnic on a manicured lawn. Toddlers chase a ball. Vinny basks in the warmth of the afternoon sun. Then, the peace is shattered by the onslaught of a hundred monster mono-cycles zigzagging through the park from all directions, threatening everything in their path. Birds take flight. People and dogs run for their lives. Not everyone survives. The leader of the pack executes figure eights, donuts, and wheelies across the lawn, finally skidding to a halt. The other bikers follow suit. The lead biker dismounts and slowly removes his helmet -- he's virtual Vinny, wiping road gore from his visor.

The helper says, "And you can ride that road killer home today, right now if you like. What do you say?"

"Whoa, man, that is some machine, but not today."

Shopper Vinny makes another selection from the menu.


Waterfalls spring from the majestic cliffs of Yosemite Valley. A cool, blue river meanders along the forest floor. Then the waterfalls go dry, and Vinny, with a flick of his finger, releases torrents of liquid chocolate from the granite heights. The river runs with rich brown confection -- and right there, virtual Vinny, immersed to his waist in flowing mocha, licks the dark sweetness from the fingers of a chocolate covered nymph.

Helper says, "How about it, I can send you over a case right now. How about two?"

"No thanks. But, you can check my credit status."

"No problem... So there you have it, as always, Vinny, as far as TheBox is concerned you are one solid-gold guy."

"And my debt?"

"Not a problem."

"And my credit threshold?"

"Clear skies and clear sailing! Hey Vinny, speaking of sailing, when's the last time you took a vacation? And while we're on the subject, let me grab you a travel agent."

"Not right now."

"So, what else can I get for you?"

"Send over a dozen rolls of toilet paper."


"That should do it."

"Oh man, just look at you. That shirt is older than yesterday's news. Hey, check this out."

"No thanks.

In a confidential voice, "How's your love life, Vinny? How about that Ice?"

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