The Castaways

“You don’t have enough points, sir.”

Sammy pulls his hemp sleeve down and buttons it at the wrist. His face is still, like a pond at daybreak. Eventually, his lips part and a timid voice ripples on the air. “I’ve been biohacked. I’m a victim of identity crime. It’s all noted in my file.”

“Sir. I won’t have my Level VI clearance until next year. All I can see are total number of points and unfortunately it says ‘minus 24.’”

Sammy offers, “I have fresh eggs. You can make an omelette.”

The sentry says, “Sir, if I took a bribe and let you pass through this gate, my hunger would be for something grander than an egg dish.”

Sammy suggests, “I can bring you two live chickens.”

“I’m sorry sir, please move aside. Your fellow citizens are waiting patiently.”

With no points in his account, Sammy knew he’d need to eat the eggs himself and the chickens too. No points is a death sentence. Sammy had read about the old ways. He knew his forefathers had tendered cash for items, but the monetary system crashed back in 2020. Now, with the insertion of a chip reader at birth, every American’s account is loaded with 20,000 credits.

Sammy smiles at the sentry. He turns to make his leave. Biohacking has ruined his life, but it’s no reason to be rude. He knows there is no benefit to dwelling in the past — you either get more points loaded to your bioreader or you’re forever cast out.

“Okay, good day to you.”

The long line of citizens behind him all have their right sleeves rolled up. The sentry’s hand-held reader scans each citizen’s point total, and then draws a drop of blood in a two-step authentication process. The transfer of data and blood typically takes six seconds per person, which keeps the line moving. A citizen near Sammy offers to load 10 points to his bioreader for the fresh eggs. “Thank you, but I need 24 points just to reach zero. My plan is to find a frying pan,” says Sammy.

Prior to the biohacking occurrence, Sammy lived a life of relative comfort. The Co-Op promptly loaded a fresh 1000 points to his account on the first day of each month in return for his services as head groundskeeper and horticulturist. He was also assigned a living space in The Complex. But all of that is gone now. With no points, you can’t pass through the gates set up and enter The Community.

Two weeks ago, Sammy was pruning pear trees in the orchard, eating goat cheese on flatbreads for lunch and sipping Viognier from his rucksack. Since losing his clearance, he hasn’t been home, or to work. Now he lives by the river in a camp of outcasts. His new friends are expert at bow hunting and they’re reportedly great at fishing too, except the river is trickling, not running, right now, a fact that makes the July heat all the tougher to endure.

Back at the camp, Sammy cracks his eggs and scrambles them with fresh dandelions that he collected on his walk. There’s no wine on the outside, and very little water. He eats in silence. A lonely crow bellows from a fir tree in the distance.

The other outcasts are mostly here because they committed violent crimes on the inside. Sammy is the victim of a crime, but you can’t be a victim on the outside and expect to survive for long. No. It’s Sammy’s time to perpetrate a crime, and to transfer whatever ill-begotten points he can acquire and get back inside.

The Co-Op sends armored units into The Territory to dump trash, mine for copper, and hunt for wild game. He will organize the outcasts and plan a surprise slingshot attack.

Sammy wishes he had salt for the eggs, and he wonders about his championship roses. Who is watering the Pink Promises? With too little or too much water, his prized flowers will wilt. Sammy is precise with plants.

He sketches a formula in the wet sand. Math calms him. “I will get by,” he encourages. “I will survive.”

[UPDATE, October 2019: There’s more to the story. More text. More meaning. I am currently shopping it around for publication.]