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Science Fiction

The DUMp

A futuristic dystopian cyberpunk novel set in the Denver Urban Metropolis, The DUMp moves quickly through several days in a future dominated by technology and danger as Jacinta Durn pursues a quest to learn why her mother is dead, who her father is, and what is happening to the city’s water supply.

From her apartment in the city, Jacinta travels around the Front Range, through the Denver Urban Metropolis, otherwise known as the DUMp, and deep into the Rocky Mountains to connect with scientists, visionaries, and Native Americans. In the end, she comes face-to-face with the difficult choice between Truth and Beauty.

The DUMp


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Chapter 1

A fire engine screamed down the street. I turned and pulled the sheets over my head. Managing to lift my chin all of three centimeters off the pillow, I mumbled, “Time?” The wall screen suspended its animation of a rolling sea and announced, “The time is 8:41am.” 8:41 danced across the wall in infinite variations, eventually dissolving into 8:42. It’s a warped way to wake up, but it lets me drift into the day.


Fallen over.

Forty-two. Four two… two. Four two. Eight four two.

“Damn!” I pushed off the covers and dragged myself out of bed. Late, as usual. “Half sunlight,” I commanded the voice-activated atmosphere controller. The coffee would be stale. The brewer was programmed to start grinding synthetic coffee beans at six fifteen. Real coffee is a luxury I can’t afford. Global warming has destroyed most of the coffee plantations and the only environment suitable for the harvest anymore is a limited space high in the Andes. Still, some habits die hard and for me, the aroma of syntho-coffee — syncafe, as hard-core drinkers call it — is a necessary part of my morning ritual.

I stopped two gray steps out of bed and turned to my computer. “Half sunlight,” I repeated, enunciating carefully toward the tiny mic. The apartment flooded with yellowish light from the antiquated fixtures. I squinted. “No! Half sunlight!” The lights dimmed obligingly. I made a mental note to call the building manager to fix the stupid controller (and the alarm function) and stumbled the rest of the way into the bathroom.

Ten minutes later, after a speedy spray-bath, I was tossing my life into a bag — lipstick, wallet, teargas, powder, music… “UV levels today: above average,” the computer droned in its androgynous digital voice. I had hoped to avoid the not-particularly-attractive coverall today. But above average ultra-violet levels were pretty dangerous, so I pulled a beige, standard-issue full-body coverall over my clothes, snagged my shades, and ran out the door.

Almost. “There is an incoming call,” the computer droned.

“Who from?” I asked, already in the hallway, one hand on the knob.

“The call was initiated from the residence of Derek Moore.”

“Okay. On-screen.” The telcom terminal flickered, then Derek’s face materialized. Long, rectangular face over-defined by the bit-mangling of the terminal, skillfully streaked blonde hair and artificially perma-tanned skin pulled taut by a just-adequate surgeon. Whenever I looked at him I imagined the surfers of the last century — laid-back, without a care in the world. He worked three or four nights a week as a bartender in a hole-in-the-wall bar near the airport, serving drinks to weary travelers seeking relaxation in the faux-Hawaii motif of the Mauna Loa Bar & Grill. “Hi.”

“Hi, honey.” He peered at me through dyed inky-black eyes, taking in my disheveled appearance. “I can see you’ve started your day off in the usual way,” he teased. “I promise I’ll be fast. I just wanted to see you and make sure that we’re still on for tonight. We are still on, aren’t we?”

I racked my brain, pulling my fingers through the tangles in my hair. Tonight? What were the plans for tonight? “Of course, um, I’ve been looking forward to it. What time are you going to pick me up? I should be back from work around six…”

“Great. I’ll see you at 7:30 then. Bye.”

After he disconnected I stared at the blank screen. I had a vague memory of his telling me that he couldn’t see me tonight, that he had to work. Or was that another night?

Work! I snatched my bag and bounded out the door.

Two blocks down I jumped onto the lightrail and fell into an empty seat. Rummaging through my bag for my DATman, my hand closed around the bottle of 95 UVP sunblock and I realized that I had forgotten to apply it. I peeled back the thin sleeve of my coverall and slathered some all over my face and neck. I have watched a few people die slowly from skin cancer. It was not pretty — like what lepers must have looked like, back when leprosy still existed.

Shifting in my seat I boosted the tones of the slummer music on the DATman. Urban, synthesized, hillbilly sound. Mindless and repetitive, just the way I liked it in the mornings.

Outside the window, nameless structures sped by unceasingly. Denver used to be surrounded by open prairie with an endless horizon on three sides, or so my Mom always told me. When her parents moved here in 1973, the Tech Center didn’t exist, and her father’s balcony had a clear, unobstructed view of the mountains. I strained to see the foothills out the right side. I could just make out a dark blur behind the smog. It’s hard to imagine seeing the mountains clearly, unless you were right in them I guess.

These days the eastern part of Colorado made up a human sprawl referred to as the Op, short for the Denver Urban Megalopolis . The DUMp was another popular name for it, but not in the same circles. The DUMp encompassed what once were the independent cities of Pueblo, Colorado Springs, Castle Rock, Denver, Boulder, Fort Collins, Loveland, and Greeley. It was impossible to tell where one ended and the next began. Only the telcos and the direct broadcast holdouts seemed to care exactly where the dividing lines were. Media turf wars have been messy in the past, so there was still some need to make lines on the map. Otherwise, even the government didn’t care in which city you were formally located, as long as you exercised your civic duty and spent money. As there was only one mayor for the entire region, and all public services were equally distributed, I supposed it didn’t really matter where you lived within the sprawl. It all looked pretty much the same, anyhow. I leaned back and settled in more comfortably for the twenty-minute ride, my eyes slitted behind my glasses in an effort to reenter a semiconscious state.

I never seemed to get enough sleep. Probably because there was too much going on at night that I wanted to do besides sleep. I was truly a night person, not a morning person at all. A vampire. I liked that image of myself — dangerous, mysterious, slinking through the shadows of the nightlife. Then again, a vampire would probably be more rebellious than I was.

I caught my reflection in the window. A little on the short side with straight, boring brown hair, and a larger nose than was fashionable. (I counted on fixing it someday when I had more money — at twenty-four and only two years out of university, I was still low on the pay scale.) On top of all that, I was unfashionably thin — low weight being a marker of AIDS. I sighed. I would never be a sim-model.

The lightrail car flew past the Tech Center. A jumble of high-rises rose above a sea of make-shift shanties. About half of the buildings were in some advanced state of decay. Graffiti-covered walls advertised everything from youth groups to full-body antiperspirant with slogans like “I’ve been smelling you,” and “T=√t.” I’ve never been able to figure that one out. I’ve watched old flat 2-d movies of the trains in New York City speeding past Harlem. Eyeless buildings with bricks missing, boarded-up windows, laundry hanging out to dry on the fire escapes. Every time I passed this way I thought of the wretched desolation of a disintegrating civilization.

Ever since the fall of the cable giants, toppled by the direct-beam pioneers and the telcos, the Tech Center has been slowly abandoned by those wishing to distance themselves from the dead. Small pockets of capitalism flourished however; vendors hawking crafts and second-hand items, farmer’s markets of fruit and vegetables brought in from the states to the east by small plane, and a thriving black market for the many newly-contraband things smuggled into the state, like real coffee beans. Derek got me some for my last birthday. Just thinking about the taste of real coffee made my mouth water.

I pulled out my thermos of syncafe and popped a Guarana in one long swallow. It was time to wake up. Love Guarana. It’s an awesome stimulant; better than real coffee even. And cheap too, since the rainforests were occupied twenty-some years ago in the Great Ecological Recovery Program. Every time I turned on the news the anchors were encouraging us to buy rainforest products in order to make GERP economically viable. Of course it’s not enough for the human race to try to fix what we so callously destroyed; someone had to profit.

end of excerpt

The DUMp

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Pomegranate Consulting LLC

Dec 16, 2012



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