Glynnis pulled her jacket on and slipped a hand into the pocket to retrieve her LEE. Fitting the device over her ear she said, “LEE, play morning commute.” LEE answered with the soft series of clicks that precede each Reverie. As she crossed the threshold of her private quarters into the public space, her world came alive with color, simultaneously novel and familiar. Not unlike Déjà vu or a vivid daydream.
The LEE (Life Enhancing Electronic) used sonic waves to deliver coded images to her subconscious, which then altered her perception of the world around her. The bleak grey of the city melted away into a sea of wildflowers.
Delicate dancing heads cheerfully beckoned her to join them in celebrating the sun’s blessed return to the clear blue sky. The plain concrete buildings morphed into gleaming obelisks of iridescent color. The people on the streets seemed to her to be gliding through the same meadow as she, leaving the flowers bobbing and swaying in their wake.
Glynnis reached her first stop of the morning, a coffee shop only a few blocks from her quarters. As she entered the space, the concrete floor morphed into glittering tiles of pearlescent marble before her. Unadorned white walls were papered with opulent silk flowers and the simple card tables and folding chairs to her looked like heavy mahogany tables surrounded by tufted emerald barrel chairs.
Most businesses by now had figured out that no matter what décor they used, folks would have the room decorated to their own tastes by their LEE. Proprietors were pleased to oblige and diverted into profits the credits once used to create warm and welcoming atmospheres for patrons.
“LEE, order coffee from CS MX36P,” she said as she entered. Her LEE chimed in response, indicating it had connected to the shop’s receiver. The screen near the barista chimed to alert him of a new order and he immediately busied himself with its preparation. When finished he wordlessly handed the cup to Glynnis, who demonstrated her gratitude by receiving her order without disturbing the polite silence.
The barista stared through her while the pair waited for the transaction to complete, lost in a Reverie of his own. After several seconds of wide-eyed mutual gazing, she heard the chime that indicated that her credits had transferred to the coffee shop and the LEE had disconnected from its receiver. She turned from the still staring barista toward the door and back out into her sea of colorful dancing life.
She had taken only a few steps down the sidewalk when the color stopped. She froze midstride and scanned her pallid surroundings. She found no familiar landmark to return her bearings. Panic rose in her chest as she struggled to make sense of the stark gray shapes all around her.
She noticed others that had stopped dead in their tracks, eyes frantically searching for orientation in this strange new world. Her hand flew to her ear to retrieve and examine her LEE, which reported itself to be working by blinking its little green light. If it was working though, where had the color gone?
She was still standing on the sidewalk, dumbly staring at her crippled device when a noise startled her out of her despair.
“Is yours on?” whispered a voice to her left. A woman stood inches away from Glynnis, her own LEE blinking merrily in her hand. Had she been there before the color stopped?
“I… it says it’s on, but it doesn’t seem to be working,” Glynnis croaked in a low whisper, unsure how to proceed. She couldn’t tell how many of the people around her may still be enjoying their Reverie, so she kept her voice as low as possible to avoid breaking their concentration.
She looked at the woman beside her, who was alternating her attention between her silent blinking LEE
and the silent crowd on the street.
The door to the coffee shop banged open and the barista flung himself out onto the sidewalk, eyes wild
“What happened?! Is anyone’s LEE working?!” he shrieked over the crowd. At this, the mood on the
street changed from stunned silence to anxiety.
Murmurs bubbled all around as people began to grasp the gravity of the situation. “The Server,” they
whispered ominously to one another. “The Server must be down.”
Large screens affixed to the top three floors of each building blinked to life and a meticulously groomed
man smiled down at the confused masses on the street below.
“Attention citizens,” he began, his voice warm and soft. “The Server is currently experiencing a planned
outage. We will be back online shortly, and we thank you for your patience and understanding.”
Glynnis searched her memory, had those screens always been there? She hadn’t seen them before,
perhaps they were put up without her notice for just this purpose? She was still pondering the screens
when the woman standing beside her whispered anxiously, “How long?”
Glynnis turned her eyes to the crowd, which had begun to stir and separate into circles of excited
conversation. The low murmur had given way to a wall of sound. People gathered to speculate together
on the cause and duration of the outage; and what sorts of things could result from such a widespread
“He said ‘shortly,’” Glynnis offered hopefully.
The woman, assured the calamity was only temporary, relaxed her shoulders.
Glynnis surveyed the landscape. Gray land abutted darker gray concrete buildings which stretched
listlessly to the only slightly less gray heavens. Her brow furrowed.
“Nothing a coat of paint won’t fix,” the woman reassured her, having noticed her displeasure. She
smiled at Glynnis, who returned in kind and nodded in agreement.
Glynnis tilted her head as she considered the edifice of a tall, windowless concrete tower.
“Yes,” she replied, her smile broadened. “Nothing that can’t be fixed.”
Ooh, that was really neat! Has me wanting more honestly, although it also works well as a short story, of course! Interesting take on the concept of augmented reality; if we were in a world where everybody saw everything through a device, why bother to make it look nice in reality? I would think that, although making beauty digitally is nice too (close to my world, for sure, being someone who does programming and digital modeling), you really can never replace the intangible. And, honestly, I don’t think we ever really will replace that, not entirely, although we can never predict what the future will look like in that regard. But hey, nothing a coat of paint won’t fix!