Dreamt that me and my best friend had been kidnapped, tied up, and beaten. As we sit against the crumbling concrete wall, I looked up towards a hole in the ceiling were a younger boy looked down at us. Looking down, he could see my bloody face, broken jaw, and the maggots that had taken up residence in the wounds. As our torturer approached, all I could think of was that boy, knowing that if he was seen, he’d be killed. My conscious awareness began moving backward and forward through time.
I am on a ruined Earth. War has raged for decades and little remains except shattered buildings and the industries needed to maintain the war machine. 90% of my body has been replaced by cybernetic weapons and I look much like robocop, my face hidden by a featureless HUD face plate. I walk alone down a dirt road and I hear the roar of enemy trucks from beyond the hill. Out of ammo and with no reinforcements, I choose to hide in a mound of junk metal. If I stand perfectly still and hide the parts that are still human flesh, they may not recognize what I am.
Early childhood. I approach the swing set where my best friend, his sister, and I used to play. He is swinging and she is leaning on the steel supports nearby. “I wish you were dead,” she says. “So do I,” I reply.
I am on one of the many artificial moons that now orbit the Earth. Some so close that you can see buildings and neighborhoods on them. A common past time for those rich enough to stay on Earth is to watch the orbital communities pass through the night sky. As a new soldier, I’d just been fitted with my cybernetic exoskeleton. I’m still mostly human, but the HUD face plate hides what’s left of my jaw.
Early childhood. I am playing with my best friend in the unfinished basement of his house. We are modeling the orbital communities with a basket ball and some dinner plates. We image what it must be like to zoom through the sky. Do the people get dizzy? How do they stay on them?
Teenager. My best friend, who is slightly older than me, has joined the military. He, like most people, cannot afford school. Combat service is his only option. I cry as I watch the Nazis-looking officers — dressed in long, tan leather trench coats — march him away.
I am back in the crumbling building, bound, looking up at the child looking down on me through the hole in the ceiling. And I know that somehow, that child is me.