Sunday, July 25, 2010

Six to go!

I'm fresh back to Pittsburgh (or maybe stale back would be the right term) and just eight minutes ago finished today's story.  Eep.  That close to failure.

Nevertheless, here is is.  Now to sleep.

Michael Swanwick

The older he grew, the better his eyesight.  Ian Irving had no explanation for that.  It just was.  His optometrist had no explanation for it either – it rather frightened him.  One year Irving’s vision was 20/20, a few years later it was 20/10.  And it kept getting better.  20/8, 20/5, 20/3, 20/1 . . .  There didn’t seem to be any limit to how much his eyesight could improve.

By the time Irving was in his nineties his vision had grown so acute that it became a problem.  He took to wearing blue-glass welder’s goggles just to keep his sight down to crystal clarity.

And then rejuvenation was invented.  For a fee no more than would buy a weekend at a luxury spa, anybody’s body could be restored to the health and strength and sexual vigor of a twenty-year-old.  To say nothing of the good looks.  It took almost no time whatsoever for everybody to realize that this was tantamount to immortality.  And only three decades after that for it to become obvious that when people keep getting born and nobody dies of natural causes, you’ve got a serious overpopulation problem.  Resources like space and water and food quickly grew scarce.

Twenty years into the Population Bloom, Irving was working for the Mont-Mégantic Observatory as a human research telescope, confirming observations made by their other land-based instruments.  By the time the Great Starvation was over and the world population had crashed from its height of five trillion to a more sustainable seventeen billion, the Canadian government had declared him a Living National Treasure, second only to the Hubble VII which, though built by their vassal territories to the south, was a wholly-owned property of CANSA.

His eyesight continued to improve.

Civilizations rose and fell behind him as Irving’s sight pierced further and further into the universe.  He saw galaxies a-borning and the first planets coalescing out of primal smoke and gases.  He saw all the way back to the Big Bang and then deep into what came before it.

Then one day Irving was approached by a man dressed in the traditional beaver hat and ice-worm silks of the Northern Empire.  “I wonder if you’d mind, sir,” the stranger said.  “I’d like to measure your absolute visual acuity.”  He held up what looked to be a an optical instrument which the police were later to determine contained both blinding lasers and eyeball-penetrating knives.

But Irving just smiled.  “Oh no you don’t,” he said.  “I can see right through you.”j


1 comment:

Michael Swanwick said...

Well, I wrote it in time. But I see I'm going to have to rewrite it in order for it to make sense.

It'll be a busy day, I'm afraid.