A Walk Through Blue Wave City on Drawdown Day
An attempt at realistic utopian fiction
Author’s note: Many of the technologies, places, and projects in this short story are inspired by real, in-progress work. Footnotes contain links to projects and concepts happening now that are portrayed as having grown into influential parts of the culture in this fictional future. The second half of this story (with the footnotes) is paywalled, for subscribers only.
I slid down the fire pole from my apartment’s balcony to the grassy walkway below, willing my neural mesh1 to flip my datalens2 to recording mode. Early signs were good that today was the long-hoped-for Drawdown Day, when our atmosphere would finally be on the road to recovery, and I wanted to share every minute of it. When this year’s Blue Number was released, it would be bigger than Midsummer, Saturnalia, and Diwali combined.
“So, I live inland on the landward side of Blue Wave City3, and our Number-release event is on the waterfront, on the seaward shore of the peninsula,” I said aloud, for any future sharers unfamiliar with my hometown’s geography. “I’m Xochitl “Xo” Yakubu, virlogger extraordinaire for BWCM Collective, the Blue Wave City Press Herald, the LivingBay flash thread, and Nami-Shi magazine. My datasphere handle is !XoJourno. On this day, which so many are hoping will be a day of generational importance, I’ll be traversing our fair city, checking in with a few friends and sites of interest, and giving you the feel of the place I live in, as I live it. Let’s go, folks!”
I strolled out into the city, inhaling the fresh scent of the warm breeze and savoring the feel of the noonlight on my skin. I moved out of the meadowy cul-de-sac my apartment building stood in, crossing the pedestrian bridge over St. John Station. Below me, a maglev had just pulled up, disgorging an array of visitors from the Intercontinental Electric Spaceport to the southwest. As I walked on, I slowly moved my gaze around the streets, letting my viewers examine the architectural mélange. Industrial Revolution red brick vied with mid-twentieth century suburban clapboard as representatives of the old order, sharing space with more modern structures ranging from green-roofed wooden longhouses to photovoltaic glass ziggurats. I passed a community theater-in-the-round, a Candomblé terreiro, a holocrafting studio, and a jukado dojo. One edifice, a squat hexagonal building with gray myco-stucco siding and a warm, wood-paneled, fire-lit interior, bore the sign and datatag of New Viands, the neighborhood micro-carnery.4
As I passed by, its vatmaster Dakota Jimenez waved me over. They put down the stylus they were using to rewrite a holo-menu and rapidly clicked through on their datalens to give consent to being recorded. “Hey, Xo, good to see you! For you and all your sharers looking for a great-tasting meal in Blue Wave City, we’re launching a new protein blend for the big event today: the Umami Bomb. It’s a medley of cultivated pork fat cells from Vat Three upstairs, shiitake mushrooms, pea protein, and a few herbs and spices from gardens and greenhouses in the city. We have patties and sausages on sale here and ground to take away, and we’ll start supplying it to the food trucks downtown next week!”
“Sounds great, Dak. I’ll be sure to link to New Viands in the context web for this one.”
“Thanks, Xo! You’re a star.”
I turned my head behind me to wave Dak goodbye as I passed the housing complex towers on my right, Bosco Verticale-style biotecture5 bursting out of their Art Deco façades. A double helix of lilac bushes snaked across the side of one building. They were in bloom, with their beautiful purple-pink flowers standing out against the main field of wind-bonsaied oak trees growing out from the balcony beds. A band of pigeons fluttered up from the sidewalk to the shelter of the overhanging oaks as I walked by. I noticed three blue-and-red male passenger pigeons among them and took a quick burst of images with my datalens. My settings automatically recognized them as animal images and uploaded them to the Naturenet. The genetic resurrection of the passenger pigeon6 was fairly well established now, but the project could always use more citizen science data on how the new/old species was adapting to human-dominated landscapes. The Naturenet was one of the most popular and wholesome parts of the datasphere, a planet-spanning, open-source, constantly updating living library of life7. I always tried to contribute when I came across something unusual.
As I moved towards the denser downtown of Blue Wave City, the streets grew more and more crowded with people. Bicycles, quadricycles, scooters, skateboards, and the occasional autonomous car passed by on the thin strip of pavement, and more people streamed from side streets onto the pedestrianized three-quarters of the road. I passed a couple kissing on a stone bench, holding hands and stroking each other’s hair. Both wore the green shoulder flash of the Restore Corps, meaning they were probably on leave from the new oyster reef construction8 out in the bay. Seeing them, I idly wondered what romantic roles I would have been assigned a hundred years ago. I didn’t really identify with either of the historical binary genders, and neither did most of the people I knew. My grandparents had had to spend time rigorously defining their niches in the socio-sexual spectrum, but my parents had met, fallen in love, and combined their genes in an exowomb9 while identifying themselves primarily as individuals, not feeling the need to select a gender10.
A few minutes later, I moved out of the way of a professional virlogger jogging by. They were wearing a blue mohawk, buffalo plaid-patterned kilt, and gold-embossed steel cuirass, and talking animatedly in a mix of ecclesiastical Latin, Lojban, and Shakespearean English to the hovering camera drone tethered to their wrist. I recognized Kerry Sky, one of the local rising stars in the neo-surrealist genre, and quickened my pace a little. Kerry was a good person and a friendly acquaintance, and under other circumstances I would’ve loved to stop and shoot the breeze. But I was pretty sure they were on a custom entheogen cocktail 11 right now and I didn’t want to disturb the flow of whatever narrative was emerging from their consciousness. Besides, I was recording too, and I wasn’t looking for a new crossover. I was going for a more relaxed, flow-of-the-day type feel, the kind of thing I could relive when I was in exolegs12 in my 120s and smile over.
I kept walking, brushing my fingers absentmindedly along the meandering row of sumacs, alders, and witch-hazels separating the broad pedestrian path from the thin traffic lane. The road took me past the Quiero Café, where a holographic anthropomorphized coffee bean was discussing the merits of their cortados with a potential customer. In the little commons in front of it stood the Younger Dryas13 menhir, a community art project dedicated to remembering the end of the Pleistocene in this land. The six-meter monolith was open for new artwork by anyone whose proposal received three hundred upvotes. Its carvings now included stone-etched triskelions, Eyes of Horus, “Blue Wave City,” invocations of place in other languages from 波特兰 to مين, crab and lobster claws, maple leaves, moose antlers, human hands embossed with mehndi and mandalas, and line sketches of giant sea mink14, great auks, and woolly mammoths. I glanced up towards the top of the stone, and my eye was drawn to a LifeFlight autonomous quadcopter ambulance overhead, coming in for a landing on the immense bamboo-composite municipal medical complex a few blocks to my right. I pressed my index and middle fingers to my lips and blew a kiss and a wish for wellness to whoever was inside. UniCare would cover the medevac, treatment, and recovery therapy, of course, but a health issue serious and rapid-acting enough to require a drone paramedic flight would still be a major disruption to one’s life.
A few blocks later, I veered off the main street into Wachilmezi15 Park. My pace slowed as I walked through the field, a tapestry of dandelions, buttercups, clover, violets, and bird’s-foot trefoil. A great black hawk glared down at me from a Norway spruce, only a few meters away from the decades-old statue16 of the first great black hawk to venture this far north, many years ago. I walked along the line of rocks beside the stream bisecting the park, passing by the community wading pool and the little marshy area under a stone bridge. A group of schoolchildren were wandering along the forested shore of the pond, with datapads in hand. I walked along the shore, and overheard the teacher, a slim figure in a red long-sleeved dress and a neatly trimmed Van Dyke beard, discussing the ecosystem of the soil.
“-and that means there are more life-forms in this handful of soil than there are humans in the world! Not only that, the soil is alive with information. Mycorrhizal fungi allow plants to expand their reach for more water and mineral nutrients in exchange for the complex carbohydrates that the plant produces through photosynthesis. Networks of ectomycorrhizae17 connect the rhizospheres18 of different plants, allowing them to exchange nutrients, and even chemical warnings of potential predators and bad weather! In the early years of this century, we learned that these mycorrhizae were both helping plants survive changing conditions and sequestering a lot of carbon in the form of glycoproteins.19 This made them a critical partner life-form for humanity’s efforts to slow the Great Climate Shift.”
I smiled and walked on. Blue Wave City had recently voted in favor of a referendum question mandating that over 85% of in-person class time take place outdoors, after decades of studies20 had found an array of health and learning benefits. It was great to see teachers finding new ways to use that time.
I reached the edge of the park just as a chrome and blue streetcar silently pulled up. The city’s iconic Hokusai-inspired breaking wave logo was stenciled in white on the sides, and the lightning bolt-and-gear emblem of the Dawnland Electric Cooperative was embossed in bronze on the front. The streetcar obligingly stopped for me when I waved my hand. I hopped on and leaned outwards as we began to move again, holding onto the passenger bar for stability. This brought me to eye level with the vegetable garden on the rooftop, right in front of a bumblebee crawling out of an orange zucchini flower. The beefsteak tomatoes next to the zucchini plant seemed perfectly ripe, so I reached out and plucked one. I spun the tomato around in my hand, finally biting into it and feeling the fresh, sweet, tangy juice filling my mouth and running down my chin. I blinked my left eye three times and thought of a blue square to take a neurosnap, recording the echo of the taste’s impact on my synapses.