The year 3000. The suburbs.
‘It’s state of the art. One trillion pixels in that sunset alone.’ Nia’s husband turned to her, his body bristled with excitement.
‘Well? Aren’t you going to say something?’
She studied the three-dimensional projection on their living room wall. The quivering burnt orange, the wisps of coral and silver and the fingernail of bright sun hovering on the horizon. Raising her wine glass to Tim she attempted a smile.
‘Cheers Tim. Thank you. It’s the perfect anniversary present. You’re lucky, being five years older. You’ve actually seen a real one.’
‘This is better, Nia. You can select different colour ways each time, you can turn it off when you’ve had enough. The real thing? Meh.’
Their Chihuahua, Prince, skittered in and bared his teeth at her, a low growl emanating from his throat. Nia detested the breed, but all the others had died out ten years previously. It was a choice between belligerent Chihuahuas and robot dogs. The robots tended to have glitches and would bark on a loop.
The air in their home was pumped through underground pipes from Alaska. It was the only place in the world with breathable air. Nia had never felt the sun on her skin, the wind in her hair. She had never picked a flower or felt grass beneath her feet. If she needed to go outside, she wore a suit with a built in oxygen tank and visor, like everyone else.
The sunset flickered as the power supply surged. Rats still existed. They gnawed on the power lines beneath the ground.
Nia shifted in her seat. She placed her glass on the coffee table and angled her knees towards Tim. Her cheeks reddened and she stuttered.
‘Th-there’s something I must tell you.’
Tim smiled. ‘You’ve a present for me? Honestly Nia, you didn’t need to.’
She cringed. ‘No, not a present. I uh, I’m having a relationship with my online chess tutor. I have no idea what he looks like, but he has an avatar of Viswanathan Anand. I’m pretty sure he’s from Idaho. I guess you could say he’s check mated my heart.’
Tim was agape. ‘Are you going to find him, in Idaho?’
‘No. He thrashes me a couple of times a week, we banter and I send him the odd poem. But I need you to leave, so I don’t feel guilty.’
Tim picked up the remote control and switched off the sunset. It wavered and vanished. The wall resumed its blank whiteness. He stood, his arms rigid by his sides before barrelling out of the room, his face pale with shock.