Cupertino, 2040by Shardul, 22 Jan 2020
Cupertino, the year 2040. Sunrise. Elana raises herself up with wipers and spray bottles in a crane boom on the east side of the Spaceship, just as she has done every day for the last twenty years, and squints into the red sunlight towards downtown San Jose. Or at least, towards what remains of it. Towards whatever can be seen through the smog. Twelve years ago it had started as just an anti-gentrification riot in downtown with a public stake to burn settlement money collected from years of lawsuits against the tech giants. Then suddenly there were tens of thousands of violent protesters and a hundred state troopers and amidst the chaos, a dozen well-placed bombs leveled the city center. Members of the state government tried half-heartedly and failed whole-heartedly to raise funds for rebuilding—after all, their pockets and voices were by then firmly in the grip of the Technological Advisory Board, which thereafter never appeared in public (let alone holding elections).
The Board did not like to think about San Jose. It crumbled. The dilapidation gradually infected more and more of the city, and employees moved to newly-constructed on-campus housing (intelliHomes from the ground up! with fiber Internet!) while the rest remained. Looking down from her perch, Elana can see that the scrawny, unkempt shacks had spread right up to the fence of Apple Park. Oh, what a beautiful fence. Simple square posts in perfectly straight lines, uniform angles, equidistant placement all around the campus. No horizontal bars, to prevent climbing, and the tops were too high to reach. Back when she lived outside the fence, Elana used to admire the exquisitely crafted landscape, with little hills all around campus that let you just peek at the top floors of the building inside, with the fence set unobtrusively, solidly in a trough at their base so that the tops wouldn’t block the view. She wonders now whether there’s anyone left outside who would appreciate the fence. Oh, what a terrible fence. Sometimes a dirty child or a stray dog will venture near. Too near, and one hears an agonized shriek, but never a clue to its cause. Elana no longer likes to look at the fence.
Why look at the fence, when you can look inside? The hundred acres of cultivated landscape are a relief to the eye. Indigenous oaks and a rich sampling of Silicon Valley’s historical fruit orchards—heritage must of course be cherished. There are no birds, though. And if her eye tired of idyllic fountains and jogging tracks and the gentle hills and woods and clearings, Elana could always regard the buildings instead, which were a wonder in themselves. Built to be seamless, maintained to be spotless; every window pane, desk, door handle, light fixture was the product of hours of thought, made to fit in the grand vision of an acutely perfect campus. The building is formed by massive faces of glass arranged in a circle one mile long, holding spacious minimal workspaces and garden-atria in the surreal, uniformly pristine style that pervaded the entire campus. There are no corners that are not rounded and no doors that creak. Her job is not an easy one when it comes to making sure the bathroom mirrors have not a speck of dust, nor a trace of cleaning fluid. But it’s one that she and her coworkers find satisfying—and she doesn’t think there really are any other options.
Why today of all days, she wonders, must she sweep the sidewalks for one last time? Any ordinary person would have laughed at the grandiose vision that needed the Park grounds cleaned on this occasion. On the other hand, nobody feels it pointless to dress and arrange a corpse in a coffin… Elana feels a soft buzz on her pager and retreats into the building, with everyone else. The building shortly seals itself with a soft hiss. Though it is more spacious than anyone could want, even with the recent heavy installations, it feels cramped already. A few minutes later, the ambient light shifts just enough to be perceptibly warmer, indicating that the final checks have been completed.
A figure smoothly appears on the stage of the Steve Jobs Theater, a stone’s throw from the Ring (oh, even the metaphor makes one shudder, although the theater would be unperturbed by events much larger than a stone). In front of a thousand beautiful, polished, empty seats, under a terrible sculpted ceiling, stands the metonymous man himself! The holographic projection would have looked frighteningly real had anybody been there to see it. His address is short, intimate, moving, as if meant only for himself. “We just know there’s something much bigger than any of us here. We’re going for it.” The image melts away. Then a thundering rumble, a sudden wave of heat: the Spaceship ascends directly upwards, as firm and sure as the vision that drives it, and just as ceaseless.