Plugs

As I drifted off to sleep I thought of Ken at work, who said that in the part of the Dream Wars where he always appeared they fought as bird-people on the backs of giant serpents, and I wondered if anyone I would try to kill that night would really be someone I knew.

“Don’t be Triassic,” snapped the Troodon. “This is the wave of the future.”

The Ankylosaurus swished his massive tail dejectedly, crushing a small tree. “I can’t help it my brain’s the size of a golf ball,” he said.

“Well, lucky you’ve got me around,” said the Troodon, adjusting a piston. “So long as I don’t eat you.” He smiled in that toothy way theropods had, which the Ankylosaurus had never liked, and examined his work.

“There, lovely. Drag that fuel over, will you?”

The Ankylosaurus, glad to be doing something the Troodon couldn’t, walked carefully up to and past the invention, dragging the bundle of wood the Troodon had harnessed to him right up to the maw of the machine. The Troodon plucked several pieces out and threw them in, then struck a match (invented a century before by another Troodon) and tossed it into the piles of kindling already inside. A flame leapt up, and the Anklylosaurus watched the fire grow with a kind of anxious fascination.

“It’s not doing anything,” he said after a while.

“Shut up,” said the Troodon, and the Ankylosaurus thought he sounded worried. “It just needs to heat up enough to … oh! Ha! Ha ha ha! Yes! Look! Yes! It works! I’m a genius! It works!”

It did seem to be working. The flames were leaping up to caress the container of water, and through some means that the Ankylosaurus couldn’t understand at all, this was moving a rod back and forth, which made a wheel turn. Smoke poured out of a small smokestack, and steam squirted out elsewhere. The Ankylosaurus waited, hoping there was more to it.

“That’s it?” he said, finally.

“That’s it? You lump! I’ve invented the steam engine! Can’t you see what this means?”

“I don’t know,” said the Ankylosaurus. “It seems to be spitting up a lot of smoke.”

“Pollution, bah!” scoffed the Troodon. ” The sky is infinite, the waters are infinite … what do you think’s going to happen? We’ll dirty ourselves to death? Ha! Dinosaurs have reached their rightful place as masters of the planet! You just wait!”

# # #

Fifteen hundred years later …

A massive asteroid, more than six miles across, barreled toward a planet nearly covered in black, sooty clouds, though glimpses of brownish-blue and brownish-green were visible through small gaps. When it impacted, it would raise a lot of dust over the corpses of the last dinosaurs, who had starved to death on their choked planet only a hundred years before.

When the light is just right, the wind behaving, the subject unaware, that’s when you take the shot. When the shot is perfect, that’s when it’s art. When it’s art, that’s when there are reviews, maybe raves, maybe even fame.

I don’t shoot art. I don’t shoot porn either, but I definitely don’t shoot art. Fame is not in my future.
Sitting in a tree at 11:30 pm you really get a sense of perspective. The house, the windows with no blinds or curtains, the bed in plain view and lit like a landing strip. Waiting for someone to walk past a window so you can zoom in and catch their faces.

A blond girl, topless and bronzed, walks past one window and aims for the bed. Her facial features are clear as a bell, so that means she’s nobody. I get a few nice shots for shits and giggles. Yeah, I know. Sometimes I do shoot porn. So what? We’re all perverts in one way or other. I view the images on my eyescreen and upload them immediately to the marketplace. The first offer I get in seconds. It’s a good offer. Maybe she is someone after all.

I consider some close-ups of her tits, but that’s when he enters the room. His face is so blurry I know this is a bigger money shot. These days, everyone truly important is obscured. Actors, politicians, rock stars, social media celebrities. Unless you pay their fees, royalties in advance. It’s simple: aim and shoot, and a quick micropayment to clarify the image.

That is, unless your brother is a hacker who likes to circumvent DRM on general principle. I cycle through my eyescreen menu and pull up the special functions Johnny installed for me.

A message pops up in my vision. I don’t know the sender. “I wouldn’t do that,” it reads. “You have no idea know what you’re doing.”

A moment’s hesitation. The guy in my viewfinder could be anyone. He could be a rich executive, a senator, a film director. The message sender could be anyone. He could be a talent agent, a lawyer, a cop.

I take the shot, capture the image, transfer it to my eyescreen. It takes a second or two for me to realize who the guy is. Not a celebrity, not a politician, and yet both. You don’t rise to the top of an organized crime syndicate without getting noticed. Not in the 21st century. It’s hard to live in obscurity when you’re that rich and infamous.

I upload the image immediately and wait for the death threats and offers to roll in.

Sometimes, yes, damn right it’s art.

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