Detective Dane Burgess stood alone in his neatly polished room. His keen eyes peered from his window toward the sidewalk stampede below. Strangers all, but to Dane, characters in a play where he could predict the next act. A stern gait here, a relaxed posture there, hands in pockets or not, all unappreciated nuances to most, but storytelling to Dane. He was a natural born sleuth. He could sniff out clues, read faces and follow his spot-on intuition through a maze of lies to find hidden truth. Unfortunately, in the year 2071, a detective was about as useful as a blacksmith. Dane was an island unto himself. A man born out of time. A boxer in a world without sports, an architect in a land of no buildings. Yes, a detective in a time without crimes to solve.
It wasn’t that there was no crime, after all, we’re talking about human beings. But there were few crimes that needed Dane’s unique solving skill. The Gresh took care of that, and many other things. Dane was reduced to staring out the window, reminiscing back to a day when he made a difference. He searched for clues to a game that didn’t exist. Like a singer without an audience who sings on an empty street corner, Dane engaged in crime solving, if only in his mind.
The Gresh was mankind’s most ambitious invention, and one that Dane was in awe of at first, but an invention that ultimately rendered Dane and others, without purpose. The word Gresh is a hybrid of Grid and Mesh. It is a system where every pixel (Piblet in the new vernacular) in the X Y Z space surrounding the Earth can be controlled to change color by the master Gresh computer. And each person has varying degrees of control.
So because of this, there are many virtual items in each person’s daily life. For example, no longer are there walk / wait lights; clunky hunks of metal, anchored in cement, with light bulbs and wires. Those are now relegated to old movies, for a laugh. The Gresh now engages just the correct piblits to create a perfect rectangle, sporting the word WALK or WAIT, floating twenty feet above the crosswalk, about five feet high and the width of the walking lanes. Street signs are all virtualized too, and can be instantly altered for road closures, accidents or detours.
And because of the issue of landfills, the Gresh was a perfect solution for the glut of unwanted household decorations. There are no more picture frames, for example. People can buy virtual picture frames to place anywhere within their controlled space. And no longer restricted by gravity, walls and nails, junior’s picture can float in the middle of their room if they so desire, although most people manipulate pictures onto walls anyway. The frames can change color, shape and size to fit an owner’s whim.
When the Gresh was still in its infancy, most programmers mimicked real objects. But it didn’t take long for creativity to break beyond those paradigms. Now it’s not uncommon to decorate a living space with colored blobs, floating across the living room. Or some people choose swatches of pastels, stretching and contorting in their controlled space.
Christmas trees have completely gone away, replaced by virtualized Christmas trees, any size and shape that a person is willing to spend their money on. Lights and ornaments are a natural fit for the Gresh. Beautifully decorated homes in December, turn back into everyday January homes with a wave of a hand - with no messy closets to deal with. And since these “items” are owned, they are back in place in only moments, on the next Thanksgiving evening.
Those fortunate enough to live in houses with yards, have a tremendous opportunity to engage the Gresh. Virtualized trees, plants, flowers, yes even grass can be bought and manipulated through the Gresh. There are still those who find real gardening therapeutic. So of course, if your thing is to get your hands in the soil, all power to you. But for the rest, the Gresh can provide a stunning rose garden one day and tulips the next. And there are some flowers that never existed, outside of a programmer’s imagination, that can be bought to adorn the yard.
And since all weather is monitored by the Gresh master computer, these virtual flowers can delicately sway with the passing breeze and if desired, virtual pedals can come loose and gently float to the ground.
Paint is now used as weather protection only, no more pigment in the paint. A building owner can control a thin layer of the Gresh, surrounding the surface of their structure. A house can be blue with red trim one day then white with gray trim the next. Some owners even make their house striped or polka-dotted, if permitted by their association.
A person’s personal appearance can also be enhanced, to a degree, by the Gresh. A scarf, a necktie or other such peripheral adornments can easily be virtualized. Even hair and fingernail color can be created by accessing the Gresh. Some people even shave their head so they can use Gresh created hairstyles. They can have long blonde locks one day and be a shorthaired, curly redhead the next. And the Gresh can control every piblet of the hair image, to flap around with the person’s movement and blow in the wind.
City planners use the Gresh to give each neighborhood a unique character. The low-level sky can swirl with purple and blue abstract streaks. Special shapes and vibrant colors can pop in and out all around while people go through their daily routines. And there are no more fireworks, Gresh controlled sky can display any colorful design as far as human imagination can reach.
And the Gresh engineers were even able to place audio, anywhere in the world. So two people, thousands of miles away, could stand next to each other and have a conversation.
All of this had little impact on Dane’s profession - at first. Actually, he was quite smitten with this marvelous technology, at the time it was first conceived by boy genius George Hawk. Let’s go back twenty-seven years. The year was 2044, Dane was an inquisitive ten-year-old, and like most people, was in awe of the brilliant scientist, twenty-six-year-old George Hawk. George became famous years earlier as the boy with the sky-high IQ. He was almost a circus act, the boy who could memorize entire books, play chess with multiple masters at once, beating them all and he could advance technology beyond the scope of the most accomplished engineers.
Then at twenty-six, after many patents, degrees and accomplishments that belied his youth, the world stood in hushed silence as he proposed the Gresh. Ten-year-old Dane was blown away. Could this really be invented? Could the world unite around this new reality? If anyone could do it, it was George Hawk. At least that was the prevailing sentiment. And he pulled it off, with a team of the most renowned scientists and engineers. Many of these talented men and women resented young George at the start of the massive project but his talent and intelligence won them over. Twenty-six-year-old George Hawk not only led the development team of the most ambitious technological project in history, but united the world in the process.
Young Dane grew up during the Gresh development and was in awe of George Hawk. He rooted for George, believed in him, read his books and did everything else that a young boy does with an idol. He would have collected his bubblegum cards if there was such a thing. Can’t you see it, “I’ll trade you two Einsteins and a Newton for a Hawk rookie card.”
Dane eventually grew into a young man and became a police officer. The Gresh was introduced. There were problems but also amazing, almost magical results. It took several years to smooth out the kinks, improve the resolution and unleash mountains of potential.
Dane quickly climbed the police ladder and became a young detective. As his legend grew, decades old cold cases were dropped on his desk. A half-burned cigarette, a scuffed right shoe and dark fingernail polish was all he needed. He was a bloodhound. Case after unsolvable case was resolved by Dane and his incredibly intuitive mind.
George Hawk eventually left the Gresh design team and joined the world of politics. It isn’t like any opponent would have had a chance against George. He was probably the most respected and beloved person in the country. But before he headed out for Congress, he left the Gresh team with a few more ideas for phase two of the Gresh master computer. That’s when life started changing for Dane.
The next phase meant that every piblit was recorded and permanently saved, and available for playback. So the next “he said, she said″ argument could be solved simply by playing back the encounter. This made it far more difficult for nefarious scoundrels to plan and execute their next heist. Criminals, however, are often the most clever people, so there were still crimes to solve, and detectives like Dane used this new super-tool to their advantage. But soon, after more refinements to the Gresh AI, much of this crime solving was computer driven. The Gresh itself decided guilt or innocence.
The crimes that were left were compulsive crimes, crimes of passion and hatred. The police were still needed to round up these criminals but there wasn’t much sleuthing left. Dane’s gift was nearly an obsolete craft.
Then the next technological explosion hit society when remote DNA readers were invented and attached to the Gresh. At that point every human being on Earth was known and every movement recorded. There were fierce protests over lack of privacy and too much control but like a lot of things, people just got used to it. As a slight compromise to the protesters, there were a few Gresh-free zones around. They were all out in the open, like in a park or a rest-stop. But aside from those scarce places, the Gresh was everywhere.
The police slowly reduced their detective bureau and those that were left took massive pay cuts. Dane was one of those. Deep inside he knew he still had something to offer, or was he just fooling himself. Does he add one more solution to his resume or is he the next John Henry?
So there he stood, looking out the window of his small studio apartment. He looked out at people and also at Gresh created traffic lights, advertisements and hair styles. He saw people but not like others see people. Dane looked deep into their soul, or so it seemed.
And because the Gresh knew each person and what they had done, virtually created targeted advertisements filled the area. Some were in the sky, popping with color and fast storytelling. There were also virtual pitchmen, right there on the sidewalk, hounding selected people about the latest must-have product. Some of the virtual sales people were hunky men or sexy girls in flimsy outfits. Most of the passersby paid no attention and simply walked right through these apparitions. George used some of the advertisements as clues to what these people might be up to. It was a game that he played.
There was a young man, bright eyed and full of eagerness. He was muttering to himself but Dane could see right through that. He wasn’t mentally challenged. The targeted ads showed him as an intelligent and creative person. He also was not holding a Gresh conversation with an unseen friend, which is as common as the wind. No, by his cadence, by his deliberateness, his posture, his focus, Dane could tell he was rehearsing something. But what?
A job interview perhaps? A marriage proposal?
“No, not quite right,” Dane thought to himself.
There was something theatrical to his muttering. There was an element of showmanship, Dane could see it. Then Dane got it. There was a comedy club two blocks down and one over. He was preparing for his routine. That had to be it. But it was way too early in the day for a show. It was an audition, that had to be it. He was going to present his material to the club management.
Dane thought about following him, just to confirm his diagnosis, but he didn’t. What was the point?
Then Dane spotted two young women, strangers to each other but on a similar trajectory. There was something about these two women that was oddly the same, yet they clearly didn’t know each other.
Dane’s inquisitive mind started to swell. What could be their similarity? Two twenty something women. One was walking alone and the other with her husband, or at least Dane surmised it was her husband. There was nervousness with both women, but also noticeable eager anticipation.
Then Dane did what he used to do in the old days, when his mind was putting pieces together. He took a handful of breath mints and dumped them all in his mouth at once. The overwhelming peppermint blast surged through his head, as he crunched these power pills that were intended to be enjoyed one at a time. He loved it. There was something about the combination of mystery solving and blasting mint that was the needed energy for his final solution push. His colleagues used to tease him mercilessly, although it was all just fun. They respected him and actually enjoyed his strange minty quirk.
Of course, that was all before. Now his colleagues had all moved on to other professions. He noticed that the ads that seemed to be following both women were child oriented. He chomped away. This latest minty blast helped him solve what? Nothing really. But it worked. Even though there was no value in it, it worked. He had it. Around the corner was a prenatal hologram clinic. That had to be it. They were both pregnant.
Dane settled back into his small room, satisfied with his conclusions, but feeling restless and lost.
“Gresh, Daffodil Cafe, June fifteenth, twenty sixty-eight, six thirty PM.”
Instantly, Dane’s tiny apartment was transformed into a sidewalk cafe. Cars were driving by and people were strolling past. There were customers, sitting at tables scattered on both sides of him.
Dane sat for a few minutes. He had the Gresh recreate this scene many times before. He had it memorized. He knew what cars drove by. He anticipated each passerby. He knew exactly what clothes they would be wearing and the cadence of their stroll. And he also knew what he was waiting for.
And there it was. Two women, both thirty-five, sat down at a table across the way. Dane was here in the flesh on this date, so this was a recreation of something he lived through. Dane was particularly focused on a tall, slender brunette. They didn’t notice Dane then so of course, they didn’t now either. It was just a playback.
He looked at her as she sat down with her friend. He watched her speak and laugh. This was a melancholy memory for Dane, so why did he call it up? He didn’t really know. It was a sad moment and a happy moment. It was both and he gravitated toward it. After a few minutes, he spoke.
“Gresh, end playback.”
It was gone. Dane got up and stared out the window.