He was a beatnik living in a trailer park and he was old. Being old was a crime. His name was “Knott” Hammond. The trailer park was called, “Flamingo Gardens” and it was an internment camp. If a person was beginning to look old, he-or-she was required to take the Treatment. People who couldn’t afford the Treatment were interned. The camp was part of a new resettlement program. It seemed like another lifetime, long ago when Knott was rich enough to avoid Flamingo Gardens.
Flamingo Gardens began as a real-estate venture to off-set losses due to the housing crash. The CEO who managed the program turned it into a cash cow. Government policies were put into place to maximize profits. Almost overnight the policies favoring Flamingo Gardens became draconian and the trailer park became the final solution to end the woes besetting the country.
Knott recalled the day he boarded the train. He had his own compartment, a stainless-steel box like a small cargo container. People who were poor and old were hypnotized by ads to sign up for the “program.” Before the camps, Knott survived by working as a repairman. He refurbished old digital components and traded them for food or a place to sleep. It was a hard, scrabble life and he wanted something better. He was seduced by the TVs and phones which he restored to life. Holographic announcers were in his brain using subliminal suggestions. He boarded the train to dreamland.
Flamingo Gardens was a contemporary trailer park, orderly and antiseptic. Stainless-steel trailers were unloaded from the trains and hooked to Mother (the grid). The camps were set up when the country was run by the first CEO. There were camps for refugees, camps for criminals, and camps for the old. “For a better life, come to Paradise,” was the slogan used to mollify and seduce a worn down public. Rich people knew the score. Money protected them from propaganda aimed at the masses. They opted for the Treatment to stay young; or, at least, to appear young. Plastic surgeons made a killing. More arcane interventions added to the mystique of permanent longevity.
Everyone wanted to avoid the pitfalls of old age, but only the very wealthy could afford the Treatment. The new economy was built on class warfare. The poor, in camps, were fodder for the rich. Old people could be used for experiments and replacement parts for members of the ruling class. Everyone wanted the biggest prize of all: the stirrings of immortality.
Mother provided everything to the occupants in the metal-box trailers. Links connected the boxes and tubes fed the cubicles with life sustaining nutrients for the body and virtual dreams for the mind. When the arrangements became too expensive to maintain, Mother provided the gas to whittle down the population.
Knott Hammond had a relay switch in his brain. He installed the switch himself as an experiment. He always enjoyed tinkering with human-machine hybrids. The on-off switch could be used to analyze and mend digital links, but the switch was faulty and unpredictable. The relay interfered with Knott’s brain causing episodes of psychosis leading to his fall from the graces of the rich and influential.
The switch was never removed. Knott sat alone in his steel compartment, cut-off from the pleasures provided by Mother and subjected to the reality triggered by the machine in his brain. The holding tank was cold and dark. Knott was suffering from malnutrition (Mother cut back on resources and nutrients in order to save money). The terror of the situation triggered a survival reaction in Knott’s brain. He started to tinker with the data in his head. He discerned connections to his past when he was lauded as a genius in the tech industry. He recalled the codes, computer language, that could be used to alter reality.
Gaining control of Mother was not terribly difficult. Knott had slightly more difficulty hacking into the Treatment Centers where the wealthy sought immortality.
Nothing lasts forever. Old age and death snapped the “new young” like fragile twigs.