In a world where human interaction has been obsolete for years, one man must regain the life taken from him. Along the way Derek will meet a band of outsiders and will learn the meaning of community, relationships, and even love. However, he soon finds that he must be willing to give back to prevent the demise of his new found life as they battle another rogue community and even their own world's governments.
The reasons for the state of the world were many. There had been no great world catastrophe; no global wide wars of devastation. The governments had not taken the freedoms of their people. In fact, each person was still allotted most of the same liberties and some groups had accrued even more. Most of the populace simply chose not to exercise their rights. The truth is that it had happened so slowly that almost no one had noticed the changes and those who had been perceptive enough to take notice were simply considered old-fashioned or paranoid.
Perhaps, it had begun with September 11, back in the Twenty First Century. It was not the first attack on U.S. soil but its severity had led it to become the United States’ war cry much like “Remember the Alamo” had motivated the natives of Texas so many years prior. Before long, most prominent countries had experienced their own large scale terrorist attacks. Many smaller attacks had followed until, after thirty-five years of ineffective policies and policing to protect themselves from the terrorists, the United States government put multiple stipulations on which countries were allowed access to their soil. The prohibited list of countries eventually grew and, of course, those countries deemed not welcome would, in turn, stop welcoming the offending country. It grew to such a point that vacation destinations realized they had a choice: close or offer virtual tours of their facilities in an attempt to garner finances. Now, you could take an entire vacation without ever leaving the security of your own home.
When one ponders things, it probably had begun many years prior. The advent of the World Wide Web, now just called the grid, had unified people and made it possible to speak to anyone, regardless of their locale. Text messaging had followed while telephone operators had become obsolete. Eventually, it was unheard of to reach a live person on the phone. This was assuming one did not merely text the person they needed to contact to begin with, rather than dealing with the hassle of a telephone. Finally, most people had become more comfortable speaking via the grid than they did in person, face to face.
Movie theatres and other forms of entertainment fell soon after. A greater number people had deemed it more pleasurable to watch a movie at home than at a theatre and when renting a movie from one’s residence, via the grid, became possible it was only a matter of years before people enjoying dinner and a movie within the confines of their own house became the norm.
Ultimately, even making the movie was done in such a way that there was no need for actors and directors to interact with one another. Movie stars had become computer generated versions of old actors and, more, they had their own fan clubs. To see Cary Grant acting alongside of Madonna in Hamlet was hardly unusual. Museums and other forms of art and culture followed suit by broadcasting over the grid.
Restaurants fell to the same fate when fast food overtook fine dining as the preferred activity. When even the fast food industry developed self-checkout vending machines, the need for any interaction between customer and server became pointless. In time, all these things became accessible via the grid. A delivery man would simply drop them in your holding box outside your doorway and your credit would be charged.
Stores and gas stations came next. Shoplifting made profitability nearly impossible and self-checkouts made customer service nonessential. Customers did not even seem to mind, as they had more and more difficulty accepting help from a store clerk who, in turn, was less likely to offer that help. Eventually, all shopping was done via the grid. Gas stations had gone to “pay at the pump” arrangements so there was little reason for a person to ever go into a convenient store. Then, most of the stores began installing vending machines in place of cashiers to sell cokes, sandwiches, and cigarettes. Ultimately, the idea of dealing with a cashier on any level was unheard of.
Factored in was the price of oil. The Saudis had once had an expression: “My grandfather rode on a camel. My father rode in a car. I ride in a jet. My son shall ride on a camel.” As oil supplies decreased greatly, the price shot so high that it became much cheaper and more efficient to never leave one’s own abode for a night on the town. Governments tried to instigate the development of replacements for oil but soon found that people had no desire to travel anymore, so alternatives became mostly unnecessary.
The schools were the last to go. As more and more parents complained of having to deal with the pressures of going out to take their children to school, the education system went to video conferencing and classes over the grid. With technology so advanced, the idea of opening a school book just became passé. College life gave way to advanced degrees by means of computer programs and work simulators.
The resulting civilization was one in which all societal interaction and social skills were lost. By the year 2171, manners were no longer of importance and people had lost any ability to intermingle with one other. Some jobs were unable to be performed from the home. For those few, traveling to work was a nuisance and it was done by interacting with as few people as possible since talking and eye contact was nonexistent. Hardly any people saw the benefits of owning their own car due to the increased difficulty of finding gas as demand had dropped so drastically; therefore, they would use public transportation. Electrically driven buses were set along tracks much like old trolley cars of the early Twentieth. These buses were preprogrammed to run down set routes leaving no need for human drivers.
Of course, there had been benefits. For one, the earth’s temperature had decreased with the lowering of carbon monoxide emissions. It had taken some years, but the results were finally beginning to show themselves. Also, populations were centered in cities and farming was done indoors in skyscrapers using artificial lighting which allowed for year round growth and protection from the elements. This all allowed animal life to flourish. Many animals long thought extinct were now able to multiply and thrive around the world.
Earth’s population explosion had also come under control now that fewer and fewer people were procreating and deciding to begin families. Those few family situations had become more than estranged. Some people had complained during the Twentieth that television sets were being used as babysitters for their children. Those same people would have been appalled by the events which had occurred since then. Many who chose, in times of loneliness, to become parents (mostly through artificial insemination) found the stress too overwhelming and sent their children to foster facilities to be raised. In these systems, children would do most interacting with computer monitors and the occasional nanny who did the necessities but was unlikely to spend much time doting on the child.
Regardless of the exact causes, there was no doubting what had happened. Everyone the world over had finally become: