27. Lucid Creation
16 Jan 2055 | 1900h
Slick Business, one of the most notorious destinations for coffee in New Idaho, took up three floors of a building directly in the center of Idaho Street, and was rivaled only by the New Idaho Government Cafe in the Government Building across the street. On the first floor was your run-of-the-mill coffee bar. The first and second floor, though replete with their own, unique New Idaho Style, still executed the same function as most 21st century coffee spots. Tables for studying and conversations were strategically placed throughout the seven rooms that comprised the first two floors. The third floor of Slick Business, however, was reserved for creative arts that would not have existed forty years ago. This space was reserved exclusively for Virtual Creatives.
The third floor contained 12 different Creative Spaces, each about 16 meters square and separated from one another by paper walls that didn’t quite reach the ceiling. As Virtual and Augmented Reality technology grew, many artists had moved out of the realm of pen and paper. They needed less materials, and more space. The rooms on the third floor of Slick Business were completely empty, allowing artists to populate the space with their own virtual world.
Casey Carver had been in room number 7 nearly all day. This was easily his favorite space to work in, outside of his own house. He had been in New Idaho three months, and still hadn’t found any space matching the tranquility he found in this corner room on the third floor of the coffee shop.
It had been easy for Casey to move to New Idaho. Other than his family, there wasn’t much Casey had that he couldn’t bring with him. He only had the possessions he absolutely needed, and over the past few years he had obtained a steady following that translated to generous opportunities for remote freelance work. Now, he was focused on making a name for himself in the City of the Century while he exported his services to Greater America. There seemed to be a market to fill—not many creatives had come out of New Idaho, unless you count Lex Lucid himself.
Casey sipped from his fourth cup of coffee today. It felt almost gravelly as it slid down his throat. He knew that was a sign that he should probably switch over to water, but he was always tempted to drink gratuitously when he got the all-day refill option that Slick Business offered.
Part of him hoped, with a generous degree of skepticism, that this fourth cup would somehow lead to more inspiration than the first three. It was one of those days where he felt his brain just wasn’t operating at the level he demanded of it. It was another transition in Casey’s career, where he had finished the bulk of the freelance projects he had in the cache and was left with a daunting amount of free time to allocate to his personal aspirations. He wasn’t about to take this time for granted.
Casey stood in the middle of the empty space, looking through his lenses at a visual representation of his different projects. He had organized his creative files into small boxes that floated in Augmented Reality in front of him. Each of the twelve boxes were devoted to a specific genre. There was a box with a musical note, a box for thoughts, with the Japanese character 思 inscribed on the front, a box for photography, a box for essays, and a box for fiction. There was a box for long rants and a box for videos.
He moved toward the box emblazoned with a small cartoon beast. This box denoted fiction. He waved his hand over the box and it opened to reveal a floating stack of vertical pages. The rest of the boxes around ‘Fiction’ dissipated into the air, and Casey was left with this virtual rolodex of pages, each about the perceived width of corrugated cardboard. Casey flipped through them slowly. His over-indulgence in caffeine was mixed with his current state of knowing he should do something without knowing what, leading to an extremely uncomfortable suite of jitters.
Two floors below Casey, Camille Thomas swallowed the blue and yellow item that she had been chewing on and thanked the barista for her coffee. She didn’t generally drink coffee this late, but something told her it didn’t matter tonight. Anyway, it was Saturday—she could sleep all day tomorrow, if she really had to.
Since the visit to UNI, and the first time she had tried Aubergine, Camille had noticed a spike in her intuition. When Carlton approached her at school last week to tell her that he had more for sale, she immediately felt that this weekend would be the perfect opportunity to experiment again. It was more than just a temptation for thrills. It felt, somehow, important. Necessary.
Camille took her coffee into the broader portion of the coffee shop. She hoped that the caffeine wouldn’t nullify the effects of the Aubergine. From what she could tell, Carlton’s drug was extremely subtle in the moment, but with potent aftereffects that were almost inexplicable. If nothing else, the substance made it much easier to get in touch with her intuition. As long as she took advantage of that, she had a feeling she couldn’t be steered in the wrong direction.
Camille walked through the three rooms of the first floor, seeing if any spot spoke to her. Each room had a different vibe. The farthest corner was a quiet study room by day, but transformed into a low-key music venue on Tuesday nights and weekends. It was one of the few places in New Idaho with local music.
The rest of the first floor had an antique feel to it, with comfortable chairs for reading and decorations reminiscent of a hundred years ago or more. Camille wondered who brought all these items into the city. She realized that nearly everything in the city would have had to have been imported at some point. An overwhelming proposition, as far as she was concerned.
As Camille walked through the rooms, her eyes zeroed in on each of the people populating the space. Each had their own story. She wondered how many of them were aware of that, and how many tried to write it. She wondered what each of them was interested in. Perhaps one day she could come in and interview the customers at random, discovering what drove each of these patrons to New Idaho, and what they were doing now that they were here.
Today, however, she would have to be content not knowing. Camille continued to the second floor, which contained more open study rooms, including a long table right against the north window of the establishment. This was Camille’s favorite place to study. From one of these stools, you could enjoy a beautiful view of Idaho Park and the Government Building. Camille took note of the open seats, and thought she might sit down there with her journal for an hour or two.
Before that, however, Camille felt an urge to check out the third floor. She realized that she had never actually been up there. She rarely, if ever, did virtual work, so there was no need for her to take up that space. When she entered, she was impressed by the simple beauty of the room. The stairs met with a long hallway that stretched the length of the room. On either side of the hallway were paper walls with open entrances covered by beaded curtains of different colors. Each side had five entrances, with two at the back leading to the corner rooms.
Camille took a lap up and down the hallway, curious to see what the corner rooms looked like. She could see that the one on the right was open, and poked her head in. The room was nothing spectacular: Just an open room with wood floors. She assumed it was probably perfect for virtual workers. As she was about to turn back to go down to the second floor, she felt a new compulsion. In the corner room next to the one she had just peered into, she caught a glimpse of someone working through the bead curtain. If she was going to hear one person’s story today, she felt, it ought to be the boy on the other side.
As she lifted the bead curtain to one side, Camille got a full prospect of the boy working in the room. He had short hair and a lean build, but the most notable aspect of him was the look in his eyes. He stared through his Lenses with a determination that Camille could best describe as “existentially brooding”. It was as though he was desperate for something to materialize in front of him, and that he had to be the one to make it happen.
‘Hello,’ Camille said.
The boy looked up from whatever he had been concentrating on. ‘Hi,’ he said.
‘I hope I’m not bothering you,’ Camille said. ‘I was just curious what you were doing in here. Oh, and I’m Camille Thomas, by the way.’ She held out her hand.
‘Hi Camille,’ the boy said, taking her hand. ‘Casey Carver. What am I doing in here? To be honest, I’m trying to figure it out.’
‘You looked like you were working on something pretty intensely,’ Camille said.
‘Did I?’ The right corner of Casey’s mouth lifted slightly, as though she had pointed something out to him he hadn’t even realized. ‘I was just looking through all the different projects I’ve made in the past year or so. Thinking of how I would put them together and use them to say what I want to say.’
‘What do you want to say?’
‘Well, that’s a big part of it,’ Casey said. ‘I feel like I have a lot to say, but until I know the right way to say it, it just won’t come out right.’
That last part struck Camille. She had been thinking along those lines for at least the past year. A hint of panic grew in the back of her head as she wondered how long she would feel like this for. ‘I don’t mean this to be rude,’ she said, ‘but what year were you born?’
‘2029,’ Casey replied. ‘You?’
‘2038,’ she said. ‘I’ll be eighteen at the end of May. Right around the same time I’ll be graduating. And I have no idea what I’ll be doing next.’
‘Yeah,’ Camille said, ‘I guess so. I got a scholarship to UNI. But I still don’t know what to study. Or, more importantly, why.’
‘Hm,’ Casey said. ‘I guess only you can answer that.’
‘Did you know?’ Camille asked.
‘What I wanted to do?’ Casey thought for a moment before responding. ‘I guess I always felt there was something I needed to put out into this world. I was never sure what it was, though. I still don’t think I know.’
‘Do you think you ever will?’
After another moment of silence, Casey said, ‘It’s hard to say. I mean, I wouldn’t still be here if I didn’t think there was a chance I’d figure it out. But I’ve been making art for quite a while, and I still don’t feel like I’ve found my real niche.’
‘What kind of art do you do?’
‘Would you like to see?’ Casey asked. Camille nodded. ‘Here, sync up to my Lens-view.’
Camille synced her Lenses with Casey’s so she could see what was in front of him. He moved back through a couple menus until he found a yellow box with a green circle on the front. The box was titled “Finished Projects”. He opened the box and selected from a grid of visual representations of each project. Casey waved his hands over one item on the grid and the others disappeared as the one he selected grew to about the size of a beach ball.
The project appeared to be a visual art piece, a landscape comprised of smooth, brown towers of different heights. Casey grabbed one of the towers with his hands and pulled it to the side to reveal the inside of the landscape, where three cartoonish characters bounced in place and smiled, sitting in different areas of what appeared to be the walls of the cave inside Casey’s art piece.
‘This was one idea I had,’ Casey said. ‘I did a couple pieces like this. It begins as a virtual representation of a landscape, but you can select each character to read a different short story. As you search through the project, you can find more and more stories that flesh out the world these characters are a part of. Each story tackles a different idea I’ve been toying with. I try to keep the themes relatively consistent throughout each specific project.’
‘Wow,’ Camille said. ‘That’s amazing!’
‘Thank you,’ Casey replied. ‘I think so, too. I’ve done a couple projects like this, but it hasn’t built a lot of momentum in the public eye. I think it’s because my heart wasn’t completely in it.’
‘No? It looks great.’
‘Thanks. I’m pretty proud of it. I just don’t think it’s reflective of what I am meant to do.’
‘I’d love to see the rest of your work sometime.’
‘Well,’ Casey said, ‘you’re always welcome to come hang out sometime. If your parents are fine with it, that is. I’m always looking for like-minded people to inspire me, regardless of their age.’
‘I’m sure my dad won’t mind,’ Camille said. ‘I can handle myself.’ Casey believed her. She may be nine years his junior, but she carried herself like she had already been through undergrad.
‘In that case,’ Casey said, ‘here’s my number. Let’s get together sometime soon.’
‘Sounds good,’ Camille said. ‘I’m excited to see what else you’ve done!’ After saying goodbye, Camille walked back down the flight of stairs, her heart pounding with inspiration. Maybe it would take the rest of her life to find out what she was meant to do, but if she could create something like what she just saw by the time she was 26, it might not even matter.