It was cheaper than a T-shirt, he thought.
Once they'd snapped the picture, they had him. That's why they took the picture up front. After all, how many times was he going to be there?
You could not get them to not take the picture; you were on their property, and you had to go by their rules if you wanted to take the tour.
All you could do was refuse to buy it.
Then -- who knew -- they threw the unbought pictures away, didn't they? What might they want with keeping them? If they wanted a picture of anyone who came through the gate, so what?
It was probably good for security.
A goddamned trinket, a tourist souvenir.
You know when they got home they did not really know what to do with it. What were they supposed to do, frame it and put it over the mantle?
They did not have a mantle.
It ended up in a box, he thought. One of those things you get that goes into a box as though it had been created to go into a box.
All those things you get on vacation.
He did not know where the box was. It was not as though he were looking for it. Some day, he supposed, they'd be going through boxes of old things, and they would find it.
His wife believed in the future when the planet was pretty much played out some people -- the rich and powerful at least -- would travel to another planet and colonize it.
The idea had been around for years.
He could not seriously subscribe to it.
She said she wanted to be transported to another world.
He -- well -- he could not see that.
She believed the plans were all drawn up. That seemed a little extreme. Any such plans would depend on technologies not yet developed even if they were already imagined. Or existed theoretically. The point was there was no practical way to do any of this yet. Someday maybe. But planned? One could not plan in a vacuum.
She never accounted for who would be left behind. Get her on that, and she changed the subject. Get anybody who believed in, who supported, some exodus of the chosen and the left behind, well, they just fell away, didn't they?
They were gone. Though they had not gone anywhere.
They ceased to be a concern.
It was all fantasy. Mythology. The mythology of insecurity, the mythology of science fiction, the mythology of redemption melded into a cheesy pop culture concept unworthy of itself.
A reflection of the general insecurity in the culture. That insecurity broadcast daily.
Do not be in a crowd.
Do not be alone.
Do not be in a confined environment with others.
Do not be out of reach of others.
All the truly useless instruction.
Like the constant call to acquire the useless.
He was not going to do anything about it. He was not against it. He only wanted to not hear it. He knew he had nothing to do with any of it and all of it had nothing to do with him.
If they left in spaceships, he'd be gone.
He knew that.
He was not so sure he would not just as soon be gone. Be among the gone.
You could get a kidney -- a human kidney -- for $30,000 US. He knew that. It was a fact, and he knew it for a fact. Not that anyone had planned that. People implemented it, true. And he'd heard some governments were involved. It was a function of the market. Everyone said the market was good. There was no market to migrate to another planet. Not yet. No other planet had been identified. Why couldn't she or wouldn't she understand that?
It was not like the movies, nothing like the movies about the world without humans, the world with only machines and aliens and stereotypically sweet children. The movies certainly asserted the world was that but the world was not that. Unless the assertion was that the world was not that.
He was not sure.
He knew the aliens and the machines were supposed to help the idealized children and then they were gone.
Whatever gone meant.
He hated those movies yet once they entered the culture they kept coming back, eternally recycled to squeeze every bit of possible profit from them. If nothing else, images to carry advertising as a host culture carries bacteria in a lab.
People used them. With nothing to bind them but an imagined history, those images were binding.
Records of things that did not happen.
That could not.
The ingestion of those images the history in itself.
He'd bought the picture. What kind of asshole wouldn't have bought the picture?
What kind of asshole would have?
He had seen a movie of brain surgery years before. The surgeon stimulated portions of the exposed brain and the patient spoke of apparently long-forgotten memories. He did not know if the theoryÊ demonstrated in the film had subsequently been discredited, but he believed parts of his brain could be manipulated. The guilt center, for example, could be manipulated as he manipulated it with beer and wine and bourbon.
The parts of his brain, he presumed, structured like the parts of any other human brain and manipulable by external stimuli systematically applied.
The media. The market.
Weren't all organs theoretically? Hadn't that been demonstrated? Stem cells, the plasticity of matter, his interchangeability. He was this and nothing as well.
So how gone was gone? Or, by leaving, where did one get?
The varieties of chaos to come -- he did not know anything about what that was supposed to mean.
Apparently she wanted a story where something meant something. He did not believe in cars that ran on water or suppressed cancer cures or alien corpses in government storage.
-- I don't believe in anything, he'd told her.
She said that was not true. He did not understand what it was she thought she meant.
One day they would open a box and find it and experience a moment of recognition. That recognition surprise and delight at the past. There could be no recognition of the future as it had yet to arrive though it might be a future where one was photographed or filmed everywhere -- incessantly.