Toby sat in his government-certified gray car, on his way to the one accepted church in the country, as he did every Sunday morning. He fiddled with the radio dial. It didn't really metter in which direction he directed the small plastic knob. There was only one radio station anyways, and the tuning was perfect. He listened to the hymns they were playing today. Since all the other religions had been eradicated in 2027, the thoroughly Roman Catholic dirges were never complained about. He remembered listening to them when he was a kid, but very dimly, as through a fogged window.

It was a typical Sunday. The air was thick with nutrients today. Toby worried for a threat. Granted, that was near impossible these days - since AIDS became an airborne virus in 2023, the US put the survivors in a bubble - and sank them to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. The Watery States of America. To counter the impotency of the vitamins that existed PB - Pre-Bubble - new, industrial strength ones were pumped into the air, as a part of everyday life. Air was generated in the bubble by a filtering system, which had one tube to the aboveground. But mainly the oxygen was separated from its mate, the seawater, and pumped through the Bubble. Toby knew his history.

He sometimes wondered how they ever had any news in the country. Nothing ever happened. Everything was entirely equal for everyone. But he never thought too hard on it. Or, rather, he couldn't. The mental block he had been supplied with when entering the bubble prevented him from doing such. He had no opinion on it. He didn't really have an opinion on much of anything.

Turning the radio dial a little bit more - making the radio dials line up to shut the contraption off - he looked into the rearview mirror. He knew he looked exactly the same as his father, and his father's father. But he also looked the same as the grocer at the corner store he always visited, and Dmitri, his next door neighbor. He had seen countless other strangers on the street, in the stores, at work, who looked near exactly the same as he did. The same unruly black hair; the same steely gray eyes. And he would have questioned why, had he the capacity to.

Toby continued on his way to church. He would kneel for three hours, to chant to a nameless, faceless god who meant the same to his neighbor as it did to him.

He didn't think he was okay with that, but then his car passed under one of the sensors and he forgot what he might have been thinking about in the first place.


Instead of their own dreams, they dreamed a pre-determined dream. In them, sheep jumped over painted white fences; children swung on swings; images of sunsets on beaches, the hills in Ireland, the Eiffel Tower in France. These were images of a world forgotten since. He supposed there must have been a time when he was free, though he didn't remember it, save when he was asleep.

Toby never told anyone, but he didn't share the same dreams as they did. Only once in a great while did he dream of the forests of the Amazon; the plains of Tuscany.

He dreamed of the face of God. He dreamed of his parents dying. The cities of his boyhood - Dublin, Berlin, Vienna - would turn to ashes behind his eyelids. All the news that had been there before - genocide in Rwanda, Darfur; the Holocaust; 9/11. All the things that he had once absorbed from the pages of history books. All the things he had witnessed.

He even remembered once, when they had different faces, different smiles, different bodies, different hearts. In his heart of hearts, lying in the pitch black, he would remember that he, too, had had a life.

When he would awake sweat-soaked and choking, he would roll over and press his flesh to his wife's, fighting a wave of nausea. He was never sure why he felt that way.

And when he did, he'd dream a dreamless sleep. His wife always had been a bit of a bore. Or had she? Toby couldn't remember. Some days, he didn't even remember his own age.


Toby woke that morning with a raging headache and watched a strange light waltz across the walls. He placed his arm across his forehead and sighed. Twisting his wrist so his fingers pushed against his right temple in a staccato beat, he could feel the ibuprofen241 beginning to leak into his system. When the correct code was tapped on a certain part of the body, the medicine needed would flood through the system. Pre Bubble, this system had been restricted to diabetics, cancer patients and HIV/AIDS patients. Toby never understood why they called them "patients". When my mum'd take me to the clinic, I was never patient...

But instead of forgetting what he had just thought, Toby retained the information. As he lay there, he mulled it over in his mind.

"I'm thinking," he said out loud, with traces of an Irish accent springing into his throat. "I know how to do this."

In the white bed, grey eyes focused on the flickering ceiling.

I'm alive.

He vaulted off the uncomfortable mattress, threw back the drapes, and watched America's Atlantis burn.