Out of This World
Art by Koren Shadmi


This story is over 5 years old.


Out of This World

A visual tale of what happens when the rich (and their robots) get their way.

Science fiction is a highly visual medium: even on the page, it abounds with landscapes, colors, and speculative vistas that draw us into fugue states of imagining. We're lucky to work with a few ace graphic artists here at Terraform, like Koren Shadmi, the Israel-born, Brooklyn-based author of several graphic novels and a gifted visual amplifier of the written word. This is his visual story—somewhere between graphic novel and illustrated text—of sex, drugs, income inequality, and robot nannies in a near-future New York. -the Editors


My dad got rich before I was born. Not rich—mega-rich. He was one of the first to take advantage of the total government deregulation sweep in the thirties, turning a modest inheritance from my great-grandfather into a multi-billion dollar empire over the course of just a few years. When I was growing up his company just kept expanding; he had an aggressive acquisition and liquidation policy, and roughly half a million Lows working for him. He wanted to have a million by the time he turned sixty. What a goddamn schmuck.

Late winter and lower Manhattan was totally frozen. I was making my way to school, walking down Liberty street. Bob was behind me, his mechanical whirr extra loud this morning, since his defrosters were set to high. It's kind of amazing that a machine as heavy as Bob is, carrying two mini-guns, can walk this fast without slipping on the frozen sidewalk. I've gotten used to the bastard. Since my dad got him a few years ago he's been with me every minute of the day. Everyone knows that lower Manhattan is totally secure. The National Guard's stationed at every intersection. But my dad doesn't want to take any chances, and neither do any of my friends' parents. A few years ago a Low infiltrated one of the high rises, shooting a hedge-fund manager and his three daughters. Now everyone has a Bob with them at all times.

As far as Bob was concerned, today was a day like any other, his dumb software compelling him to follow me around. He had no idea I had a little surprise for him. I'd read the instructions a hundred times after I bought it off the deep web, making sure I set it up right, but I was still nervous. I had just one chance, and this was it. If I fucked it up, I would be fucked. I stopped abruptly and shouted: "Bob! there's a guy with a gun over there!" I pointed at a boarded-up storefront on the corner. Before I could blink, Bob was standing in front of me, red LEDs lit up all over his armor, guns loaded and ready to go, a network of titanium shields fanning out of his body like a cobra. While Bob was scanning the storefront, I pulled out a thumb drive from my backpack, and, as fast as I could, plugged it into his neck. In less than two seconds Bob was out cold. I checked his head to be sure: no lights in the old cork. I was free.


The taxi dropped me off in Mott Haven—that's where Carlton said the rave was gonna happen. It was still early, so I walked around. The place was swarming with Lows and everything looked like shit. Lots of micro casinos and vape shops everywhere. There was garbage all around, jutting out of the ice and the gutters. People here looked miserable and dirty. I was ready for that; I'd switched my Armani Uni-Coat with pre-soiled Low clothes in the taxi. I gave the Uni-Coat to the driver. He could buy a year's worth of food for his family if he sold it.

I made my way into what must have, at some point, been a public school playground. There was a group of teenagers hanging out in the corner, smoking. Three girls and a guy. I started talking to them. They were kind of icy at first, but as soon as I took out a joint and offered to share the ice melted. They didn't know it, but this was primo stuff—two ounces could pay their annual rent. One of the girls was really cute. Her name was Martha. She had bright red hair, big grey eyes, and from what I could tell, a pretty nice body. It was hard to see under all those shitty clothes. I asked them about the big party. They were all planning on going.

Later, Martha and I walked over to a hole-in-the-wall pizza joint. I got her two slices and she scarfed them down. God, I've never seen someone with so little manners. Oil dripping down her fingers and the side of her mouth—it was disgusting, but also kind of hot. She seemed a little suspicious of my generosity, but I told her I just stole my aunt's wallet that morning. If my dad could see me now he would flip balls, sitting here, with a female Low, eating Low food. Just the thought filled me with pleasure.


We still had time to kill, so we went to her place. It was a dump. She and her two brothers slept in a triple bunk bed in a room smaller than our butler's closet. She couldn't even spread out fully on her tiny bunk bed, she told me she slept in a fetal position, and that it wasn't that bad. I lit another joint and we smoked it. She told me my stuff was "out of this world," We were getting really high. She locked the door and we took off our clothes. I was right about her body. She had a few sores on her thighs, but otherwise she was a really hot. I've only seen one other girl naked—Katia DuPont, who was definitely not nearly this hot. Katia and I hooked up a few times last year and then she dumped me. I got kind of depressed after that, so my dad tried setting me up with the daughter of a sultan in Dubai. Even though she was hot I told him to fuck off, and he hasn't mentioned it since. Needless to say I was horny. Martha and I totally did it right there in her dumpy little closet of a room and it was amazing.

When we woke, it was dark. Martha told me to get dressed. We snuck out the fire escape and made our way towards the waterfront. Ice cold winds were blowing from the water, and I was shaking under my coat. Martha didn't seem to mind. She took my hand and led me toward what looked like a towering warehouse. At the door, a big fat guy asked us the password. Martha said: "Chicken Feed" and we were in.


There must have been five thousand Lows in there. There were LEDs, lasers and smoke machines, and the music was so loud I could feel my lungs vibrating. I've seen similar scenes in some old TV shows from the turn of the century, but this was the real deal. The air smelled of sweat and drugs. Martha led me over to her friends, who were dancing next to a giant speaker. They were all happy to see me, asked if I had more of that killer pot. But I didn't. I started dancing with Martha, we danced real close, and I could see her eyes reflecting a spectrum of LED lights as she looked at me. She smiled, and I could feel her body brushing against mine, again and again.

All of a sudden I heard a whirl of gunshots and several screams. People started running. Martha shouted to her friends, took my hand and led me towards the exit. We got out of the building and started running towards a big container near the water, I ran as fast as I could, but Martha's hand slipped from mine and I tripped. Then I heard a familiar sound behind me.

A loud whirr, and one by one I saw Martha and her friends go down. I stayed low to the ground, covering my head. Bob walked over to where Martha lay, still alive, barely. He stood above her, undoubtedly waiting for orders. All of a sudden Martha was burning. Bob was blasting her with a napalm gun I didn't even know he had. She stopped moving. Bob repeated the process with her three friends. Finally, he turned and walked over to me.


I stood up, in defeat. A silver wire came out of Bob's arm and locked itself around mine. Bob's chest lit up and my dad appeared on it. He looked immensely disappointed. My dad spoke: "You've gone and done it this time, boy. You're grounded for a month. We'll talk details when I'm home."

I opened my mouth to protest. "Not now, I'm about to board a flight. We'll talk tomorrow. Again, I'm very, very disappointed." He logged off. I buttoned up my coat, pulled down my hat and started following Bob south, towards the bright lights of Manhattan.