Traditional Russian fairy tale with capitalist flavor, loosely translated into American language.
Once upon a time, on a dull Tuesday afternoon Ellen and her brother Evan came back from school, just to see a note from their parents. The note said dad got promoted to a senior clerk position after 15 years of hard work for his company as junior clerk. They quickly bought a new roomy SUV with zero down and ever-low 8% finance rate for 5 years, dinner and the movie for just $29.99 on Groupon — good reason to celebrate the occasion.
The note also was asking the kids to be nice to each other and under no circumstances open doors to strangers or worse, leave their two-story three-bedroom two-and-half-bath (unfinished basement) house in the suburban Chicago neighbourhood. The parents knew it was not perfectly legal, nevertheless took their chances. Likely, neighbours won’t see anything and won’t report to the police. Worst case, they knew a good lawyer.
“Yeah, Right!” said both kids at the same time finishing reading the note. Ellen jumped to the TV to watch her favorite show. Evan switched on his new iPhone to play Angry Birds. Two hours passed. Ellen, the older sister, feeling responsible for her younger brother went around to check on him. To her surprise, he was not home. Not on the backyard. Not on the driveway. He was gone!
She went outside. “Evan, Evan, where are you?” she cried. Earlier this year, she heard the story in the news that Drone Geese — remote controlled, self-flying airplanes while surveilling the city, often picked up little kids, especially those left outside with no parenting adults around, and flew them away. They have never been found. It was illegal to discuss, more so, dispute these facts, for everyone’s comfort and safety reasons. Freedom too.
This is it! She thought immediately. It must be them. What else can that be? Their sleepy middle-class neighbourhood was considered safe, with just occasional shootings here and there. Many people had guns as a cultural heritage, to follow the Second Amendment of The Constitution, and also for their own protection from the government, shall the latter decide to infringe people’s rights dropping the outdated Amendment.
She ran and ran in search for her lost brother. She was asking everyone she met on the streets, but nobody seemed to care. They replied with the usual “How are you doing? It’s a nice day!” but no further information. The River was on her way. Dark Coca-Cola river with banks made of greasy hot salty French Fries. Yummy-yummy.
— River, River, please tell me where my brother Evan is? Ellen asked.
The River replied:
— Ohh, I can tell you. But first, drink some coke and eat some fries, $2.99, and for just dollar more you can get a juicy cheeseburger, large size. There’s free ketchup too, artificially made, no tomatoes harmed. We kinda protect the environment, you know. New government program. A clown from the large screen confirmed: ”I’m loving it!”
— No, no. I have no time. I am in a hurry. Drone Gees took my brother away. Besides, I am too fat (35 pounds overweight) and I already ate at McDonalds today, twice actually. Terribly sorry the inconvenience this may have caused you, excuse me, honestly (with the fake smile), I have to go. See you. Have a nice day!
So she ran and ran. On her way stood a huge shiny Shopping Mall.
— Shopping Mall, Shopping Mall, please tell me where the Drone Gees took my brother? She cried.
Gucci, Versace, Nordstrom, Banana Republic and Sunglass Hat replied in unison:
— Ohh, we can tell you. But first, look at our new season collection of clothes, shoes, perfume, bags and more. “Glasses too”! screamed Sunglass Hat, the last in line. Come, come! We have huge sale, once a year, and it ends today. Everything is half-price. Buy one — get one free! Buy six — we’ll custom-pick the seventh for you. You’ll like it!
— No, no. I have no. I am in a hurry. Besides, you all look alike and I have no sense of style and… (ahh, who cares!) honestly, excuse me, sorry (oops!) I meant terribly sorry. Apologize for inconvenience. Have a nice day!
So she ran and ran. On her way stood The Casino.
— Casino, Casino! Please, tell me where my brother is! I don’t have time for all the bullshit the others gave me. Please!
— Ohh, bullshit is all I have, but I prefer to call it fun. Some like calling it entertainment too. I can tell you where your little brother is, but first try playing my new slot machine, just one cent to get started. Everyone wins, at first. Look at my fake blue skies, just like real — no difference! You can get rich in minutes. Everyone can. Well .. just try
— No, no. I can’t. I don’t even have time to properly apologize and say how terribly sorry I am. I don’t have time for the fake smile either, you understand? The society teaches us to do this on every occasion, but we often fail. See ya …
So she ran and ran until she got in the front of a strange-looking small house standing on two enormous chicken legs, turning from one side to another, walking on its own, slowly. The door was open so Ellen went inside. Computers, displays and game controllers were all over. Wow! XBox 390, Sony Playstation 6+, Enhanced. She finally saw her little brother Evan playing “Goal Of Duty”, Version 8, military grade, real world experience! One shot can kill up to six people, in real world, in real time. Deep into the game, Evan didn’t even notice her.
There was nobody else in the room. Or as she thought.
“Ha Ha! Here you are” — said the voice coming from the corner. A bold, nicely dressed middle-age man with a cup of coffee (Starbucks, grande skinny latte) and сigar was looking at her. “How do you do, brave sister Ellen! My name is Greed, James Greed. I own this place and what’s around” he continued with the fake British accent.
Would you like something to drink, water? I know The Coke River treated you unfairly. People like that, for some reason. They even adore that stupid clown. Prisoners of their own device! Happens all the time. I know about The Casino bullshit and Shopping Mall boring styleless cloths (and glasses too). You made it through. Congratulations! Oh, by the way, what’s your favorite show? (please don’t say you don’t watch TV every day for 6 hours)
— “Symptoms, just finished episode 2342”
— “Aha! I knew this. To be perfectly honest (with the fake smile) I know everything. Drone Gees, you know. Ultimate Surveillance Machine. They see everyone. Good news for you! I have a new episode, 2345. it’s already released. Want to watch?
— Hmm, I’m not sure … But I’d love to! This is the future, right?
— Yeah, it certainly is. We’re a bit ahead of the time. Channel 25334, Super HD, 5-D movie. Feels absolutely real. Want some popcorn?
— Yes, please.
— Indeed! By my guest. We say popcorn, we mean movies. We say movies we mean popcorn. It’s a saying from far away country. Kind of old. Enjoy! I’m going to run some errands. I’ll make a table with really good food, all natural, no GM, no artificial flavors. We’re healthy people here, you know. You’ll like it. Just wait …
While he was gone, Ellen saw a little mouse. The Mouse spoke Aussee. He was very smart, knew computers and often chewed the cables in the Department of Drones, getting some interesting facts out. He knew a lot. This is why The Mouse was accused of stealing Big Cheese secrets. As a result, he had no other place to go.
The Mouse said to Ellen “Hey Hey! Can you please stop this, well .. this good show for just a second. I have something important to say. Look, Mister Greed seems to be nice, but don’t trust him! On that dinner, you and your brother will be the food. It happened before. RUN!»
In an instant she realized how stupid it was to make it here only to watch the show. She came here to rescue her little brother, after all. And, their parents are coming back soon, and won’t be happy at all to see the house empty.
“Drop this!” — she yelled at brother Evan. “Let’s go! Let’s run!”. “Wait, wait, wait …” — he replied — “just one more level, one more level, maybe another one. Yeah!”
Enough is enough! She had to do it, right now, right here. She grabbed Evan in the middle of the game, and ran away. Alarms went on around the house almost immediately. Drone Gees started their engines, ready for takeoff. They are flying much faster than anyone can run. They can see you from the sky. There’s no escape. The Casino was on the way again. Ellen’s words were quick:
— Casino, Casino! Sorry for calling you bullshit a bullshit last time. Can you hide us, please? We’ll play all your slot machines, win or lose. I have my parents’ credit card, and as far as I know, it’s not maxed out yet.
The Casino hid them under its fake painted skies, and the Drone Geese flew away.
That was a relief. They both said “Thank, you Casino for your generous … well, fun and entertainment, but we’ll have to run home before our parents come back”
The moment they went outside, one of the Drones turned its surveillance camera and spotted the children instantly. Ellen and Evan saw a flash, and the flock of Drones was coming their way again.
— Oh, Shopping Mall! Gucci, Versace, Sunglass Hat (whatever else). Hide us, please, in your endless cloths, dress us up. This is the most wonderful experience one can have. Hide us, Drones are coming!
— Don’t forget my new collection of glasses. Summer is coming! Sunglass Hat added (the sun hasn’t changed much in the last year, but the sales were down 20%).
— Yeah, of course. Our parents’ credit card maxed out after leaving The Casino, but we’ll call the bank and ask for home equity loan. They are nice people, they will understand.
The Shopping Mall hid them in a fitting room, covered by 256 pairs of jeans that nobody needed, 123 hats, 45 bags, 32 pairs of shoes and indeed, 2 nice pairs of plastic sunglasses, thanks to the Sunglass Hat, just $199 each (he didn’t have “glass” glasses anymore). The Drones Geese flew away.
Home was not that far away, 10 minutes, 15 at the most. But the Drones came back again. Besides, Ellen and her brother felt hungry after such a long run. The Coke RIver was on the way! Cheeseburgers and Fries were the best hideout possible, given the circumstances. They searched for $2.99, not much money and really good deal for a meal for two. Coins, quarters, cents. Got it! “Please, two Big Macs, large fries, two medium half-gallon drinks. Oh, ketchup too. Thanks” they said. And, hide us as quickly as possible!!
— Your number is 17. By the way, do you know about your chance to win a Caribbean Cruise, just by filling out this form?
— Later. Drones are coming!
— OK, OK, just checking. And remember, today is your only chance to win, no purchase necessary.
They hid underneath the piano with the sign “Keep Off”. Decorations help sometime. The Drones saw the sign and took it as a command. Besides, they needed to refuel. They sped away and returned to their home base.
Ellen and Evan didn’t feel hungry anymore, but the greasy cheesy burgers, fries, coke and free ketchup were too much to leave behind (and put in the place where it belongs — the trash). They wanted The Coke River to feel good. So, they ate it all instantly adding 5 pounds, each. “I’m Loving It!” Repeated the clown.
Home, Sweet Home! Finally, they were safe. Just a few minutes after, parents came back. To their surprise, the house was in perfect order, the kids happy, smiling and finishing their homework.
They lived happily ever after, paid their mortgage in full for the two-story three-bedroom three-and-half-bath (finished basement!) house in the suburban Chicago neighbourhood by the age of 69.
The Drone Geese were upgraded, so they can fly much higher. No one could see them anymore, but they see everyone.
(April 10, 2012)