The Asylum

The Asylum is one of the most cheerful places in Heliopoli, second only to the Solarium. It resides in the upper levels of the Chromotower and faces east. In the morning, it floods with sunlight, brightening the orange carpeting and the objects arrayed upon it, including teddy bears; board games; and common implements of the day, such as cereal bowls and spoons. It is a large but ordinary room, and that is precisely the point.

This is the place for those to which Heliopoli is a failure.

Heliopoli was built to prevent future shock. For some, Heliopoli causes exactly what it is trying to prevent. There are many who cannot cope with the future.

How do people immediately transported to the future react to it? Take, for instance, those who recover from comas after several years. In one instance, a patient was handed a cell phone, something he had never seen before and for which he had no associational links. He stared at it, smiling, turning it over and over in his hands. He couldn’t process what it was. What did it look like to him? What analog in his world did it come close to?

Is it possible that we in our own time undergo the same conditions, because of rapid change? Are we ever-wakening from coma-like states because of technological advances? Perhaps there are many things in the world that we do not see because we cannot cope with such rapid change.

Perhaps the new cell phone in your hand is not what you think. Perhaps it is much more technologically advanced, but you are stuck in perceiving it as less so. Maybe it is an everything-in-one device that contains the entire contents of the Library of Congress and all the movies ever made and has the ability to communicate with your doppelganger construct in orbit around the moon, if only as an amplifier for the telethreads woven into your brain.

Perhaps, in reality, it is a squid. You do not see it as a squid, because the shock would be (or has been) too great.

And what happens when a population expects a certain future, as reflected in Heliopoli, and find another one? How would the builders of Heliopoli feel if transported to our present? What would they see? How would they react?

But in the case of Heliopoli it is an imagined future. Many of the technologies employed by Heliopoli were, to say the least, inaccurate in their predictions. If the predictions were accurate, would the shock be prevented? And yet, the future is always imaginary.

The Asylum in Heliopoli is a simulation of the real world within a simulation of the future. It is for us to decide within what Heliopoli resides.

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