An Immaculate View

In a near-future world where the privileged few live in prosperity zones, Mark Jensen finds himself grappling with the consequences of his elevated status. As he enjoys the luxuries provided by his robotic attendant, he can't help but feel disquieted by the impermanence of it all.

An Immaculate View
Created with Midjourney

I asked GPT-4 to write a short story from the point of view of a privileged, but angst-ridden, citizen of a world transformed by massive inequality. I wrote out the basic premise, setting, and characters in a paragraph and asked the model to expand from there. The model also created the post excerpt.

I fed the premise of the story to Midjourney to create the cover image.

"Your beverage, Mr. Jensen." The robot attendant's murmur was barely perceptible as its gloved hand expertly placed the delicate cup on the table. Excellence was the standard here. Yet, this immaculate environment stirred both gratitude and uneasiness in Mark Jensen. The perfection was equally comforting and disquieting.

Mark gave a quick nod to the attendant and reached for a spoon. The tea had been attentively prepared, sugar already mixed in, but he couldn't help but indulge in the ritual of stirring. It was an act of contemplation that had little to do with the drink itself.

He sat in his favorite spot by the expansive window, basking in the morning sunlight. From this vantage point, Mark's view spanned hundreds of miles. “Immaculate service. Immaculate view,” echoed in his mind as a blend of guilt and anxiety gnawed at him, causing him to stir with noticeably increasing vigor. The attendant watched discreetly from afar, displaying a hint of robotic concern.

Mark loathed being among the privileged, but he wasn't part of the absolute elite. Those individuals had been evacuated to the Anglo Union when the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada shifted their governmental operations and selected citizens to the forcibly evacuated and more secure regions of Australia and New Zealand. Life there remained unchanged. A few of the wealthiest were off-world, in orbit or on the Moon; their lifestyle seemed unappealing to him and they were easy to forget.

Mark, like every other resident of North America's seven “prosperity” zones—the coastal walled cities—was considered a model citizen. They were all safeguarded by fortified barriers and the armed forces. However, most recognized the possibility that their positions might become indefensible or, worse, not worth defending. The U.S. government's relocation to the other side of the world was quite telling. The powerful always manage to get out first.

Mark's stirring grew more intense as he took in the view. From this height, almost a mile above the Manhattan Prosperity Zone, the winter panorama remained constant: cerulean skies, radiant sunlight, and pillowy white clouds below. The building, the zone's tallest, was as awe-inspiring as the view.

Finally ceasing his stirring, much to the attendant's relief, Mark sipped his tea. In that moment, a realization washed over him—his unease didn't stem from guilt. He had once worried about those on the fringes, even those crushed in the turmoil, but it had become too much. No, it finally dawned on Mark that his creeping anxiety was rooted in fear. His brow furrowed in contemplation.

"Can I help you, Mr. Jensen?" The attendant appeared as if by magic. The new models were so perceptive. "All walls collapse in the end, don't they? Inevitably, right?" Mark's eyes locked onto the waiter's, and now the attendant's brow furrowed with concern. It found unhappy humans distressing and hesitated for a moment as it tried to discern the purpose of Mark's question.

The attendant pondered the predicament—a millisecond of computation—and concluded that Mark would be pleased to have his point reinforced with additional evidence. "Again, do you not see that even stones are conquered by time, that high towers fall and rocks molder away, that shrines and idols of gods are worn down with decay, and that holy divinity cannot prolong the bounds of fate or struggle against the fixed laws of nature?" Mark stared at him in silence for a few seconds before the attendant offered, "The Roman poet and philosopher Lucretius Carus." It smiled, seemingly quite proud of itself.

Mark's gaze dropped slowly, the interaction failing to lift his spirits. "...Inevitable," he whispered, his voice barely audible. The attendant studied Mark's body language briefly, reflecting on interactions that had allowed it to cheer Mark up in the past. It didn't take long for it to devise a new strategy. "I have just the thing for you, Mr. Jensen." With that, the attendant turned around and dashed off to retrieve a warm, freshly baked scone for his unhappy customer.

Blogs of War generated this text in part with GPT-4, OpenAI’s large-scale language-generation model. Upon generating draft language, the author reviewed, edited, and revised the language to their own liking and takes ultimate responsibility for the content of this publication.