The TouchesThe Touches by Brenda Peynado
My rating: 4/5 cats
One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

Outside it’s gray and ruined earth, trying to heal itself. All the superbugs—microbes and viruses that evolved immunity to antibiotics, that melted out of the polar ice caps and were released into the oceans, bugs we hadn’t seen for a million years—they’re all still out there, proliferating. Inside, the cubicle is a standard-issue sanitized room: only enough to feed yourself, hug your robot like you’re supposed to, bathe when you need, and then plug right back in and sleep along with your avatar. Every crack is sealed, every intake and retake valve opened only once a vacuum is established in the rest of the system. Back before the toilets were vacuum-sealed, they would spew all their bugs into the air, infecting everyone who used the same ventilation system, killing entire apartment complexes. It’s revolting, knowing how even the bacteria we need is mutating on our very skins, inside us, just a roll of the dice before they turn into something deadly; knowing that if the seals around our doors were to give way, we’d probably be puking our guts out within the week, killed by a bird flu or Ancient Mariner Infection or Limb-Taking Staph or Airborne HIV.

there wasn’t a new tor short posted this thanksgiving week, so i waded thru the archives allll the way back to november 2019, and what did i find myself reading but a near-future story about how our world has become so toxic that it has forced humanity into über-quarantine, where all life is conducted virtually and people can go their whole lives without ever feeling the touch of another human.

it wasn’t my intention to ring in the 2020 socially-distant holiday season with such a bleakly prescient tale, but here we are. it’s a great story, just a little too close to reality right now. yeesh.

stay safe, everyone.

read it for yourself here:…

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