by Ward Parkway
"Let's go see Grandma!" implored Jet, velcroing up his transhoes. "Bok said at B-school today that his Granddad died last week and his statch is awesome!"
Jul yawned. She was sooooo tired of visiting The Grounds. The place had scared her when she was little and now it just seemed creepy and boring. Of course, as a teenager, a lot of things that her younger bother enjoyed seemed creepy and boring to her. She'd go anyway, just to have something to do. On a grey, rainy afternoon like this there wasn't much else to do in her small town.
The two of them rollered over to TransPort 230 where they clicked in for a yank over to the far west section. They linkrouted across town and released at TP5, which was huge and filled with noisy autovends. This place was lit up and open for business. Endless rows bright neon, and display surfaces flashed in every direction. Many of the autovends were swimming in religious advertainment and presented their i-card slots for the convenient purchase of sacracoins and made-to-profile wafters. After carding and keying in Grandma's PIN, they stashed the purchased items into small pockets on their sidepacks.
Rolling through the ceremonial entryway to The Grounds was like coming into an enormous tradeshow of the dead. The overarching roof was extended today, fending off the rain. Offdays like today always brought large crowds, so the place was going full blast. All the statches seemed to be turned on and the smell from the wafters was overwhelming at some of the plots. Jul felt a wave of queasiness wash over her.
Grandma was in 7Land, a big area in the southwest section of The Grounds. They made their way through a maze of rollways, finally arriving at Grandma's plot. And there she was, already turned on and waiting.
All the statches of adults were about the same size, a little less than a foot high. Molded from cremation ashcrete, they were, in essence, all that was truly left of the dearly departed. Their ashes were powdered, bleached, re-pigmented and mixed with a very strong and durable cement. The resulting ashcrete was measured for volume and then a CNC electrostatic discharge machine would one-off a scaled-down replica mold for the remains. The physical scan of Grandma was made of her when she was 73, so her statch was a perfect replica of her, albeit much smaller. She was sitting in a small version of her favorite recliner and dressed in a little doll-sized costume. UV light from the days when the roof was retracted had taken its toll on some of the clothes and they would eventually have to be replaced.
The statches were perched on multimedia altars, where bits and pieces of the ance's life played over and over. Some statch plots were monstrous spectacles of technology, media, and self-indulgence. Grandma's plot, while not embarrassing, was a bit disappointing to Jul, as Gram's filebase was pretty slim and her few clips repeated endlessly and monotonously.
Jet took off to check out the new statch plot of Bok's G-dad. The Grounds were like some kind of strange game parlor and Jet and Bok could be entertained here for hours on end. Lot's of creaky old elds were really into coming here as well, and hordes of them were always clogging up the rollways with their barge-like transchairs. While Jet was off playing the plots, Jul sat down and began watching her Gram ramble on about her second husband and that chicken recipe. Then came the account of the move to the city and the twins and on and on. It soon blurred into a surreal, waking dream. Jul was startled when Jet tapped her on the shoulder.
"What time is it?" Jul asked, looking up a bit dazed.
"5:23," Jet shot back, "didja zone out, or what?"
"Must have," she said. "I didn't know it had been that long."
Jet pulled out a wafter and plugged it into the port on the statch base. Jul took the three sacracoins she'd bought from the autovend, knelt down and dropped them into the guilded funnel below where Jet had inserted the wafter.
Soon, a rush of odorous molecules were released. They matched a smell profile of Gram, probably from about the same time that her physical scan had been made.
"Dun's grandmother had her SP done while she was baking gingerbread cookies." explained Jet, "I wish Gram had done that."
"Yep," moaned Jul drearily. "Smells just like her. Can we go home now?"