The Unilever Series: Dominique Gonzales Foerster - TH.2058


Phase Cycle

By Salwa Azar


As dark-shod feet sloshed through the rain and flood-induced sludge on the pavement, moisture hung in the air from the fog off the river that lapped for now, peacefully against the concrete and flex-metal container built after the great war of 35 destroyed part of the bank. Laser turrets blinked expectantly in the mist, constantly monitoring for changes in waveform and temperature, every half mile.

Governor Snide looked up at the mammoth building in front of him and curled his lip involuntarily. He never knew why they refused to knock it down after the war. All red bricks, shafts and sheer cliff face proportions, half bombed, half resurrected now as a data bank and generator. So What if it was a major gallery as recently as 20 years ago? Modern indeed, he scoffed fingering the collar of his N-rain coat, cut in the style of an old Macintosh, the irony being lost on him entirely.

Now Snide had to make his way across puddles and sludge from the riverbank that flooded too often, just to get to a monstrosity he had to see every day of his job sheltering his new, clean, perfect office.

“Morning Governor” said an aide opening the door widely for Snide to cross.

The Governor gave a cursory nod and swept through to the main hall, populated now by a raised platform that ran the steam turbine, more lasers blasting off the surface flood-water that now ran freely diverted through the large sloped hall creating clouds of steam that drove the turbine to run the data banks above.

Ironic, thought the Governor, that a power station is again a power station. Snide lit a now-moist Proto-hale and sucked in the sticky cherry scent deep into his lungs. Cherry was for heartache and the nano particles were already doing their job, injecting minute nano-therapy drugs into his circulatory system. With the dark coat, trilby and shoes, Snide looked like a private detective of old, the Proto hanging languidly out of the side of his mouth. He liked the thought of looking like someone recognisable from culture’s history, it resonated with him, although it was about his only emotional link to the past he felt was worth cultivating.

He shivered, all too aware that the humidity and steam were signs that the water levels were rising, always rising damp, taking another deep drag of the re-engineered smoke.

Snide drew the collar of his now dripping nano-raincoat close round his neck and walked toward the lift pod up some non-slip and Na-dry stairs that were now standard issue in older buildings.

He stared at his reflection from beneath the Trilby, watching as his nano-coat spread dryness along the fibres on the way up to the 3rd floor. He always liked it when it got up to his neck, the warm tickling his earlobes. The pod’s ImmersiLast front, now clouded over to mask the speed at which they had arrived at their destination in under 5 seconds, swung open effortlessly and Snide stepped out into the lush white carpeted Third level, dry as a bone, smoke curling effortlessly towards the air filters in the corridor’s ceiling.


Striking a paradoxical figure in black, Snide strode down the winding white corridors and vaulted white rooms that were completely identical save for a small black letter or number over the top of each entrance. These rooms seemed empty but they hid shelves of data discs and Q-sand trays, that pushed effortlessly and invisibly back into white walls when no longer required. The Q-sand was a technique developed in 25 or so that allowed individual nano grains of sand to be given quantum properties that turned it into a multi faceted storage medium, storing but never over-writing data so that it could be traced right back through its permutations. Ideal for data reports on the weather. The irony was not lost on him, Snide thought, that sand was now helping to turn the tide so-to-speak.

Snide rounded a corner to a room numbered 333 and tried to ignore the temptation to give in to lingering superstition. Yet, in the white expanse, something caught his eye. Fluttering delicately and feebly in a corner was a white butterfly, somehow trapped inside this huge structure, it was tapping against one of the LED strips that lit the rooms, tap…tap…tap….

Snide had never seen a butterfly before, he thought they had been made extinct as the floods swamped much of the park lands they thrived on in London. Snide had never been interested in wildlife, preferring instead to rely on the Department of Science’s press releases every day, via the Elxconi projector screens. These high-rise communication devices interrupted the more heavily-populated city areas as they transmitted their messages. Stark rectangles of neon colour against the misty clouds allowing a wonderful 3d extravaganza of display, that promised progress was being made on flood control, re-population of wildlife and climate re-invention. Snide had seen butterflies in occasional glimpses of the Historical Nature Channel streams.

The thin veiled wings, papery and fragile grew tired. Snide stood observing, hardly daring to breathe, the LED lights giving the insect a glowing translucency as it crawled over the plastic coating of the strip. Snide wondered how the little thing, so fragile had managed to escape the humidity and steam to climb high up into endless rooms, and why it had settled in this one, where he was sure to see it, as if his senses had been primed by the act of superstition, scanning for signs.


The butterfly lay quite still now, an hour had somehow silently ticked by and Snide was conscious that he had to make up for this lost hour spent staring in wonder at such a little thing of beauty.

He quietly tiptoed towards the resting figure, aware of his slightly damp and pungent cherry Proto odour, the closer he got, the more anxious he became that this vision in front of him would dissipate into the white walls as though it had never happened.

He was so close to it now, and crouched down that his breath disturbed the raggedy wings, and yet no disturbance in the state of the stillness, no movement. Getting out a 0.1 waterproof marker from his stay-dry pocket, he gently un-clicked the skinny cap, set the pen to “analogue” at which point a small titanium nib shot out. Slowly, ever so slowly, he moved the delicate baton until the butterfly’s belly was touching it. No movement. Snide gave no flicker of emotion, and merely pushed the nib further into the inert torso, then, lifting the pen and impaled insect up to his face, he gave it a last once-over with a grimace at noticing some ooze was leaking onto his pen- that’ll mess with the ink level sensors, he thought wryly.

Walking now, in procession behind this uplifted offering, he strode into his office numbered 339 that was at least furnished with a chair, a touch-table display and for a joke more than effect had a large gilt picture frame over the left wall that echoed back to the building’s original purpose. The picture frame was a wooden-backed piece, a big square of brown interrupting the careful white expanse, deliberately jarring.

Snide looked at the pen, and then back at the frame. With what can only be described as a smirk, Snide strode towards the frame, raised the pen and jabbed once at the wood, which splintered and clung onto the pen and the suspended insect as they connected. He looked back at his touch-table, which now read “Input Error” and walking towards it, fingers already moving to get another pen from his nano-coat stay-dry pocket.

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