Isaac Fitch’s face is just a placeholder between two swollen headphones. The headphones cost more than the rest of his wardrobe combined; the puffy blue polyester jacket, the baggy khakis, the mismatched socks and the disintegrating Converse don’t fit him, and don’t match. Isaac is twenty-four years old, but he won’t be born for another thirty years from our perspective. Every day he walks through a city not terribly different from the cities of our present, his head down and his hands in his pockets, and his headphones pump noise into his brain.
He listens to music mathematically engineered to induce movement. A kick drum hammers through his skull in four-four time, and he walks to the beat. The pops and squeals and washes of electronic fuzz distort the colors of his surroundings, sap the city of its realness. He watches children play in a park as if they are part of a book he is reading. He is entranced by his own feet. His jaw remains slack, and his hands never leave his pockets unless he needs to pay for something.
The music drowns out thought. Isaac’s hair grows in four-four time. He showers with the speakers in his tiny apartment turned up all the way, and he never shaves. He doesn’t read the news except when he accidentally follows a link broadcast by a friend on a public feed. He figures he knows all the relevant information already.
The world, according to Isaac, moves to a four-four beat. Nothing unexpected ever happens. The planet is gradually getting worse and worse. Wars will break out, economies will collapse, cities will sink beneath the sea one by one, and there is nothing Isaac or anyone else can do about it. He doesn’t mind so much. He doesn’t think enough to mind. And anyway, there’s no use worrying about what he can’t change.
Instead, he is waiting. The music, and the walking, and the looking at the city through electronic fuzz and pops and squeals is his way of passing the four-four time. He is waiting, very patiently, for the first ships to go mars. It’ll happen any day now. He’ll see them in the sky and he’ll already be listening to the perfect soundtrack for getting out of here.