Home Sweet Home

Alejandro went to the store and bought a house. It was time, and then some, to move out on his own. He gave the cashier-bot a fiver, and slid his new house into his wallet. There was a small status screen in one corner of the card, and a touch-sensitive combination pad to open the door.

“Don’t forget to set your code,” said the bot, as he left.

“Yo sé,” he responded.

“And recharge the batteries regularly,” said the bot to Alejandro’s back. “Otherwise the door won’t open.”

Alejandro shuffled, head down, past several unemployed bankers, still dressed in ragged suits and ties, each with their laminated cardboard signs and begging bowls.

He passed by a burly man wearing a yellow reflective jacket and steel toed boots, holding a sign that read, “Will work construction for food.”

“Cheap houses,” said the construction worker, to nobody in particular. “No jobs. Y’all get what you pay for though. You’ll see. Cheap.”

Alejandro walked along the sidewalk for two more blocks, and then turned into an alleyway. He pulled out the card, and held down the open button for a few seconds. The gateway to his new house scrolled open in front of him. He stepped carefully over the threshold, and then thumbed the close button behind him.

Home.

For a brand-new micro-universe, it was reasonably well appointed. There were working lights, for one thing. Alejandro had heard horror stories about people who had bought a new house, and then had to leave their door wide open so that they could run an extension cord to power things.

The more normal way to power a house would be to open a second micro-universe inside of the first one, with a tiny aperture between the two, just large enough for a single atom at a time to pass through. Waste from the sink, toilet or garbage chute could then be pumped into the second universe, through a temporarily expanded hole, and the second micro-universe could then be set to slowly contract. The resulting stream of high-velocity atoms would then be run through a generator. Alejandro assumed this was how they’d done things.

There wasn’t much in the way of furniture though, and the kitchen looked a bit sparse. Furnishing and appliances cost real money though, unlike universes. Alejandro shrugged. He could always fix things up a bit at a time. The important thing was that it was his own place.

Food, however.

A quick rummage through the kitchen cupboards revealed that they were as empty as Alejandro’s stomach. Time to stock up.

He pulled out the door card, and pressed the open button, but nothing happened. He glanced down. The tiny status screen was blank. He lightly tapped the card with his hand, but there was no change.

“I should have charged it earlier,” he said to himself. Typically, a well-appointed home would have inductive charging points spread around. “Now where…” His voice tailed off though.

Blank, smoothly curving walls. A partitioned area with a glass shower and toilet. A bamboo sleeping mat in a corner. The kitchen. Softly glowing lights on the ceiling. No induction point.

All the power in his very own universe, but no way to charge up the door card, and no way to open the door.

No food either.