Mira sets out by canoe to help someone in a desperate situation. The girls, back at the lake house, narrate a frightening encounter with people who exhibit similar zoned-out tendencies to the people at the park the day before. Is it—whatever has happened to them—contagious? Lena, hearing a strange sound in her head, fears it might be. Hours pass with no word, and then the canoe turns up without Mira. The girls set out to save their step-mother.
Introduction: The Bandwidth Crisis and the Origins of the Bandwidth Encampments
By Mira Gale
We had become hybrid, but imperfectly. We demanded a richer and richer universe from our machines, but the richness in turn demanded bandwidth. In the cities, limited resources and higher demand led to a queue-based system for all but the elite. For working and middle-income citizens, waiting several hours for a headset was a familiar feature of the average day. Some dedicated gamers swapped schedules to take advantage of the lower traffic at night. Others moved into hacker hotels, where, for a premium, boarders received a bunk in a room of ten, a half shelf in a refrigerator, and a shared bathroom with a timer. Infestations were widespread. Indeed, a certain species of roach-borne ailment became known as ‘hacker disease.’ But the motels all had one real luxury: a private channel that provided fast, reliable access to the web. Still, there were places between places, where dwelling was difficult. These were deserts, mountainsides, abandoned coal towns. In these places, by quirks of signal maps, by the scarcity of the population, bandwidth remained plentiful. Often, as is the case with the camp in my study, they were located near giant server farms. So, the Webheads, those without the means to purchase elite access, but who had nonetheless built up a dependence on constant gamine, began to migrate to such places. Today, these places are much as they were initially, only larger.