A short story by Iris Carden.
I looked at the jacket thoughtfully. It was a big expense, but would it be worth it?
The salesman launched into his pitch.
“It looks like an ordinary leather jacket, but inside is the climate control – you can use the controls hidden away here inside, or you can download the app for your mobile phone. It’s like a personal air conditioning system. You set the temperature. It could be forty degrees, but inside your jacket, you can make it a comfortable twenty-two. Open the zip at the collar here, and you’ve got both a hood and cover for the lower half of your face, to keep your head your chosen temperature. Then there’s the gloves, goggles and boots you can get as optional extras. You could be toasty warm in the antarctic or cool as a cucumber in the middle of the Sahara. Between the outer leather and the soft inner lining is a network of nanotech climate control systems, adjusting temperature and humidity inside the clothing. These systems are incorporated into a web of filaments as fine as a spider’s web, which wrap you completely in your ideal climate comfort zone.”
The jacket and boots did look stylish, although I thought I might look a little odd all rugged up in the Queensland summer.
“What about cleaning?” I asked
“I’m glad you asked that,” the salesman took his cue. “Included with your jacket, and you get more if you buy the extras package, is a fantastic all-natural leather dressing. This is all you ever need for the outside of the products, although spot cleaning with a damp cloth is also possible for particular spills. For the lining, we have an antimicrobial solution, a couple of drops of this on a cloth and give the inside of your jacket, boots, gloves, and goggles if you get them, a quick wipe over each week and you’re good to go. It goes without saying that you do need to wear clean clothing and socks underneath.”
“It must use a lot of power,” I said.
Apparently that was another cue. “Actually, this can go for 36 hours on a single recharge. Just plug it in to a USB charger for an hour and you’re good to go. If, for example, six people who lived in the same household had these jackets, and the accessories, they would use less than a quarter of the power of running a standard household air conditioner.”
“It’s a lot of money upfront,” I said, doubtfully.
“But you don’t have to pay upfront! We have quite reasonable terms. You can take this home today, with no deposit, and pay over three years, which brings it down to a hundred dollars a month, interest free. With what you will save on air conditioning, heating, fans and suchlike, it will pay for itself in no time. And if you get the boots, you’ll never need another pair of shoes.”
Despite the long jacket and high boots being a little reminiscent of an SS uniform, I did find it attractive. One thing the SS got right was style, even though they were thoroughly evil. The forty degree summer heat in the mining town where I lived made it more attractive, even if it would look strange. Add to that the fact that my new job would entail trips all around the world, to all kinds of climates, and I found myself buying the jacket and the whole package of supplemental products.
For a year, neither hot summers nor freezing winters bothered me.
But now. Well, now I seem to be in a little bit of trouble.
I have a slight malfunction with my climate system .
I would take off the jacket, or call the company I bought it from for advice, but the gloves have gone completely stiff, and it’s impossible for me to move my fingers. In fact, the jacket, boots, and the mask over my face are all stiff. I don’t know what’s happened to the electronics throughout them, but somehow that spider’s web seems to have ossified. Here I am. I can’t dial a phone. I can’t undo buttons. I can’t even call someone for help because my face is so well covered.
I’m on a busy train platform. There’s people all around me, probably a quarter of them wearing a similar jacket and boots set to mine. (Personal climate control has proved quite popular.) I can’t move, or tell any of the people around me that I’m in distress.
Worse, the thermostat in the jacket has gone haywire. It’s thirty-eight degrees on this sunny summer day, and my personal climate zone is now below zero, and still dropping.
Effectively, I am now, and very soon will literally be, frozen stiff, on a sunny Queensland summer day.