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Commonwealth: A Novel of Utopia, part 1, chapter 4

Author’s Note: This is an excerpt from my novel Commonwealth. The rest of today’s installment is free, but only on my Patreon site. If you want to read the next part today, it’s already up on Patreon as well. You can sign up for as little as $1/month.

When she got out at her stop, Rae scanned the street like a soldier looking for enemy snipers. She had expected Will Anton’s black car to be waiting for her. Thankfully, there was no sign of it.

The billboards were showing commercials. A breathy female voice let out gasps of ecstasy as the silhouette of a curvaceous woman gyrated on the screen, white on black. The image changed to a handsome man in a tuxedo, who drew a cigarette from a pack, put it to his lips and struck a match. He blew out a cloud of smoke, which seemed to fill the display.

“Stud Cigarettes,” a sultry voice announced. “The only brand guaranteed to increase your sexual potency.”

The commercial zipped off the screen, replaced by the logo of ObjectiveNet, a stylized golden globe. The logo shrank to the bottom, revealing the newscaster seated behind a desk. This time it was a woman, but equally blond, equally flawless, equally indistinguishable.

“Welcome back,” she said. “In this hour’s top headlines, the drought in the Corn Belt is entering its second year.”

The screen showed images of desolate farmland. Gray, withered stalks of corn lay like fallen soldiers in moonscape-sterile soil. Dust clouds swirled around a tractor clotted with rust.

“With aquifers pumped dry and no rain in the forecast, conditions don’t look set to improve any time soon. On Wall Street, stocks set a record, as investors concluded that soaring food prices would lead to higher profits for commodity companies.”

Rae hurried up the steps to her apartment. She locked the door, did a quick check to make sure Will Anton wasn’t hiding in her closet, then doffed the coverall. It had never felt so luxurious to pull on her own, comfortable clothes.

She booted up her computer. She knew she should visit Zoe and see how her friend was doing, but she had promised herself to do this first.

Anyway, it should only take five minutes.

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DAYLIGHT ATHEISM Adam Lee is an atheist author and speaker from New York City. His previously published books include "Daylight Atheism," "Meta: On God, the Big Questions, and the Just City," and most...