The room smelled of stale cigarettes and light beer like one of those upper level karaoke booths in Shibuya undoubtedly from all the Japanese tourists who’d come to witness the beauty of Hawaiʻi. Or what was left of it. It was an unassuming cube, ten by ten, devoid of any notable features. Its beige walls were the same color as the old Apple LC IIs.
Frank and Lisa had been dreaming of a honeymoon in Hawaiʻi more or less since they were first engaged, and they were finally there, in Waikiki. Place of dreams, iconic since the long-remembered days of the Ali’i, the dream perpetuated by visits of the Beatles, Elvis, Kurt Cobain and Courtney’s wedding on the beach captured in crappy disposable camera snap shots… indelible images of celebrity faces grinning cheesy grins, necks adorned in the ever present plumeria leis. Diamond Head forever standing alone looking down on the constant buzz and hum of human activity below along the beach line and city streets, frantic from its paleolithic perspective.
It had been nearly fifteen years since the California quake of 20XX, and losing all that land to the Pacific had left a big gap in North American tourism (no more Hollywood?) and of course Hawaiʻi, already overburdened with visitor traffic, had been there to mop of the excess. Forever the American dream paradise. “Tiny bubbles… tiny bubbles.”
The couple were from Ohio and had never seen the ocean, and on their supersonic flight over the Pacific, spread out under them like some textured indigo blanket, the clouds below contrasted with that dark dark blue, all shibori whites and more blue. Of course it hadn’t been all beautiful, the plane’s passengers had collectively gawked out the windows as it had passed over California. Los Angeles was now some kind of modern day Atlantis, the flotsam and jetsam of its remains spreading out through the surrounding waters as a cancerous grey-green slick for hundreds of miles… Amoeba Record’s vinyl left unsold, floating endlessly, rotting…
They had eventually arrived and shuffled off the plane into the Honolulu International Airport, somnambulistic slack key piping over the tinny speakers. Long gone were the hula girls with plump hips and grass skirts, but they still laughed and smiled as automated servitors dropped shell leis over their heads as they exited the jet bridge. A man in a suit was waiting for them outside of the baggage claim. Large block letters on a dry erase board spelling out their last name (Z I L S K E) directed the couple to their driver. He collected their luggage and ushered them into their limo. Upon entering Waikiki, the limo entered an airlock to deposit them, the entrance to the Trump Hotel a hermetically sealed dome protecting the visitors from the harsh environ outside.
The world had dreamt of Hawaiʻi since English sailors had first embarked upon its shore, illustrations and stories of verdant landscapes, beautiful natives and aquamarine waters engendering countless dreams of a true paradise, and bringing an ever growing stream of visitors to its isolated shores. The stories were a little different now.
Over development, an ever-increasing population and the time that North Korea actually DID manage to launch an ICBM had radically transformed the island landscape. A late 2020s change in development legislation had allowed foreign investors to build higher and higher, radically more extreme buildings covering bigger and bigger footprints of precious ʻāina. The oxybenzone and octinoxate in the sunscreen of countless tourists who had ignored the 2018 law against it had led to a massive coral bleaching event. That coupled with the runoff from mega golf courses and mega human waste released into the ocean every time a tropical storm super cell hit led to a red tide around the islands. It was an uninhabitable ring of toxicity like a horror story version of Jean-Claude and Christo’s Surrounded Islands.
The rooms that the tourists flocked to when they visited Hawaiʻi were the only remaining way to enjoy the island’s charm. When warning signs had begun to point towards the coming decline of the natural environment, scientists and artists joined forces to preserve all of its sensory glory and delight in a holographic digital matrix. The sound of water lapping the shorelines of the North Shore. The scent of a sea breeze above Makapuʻu. The feeling of cold pure mountain water running through your toes on the way to Kaʻau Crater.
It had been a massive undertaking and incredibly expensive but the project found corporate support easily. In a fight against time, as much as possible of the island chain had been scanned, recorded, processed. The rooms were the result; vast sensory data stored in memory banks in underground server farms, recent advancements in light CPUs allowing for the complexities and scale of the project.
Frank and Lisa smiled at each other as their fingers interlaced and the walls of the their rented holo room began to glow with the rendered environment. Breaking eye contact, they were greeted by the same graphic that greeted every visitor at the beginning of the immersive experience: the Hawaiʻi State Seal. A rope circle capped by the words “STATE OF HAWAII,” the center filled with an image of King Kamehameha the First, his arm thrust forward and to his right the goddess Liberty holding the Ka Hae Hawaiʻi, the flag of Hawaiʻi. The two figures were seperated by a shield with sun rays articulating above it. Below the figures was an uppercase phrase, “UA MAU KE EA O KA AINA I KA PONO”.
Turning towards her new husband, Lisa asked, “But what does it mean?” Frank laughed, “I honestly have no idea!” As the perfect simulation began, a salty breeze gently brushed the couple’s hair. Swaying palm trees, looming into being, provided shade from the UV-free sunshine. Lisa and Frank clasped hands and walked along the pristine shoreline, taking in the sights and sounds of their simulation. Stale cigarette smoke and leftover beer residue hung in the air.