Rod Townsend sometimes receives phone calls from The Future, a mysterious entity that knows where things will be in New York after the Starbucks and Whole Foods have blanketed the town and then disappeared.
"Ni hao, internuts! Did you vote yesterday?"
"Oh, hmm! Was it Election Day? To be honest it sort of skipped my mind. I don't think there was much on the ballot this year."
"You should've voted anyway, just for the fun of it. It's a chance to see your saltier neighbors and, if I know my history, it was the last year to use those fun lever-machines. It's not nearly as adventurous now."
"Well, now it's as easy as yi, er, san. Just look at the ballot on your iPortal and make your choices. In fact, I'm doing it as we speak."
"So you're voting via the Internet?"
"TransPortalWeave actually. They did try to use the Internet at first, but it was a disaster. Thousands of people in Philadelphia hacked the system and found a way to vote for Mayor!"
"Well, what's wrong with that? Philly has a May—"
"No, digidouche, Mayor of New York! After Staten Island seceded to New Jersey, Philadelphia was determined to become the fifth borough, going as far as leaving Pennsylvania. But New York simply didn't want to be associated with them, so they ended up as part of New Jersey too. But hacking wasn't the most chaotic election event."
"But voting is one of the most important foundations of our society. What could be worse than hackers?"
"A hurricane on Election Day? That would be disruptive."
"In 2008, both parties nominated candidates from New York. One was sort of the "sure thing" legacy history-making candidate and the other was more of a "seat warmer" while his party tried to pull itself back together."
"Well, it seems like you're talking Hillary Clinton and Rudolph Giuliani, right?"
"Exactly. Hillary was carrying like 70 per cent in the polls. Rudy had been wrecked by scandal after scandal, the last of which being video proof that he was in bed with this unscrupulous guy, Bernard Kerik."
"Well there's all sorts of links between the two that go back for years, I can't imagine what else...."
"No, I mean they were literally video-taped in bed together. This was pre-gaylightenment, when the Republican Party was still in the closet, even though most of its leadership were Flambeau Rambos. Anyway, he was still the party's candidate and he had come back to New York just before the election. At the same time, a huge storm was working its way up the Atlantic—Hurricane Judith."
"They named it after Giuliani's wife? Is that...."
"Apparently these things are decided in advance so it was just a coincidence. Anyway, the storm just ravaged the city with huge amounts of rain and wind and flooding. It was probably the most transformative event the city had ever seen. Coney Island became an actual island. The high-rises along the Hudson toppled like dominos. Glorious Lake Zero was formed. And Giuliani became president."
"Hold on. How did...."
"All of the media was covering the storm more than the election, so Giuliani made it look as if he was out in the storm helping people, delivering cookies to shelters, and whatever else it took to get on camera to defend what he was calling 'Storm Eleven.'"
"According to him, he couldn't use his wife's name for such a terrible event. Since 'J' is the eleventh letter of the alphabet, he renamed it 'Storm Eleven' and the name stuck with the media. They stopped focusing on the nightmare of Judith and instead turned to stories of how Rudy was saving people from Storm Eleven. Hm. Schumer or Allison for Senator? Voting is hard sometimes."
"A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I. Hey J isn't the eleventh letter...."
"You know, not one person in the press caught that twist until after the election. Anyway, I need to close out my voting session and then I've got to get to the Upper East Side for a performance art auction. I'll call you soon! Zai jian!"