Jo was having a weird day.
Things had been tough since she moved to the city, but what she first assumed to be plain bad luck was now descending into something approaching a full blown existential crisis.
With recent posts, she'd recently become the first woman to become a PetaPointer (10x15 time points) on TEETOO the world's largest social network which represented something of a global government over the world’s varying affairs.
On reaching the milestone she’d unlocked access to the Sandman server - entry to which had until now been an exclusively male domain. With a mix of curiosity and fear she had accepted the invite and joined the hallowed ranks of what many described as the cry-luminati.
Sandman had emerged early on as a kind of decentralised bazaar for writers, thinkers and weirdos who had built up sizable warchests of attention, to trade their accrued time for assets, services and curiosities that weren’t available in the more sanitised areas of the ecosystem.
Of course you could still use your regular TPs for purchasing sneakers, as collateral for loans to launch physical publishing houses or as attention capital to launch interest based lobbying groups, but for the more adventurous, there was much you still couldn’t do.
With hindsight perhaps it was obvious that time-points would become the de-facto reserve currency of a world, - after all time was the only scarce resource people all shared, but no one involved in the early days of Sandman could have predicted quite how strange it would get.
Of course personalised drugs were first - after all, Sandman was itself a status game of the most out-there thinkers and so competition between writing peers led to conversations around how to fine-tune creative process to maximise the impact of prose when it came to securing the unwavering attention of readers.
To begin with this was healthy - but as TEETOO became the preferred home for a new generation of political theorists, propagandists and storytellers the desire to stack time points grew.
As attention was harvested by this new intellectual class, darker forces began to take note as members were quietly recruited and rewarded by those who sought to shape the ideologies of a generation who had jumped ship from an old world that seemed to offer them little.
The idea for an assassination market had been one of the most intoxicating notions of the original darkweb many decades before but it had never become mainstream.
Now with rival philosophers and their backers seeking ever more control over the supple minds of the crypto-migrants who now called the attention economy their literal home, the idea’s time had come.
The poets had been the first to be targeted.
One by one, they were found dead in surreal circumstances surrounded by their most influential work, their time-points drained through some unknown exploit.
The killings were performative, ritualised and strange, informed and inspired by the artist’s prior art.
Initially the police, who had only recently assumed a primary role moderating TEETOO assumed this purge was itself some coordinated artistic statement with which to recruit avid new readers to the poet's creations - after all it had created a new wave of explosive growth in readership at a point when some had said the platform was beginning to slow.
This was nothing more than a cynical attempt to ensure their legacies within the canon of a new popular culture.
If the protocols were the new scriptures, then the artists wanted their place in history, even if it meant checking out early.
It was sad, but it was predictable. Move on.
But as the body count mounted, the mystery had deepened and rumours of malevolence grew.
Jo had started to write as a bit of a laugh - she had positioned herself as a fictional investigative reporter documenting the weirdest conspiracies and cults to surface from within the writers’ community.
Although the protocol was a plutocracy, she had managed to game the system somewhat by adding an ‘e’ to her first name.
So Jo, became Joe and her satirical take on the past, present and future of timepoints had managed to grow a cult following within the new attention aristocracy.
Joe openly criticised and satirised well known writers with large stashes of timepoints, but managed to tread a fine line, ensuring that their egos still felt flattered, which in turn allowed her to bootstrap her own reputation and popularity when the time-whales turned their attention to her.
Now she was a time-whale.
Now she was almost accidentally becoming a member of Sandman.
Now she could unlock the full bazaar but first she had to find the club.
As she wandered through the backstreets of Soho, she could feel her pulse quicken, guided by the gentle vibrations on her skin.
A critical step in the expansion of attention had been the interface developed between the TEETOO protocol and the bio-materials that had flooded the city's water supply in an eco-terrorist attack some decades before.
As a direct result, the city's water, rivers and unfortunately the citizens had gained a faint, but noticeable glow.
With no way to remove the self-replicating material from its natural systems nor its confused and increasingly irate populace, the government, its covert institutions and a number of influential communications agencies had endeavoured to spin this embarrassing moment in the nation’s history into a unique cultural cache.
So it was that over the course of a few years, London was successfully rebranded as the world’s first truly connected city, a PR disaster brilliantly reworked to become its raison d’etre.
London didn’t just have a vibe now, it literally vibrated.
New York had swiftly jumped on the hype train, then Shanghai, then all the rest as the tech elite discovered that you could now literally nudge people in the direction they - or more accurately you desired.
Between the material coursing through her veins and the bio-paint splashed across the city she could literally feel her way to her destination, subtle cues amending her course as the optimal route was calculated in real-time.
Suddenly the vibrations became a little more intense in her finger tips, she was getting close.
A final few corners and she was there, standing in front of an old door with a rusted handle. She hadn’t needed to knock, the door sensed her presence and opened silently of its own accord.
She walked cautiously across the threshold, encouraged by a gentle pressure on her back.
She was entering the world of Sandman.