The Futurologist by Kristen Steenbeeke The Futurologist's job is to see the future... but he's losing his powers.
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The Futurologist by Kristen Steenbeeke

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The Futurologist by Kristen Steenbeeke

The Futurologist by Kristen Steenbeeke

The Futurologist by Kristen Steenbeeke

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

The Futurologist's job is to see the future... but he's losing his powers.


Welcome back to SNAP JUDGMENT, storytelling with a beat, "The Omen" episode. Snappers, my name is Glynn Washington, and I'm going to ask you to use your imaginations. Close your eyes and imagine, pretend that it was your job to see into the future. Now, what if you couldn't do that anymore? Keep those eyes closed, unless you're driving or juggling babies. SNAP JUDGMENT.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Futurology Inc. Please hold.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: It's my 657th day at Futurology Inc. It's the future. It's been the future for a while. Today, I'll sit in my cubicle and stare at my computer as some arbitrary neuron far in the recesses of my gray matter triggers visions upon visions. It's like going down a sucking spiral, ears plugged up, a feeling like a big pillow stuffed over my face, and finally that humdrum future moment - a perfectly round, packed snowball whizzing right through an open window. It'll happen at the morning of the last snow - two winters from now.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: A daughter will giggle, her hand frozen and red.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #3: Get over here.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Her mother will yell through the shattered glass.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Tomorrow, an elderly man will miss his bus because he's too busy with the morning crossword. The word he won't be able to find is amygdala.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #4: So the earthquake is going to hit LA on Monday the 13, not on Tuesday.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: OK - daytime? Evening?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #4: I don't have a read on that yet. But I'll let CHP know as soon as I do, and then they can schedule the freeway shut down.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Cool. And the next royal baby - boy or girl?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #4: Oh, the one three years from now? That's a girl.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: I don't see any of those things; at least I haven't for a while. Instead, another flash.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: A rush to the head.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: I see a younger man waking up alone, staring at the indent on the pillow next to him. He'll pick up a long, stray brown hair. He'll press his face into the down puff, and he'll smell her - fresh grass, orange pith and starched, mothy linen. I need coffee.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: Hey, man, how are those cancer cures coming along?



UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: I see a man, not young, not old. He's wearing a brown corduroy jacket. He walks out of an office building holding an electric blue box. Is that from our copy room? Huh. He pulls his red cap over his ears and slips into the sidewalk traffic. A bird swoops fast from overhead, nearly hits him. The man ducks then looks up. The bird's gone, but it doesn't matter. The man's looking at the sun as it breaks through the overhanging bruise-colored clouds. He closes his eyes and feels warmth on his face.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: You seem fried today. You need to go home or something?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Oh, do I? I guess I just need some coffee probably. I don't know.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: Cool. See you at the staff meeting.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Damn. I forgot I lied about the cancer cures. I'm still waiting for the big, important visions to come back. Instead, my head plays a slideshow of worthless happenings day in, day out.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: A blonde woman buys an expensive, long, black skirt to impress her mother in law.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: A woman with gray hair runs the faucet and looks blankly out the window.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: A teenage boy hits a squirrel with his new bicycle on the way home sometime next month, its spine bent under the wheel.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: A woman cuts off the anklet she's worn for four years without a thought.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: A fruit fly lands on a lemon, stumbles into a divot on its gold rind.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #4: Hey. Do you have a minute to talk about the cancer cures?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Oh, hey, didn't see you, sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #5: What are you working on exactly?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Insect population futures.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #4: I didn't know that was something we did here.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: In a month, this man will fire me. I saw it a week ago, not like I needed a prediction to tell me this would happen. I didn't see the whole scene.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Just my stress ball tearing open as I squeezed it.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Tiny spheres spilling across the floor - pink, plastic.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #4: We'll see you at the staff meeting - 20 minutes, OK? Conference room B.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Yeah. Sure. OK. Thanks.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: I find one of the electric blue paper boxes in the copy room. I dump the reams onto the floor and take the empty box to my desk. I don't have much to pack up - no papers, no pictures. I pull on my brown corduroy jacket, pick up the box, and leave this place for the last time. It's cold. I pull my red cap over my ears, slip into the sidewalk traffic. So I never see anything that matters, at least nothing of consequence to Futurology Inc. But these visions, these moments I've been seeing - not big, but still important somehow. Little bits of the in between - faces and places and sadness and joy and beginnings and endings.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: And then a bird swoops fast from overhead, nearly hits me. I duck then look up. The bird's gone. But those clouds - gray, full, almost bruise-colored. The sun breaks through. I close my eyes. This light, this warmth.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Men and women pass by, hunched and cold, looking at their feet as they hurry to the next thing and the next and the next. I'll stand here just a little longer. I don't want this moment to end, at least not yet, not until I see another.


WASHINGTON: Now, Snappers, let's all take a moment just to be in the moment. You can read more of Kristen Steenbeeke's work on our website, That story was produced by Eliza Smith with sound design by Leon Morimoto.


WASHINGTON: Oh, yes. It's that time, Snappers. We're off to release from you from the clutches of SNAP's underground studios here in Oakland, Calif. But know this - if you've got to have your fix, hours of SNAP JUDGMENT storytelling await, free for the asking. Subscribe to the podcast while you still can. We don't know how long we can hold off the forces of evil. - find movies, pictures, stuff, subscribe. I'll wait. No, I'm not going to wait. SNAP JUDGMENT.


WASHINGTON: Now, did you ever heard of an omen that bad news and evil tidings might befall the country unless SNAP JUDGMENT starts calling the shots? Well, if you do, call the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Let them know. Many thanks to the CPB. PRX, the Public Radio Exchange will gladly exchange your public radio for three magic beans. Take them up on it - WBEZ in Chicago doesn't feel the cold.

And this of course it's not the news. No way this is the news. In fact, you could have a vision of a dark and stormy night, you want to tell the neighbors, get picked up by the police for trespassing, get beaten with sticks and kicked repeatedly in the head and in the face, only to have them realize, hey, this isn't a black guy - our bad. And you would still, still not be as far away from the news as this is, but this is NPR.

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