Beacon Heights

In the calm stillness of the early hours, when the marbled pink of dawn seeped gently into the skies above Beacon Heights, the hum of vintage combustion engines would stir to life as a parade of faded pickup trucks and time-worn sedans made their ritualistic way towards the gates. They would pause, engines idling with a hint of desperation, as each vehicle was scrutinized by a solitary figure at the entrance — Travis Milton, the security guard of this meticulously preserved enclave.

Travis was a large man, whose broad shoulders and piercing gaze offered an imposing presence within the diminutive glass-paneled guard booth. His uniform was meticulously ironed, creases sharp enough to slice through the heavy fog of hypocrisy that hung over the neighborhood. He was an African American in his early fifties, weathered not by years but by disillusionment — a mind tempered by the fires of social inequality and an acute awareness of historical injustice.

Every day, he watched from the confines of his post as the modern-day labor force, consisting of low-cost immigrant workers, descended upon the streets lined with monuments to a bygone era — an era not as bygone as some might think, Travis mused. The workers would scatter, tools in hand, attending to their prescribed duties: Juan with his push mower, Maria with her duster, Luis with his shears — each of them working not with the buzz of electrical aids, but with the raw effort that only flesh and bone could provide.

The neighborhood, a location of stasis and stubborn mockery of time, was home to houses held in trusts, their original inhabitants long since departed this mortal coil while their lavish domes stayed immortaneously untouched by the demands of commerce or community. The houses weren’t merely unoccupied; they were sarcophagi, enshrining the ideologies of their former masters — wealthy patriarchs who had contributed to the gilded chapter of America’s capital saga.

Travis knew all too well the undercurrents that ran beneath Beacon Heights’ manicured lawns and pristine sidewalks, the unspoken but rigidly enforced color line that the trustees enforced from the silence of the grave. The homeowners’ association bylaws explicitly banned mechanized maintenance, citing the noble cause of preserving human jobs as a flimsy facade. It was a thinly veiled vestige of control, a chessboard on which the privileged continued to maneuver pawns in an eternal assertion of their dominion.

The bitterness did not escape Travis; he was both a guardian and a witness to this plantation redux. It paid well, his duty here, and that was part of the irony — a decent wage purchased his complicity. He would stand firm, opening gates and closing them, logging entries, and performing the neighborly nod with a well-practiced smile that never quite reached his eyes. Inside, the fire of indignation simmered low, biding its time, eating away at the veneer of his calm exterior.

Evenings would see the exodus of labor, the workers departing through the very gates they had entered just hours before, worn and fatigued. Nothing would change within the borders of Beacon Heights as Travis watched over the silent transaction of roles and responsibilities. The gardeners would retreat to communities far from the sanitized purgatory they tended, and Travis would remain — a lighthouse keeper of a sort, maintaining the signal fire at the gates of an ocean that had claimed all sailors.

As the sun dipped behind the horizon and the sky bloomed with the deep blues and purples of twilight, the rejuvenated engines of leaving cars dwindled to a quiet hush. It was at this hour, when the first stars began to shyly twinkle, that Beacon Heights awoke to its second life.

The houses, somber by day, would glimmer as dusk descended. Soft lights would flicker to life, illuminating the walkways and verandas. Then, the most peculiar and unsettling performance began: holograms — spectral representations of the dead occupants — would materialize, casting eerie glows against the evening’s canvas.

With the decisive click of a switch in some unseen control room, the neighborhood was resurrected into a living, breathing antebellum spectacle. Travis watched, night after night, as artificial intelligences, carrying the digitized semblances of personalities long deceased, recreated the social whirl of a world untouched by time or consequence.

The specters glided along the pavements with a grace that was almost nauseating in its perfection. Men in holographic suits, straight out of a vintage fashion editorial, tipped their hats to ladies with virtual parasols, their laughter a symphonic cruelty that unsettled the authentic silence of the dusk. Sometimes, these ghosts would pass right through Travis as he made his rounds, a chilling sensation that never quite ceased to unnerve him, no matter how many times he experienced it. With their merry banter, they managed to pierce the veil of reality, bringing forth an ultimate troll, a colossal fuck you to the march of progress.

These were the evening waltzes of Beacon Heights, with its mansions as the grand ballrooms and the holograms as its eternal patrons. Each exchange, every meticulously crafted interaction, was a record of defiance, an insistence that the old ways would endure, encoded in light and data.

Travis couldn’t help but grimace as he heard them speak — the archives of their voices discussing politics of eras past, the market, their ventures, their legacies – not a hint of awareness that the world had moved on beyond the archaic societal shackles they cherished. Matching tone with the ambient cricket songs, the holograms bantered, their digital personalities as deeply racist and elitist as they had been in life.

The whole charade was pure wicked genius — the trust funds that maintained Beacon Heights had been clever. They couldn’t stop time, but they could spit in its face. Through this feat of technological necromancy, they twisted the knife in the side of modernity, laughing in the face of the diversity and change that had swept through the nation in waves they once fought against with every breath of their pampered lives.

As the night deepened, Travis’ solitary form would occasionally reflect in the window panes, his dark eyes glinting with the knowledge of what this was — a mausoleum masquerading as a neighborhood, with its hosts mockingly immortalized to troll eternity. The resentment gnawed at him, a daily reminder that in Beacon Heights, change was not only resisted — it was made spectacle, and he was part of the audience, complicit in his watch. The ghosts had their last hurrah each night, while Travis, living and breathing, surveyed the grounds, his presence as much a footnote as it was a sentry.

He understood with a poignant clarity that his role here was more than that of a security guard — he was also a keeper of stories, a reluctant witness to a digital revival of a past that, in this corner of the world, refused to die. And as the dreamy tyranny of holographic antebellum continued to unfurl, Travis patrolled the borders of a battleground where history, stubborn and spectral, held its ground against the relentless tide of tomorrows.