It’s pretty hard to miss, what with Eric Clapton’s voice singing softly from your mailbox. The year is 2025, and it’s the day after the final America Online acquisition.

You laughed when AOL bought Netscape, but who’s laughing now? AOL owns everything including GM, Microsoft, the Vatican and Don Henley. That’s the face of Steve Case, or Big Stevie as he’s now called, peering out from your computer screen, reminding you to buy stuff and brush your teeth before you go to work.

It’s the new age, the AOL Dynasty, where new music is streamed via Roadrunner broadband connections until it emerges from the vast number of Internet appliances topped with Netscape interfaces that Big Stevie convinced you to buy. Your AOL pacemaker is pounding out a rhythm to The Wallflowers this morning, while The Residents and The Monkees provide the soundtrack to the TV weather report. That’s Elton John and Billy Joel reading off today’s expected highs and lows. Hmmm, better wear your raincoat today.

In the brave new world of AOL “You have mail,” has replaced “hello,” “goodbye,” and even, “I love you.” Speaking of mail, your divorce papers came today. You get the car while your spouse gets the house. You and your ex will share custody of your two kids, along with your collection of songs by Warrant and Smokie, on AOL Napster’s peer-to-peer network. Oh, look, there’s Bon Jovi announcing, “you have visitation rights.”

Walking to the bus station, you see a man with a sign stating, “will sign and develop new bands for food.” He used to be an artist and repertoire man for a major record label, and partially responsible for the success of acts like David Gray, Jackyl and O-Town. However, it’s an AOL world now, and chat room moderators pick all the new bands. He thanks you as you toss a couple of quarters in his cup. “You have mail,” you respond as the bus pulls up to the stop.

You arrive at work, only to discover that AOL’s latest acquisition means that they now own your company, and anyone over 25 will be offered the choice of early retirement or the street. Your 13-year-old boss hands you your severance package consisting of the collected works of Joe Walsh and AC/DC, and sends you on your way.

You try to tell yourself that it’s for the best. Change is good, and in the world of AOL, change is everything. You try to convince yourself that life isn’t all that bad, that Big Stevie will look out for you. However, you can’t help but wonder if only things could a little different. If only there could be a little variety. If only…

If only they would stop making you use Netscape.