Now Here's Something - Episode 2

Screen or Paper?

  
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In this episode of Now Here’s Something, Bodhi1 and I go deep for three minutes about the dilemma we all face now: screen or paper.

If you’re just joining me on the 500 Words journey, I’m posting a podcast as I work up the next numbered series of very short short story posts2 written exclusively for this newsletter. If you want to receive the posts in the order they are created, consider subscribing.

1

Bodhi is my youngest son. He is eight.

2

There have already been two fiction series posted on this blog. The first, Wait, Wut, was about adapting to the impossible conditions imposed on us by the pandemic. The second, The Counter Narrative, was a series of posts written from some time in the future. Each post is 500 words long or pretty close to it.

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Introducing ... Now Here's Something

  
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Hello! During the last few months in this space, I’ve been posting a series of short-form stories from the future. I need to give the time machine a little rest (those things can overheat if used every day) and I need a little time to write up the ideas for the next short-form series.

So, during this period of incubation and fermentation, I’d like to present a podcast1. Bodhi, my youngest2 son, and I have recorded some blips that I hope you will enjoy. The first one asks the important question, “Are cats worth it?”

1

The name “Now Here’s Something” comes from what Bodhi says when he wants to redirect the conversation from a topic that is blah to a topic that is interesting to him.

2

In the podcast he plays a 20-year-old. He is eight years old in real life.

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500 Words - The Counter Narrative #8

Powering Down

This is a series of stories, a counter narrative from the future, numbered in sequence. If you’re a subscriber, you will receive them in order. If you’re not, and you’ve found them online, then start at #1 and read up. This is the final story in this series. It is about powering down.


Powering Down

“I like hearing his voice,” the daughter said. She held something in her hands. Her brother tried to see it. She pulled it away. 

“You’re having second thoughts?” her brother said. He was a builder, a maker, and he was the younger and he liked to mock her. She gave him the look she always gave him when he teased her. He turned down the volume on the voice coming from the glowing device. 

This created a sudden silence. The daughter said, “No, no second thoughts. I don’t want them to fine us or do something worse. They called him inessential.” 

Inessential. The word hung in the air around them. 

The other two children were there, but so far silent. They looked at the glowing object that represented their father and tried to see it for more than an object. All four of them were together again because it was important to meet now. They had a decision before them. 

Only three of them had met their father. The youngest only knew him by the glowing object. Having never met the actual man, he wanted more. He reached for the volume knob and turned it up all the way. 

There was a moment. Then their father’s voice filled the room. 

“Listen to the parts of the music that other people can’t hear.”

The third child, who rarely spoke, let out a giggle and said, “Listen like a dog? To the high parts?” 

They all laughed and all spoke at once. “Not like a dog!” “Well, if other people can’t hear it…” “A sound only dogs can hear…” “It’s too high…”

They let their jokes dissipate and waited for the glowing object to say something else. They each had their own memories of him. The daughter, he showed her how to work cameras. The maker son, his father would take apart music for him like it was a beautiful machine. The third son died before they would exchange words, but he returned for these meetings. The youngest only knew him from this glowing orb. He looked up at its light and said, “this isn’t life extension. This isn’t really him. When we power it down, there won’t even be this thing.”

The glowing machine spoke again. “Don’t always listen to the hand playing the melody. Listen to the other hand.” 

With a sigh, the maker son reached for the volume knob and turned it down. To soften the blow for his sister of silencing their father’s voice, he said, “Dad said his soul was free.”

“His soul was free,” she agreed. 

“A procedure. That’s all it was,” said the youngest.

“But it worked!” said the maker son. “He helped solve a lot of problems for the world. He left the world a better place.” 

“Now you’re the one having second thoughts,” said the daughter.

“I am not!” It came out wrong. He backed off. “He would understand what we are trying to do. What we have to do.” The machine before them understood it had to be part of its own demise. 

It held all the information they needed about him. They had his love for their mothers. They had the instructions for creating The Reversal. They had a step-by-step plan to lead the resistance. Still, they could not know the man. They needed contact with a person. This would be the next mountain to climb. They had saved the Earth. Next, they must save themselves. 

The machine had not spoken again. It was waiting for them while they were waiting for it. A special kind of a moment passed. There was a tiny click that maybe nobody heard.

“I am going to power it down,” the daughter finally said. She pressed a button and they waited. 

There was one more Polaroid. She held it in her other hand.

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The Counter Narrative #8 first appeared on 500words.ink.

500 Words: The Counter Narrative #7

Soul Decalcification

This is a series of stories, a counter narrative from the future, numbered in sequence. If you’re a subscriber, you will receive them in order. If you’re not, and you’ve found them online, then start at #1 and read up.


The Reversal

I opted for soul decalcification. It will be available to you in 15 years. It worked faster than meditation and a good thing for that. I was in a hurry. People were pinging me on the networks: Get out in front of this thing! I didn’t know how until after the procedure. Slight muscle stiffness the next day and peed blue for a little while and then fine. 

I wish I could tell you everything I learned after my soul was free. I know what will happen to me next, so I need to talk fast: just the essentials.

Young people do not have your wisdom, but their experience of the world is deeper than yours. Listen openly. They will tell you the networks you use now are not the ones you will need. Decades ago we learned to hate social media and destroyed it. Remember when it all went dark? Didn’t last long, right? Couple months. Then, one by one, small networks sprung up. Private Discords. Small-audience Slack channels. When small they are hard to track and nobody is harvesting the data. That’s what you want. Be invisible from search.

Resistance is sand in the gears. Small things are effective. Back when you were young, you could go on Etsy and buy a GPS jammer for $69. It’s a federal crime, so don’t say I told you do to it, but unless you take action, there will no longer be a federal government. You want to stop that from happening. Don’t panic — it’s not as big a job as it seems. 

In my time, we became sick of violence and needed another path to the future. We tried so much. With friends, I formed human chains across the highways. I put sand in the gears of the oil refineries. I led protests at the pipelines and got arrested. We jammed cars so they stopped, becoming dead microchips on wheels. (Wait five years in your time. Etsy will sell what you need to stop a car.) 

The Youngs showed us how to care about the world. They approached legislation with passion, voted out the Olds who turned their backs on the planet, and they peacefully protested in significant numbers. 

Yet you — you, my friend, have to start small. Walking instead of driving sounds small. Riding a bike instead of walking sounds like it won’t matter. Remember that yours is the mind you have to change first. Then other people will see you as an example. 

I gave a lot of speeches to big crowds, always arriving on a bicycle to make a point. People laughed. Then they started arriving on bikes to make the same point. You can block off a big city with enough bicycles in the street. We make the resistance of small things, and the smallest of all, at least to start, is your faith that things will get better. You have no proof of this. You have to meditate your way there. The soul decalcification process brought me there overnight. (Sorry, the procedure is coming; keep meditating. Some people pee purple for a while after the procedure, but that’s normal.)

It will be hard for some people to walk away from the Big Lie. You won’t be able to convince them that fossil fuels are death. Don’t worry about it. Keep riding your bike. Build small networks. Collectivize for peace. We all hated social media, but after we blew it up we brought it back out of necessity. I tell you that from the future. There is one more thing I must tell you and it must wait until next time.

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