Penny’s Book – Side Tales 4

The problem was, he didn’t know where he came from.

He was half of two nationalities on his mothers side and like, twelve on his fathers side. I mean, he knew people that had grown up in Blackwood Hills their entire lives. Quite a few of them had been born there, for crying out loud.

He wondered if this accounted for the fact that he had always found himself somehow lost in the world-he didn’t have roots. His family had moved countless times when he was growing up. When he was finally on his own, numberless times more.

There was nothing to tie him anywhere in the world, no matter how he tried to make a mark on it. His words were out there, in electronic formats all over the world. He was a superstar, he had done cameo’s in movies. He wasn’t able to count the number of talk shows he been on, the limitless vidscreen’s he had been seen on.

When the screens lit up, he could press his thumb to the screen and his signature would appear on the page. Really, actual ink had gone years ago and ink decades before that. However, he was a somebody-that should count for something right?

The truth of it was, he missed books. He did everything with his vidscreen now: watched television and movies, read and studied, listened to music. Even though I didn’t have to, I took it with me everywhere. I’m pretty sure everyone did. They were convenient, they were compact and held a library of our every wish and whim.

When he was younger, he had seen a cartoon called Inspector Gadget. That guy was a fucktard but his niece, Penny, had this computer book that could do anything and everything. I thought it was the neatest thing I had ever seen. I dreamed of the day when we would even get that far, technology wise. Sometimes, I would look down at the Atari, mocking me with it’s limpid gaze or, later, the slightly more bulky (but equally awesome) Nintendo. Later would come the Sony PlayStation, the GameBoy (which, if memory served him was the first portable gaming device).

He even remembered a game he had played with his father in a video arcade. It was supposedly one of the very first 3D video games ever. The controls didn’t work very well, and the gameplay sucked, but it was pretty sweet.

Late at night, though, he would still sit up late and watch Inspector Gadget to see how Penny and her Computer Book would save the day. He had watched technology change around him:

Tapes to CD’s to MP3 and 4’s, Beta, VHS, Laser Discs, DVD, BluRay, floppy discs to hard ones to flash drives, a little six inch black and white to television in my pocket. It strikes me that, as I think of Penny’s Computer Book, I wonder if we’ve surpassed it.

Everyone in the compound of Blackwood Hills have never known fresh air. Many do now know what a bird sounds like. Some don’t know what a banana looks like. As he looks around the compound, all of Blackwood Hills with their vidscreens clutched in their hands. They have those. Of course those work.

He had been living in Blackwood Hills for nearly thirty years now. The writing thing had started by accident, as something to pass the time. There were three million of them left, crammed into a bubble on the east coast. Despite the amount of information that they had access to, the vidscreens windows into anything, he could never find out where they were.

Three million people might sound like a lot, but there had been over thirty-nine billion people in the world at the time the walls went down, three million isn’t much. Still, he’s been able to meet most all of them and he has his fans, the people that read his books. He’s been to one end of the compound to the other side; most people lived and died in the smaller blocks fabricated to look like 1980’s suburbia-it was a poor replica.

Still, there are towns and cities, railways and roadways. There are no planes anymore either, not since fuel ran out. But cars and rail work on alternative gas means. Car and train both are controlled by already installed vidscreens.

He missed lots of thing: real wild flowers, honey, non-recycled air. Non engineered animals and food. What he missed most, however, were books. Instead of swiping a finger across a vidscreen to sign his name, he longed for a pen and some bright blue ink, or deep serious black.

Was all of this advancement worth it? He thought. Also: I miss the smell of books.

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