Sunday, November 22, 2015

Short Fiction: Gift

It was Christmas morning, back in an era where calling it as such was simply frowned upon instead of bordering on a hate crime. Erik Kramer had been waiting for this day for weeks but still managed to sleep until noon when it finally arrived. Feeding a lazy and unhealthy lifestyle always has to take precedence, even when matched against the great passions. Passions like the love of personal computing. Yeah, it’s right up there with the need for social recognition, meaningful employment and the in-out.

“Well, look who’s finally up.” His father was at the kitchen table casually reading an engineering journal as if it was one of those “guess who showed her crotch getting into a car” celebrity rags. His kind eyes glistened behind glasses that were something of an engineering feat in their own right, held together by faith and more than a little tape. It was cheaper than buying a new pair and Mr. Kramer was never one to put the needs of Big Lens ahead of his own interests. “Thought you’d want to get that computer going right away. Even I wanted to open it, but you know, proper decorum.” He emitted a burst of high-pitched laugher, but quickly regained a serious demeanor. This was an issue of importance and that was not to be forgotten.
“Sorry Dad, I was just real tired.” The younger Kramer began filling a bowl with a cereal that had more in common with the items found in the candy isle than the bread one. Coated on sugar glistened in the noon sunlight, reflected off the drifting snow outside the house.
“Well, a growing boy needs a lot of sleep. That’s what they say.” The bespectacled gaze remained fixed on a peer-reviewed article about new advances in engine tolerance. Silence, broken only by the steady crunching of a not-quite-complete breakfast now prevailed. It wasn’t long before an empty bowl clattered its way into the sink.
“Ok Dad, let’s pop this sucker out.” The excitement that had been barely bottled up over the past month, since the gift’s selection became official, now came in one nearly overwhelming rush. He felt light-headed, despite the ample amount of simple sugars now powering the organic machine. This was, after all, his first time. Using the school computer lab didn’t count. This time the sweet fruit of centuries of applied mathematical and electrical research was all his, to have and to hold.
Erik had recently turned seventeen and was working on his Junior year. It had been a year spent buried in studies, frequent visits to said computer room and more and more isolation from an increasingly irrelevant peer group. For the most part it wasn’t missed and he could easily convince himself that nothing of value was being missed by forging friendships primarily with inanimate devices, but sometimes the loneliness would creep in and start to gnaw. The solution was to retreat further. He’d started taking his lunch in the chemistry room and sometimes passed entire days without saying more than a few words to someone his age.
No loss, though. They were just fucking wasters and jocks and rich phonies anyways. Last year, for example, they made a hero out of a Freshman who knocked some other knuckle dragger out. Yeah, what a hero. Fuck ‘em.

Discarded plastic bags, packing peanuts and the like soon blanketed the floor of the living room like a highly unusual indoor snowfall. From these various baby-chokers emerged the various components that would provide the necessary vehicle for the journey down the amazing highway of information that was slowly emerging as something Big Business regarded as a fad with limited mainstream appeal and many from the older generation regarded as the new C.B. Radio.
Not his father, though. This was one of the nice things about having a tech-geek in the role of Baby Daddy. If anything he was the one struggling to keep up while Dad rattled off technical specifications as if they were statistics from a hero athlete or something. Erik was just glad to upgrade from a word processor that was little more than a glorified typewriter to a true cutting edge machine that would probably stave off obsolescence for at least six months, maybe even a year.
“She’s a beauty all right. You be sure to treat her like the lady she is.” The computer now occupied the place of honor formerly reserved for the King Typewriter, Mark III. With that special combination of grinding, flashing and fanning that signals the beginning of any true romance the device came to life. The day was finally here. From now on every event would be designated by whether it occurred before or after the beginning of the personal internet age.
It didn’t take long to get online and begin the journey down the amazing hole of technology. At some point his father left the room, but the departure went completely unnoticed. It was almost a form of the astral separation, leaving the mortal shell to become part of pure technology, no more distinction between man and machine. Dinner was replaced with a bag of chips and a bottle of carbonated sugar and even that seemed like a considerable imposition considering the importance of the techno-merger that was being consummated. By the time Erik came up for air it was eight the next morning. He noted the time, shrugged, and went back into the online life substitute.
A full week passed and it was time to go back to school. While other human units had stories of vacations and family and all that other flesh-n-blood In Real Life nonsense, there was only one issue of concern for the newest citizen of the online world.
When can I get back on the computer? Everything else dissolved into trivial unreality, if it had ever had any substance to begin with.

Aaron Zehner is the author of "The Foolchild Invention" available in paperback and e-book format. Read free excerpts here and here.    

No comments:

Post a Comment