Tag Archives: Short Fiction

Freedom Stream

Freedom Stream Color

In the year 2100 the Social Health Office sent a technician wearing gray scrubs to the one room apartment of twenty year-old Diego, and fitted him with a tiny receiver. By the end of the fifteen minute visit, as the technician gently sewed a single stitch into the back of Diego’s head, the Freedom Stream hit a milestone: Every resident of the city connected.

In his room with no desk or bookshelves, Diego smiled and called out, “Yes!” No more looking at the wall-screen or holding a blue-glowing device. Now, right into his mind streamed the popular songs, videos, movies, and shows.

Outside Diego’s apartment, traffic lights showed black. Since the second economic collapse fifty years prior, no traffic moved on the streets. Diego and most other citizens didn’t work. The city provided each resident with food, and a person rarely went out. The Freedom Stream deadened everyone’s curiosity about the real outside.

But the technology had glitches. And the next morning when Diego woke up he did not experience the relaxing wave sounds of the Stream. Instead he heard nothing. Silence, unfamiliar and unsettling, panicked him. So he immediately acted to restore the connection. Diego moved closer to the source which he knew to be atop the nearby, hundred-story, redbrick smokestack.

He left his unit and walked across the road, picked his way down the neighboring ravine’s brush and trees, and stepped over the abandoned rails to the lakefront. There Diego discovered a moored pontoon which buoyed a rust-colored steel container once used to transport goods. Its opened doors revealed attached shelves holding thousands of well-preserved books.

An unkempt, seventy year-old man appeared on the boat and looked at Diego, at his brown eyes of curiosity. The old man could tell that Diego’s connection to the Stream had been interrupted, that for only a few minutes the young man would be able to listen.

“Hello! My name is Amit. These books contain the unique thoughts of individual men and women. Each book is different. Each is a snapshot of the person’s thoughts at the time they wrote it. Unlike receiving the barrage of the Stream, reading a book is hearing a person’s thoughts in a way you control. Reading allows you to pause, to think about what you take in, to be aware of your reaction. The binding, paper, and ink let you feel the book, truly hold it.”

Diego stepped back from the stranger and thought of an excuse to get away. “Sir, I cannot read. They closed all the schools and libraries before I was born.”

Amit heard this from others. “I will teach you to read. And as important, I will teach you to write.”

“But today there’s nothing to write with. Nothing to write on.”

“I wrap twigs in foil and put them in fire to create pencils. I write onto scraps of paper. Seeing my thoughts in words amazes me. To have my own thoughts, to choose which ones I share, and to choose the words–that is human. The Stream takes that away.”

The Stream now crackled in Diego’s mind, the reconnection was starting. He felt unsure about the man and his offer. But he wanted to know more. Diego reached to the back of his head–for the stitch.

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A Piece of the Lake

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The blue water reached from the windows of the college hall way out to the horizon.  No sailboats as far out as you could see.  Just the blue surface of the water and the lighter blue sky and white clouds.  The evening waves lapped quietly onto the rocks below.

A few miles away the city festival filled the streets with rock music, people, and the smell of brats and hot pretzels.  Everyone smiled, forgetting their problems from the day.  The lake helped with that.  It was there when they rushed from their breakfast, and later when they attended to business, and now when they could visit.  It was there, always.

A young mother bent over a stroller to comfort her baby who cried at the slanting sunshine.  Her boy sneaked toward the water.  He wanted to get something for his sister–a piece of the lake, so she could see how blue it was.

He scooped his bright orange bucket into the shallow waves of swirling brown sand, and was puzzled again that here the lake turned clear.  He lifted it anyway, watching the water slosh from side to side almost spilling over the edges.  In a few steps he looked into her stroller.  “See!  I brought you a piece of the lake!

His sister blinked her blue eyes and looked directly into his, her tiny fingers opening and closing.  The boy dipped his hand into the cool, clear water, then touched his wet fingers to his sister’s.  She smiled and gurgled and lifted her little fist to her mouth.

The boy smiled.  “See!  I brought you a piece of the lake!  This piece isn’t blue, but when you get bigger you’ll see that the whole lake is.  And we’ll play in it together.”

And his sister stretched her arms out to him, and again she smiled and gurgled.

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