Museum Plaque reads as follows:
This exhibit is one of the rarest in the world.
Discovered during a raid where information was received about his ‘speaking’ activities.
In his youth, he was a ‘story-teller’ and ‘revolutionary.’
TOUCHING OR FEEDING THE EXHIBIT IS ILLEGAL
Today I went to visit my great grandfather at the International Museum of Human History. He has been given the name Tri-ling by the museum principals, I forget what he used to be called before that. He is the most sought after exhibition in the world, which explains why he is kept in heavily secured vaults some several miles underground, along with the first generation Apple nonsenses and some other things I have no interest to mention.
As to why he is important, I shall explain later.
Only his family, researchers and scholars are allowed direct access to his vaults, and of course doctors. Interviews and academic visits are done behind a glass screen for legal reasons – it is a crime to contaminate a living exhibit. The other interested parties like students, robots and the public are shown holograms. However, on rare occasions, Tri-ling in his glass house, is put up for display. Everyone is more interested in his wrinkles than anything else, we stay young forever, our skin does anyways and everything inside withers like wood to soot in fire.
You see my great-grandfather is a rare artefact of the past – he is what we term a ‘speaker’ – he communicates only with his mouth. He speaks by combining letters to form words and in turn a ‘language’ – almost as absurd as hieroglyphics.
What you have heard is true, there are the National Museums of Human History in every part of the world. Each have their own ‘speakers’ but the most valuable are kept here. My great-grandfather speaks three of these ‘languages’. I have been told that there were more than 200 in the past. Life is much simpler now that there are none.
He speaks English (this is not valuable since all the others ‘speak’ this), Arabic and Swahili – these two were amongst the first to become extinct. Our academics are interested in how English was spoken everywhere but not the others, something to do with currency I heard.
My great-grandfather refused to be part of the movement towards technological change. His father was a teacher of modern languages and his mother a lecturer specialized in Persian literature. It is not hard to see why they refused to give their son the transplant.
At first, only the rich were able to afford the iReader.
England, now iLand236 (not to be mistaken for past Ireland), is a republican state run by celebticians – the love child of the politician and celebrity. Each place is assigned a number in relation to their importance in the world.
Now, it is standard procedure that every child is given an iReader at birth: a technical eye to replace the human one. We can see each others thoughts, hence the decline in speech. But the motherboard (whose location remains secret) can see what every i is thinking.
Apple’s invention has been applauded for its contributions to theology. Does God exist? That’s what the past concerned themselves with, once his non-existence was proved, the empty void that was once filled by the supreme ghost has now been replaced with Technology and Science. They are our Gods and they exist.
Tri-ling still believes in God, which is unfortunate and embarrassing. As well as being a ‘speaker’ the plaque describes him as a ‘story-teller’. That is to say he is a craftsman, an artistic speaker. His stories are fascinating, he tells me of (non-robotic) teachers, PlayStation, the lot. But none is more fantastical than his account of the Script War.
Books he says are the single, most powerful entity in the universe. A book is eternal, immortal. Once it is born it can never die. It’s the one thing that unites the past, present and future. A book is a vampiric time-traveler.
* * *
It was the year 2130 that things became really bad, publishing houses had all shut down by then, literary agents earned less than cleaners and books stopped being printed. Kindle had become a monopolizing force. It had taken the world by storm. At first only digital copies of already published books, the usual were uploaded. Later, authors started self-publishing directly onto the system. Everyone wanted to get rich, quick.
A few months later Kindle declared war on books. Well they didn’t say those exact words but they meant it. I remember the day, Sunday 23rd July, it was the darkest summer ever recorded. The sky remained permanently dark after that, God had switched off the sun as punishment for the collective human sin of literary genocide.
The world was divided: IT technicians, mechanics, economists, bankers and politicians on one side. Scholars, teachers, authors on the other. You also had the shirkers who hid away, these were the academics who supported the Kindle rule and the technicians who protested against it.
The first places to go were the libraries, all the local ones were burnt down. That part was simple, most people had stopped visiting their libraries once the government started taxing book loans. The British Library, Senate House and the one on Chancery Lane belonging to students were turned into refugee centres. People from all over the country flocked with suitcases full of books. All sorts were rescued: the first edition Harry Potters, some Kafkas, EastEnders scripts, Shakespeare’s will and even the Beowulf manuscript that had been stolen a few decades’ earlier turned up.
But that didn’t last long, book smuggling was declared a crime punishable by life imprisonment. Supporters and book lovers chained themselves across the doors, floors, windows and gates of each of these libraries. Students chanted things about ‘cultural assassination’ whilst the more passive offenders set up online petitions.
The proactive ones died immediately, they refused to unchain themselves and so libraries became mass graves of both book and reader. Each reader died with a book in their hand – a symbol for the next short-lived revolution. The passive ones became victims of online hacks. They died slow and tormented deaths. First all their money, live savings and pensions were removed from their accounts. Next they were declared bankrupt. With no financial standing, they were sucked into the black-hole of poverty and the rest you know for yourself.
* * *
As usual I readjusted the translation settings on my iReader after the story.
But that day he said something to me that I will remember always, a secret. And out of respect for him I shall not repeat it.
Tri-ling committed suicide soon after.
Teuta Hoxha is a second year English Literature student at King’s College, London.
Image of Futuristic Digital Library