I was standing on the balcony my brother-in-law had built for me, daydreaming. Suddenly a loud beeping jerked me back to reality. It was time to start work.
I reached towards a dangerously tall pile of doodling notebooks and put them in one corner, then swept my pencils away. After I threw two chocolate wrappers into the shredder, I switched my rescued iRis on.
"Hi, Alain. You have 7 new eAssignments, 2 new eNotes, 23 new eMail." Oh, magnifique. More homework. With a huge sigh, I selected eNotes. Geography and History, my worst subjects. I started reading Geography – Omusti in 300 B.C. on the holographic screen. Because of my ability to speed-read and not absorb, I had to go back to page one and read the small print out loud. Efficiency, huh? Small print just made my head spin.
After forcefully cramming five hundred words into my resisting brain, guess who stole a cookie from the cookie jar? Not me. I took the whole jar.
K. W. Holt. 'Schooling ain't my calling.' The Water Seeker, page 80, line 3. I loved that book. Its calm washed over me like the non-existent emerald-green sea.
Armed with a jar of cookies, I logged on to my eChat. Instantaneously my best friend, Mel, buzzed my screen. 'Hey, want to study together? You can eat my butter cookies.'
The bear sees the trap but cannot resist the honey.
'Uh, okay…' My automatic sentence corrector kept me from typing 'Uh, okayyyyy………' Continuing, I punched in 'Where? Where are you now, anyway?'
'Home. Come now.'
The bear has fallen into the trap.
When I got to Mel's house, she was already there, pulling me up into her study. Study. How ominous. Ordering her automaton to get me orange juice and a jar of chocolate chip butter cookies, I noticed sadly that her automaton was more sensible than mine. The last time Mel had ordered my monkey around, it had snatched my crackers straight from my hands.
Mel's house was like a palette of paints. How she managed to focus, I had no idea. Okay, maybe I do. She must be made up of ninety-nine percent nerd and friend, one percent human. With all the things around me, whatever I learnt that day, nothing went in. Well, the brain does have a limited space after all. I'm only human.
After I dozed off and started drooling on her desk, she slapped my back and started talking in an enthralled voice. "I know! You need a break, right? Oh well. Let's go to the café and chill out. You, hurry home and change." How long had it been since Mel and I had gone out for a girls' date? I rushed home to prepare.
I had never really liked studying, because all I could study about was either the present artificiality of this world, or the almost fictional history of nature. What was the point of studying the four main types of organisms if they didn't even exist anymore? The only real thing left was Man. Reproduction. The birds and the bees, a euphemism Man still used to this day. It was a private joke between me and me, because barely anyone even cared what a parrot or even a hornet looked like. They just could not be bothered.
Technology. Slaves of the most up-to-date technology, that was what they were. Still, if technology ceased to exist, I would have been helplessly hanging, because technology had formed the current Earth's way of life.
I thought of Mel and me. A warm, fluffy feeling spread inside me, my emotions ready to spill out of my eyes. Mel had always been a big bonus in life, crying along as I looked at the big fat egg on my exam paper, laughing through comedies as we watched them together, screaming through roller coaster rides as we hung on to each other for dear life.
After my mother's demise, it had all changed. Mel had attempted to assume a mother's pushy role to fill the gap in my heart, and it had always been study, study, study after that. Mock test after mock test. I wondered what had changed Mel's mindset this time.
I activated my bag and handed my water bottle, tissue and all a not-so-vain girl would need to the robot. Strapping on my iRis, I threw on my favourite Free Hugs shirt and my lone pair of jeans and scurried into il Portale with my bag walking behind me. "Ponragh Street, Chico, Starducks Café," I commanded.
Seconds later, I was impatiently tapping the café table's shiny marble surface.
"Well, I see that you're fast for once," Mel grinned, and I shoved her playfully. After pulling her to a window-seat, I ordered two milkshakes and we slurped them greedily. I had been so set on the hope that Mel had reverted to her old self, I failed to see the abnormality of this occurrence.
Mel ruffled through her bag, drawing out a sheaf of yellowed eco-friendly paper. Not that was any more ecology to talk about, though.
"There. I thought a break would clear your mind. I copied this set of notes for you. Now you can focus on this set of notes." Mel grinned sinisterly. I ought to have known, I ought to have stayed home. My naïveté was so apparent it was laughable. Now what? Nothing but to obey that sinister smile.
"Take note of this, this, this, and this. Oh, and that too." She pointed out numerous things, but I was too slow to follow.
"Stop! Repeat everything you just said. You know, I'm not a super-human like you, so don't go so fast." Hurt and disappointment appeared in Mel's sapphire-blue eyes, instantly making me regret my outburst. Nearby, a waitress approached us with our banana split double.
I dug into the banana split and attempted to memorise the facts.
"Can we take a break, please? I have a headache." Mel shot me her oh-really look, forcing me to ignore my newly acquired halo of stars.
I persevered, but the relentless throbbing made me snap. Emotions rushed through me, washing away the words in front of me, Mel's hard work, her expectant, encouraging smile, everything I was supposed to appreciate. I felt like a thin shard of glass in a boiling cauldron of sensory input, ready to shatter anytime. "Sorry, Mel. I have to get home for dinner. Bye." Storming off, I dashed into il Portale.
The portal was quiet, unlike the crowded Ponragh Street. I found myself cursing when I came into earshot of my father's daily complaints about the neighbour. I dashed to my room and muttered the matrix lock code, wallowing in the silence, the serenity I had never noticed before that existed right before my discontented eyes. I had been so blind. What had made me think I was that different from all those slaves of technology?
Someone knocked on my door. Sighing, I grumpily made my way to the molecular door and opened it for Timmy – our local postbot. As a green light scanned my eye, Timmy's titanium tummy unlocked for me to receive my package. The security was level R-80, so it must have been high priority. I jabbed my thumbprint on the scanner, and the package slowly unfolded.
Looking at it, everything came flooding back. Ever since I started secondary education and the craze about thumbtops and wristops had started, I had been searching. Grum, iMart, even eBay – I couldn't find it anywhere. I kept tabs on eBay and finally it had appeared half a year ago. Hurriedly paying for it, I was deeply frustrated when I found there were so many security measures that it would take till now to come.
Slowly opening the fragile, miniscule package, I felt at peace as I held the last remnants of nature. With the artificial earth on my balcony, the artificial sea water below me, the artificial air I was breathing in, and the artificial fireball shining on me as my witnesses, I scattered my treasure on the artificial soil on my balcony – the last of nature's sunflower seeds. I had found my own haven.