Beyond that door lay the only one who could help her, but she
no longer had the strength to call out.
Her savior, unknown, unseen, could be anyone – any gender, any age. S/he would have the answer to her question, and it would be the right one. Sure, certain, unflinchingly right, no doubt about it. S/he would know right from the heart how to answer any question of hers.
The only problem is that she didn’t even know the question.
How could she, in a place and time that yelled all the answers 24/7 via TV,
computer, video chat – all the screens. Their eyes took it all in, flooding the
brain with ersatz knowledge, Tinseltown hopes, particleboard homes. Nothing was
real, not here, not now.
It was as if the whole world had gone crazy, had started with the joy juice and never quit. Maybe they were crazy – or maybe they were addicted. Maybe there was hope if only they quit – but quit what? Their drug of choice was distraction, in the form of anything visual, anything flickering on their screens. Stillness was rejected. Flat was out. The dancing shadows that played before their eyes hypnotized and bewildered and beguiled. They were told that new ways were better, that they needed to give up their old ways. Flip phones were passé. Only losers and old people used those.
Now, only those who were computer illiterate were safe from the octopus tendril fog that wormed its way into their brains via their eyes.
She wasn’t computer illiterate by any stretch, but her poor eyesight had saved her. She too had been sucked in, like all the rest of her generation. The strain to her eyes had let her know that she needed to make a change. Somehow the hours she lost watching auto play videos wasn’t the turning point. It felt like being stoned, so it was familiar. It was only later, when she’d made an intention, an escape plan, that she had the perspective to see what had happened to her. It was then that she truly woke up.
She tried to call out to the one behind the door, that door, the only door that mattered now. She had learned of it from a book, that ancient technology shunned by her peers. She had returned to the library, searching for meaning or entertainment after her self-imposed detoxification from the news and views, the mindless visual chatter, the one-way train wreck that was the computer screen.
There was no answer. She checked her book again, that book, the one in the thick red and gold cover. She sought out those books, the ones that had been rebound in simple yet understatedly beautiful bindings. These books had stood the test of time. They were so valuable that the library kept them for longer than they would normally last by putting them through the Perma-Bound process. It saved books that would be too expensive to replace with a new copy. Those were the kinds of books you needed now – the ones that were out of print, written before the possession of people’s minds by the screens.
Deep in her heart she knew there would be others who would awaken. Would it be enough? Would there finally come a time when people would properly name this time of mental and vital darkness, the dull lethargy that took over? Those in the Dark Ages didn’t know that was what they were in until afterwards, when the Renaissance, the rebirth, happened. This would be similar, she knew.
Again she knocked and again there was no answer. Perhaps this was a test, to see if she was sincere. It wouldn’t do to have someone find the secret only to turn it against itself. But those who were asleep, who had been lost to the mind fog brought on by electronic infection wouldn’t be standing here before this door. Maybe this was a way to think of it – as a virus. Videos and memes went “viral” after all. So maybe it was truer than they knew. She didn’t have time to think about that now. There were so many other ideas jockeying for position.
She considered whether she should sit by the door in the meantime and think, or go for a walk. If she sat by the door it might be opened, rewarding her for her patience. That quality was in short supply these days, and being able to sit still without an electronic babysitter was a sign you had shaken off the shackles.
But she’d always thought better when she was walking. “Solvitur ambulando” was the motto of a book she’d read when she first began to wake up, to realize her enslavement. “It is solved by walking”. But what is it? How could you know you found the answer when you don’t even know the question?
And that was why she was there. She needed to know what to do next. Her life was a blank slate now – no map, no direction. All roads seemed clear. So which one to take? As she walked, she understood that was the answer. There were no hints as to which way to go because all were valid as long as her heart was set in the right direction.
(Written early June, 2018)