Saturday, April 08, 2006

Fiction: Internet Embargo

The message was blinking on the screen as she watched, transfixed. The words started swimming around on the page, drifting in and out of focus while she sat, paralyzed. They leapt out at her – HUMAN THOUGHT - growing bigger in her line of vision and taking over completely.

If they weren’t going to be thinking how would she monitor their thoughts? The Grand Triumvirate (TGT) had no tolerance for excuses. “Excuses” were a fascinating discovery. When humans were in trouble, when they hadn’t done or said what they were supposed to have done, when they broke promises or commitments they could use excuses and get away with almost anything. TGT had greeted this discovery of hers with great amazement and equal disdain.

Now they would think she had learnt the art of making excuses from her subjects of study. If the humans weren’t going to be thinking for an entire week how and what could she report back? This could jeopardize the whole project.

The World Wide Web had offered some amazing behavioral insights. She had seen them change and evolve and accept willingly the leashes that bound them to their laptops, computers and various hand-held devices. Laptops had replaced the bedtime book and people on the streets always appeared to be talking to themselves. They had little devices hidden behind their ears and a tiny microphones dangling around their necks. She had ridden with them on trains and buses, noticing their deep involvement with their gadgets. No one paid attention to their fellow travelers in this journey of life, it was a wonder they still needed to get up and go somewhere every morning! People didn’t seem to need or want flesh and blood people anymore. Why, just last night she had watched a news snippet on TV about the International Pornographers Convention and their optimism about the new phenomenon of Pocket Porn. Cell phones could now provide titillation on demand! Well, well! Back home she had learnt about the outcome of such utter dependence on technology. It had taken them eons to recover from its soul-destroying effects.

Her efforts to understand humans had led to her becoming an avid chatter. She chatted around the clock, interacting with people all over the world. Loneliness was rampant. Real relationships had deteriorated or were somehow standing simply because their dissolution was a nuisance that wouldn’t add anything meaningful to the their lives. Clean breaks were just as meaningless as unions. And now it was all virtual. People were virtually stimulating the same areas of the brain that got stimulated during the mating ritual simply by interacting across chat lines. She was very amused with the “a/s/l” inquiries that came her way each day as some lonely soul somewhere, on this vast blue planet, reached out to “touch” someone across high bandwidth cables.

So how was this world going to react to a shut down of the Web and subsequently human thoughts? It did cross her mind that this was perhaps a hoax, but her research validated its authenticity. She was worried for herself. The TGT would demand her return and immediate execution if she failed to send in her weekly report. They would never believe all thoughts were going to be shutdown for a week. They would think it was her ploy to take that vacation to the 12th moon of Jupiter. They believed human tendencies were contagious and disdainfully cited the example of a renegade predecessor of hers who had gone around sporting an S on his suit as he flew around making people wonder if he was a bird or a plane.

She needed to think and fast. The shut down would happen in a few hours. She decided to take a walk on the beach to clear her head. There still was time.

She walked along the shore watching the waves thinking about her future, when suddenly she saw it. It jumped out of the water, a gargantuan beast, before gliding back in. A plume of water shot out of its head. What was that? Could it be? This was wonderful! She had been reading about these sea creatures, there was some data that they were almost as, if not more, intelligent than the humans she had ended up studying all these years. It all came back to her now – The Discovery Channel - she remembered the Whale. They were even said to have a language of their own, a Whale song! Her problem was solved.

She summoned up all her energy, and saw the sands shift beneath her slowly disappearing feet, her legs turning into that mighty tailfin as she slid, smoothly into the calm waters.

She was going to be reporting on whales this week.

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