by Jon Michael Galindo
Daniel Salad strolled down Hiking Trail Twelve with the casual leisure
of someone who has a whole eighty-three minutes with absolutely nothing
to do. The power surges had postponed his meeting, derailed his backup
work schedule, and incapacitated his emergency backup chores schedule.
In fact, Neo, his Personal Information Aide, had been completely unable
to suggest an alternate activity.
Daniel never even knew the city park had a system of hiking trails.
Neo claimed that Trail Twelve took just over sixty minutes to complete
at a standard walk.
He breathed in deep and sighed. "Neo, don't trees smell wonderful?"
"They are vital to the balanced ecosystem." Quipped the plastic clipped to his belt.
Daniel could barely see blue sky above him. With such extraneous
time, he found his mind wandering into unfamiliar territory. "Neo, what
exactly caused the power surges? I mean, I know they're happening; but,
Neo's one camera gave him an odd look. "A series of solar flares are
disrupting services across the continent. The last are expected to end
today. Why do you ask?"
Daniel shrugged. "Oh, I don't know. I suppose my mind has nothing to
occupy it at the moment. It really is a rather odd feeling, thinking
Neo ran through some simulations for a moment. "Sir, I believe some distracting entertainment is in order."
He glanced down at the glowing plastic. "What did you have in mind?"
"A classic Word Adventure--Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley. I will download definitions where necessary."
Daniel watched leaves sway in the breeze, and began to wonder why
they changed color in the fall. Perhaps he did need some entertainment.
"And, you are sure that will provide sufficient distraction?"
Neo's camera blinked. "I am convinced. The tale will inspire
questions of the moral rights of man's creations, of the dangers of
over-reaching his imagination, and of the natures of justice and
revenge. All answers to these questions, should they interest you, are
readily available for download from the Morality Ministry."
Daniel shrugged and nodded. "Yes, well, if you're sure. Better get on with it then."
Behind his eyes, a pleasant floating sensation began, followed by a deluge of knowledge and a little blip.
Daniel considered what he had just learned, but, as his thoughts
wandered through these knew memories, he found they ended suddenly. He
recalled some bit about "considerable difficulty," but the thought was
insubstantial and hard to pin down; merely considering it lead his mind
to strange memories.
He waited. Nothing more appeared.
"Um, Neo? Was that the story?"
Neo did not respond. Worriedly, Daniel tapped the white plastic. "Neo?"
Neo spoke up again. "I apologize, Daniel. It seems a solar flare has
interrupted the download. The chances of one occurring during such an
interval--less than .08 seconds--were vanishingly small."
Daniel went back to watching the trees, recalling the winter ice and
books of sorcery in Frankenstein's youth. "That's all right, Neo. Just
resume the download whenever you're ready."
He waited a moment. Neo spoke in a rather soft tone. "I'm very
sorry, but I'm afraid that's impossible. It seems the error has
corrupted the memory terminal to which the Word Adventure would have
attached. Don't worry, though. I've filed relevant bug reports with PIA
International and Cortex Systems. I'm sure they'll be able to prevent
this happening again."
Daniel took a moment to digest the information as nature's scenery
scrolled by, now unheeded. "Hold on, I don't understand. Are you saying
you can't give me the second half of the story?"
"That is correct, Daniel."
Daniel blinked and cleared his throat. "But--but, as in, not at all? Not even in a few more minutes?"
Neo paused a moment. "Could I perhaps suggest an alternate Word Adventure? The Lord of the Flies by--"
Daniel cut him off with an upheld hand. "No, no wait, Neo. There
must be some mistake. Can't you just split the Word Adventure in two
and give me the second half separately?"
"No, I'm sorry. Your memory of that Word Adventure has a completely
corrupted terminal. The Cortex Downloader simply can't connect you to
the file-stream again."
Daniel ran one hand through his hair and experienced a small measure
of uncertain panic for the first time in his life. Neo continued.
"Perhaps you could find a colleague to tell you how the Adventure
ended? I attempted downloading reviews, but they must integrate with
the original file and were equally impossible."
Daniel shook his head. "Tell me? You want someone to just tell me?
Frankenstein was on the verge of communicating with the creature! We
would have learned whether he had killed his brother; and what his
motivation might be.
"How had he gained the power of speech, and what did he want of his creator? I must know!"
Neo said nothing for several steps. "I'm sorry, Daniel. There's nothing more I can do."
Daniel walked on in silence, eyes ignorant of the dirt path and
weathered, gray fence. His mind reeled with unanswered questions.
* * *
"Thank you for your input, Daniel. As always you were invaluable."
Daniel fidgeted in front of Second Editor Hall's desk. "Sir, may I ask a small question?"
Hall's PIA whispered to him, and Hall nodded. "Certainly, Daniel. I have a six-minute time-buffer in my schedule."
Daniel cleared his throat again. "Have you ever downloaded an entertainment Word Adventure called Frankenstein?"
Hall seemed taken aback a moment. "Um, yes. I believe so."
Daniel shrugged. "You don't happen to remember how it ended, do you?"
Hall wrinkled his brow and sat back in his seat, incredulous. "I
believe--" he paused, "I remember the scientist made a monster; they
were on a boat; and it took off across the ice at the end. Why do you
Daniel stepped toward the door. "Oh, no reason. I won't take up any more of your time-buffer. Sorry to disturb."
He bowed out the door apologetically and turned down the sepia hallway.
* * *
"Say, Neo, I've realized you missed a definition. What is 'reading'? It's all through the Word Adventure."
Neo piped up a little louder than usual. "Reading is a restricted definition. Do you wish to proceed?"
Daniel nodded. "I suppose so."
"In ancient times, humans spent upwards of twelve years mastering the process of interpreting visual input as words."
Daniel gasped. "Twelve years?"
Neo continued. "Moreover, the process was painfully inefficient, and
highly addictive. It was not uncommon for a person to waste significant
hours of every day absorbing words through 'reading', even to the
extent of missing sleep, scheduled meals, appointments, and
opportunities for self-betterment. The act and method of 'reading' has
been illegal for nearly three centuries."
Daniel shook his head in disbelief and sighed. "And here I had begun to think it might help me."
Neo's camera eyed him intently. "Please abandon such thoughts."
* * *
"Daniel, you have now lain awake in bed nearly sixteen minutes. May
I remind you that your sleep schedule has no time-buffer available?"
Daniel rolled over to face the white plastic on his night stand.
"Oh, I know Neo. It's just--I can't stop thinking about Frankenstein.
Do you think..." He paused a moment. "Do you think Frankenstein made
another one? Doesn't the monster need a companion?"
Neo said nothing for the space of a minute, running simulations and
querying behavioral databases. "I'm sorry, Daniel, I can't process Word
Adventure files myself; nor would I be able to connect their widely
disparate concepts if I could, but, it is my duty to remind you that
any perceived dissatisfaction with your life or attitude of distraction
from your work must be reported immediately to the Contentedness
Ministry for review. I can submit a brief report immediately, if you
Daniel quickly rolled back over. "No, that won't be necessary, Neo. Good night."
Daniel lay in the dark and closed his eyes. Visions of the frightful
humanoid and questions of its fate danced through his mind. Perhaps,
perhaps just this night, he could miss a little sleep. He could sort
through these thoughts, and create a valid ending. Yes. What could be
the harm in that?
Daniel lay, still and silent, and began to think--to dream--to create.
© 2014 Jon Michael Galindo
Bio: Mr. Galindo is a previously unpublished science fiction author.
He has been inventing worlds of science fiction and fantasy since
before he could write, and, although he has been writing those worlds
down since middle school, his true love still lies in inventing stories
never before imagined. He currently resides in Peachtree City, Georgia.
E-mail: Jon Michael Galindo
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