“Look what we’ve found! Come and see!” Leste said as out of nothing. I stood up from my bar table where I was drinking a drink-o-mat ‘lemonade’ to join him in a messy room behind the bar. He had been cleaning out a backstage hall with Niaruk for our little guest, and there he had found a collection of ancient musical instruments. There were strange oldfashioned things that I couldn’t name, but I also recognised a guitar, and electric piano, different types of drums and more things that seemed to have materialised straight out of one of the ancient projections. “Do they still work?” I aksed. “I don’t know, but they are interesting for sure is just for decoration, and it might even be good for the bar if we can get them to work. Let’s try this keyboard first. There are still tutorials on the webs for every instrument.” He plugged a retro-looking piano in, but when it didn’t do much he went looking for another adaptor. "'200 V', man, where do we get an adaptor for that?"
Meanwhile Niaruk, the parttime bar helper, who had been putting loads of old menu cards in garbage bags seemed to have found even more interesting stuff. “Look here. Old books.” He said to no-one in particular. And indeed, he held some old paper books in his hands. Leste put down his keyboard that didn’t work with the other adaptor either to browse through the titles “Yeah, baby! ‘War of the worlds’, ‘1984’, ‘The late great planet Earth’, ‘Lonesome George's lonely hearts club band’, ‘Fauna and Flora of Lichtenstein’, ‘Great philosophers of the 22th century’, ‘The last of the pachyderms’…” He went on an on with the titles, all of which were unknown to me, until he handed one to me. “Ah, here, a copy of ‘Gilgamesh’, that's for you…”It was very old indeed, and while I investigated it he went on looking through books and papers, some of which were in a very bad stated. “And music sheets to the greatest hits of the 21th century. Might be interesting with that baby over there if we can get it to work.” He looked lovingly at the keyboard. There's a piano-rolls scanner too that can read those, and play them on the keyboard, but the challenge is to learn how to play it yourself. Recording music was the beginning of the downfall of experiencing music from within." He said mysteriously.
While I was browsing the oldest fiction story Leste and Niaruk kept finding other treasures. “Look, here. This one is more recent, from City Time.” he said, bowing down to get another one. “What?” I asked. Actual printed books had been exceedingly rare in the City Era, and ebooks had been the norm for many centuries since long before that even. He nodded. “Yes, one of the forbidden books even, so it might be interesting: ‘The true story of the neo-indigenous war’, by Analec.” He gave it to Leste, who mumbled dismissively “I have the e-version on an offline harddisc. Hasn’t everyone read it already?” It seemed Niaruk hadn’t either, but he gave it to me. “Come, Adaman, you read it first. You were wondering about the outsiders I heard from ev.”
“The neo-indigenous war?” I asked. “Yup. The one before the beginning of City Time, between the City and the Earthling-coalition. there’s a lot of misinformation about it still. Like the idea that the whole other side was eradicated. The book stops around the point where we lost all contact, but it’s clear that there must have been survivors of the Earthling tribes, and what’s even more interesting: it also talks about the wall!” Leste said. “Does it talk about the door to the outsiders that you mentioned recently, Lahkap or what was its name?” I asked? He nodded no. “Nothing about what’s behind the wall now. But it talks about the motives of the Earthling coalition, which is why the book is on the forbidden list. Any copy of it on the internet or on any device that’s online gets erased immediately.” “What? Books get erased?” Now it was the time for Niaruk to be surprised. “Is that new to you? Why do you think we have our offline harddisks and old e-readers with a disabled connection here in the bar? There’s automatic scanners in all of the net that automatically erase forbiden books, like forbidden history books, books of the old religions, or anything that could be subversive. Some books are even replaced automatically by prez. Sumwams ‘City Doctrine’.” The City Doctrine was a book that everyone knew, but the days that people too it seriously were far in the past now. “Yuck, I thought they didn’t like religious fanaticism.” Niaruk grinned. “It’s religious fanaticism if it’s someone elses idea. This is the noble City Doctrine, remember? Science and progress and unification of the human species and yadda yadda. You see what it has led to, slowly going the way of Lonesome George himself.” “Who on Earth was that even?” He grinned. “A tortoise, a very big one, some kind of giant tortoise somewhere in the 20th or the 21th century or so, and the endling of his species. After him it was over for his kind.” I stared at the book, which had a tortoise on it, and other animals “The last of the giant tortoises?” I asked. “No, there were still giant tortoises later, but the last of his species of giant tortoises from Pinta Island. The very last of his kind. Imagine being the very last of your species.” Niaruk said. “It was an animal, he couldn’t.” I said. “And some weeks ago you were a human and you thought that all the programmed AI memories around you were actually alive while they weren’t even sentient…” He remarked, and I kept silent, staring at the book. He was right.
“It’s a kind of theatre play, rather philosophic actually, with Lonesome George and some other endlings having dialogues about the meaning of life somewhere in an afterlife location. It’s rather depressing, but it was very popular in the second half of the 21st century. People then thought it was bad already because some species were gone, what would they think when they would see our noble City with no non-human Earthlings in at all?” I didn’t answer, looking at another 21st century book. It had actual photographs of animals, plants and whole landscapes made of only nature. Certainly I knew most of those from my infoscreen, but I looked at it with new eyes. Did things like this still exist? Was there more than the raven and a few little plants. Would there really be whole landscapes made by nature and not man left somewhere, where animals ran free? Behind the wall? Lahqap or what was the name? And what was Berla?
I suddenly heard a female voice behind me. “Aren’t you forgetting that you promised to take the little one to the supermarket? Come Adaman, it’s time.” I hadn’t noticed Evelith and little Vi entering. I looked at little Vi, who looked strange in her City style kids clothing. Where had Evelith even found it? “I had forgotten that with all those old books. Look!” I showed her my copy of Gilgamesh, and ‘the neo-indigenous war’.” She took most interest in the second one. “Ah, the uncensored original version. Can I read it too if you’re finished? And please hide it and don’t take it outside. Prez Emon probably won’t like the idea of this one still being round.” I nodded. “But come, supermarket time for you and Little Vi.”
- Lier, Belgium
Bio: I'm Bram from Belgium. Apart from playing weird music, experimental gardening and blogging about weird philosophical, theological, political and anomalistical subjects I also write fiction sometimes, in both my native language Dutch and English.