“This is the dawning of a new age,” said the wise old woman, “not an age of hypnotized, mesmerized empty heads, but an age of being and doing and looking alive.” She took the now-silent device from his hand, examined it, and dropped it to the ground. “It will not harm you anymore. The Web has gone quiet.”
“But it wasn’t harming me,” he protested.
“Wait a few days for the fog to clear,” she said. “Then you’ll see where the hurting is. The trouble will come from the trolls. They thrived under the Web. They lived to be in the magic electric land, and now they’re lost. They won’t be happy, and lord knows they won’t be kind. We’ll have to be prepared for them.”
He blinked and stared at the sun as if seeking information there. No phone? No contact with the outside world? No answers to questions? How would he live?
“You’ll be fine,” she said, as if reading the questions on his face. “That wasn’t a magic helper, young man, it was a mesmerizer. It granted you wishes and kept you pacified while it was sapping your will, infecting your brain. It’s a marvel you have any gumption left to walk and talk. You can walk and talk, now, can you?”
The quizzical look on her face was funny, and he wanted to take a picture of it. But the camera had been in the device. He longed for it, and he had a notion in the back of his mind that the longing was the reason he needed to be rid of it. The back of his mind – he realized it had been some time since he had used it.
The apocalypse had been happening all these years, and they had been too spellbound to realize it – but now the fog was lifting, and he saw that post-apocalyptic life would not be brutal and chaotic, as people had feared for years, but alive and well. The devices had been the agents of the fear they had all felt.
He was anxious – chalk it up to fear of the unknown – but something in her words assured him that everything was going to be all right.
Except for the trolls …