The days had come and gone in slow, rapid succession, so many days that everyone had come to the realization that the web wasn’t coming back to life.
Some said it was a conspiracy, that evil men and women had fed our dependency and then cruelly took it away to make us despair. Others said we just ran out of fossil fuel to feed the power plants and we owed it to the Earth to silence the things that drained the power. Others said we didn’t pass on the knowledge of how to fix the machines and thus lost the ability to make repairs.
And then there were the ones they called The Realists, who asked whether it really matters what happened and shouldn’t we just get on with living without the connections. My dad and mom were Realists.
They had kept an old machine that played music stored on round slabs and reproduced the sound by spinning the slabs and setting a needle on them. They had another machine that applied ink to paper to make copies of written things – news, stories, poems, essays even photos, although not the videos that the web had had.
Mom and Dad said if we’re going to still have civilization, we need to spread the words somehow.
“And that’s what you do with this machine?” I asked. “Spread the words? Why?”
The old man smiled.
“Listen. Do you ever look up at the sky, that big old moon hanging there, and wonder what it’s like up there in those nooks and crannies? Never mind that. Do you ever look at the mountain way over there and wonder what’s happening on the other side? Scratch that, too – what about those woods there, what about the other side of town? You ever ride your bike to the woods or the other side of town?”
“Well, yeah, of course.”
“I don’t know. To see what’s there.”
“Exactly! That’s the whole point.”
“You wanted to know what’s there. You wanted to see. It wasn’t enough to be here. There had to be more to life than these four walls, this neighborhood. You had to see what that ‘more’ looked like.”
“And then you wanted to tell your friends about the cool stuff you found, and warn them about the stuff that wasn’t so cool, so they could check out the cool stuff and avoid the not-cool stuff.”
“You became a reporter.”
“You went to explore, to see what was going on, and then you came back and told what you saw.”
“You spread the words.”
I got it. “Sure I did.”
“Well, because. Because people need to know.”
He turned the crank on the printing press and a printed piece of paper rolled out.
“Now you’re talking, son. Now you’re talking.”