Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
By Jeff Baker
Author’s Note: The draws for the May Flash Fiction Draw Challenge (thank you Jeff Ricker!) were a Science Fiction story set in an auditorium involving a tablet computer.
Third-period class was dull, especially in the auditorium.
Kennir shifted in her seat, the big old theater kind, one of a whole row of seats “joined together practically at the hip,” her girlfriend Zilthias had said. But it was the only available building in the decades old school, and the trick was not to fall asleep when the teacher was droning on.
“Okay,” Mrs. Dache said. “I see some of you are ready to fall asleep.”
Laughter from the class of about fourteen tenth-graders.
“Look around at this theater, how many of you know how old it is?”
Several students raised their hands, someone called out “Fifty.”
Someone else called out “Seventy-Five.”
“Seventy-Five years ago, right,” Mrs. Dache said. “Anybody know why? Why colonists on a strange planet would put up a theater?”
“’Cause they were building a school,” a kid in the front row said.
“That’s a good guess, but no. They didn’t build the school until later. The theater came first,” said Mrs. Dache.
She pulled a flat screen out of her bag which she’d set on the stage.
“Who knows what this is?”
A couple of the kids laughed. Somebody shouted out something obscene.
“No, it’s a revulator!” another kid called out.
“Nope! Screen’s too big. Anybody else?” Mrs. Dache asked.
Kennir raised her hand.
“That’s a third-generation tablet,” she said. “My grandmother has an old one she brought from Earth.” That was a little surprising, considering that the colonists only brought a few things, mostly practical ones. Not a telecomputer that was almost a hundred years old and probably could barely pick up the phone signals that had only been set up a decade earlier.
“Yes, it looks like one, but this is new,” Mrs. Dache said. “Watch.”
She tapped a couple of things and the screen came to life. The picture was blurry and green-tinted but she held up the tablet and the class could just see the video: construction crews working on scaffolding.
“This is video footage of the construction of this auditorium,” she said.
“Where’d they download it from?” Alix asked. He was always looking at available videos, to the extent that teachers went to him with questions sometimes. He knew all the historical footage on the planet. Not bad for a sixteen-year old.
“That’s the big news,” Mrs. Dache said smiling. “This was transmitted to us through a satellite link from an archive in a system about five light years away from us, in the opposite direction of the Earth. It’s started. The colonization of this part of the galaxy. After a century, we are no longer isolated. What this means is your futures will not be limited to this world, they will be infinite. You want to go to college or get extra technical training after high school, now you can.”
There was commotion for a few minutes as the future and all their dreams rose before them.
—–for Ashton. My nephew the Graduate.