Friday, June 16th, 2017
My iPhone died today. A “no service” appeared in the upper left-hand corner, so I took it to Verizon. They worked on it for almost an hour, but the operation only made things worse. At 5:32 pm, they called it.
The phone was gone.
I was told a new one was on the way, expected to arrive by the end of Monday. I left the store in a daze. The sun blazed low on the horizon, mocking me with its natural yellow light. Everything was bright, too hot, too real.
I kept pulling the dead phone from my pocket and pressing the screen, trying to see the time, the weather, anything that would tell me there was still a wide world out there. It mocked me every time, inert, a dark rectangle of despair.
By the time I got home, I was flushed with sweat. My hands shook. I knew the signs: fever. I collapsed in the driveway. But there was a bit of luck; Miss Abigail from down the road spotted me and roused the neighbors. They carried me inside and put me into my bed.
I was speaking nonsense by then, raving, staring blankly and grasping for objects that weren’t there. Sweet Abigail stayed at my bedside through the night. She read me news of the harvest from her iPhone and mopped the sweat from my brow. I begged her to let me hold her living phone, to look at some cat pictures, movie trailers, anything, but she refused. I think she saw the madness in my eyes and did not want to feed it. Unconsciousness took me, and I fled down dark corridors, chased by demons of my own making.
The fever broke sometime during the night. I woke the next morning weak and exhausted but of sound mind. I checked my stores of barley and cured meats. There would be no trips to a grocery store before the new phone came with a maps app to guide me. What if there was traffic? An accident? I didn’t dare get in my car.
Satisfied that I had enough food for another 48 hours, I fumbled aimlessly around the house. I cleaned up from the disturbances of the night before. My hand still reached into my pocket for a phone that wasn’t there, but the need had lessened. More annoyance than desperation, more sting than real pain.
I cautiously stepped out the front door.
Had the colors of this world always been this vibrant? I marveled at the greens, the browns, the blue of the sky.
There were trees in my yard. Trees! I’d never noticed them before, but there they stood, big as life.
I touched one.
These new discoveries amazed me, but I still wasn’t sure what to do with myself. I’m old enough to have lived before the time of phones, but my memory of the past was fuzzy. What did we do back then? Run with the animals? Make fires? Sing?
Books. Yes, we read books. I searched my home and found an entire shelf full of them, covered in dust and insect skeletons. Where to start? I chose one at random, but it turned out to be a dictionary. The next one was better. I read it all in one sitting and picked another. Then another.
I could read! And not just headlines or blurbs, but entire pages of uninterrupted text straight through without looking at anything else.
I spent the rest of the day devouring the great novels, treatises on humankind, the works of Aristotle, Plato, and Socrates.
I woke before dawn and walked through a nearby forest, marveling at its beauty and communing with the animals. They didn’t run from me; perhaps they sensed I was like them now. Free in spirit, free in mind, a child of Earth. Birds landed on my shoulders and sang while I contemplated the meaning of life.
I returned home and cleaned and repaired everything that needed it. All the accumulated items on every to-do list, done, and all before lunch. I even improved on some of the processes; my home now runs entirely on squirrel power.
But there was much left to do. I got on my bicycle and rode around the city, making new friends and solving the problems of its people. I saved kittens from gutters, counseled our youth, helped the police solve cold case murders, and delivered two babies to mothers stuck in traffic.
Tired but satisfied, I returned home to be alone with my thoughts. But when dusk fell, some great and mysterious power summoned me. It reached straight into my mind, calling on me to go outside and stand in my yard. I obeyed.
Right there, in the falling light, a ship came down from space. Emissaries of an ancient civilization emerged. They had long studied the development of humanity, they explained. Having watched me these last few days, they believed the human race was finally ready to receive their wisdom.
They explained the mysteries of the universe to me. I learned their great secrets accumulated from millennia of study and experience. They taught me how to help the human race, to teach it new strategies for peace, prosperity, and sustainability.
I returned from space full of hope for humankind.
There was a UPS box on my doorstep. My new phone.
I laughed. Who needed phones? I was going to remake the world!
I dropped it in a corner of my kitchen, unopened, and pondered how to spread the aliens’ wisdom across the Earth. But there was a problem. I’d have to contact world leaders to teach them these lessons, and for that, I’d need a phone.
I retrieved the package.
I made a promise. This phone would be used ONLY as a phone. Nothing else; no apps or texting or any of that foolishness. Just voice-to-voice international diplomacy.
I powered it on and activated my account. Unread texts poured in. I didn’t want to read them… but what if a friend had experienced an emergency? Or gotten married, or had a child, or adopted a pet lizard? Ignoring them would be rude, and how could I remake the world if people thought I was rude?
I blazed through the texts, responding to each, the muscle memory in my fingers carrying me almost unconsciously through the process.
The last of the texts had a link to a YouTube video. It’s hilarious, a friend said. Especially to anyone who loves cats.
I love cats.
I clicked on the link…
What day is this? I can’t ever seem to keep track. Did you see that kitten in the basket? Adorable.
God, I’d love a donut right now.
That new Thor: Ragnarok trailer looks fantastic. Cate Blanchett is killing it.
My back hurts. Maybe I should check out that new Twin Peaks reboot.
Is this Thursday? Did I already ask that?
Sorry. Haven’t had my coffee yet.