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“Fields of what?” I spat with contempt, the dirt darkened where my sarcastic spittle landed, “yeah we’re sowing our fields with sweat and producing more farmers then we are food.” I added.
My father had told me these fields would be those of an “Era of Glory.” One he spoke about with an uneducated and unrealistic air.
“No, Dad, you aren’t being real, this world of ours is headed to a Technological Era. not one based on how you’ve lived and been raised to. I favor the ideas of the rising revolutionaries, the ones who are predicting a future based not on agriculture, but instead economic marketing and technology.”
We had argued more on the subject but the only thing we could come to accord on was that I go to our neighbor and ask for him to let us borrow his Hone-a-Matic, an innovative whetstone that runs by a like-wise novel “Battery”, a store of energy in a small cylinder.
I watched as the ground ate the moisture up before starting off again to our neighbor’s house’ Harol R. Thomas, our neighbor, was an eccentric man who my father always considered
with disdain. He, like me, was a devout follower and believer in the upcoming scientific age. Collecting articles and queer baubles evocative of science, things considered unprincipled to my father.
To say the least, I looked up to Harol and admired his outlook and theories on the future. His ideas were very unconventional, most which I would initially doubt.
It was after asking him for the Hone-a-Matic that he posed a wager.
“Despite...” he said, “. . .the lucid sky, I grant you a rain fall of devastating destruction is going to strike within the next day, albeit the barren fields attest perpetual heat. Care to refute my prophecy and embark on a venture? My lad, you should know by now that to doubt me is to tie your noose; however, I’m giving you the rope, so you can always possibly tie a bow.”
I told him my previous deaths weren’t didactic, “I’ll not let my past under-trumps stop me from playing a good hand.” I said smiling. “We all know well that there hasn’t been a storm causing any type of destruction in the past 12 years. I’d say the weather favors my argument that there won ‘t be a tempest like you speak of.”
“Zealous are we? No matter. The past should light your path; however you seem to still have your on shades,” he said with sarcastic scorn. “As for the ante,” he mused, “What can you lose that will effectively send you the message that it is imprudent to challenge my predictions? Twenty-five times you’ve lost to me in the past. I’d say why not a year for every blunder. How about it then?” he winked smiling. “How’s twenty-five years at stake? In theory of course?”
“Rhetorically….right?” I asked surreptitiously
“Of course,” he said mockingly “how do you propose I take twenty-five years out of you?”
“I’ll be da**ed, Harol, but you’ve conned me on more than twenty-five occasions, so I’m just being mindful,” I said reaching out to shake his hand.
“Ha-ha,” he chuckled clenching my hand in a dry vise, “so now you’re being precautious. Well you’ve just blundered, son”
The sun languished as I made my way home. I watched as the shadows became more pronounced, my own of which resembled a gaunt cornstalk, looking like the ones the past couple of years had brought us. I pondered over the deal, asking myself, “Was the bet a good idea? Why was his wager theoretical? Would there even be a storm?”
I opened the screen door and walked straight to my room passing the kitchen without a glance. At 9:30, I was too tired to even think about food. I lounged on my bed waiting for slumber to swipe my aching conscious out from under me, to no avail. Unable to sleep, I strode to my window, mentally noting the peeling paint along the frame. Minute termites strolled around the edges of their conquered territory, frame by frame eating their way into the caulk holding the window panes together. I spent a second watching them go about their duties, they seemed so intent, so focused as if they could do their bidding for years without changing. Counting them as they ambled up and down I concluded there were 26. “Time will show you all an end,” I thought quietly. I looked back at the window panes, Time-induced wear and scratches were working earnestly at rendering the panes opaque except for one lucid corner of which I revered. This triangle of truth faithfully gave me an unobstructed view of everything outside. I knelt down and looked out the untainted pane. I could see a smoldering diadem resting on the edge of the horizon, sinking into our crisp gilded fields. In the distance I could see ebony clouds amassing over the receding sun. Menacing swarms of dark purple muscle bulged out of the sky’s chest, taut veins of mercury shot serpentine beams into the gloom. The clouds coughed and caroused. Jupiter, it seemed, was in a fit of anger. Standing up, I closed the frayed curtains, returning my room to its diurnal darkness. A soft moan greeted me as I slid onto my mattress. Storms don’t always accompany cloud congregations, I comforted myself. A flash of light stole the shadows and a steady throbbing rumbled about the room followed by the low patter of rain drilling into the roof. My eyes hovered, debating their descent, and then sleep was upon me.
As mortal awareness surfaced and consciousness took helm, my eyes busied themselves at assimilating the gold melting in streams of light through the ceiling. Sleep and wakefulness vied for awhile before I realized the sun had never woken me from above. I opened my eyes with alarm and confusion. Standing, I looked with astonishment around the room. I was in a metal box. Glistening silver covered the walls that I had once struggled to keep from flaking paint. Above me was the exposed morning sky, looking as it always has whenever I’ve stepped outside, except I didn’t need to leave my room to see it. It looked as though the storm from the night before had wrenched the roof off my house and Jupiter it looked like had sweat silver instead of rain. Shaking my head in hopes of ridding me of the illusions I walked out my door and into the hallway before reaching the kitchen. Everything seemed to have been rendered silver. The walls were gleaming and the floors were slick and cold. I glanced around quickly noting the absence of all our appliances and furniture. Where our dining table had crouched now sat a giant opal cube. I shot an eye up, affirming the lack of a roof, before walking to the front door.
What concerned me the most was the unbreakable stillness that floated weightlessly around the house. Hysteria flaunted its existence and readiness to overrun my conscious, but logic kept it at bay. It was then that I noticed a slight panel on the wall, one I had seemed to over look in my angst. Projecting no more a coins width from the wall was a glass button. Deceptively hidden I could only assume that it had some significance and, pressed it. To my surprise the button sunk thrice a coin’s depth into the panel and with a faint click glowed red. Stepping away, I watched with suspicion as the light started to softly thrum. Like a bee’s hive the noise persisted for a couple minutes more than the droning ceased. With an inaudible click, the sunken button shot back out to its original position. Turning back, I caught movement in the corner of my eye. Adjusting my sight I confirmed the movement. From the aluminum sheet walls likewise covered counters were sliding outward. Within 30 seconds torso high counters were jutting out of the sides of the walls. Below them cabinets opened up to reveal pots and pans, cups and plates, forks and spoons, all made of the same materials as the walls, but in varying shades of grey. Tiles began to softly emerge on top of the counters. Atop four of the tiles rose concentric circles, it was then that I realized the room was evolving into an innovative kitchen, much like one I had seen in “Science Today” magazine.
Harol, I suddenly thought with celebration. If anyone knew what was going on it would be him. I left the room and its occult appliances, and making my way to the front door readied myself mentally for what lay beyond. I stood aghast, where my screen door used to be loomed the outline of a steel door without a doorknob. How in the world? I thought. Remembering the incident with the kitchen, I glanced around the frame searching for a relative panel. My eager eye divulged a glass pane in the border. Brushing my fingers over it, I felt the same chill that had suffused my body when I first woke up. Looking again at the ceiling, I was taken aback by how genuine the sky looked. The sun had scurried behind the clouds, and now all I could see was a cerulean canopy drifting above. It was strange how despite the realness of the sky I hadn’t been exposed to any of the elements. I turned back to the panel and decisively drove my finger to its center. A solid crack as of a broken twig snapped the silence. The doors outline, having been at first imperceptible, began to pulse.
Right before me the whole door, frame and all, started flickering subtly like a frigid mirage shivering in the arctic. With a last dying shudder the image faltered before finally vanishing altogether, leaving behind a gaping orifice in the wall.
Wordlessly I stepped outside. The first thing that hit me was the brilliant green carpeting the ground. What happened to the dry fields? There was a road parallel to my house and just 60 feet out from the door. But not a single person was on it. I could then feel a week breeze caressing my skin, quite a change, I thought, from the stagnant life inside. The sky remained the same as it was inside. Scattered trees stood proud and tall, their leaves perfectly pear shaped. Strangely, not a single leaf lay on the ground. Projecting out of the ground not more than 200 feet away from each other rested house after house all modeled the same as the one I had just exited. It seemed that where our crops had once slept, steel houses awoke galore. No longer was I in the pastoral prairie, but rather a futuristic looking suburb. I walked slowly to the road which I found to be paved of a vitreous tar. In the distance I could see billowing smoke and the outline of what looked to be a factory. Compared to the silos I was used to, this building seemed alien.
“Where is everybody?” I asked myself before more importantly wondering “Where am I?” Deciding to check out the factory in hopes of some sort of explanation, I made my way down the ebony trail, passing home after home, cage after cage, all looking queer and inhospitable. I discovered that the ubiquitous colored houses off to the sides were growing longer in length. Through my peripheral it seemed as though I was walking with silver trains running on either side of me. The more I walked the faster the metal locomotive went and the smaller the gaps between the cars became, eventually running together as one. Seemingly interminable homes flanked me on all sides ended right at the foot of the factory, which I could now see in clarity.
The fantastic structure spanned 4 stories or more, many chimneys sprouted from its roof. Looking like a tiered cake, suited for a funeral rather than a wedding, the plants pillars shot soot and brown smoke into the sky. Doors framed in bolts the size of a fist decorated the exterior walls of the unit’s first floor. I hesitantly walked towards one of the strong doors. They didn’t have any secretive panels as the doors in the houses had, instead were giant circular dials with Roman numerals notched into the circumference. I was surprised to find that the plate was made of copper instead of the bleak reoccurring grey material that seemed to dominate this new world’s palette. The dial below was spinning slowly on its own accord. Reaching at one of its spokes, I caught the wheel mid-spin. Pulling it towards me, the door, with unexpected amiability, opened. Steam silently vented from the sides of the frame, and with a final tug, I swung the door the rest of the way open. The vapor, still dispensing, fogged the entire opening, layering it with a filmy haze which only added greatly to my apprehension. Steadily, the smog began to dissipate revealing a gaping hole, the stomach of an angry automaton. I could see pipes inside twining around towering cylinders. Control panels riddled with lights and gauges covered the walls. Giant vats towered over low consoles and steel tables. Boilers stood gallantly at the end of room. Steam drifted in wisps around everything swirling around as spirits do in the night. Serpentine wires spun themselves along the floor. Viewing platforms lined with railings were lodged into the walls and hanging from the ceiling. Stairs in the distance, I could see, led to different stories. Row after row, in the center of the room, were assembly lines. Above them hung zip lines with giant hooks hanging down ready to catch and relocate any manufactured goods of this imagined factory. A soft whirring dryly snaked its way around the room. My curiosity, demanding more than I could provide with just a visual, pulled me in for a more sensual, mainly tactile, investigation.
Stepping inside everything seemed to double in size and capacity. I walked over to a control panel lining a hundred feet of wall. Gauges, like a compass near a magnet, spun madly and lights flickered with vehemence. Paper and pencils were strewn about, and velvet dust covered much of what I hadn’t touched, which, towards the end of my investigation became very little. Hanging at eye level were black empty-looking picture frames that, when tapped, flickered with an immense glow. Captivated, I found it hard to force myself away from the “monitors” and into other areas of the unknown. As I explored the factory things began to click in my mind, mostly because of my illicit subscription to Tomorrow’s Science Age, or TSA.
TSA was a magazine that Harol had introduced me to early when my interest with the future and possible scientific revolution was precocious. Now, the things I had learned about reading it, I found to be real and not just speculative and debated theories. The things I studied about were here and tangible. Things like computers (described in the magazine as being able to depict images in great detail) and engines (used to make things move or run), and even colossal machines (comparative to small ones such as the Hone-a-Matic) I was witnessing in actuality, the purest form outside ideation. It seemed to me that I was in a world years into the future. “This is what it’s going to be like 15, 20, maybe even 25 years into the future”, I thought to myself. I couldn’t believe the place; it was like I had traveled through time. Spotting a chair in front of one of the consoles I walked to it and sat carefully. Pondering over all I had learned in the last couple of minutes I thought about what had led to all of it. The storm I could remember vaguely. I passively scanned the room again, looking down at the littered floor I spotted a small triangular piece of glass amidst other mechanical rubble. Suddenly everything came together. The storm, the bet, the ante all hailed into my delicate conscious. How in the world could I have forgotten! Harol was right, there was a storm. I could scarcely recall observing the gales genesis through the… the window pane of course!
I picked the broken shard of glass up and held it, remembering more. His meteorological bet, his gamble, his audacious threat to 25 years of my life; it all came back in a deluge of memories. I squeezed the sliver in my hand and flinched as it drove itself into my palm; the sudden flit of pain grabbed me out of my nostalgic epiphany. “I’ll be da**ed, Harol, you got me again” I whispered pensively. “I guess this is what it’s going to be like in 25 years” I surmised. I Studied the ground with deject resignation before noticing a slight movement against the wall. Focusing, I realized they were termites. Slightly appeased, I smiled and watched as they went about their business without age. Envious, I silently counted them as they scurried about this way and that, traversing a loose wire on the ground without effort. 26. “You know you’re right,” I thought to the wise mites. “26 years into the future is more like it... one for every blunder.”