It's... um, well, it's been two months.
This is a (very) short story I wrote for school. It was supposed to be an essay about a futuristic piece of equipment, but my tutor let me turn it into a dialogue. It's a rather crazy piece; I believe it is also my first "Sci-fi." I thought I'd share it with you all. Enjoy!
One couldn’t help meeting a few odd people when working as a salesman, but Alex still didn’t think that dealing with hooded monks was in the job description. No one was supposed to wear cloaks and hoods and tunic-y things—not in this millennium. To boot, the clothes looked scratchy and—well, organic. Alex had never seen wool before, but he wondered if he was seeing it now.
Wearing this odd attire was a woman who looked to be in her early forties who had just walked through the door of the store. Despite her conspicuous costume, the woman looked quite at her ease underneath her head of copious black hair. She had sharp black eyes and a sharp nose and a sharp chin, and Alex was willing to hazard a guess that there were very sharp elbows underneath that cloak.
But a job’s a job.
“How can I help you?”
The strange woman leaned forward, and for the first time Alex noticed that, on top of everything else, she was chewing on the end of a very long blade of grass. “Well, I’m looking to add to a collection of mine, you see,” she began, and as she spoke she rested her elbows on the counter. “What’s your name?”
Tilting her head, the woman asked, “Isn’t that a rather… archaic name, now?” Alex shrugged in reply. His customer continued in a conversational tone, “Because it can be a little confusing. Just sometimes.” She lowered her voice conspiratorially, “I’ve just come back from what used to be Italy. Visiting abbeys. Thirteenth century. Amazing, those monks. Just amazing. I got some superb additions to my collection.”
Realization hit. “You’re at time-traveler?” Alex asked. “I thought they were still figuring out how that works.”
The woman immediately frowned and demanded, “What’s the date?” Alex told her. “Oh,” she nodded, “Don’t worry then, you still have about fifty years.
“Back to business,” she resumed briskly, “I collect technology from different periods; souvenirs, if you will. And you look like the man who can sell me what I need. So—what’s the latest fad? What’s the newest wonder no one wants to live without?”
Alex stooped under the counter obligingly and fished up a few very small boxes. “Psychic Colloquy,” he explained.
“Oh, I remember hearing of those! Went out of fashion almost sixty years ago, those did.” Alex knit his brow, but his customer didn’t notice. “Aren’t they supposed to read your mind and send your thoughts to the ear of someone who’s also wearing one?”
Alex stepped into his salesman role. “Yes. But your friend will have his own unique number that the device sends your thoughts to, so any communication using the device is private. These things are very hard to hack.” He opened one of the boxes, gently taking out two small pieces of curiously-shaped plastic. “How it works is: you take this one piece and tuck it behind your ear. Then this other piece, the clear one, goes in your ear. The one behind the ear is reading your thoughts and transmitting them, and the one in the ear is receiving transmissions.”
“But it obviously doesn’t read all of your thoughts. How does that work?”
“It can only read your most clear thoughts, the ones that are foremost in your mind and are actually put in words. To send a transmission, you have to begin the thought with the name of the person you want to receive it, and conclude the transmission with ‘End message.’ There’s also a setting that lets you hear your message and revise it before it is sent. To turn the device on or off, you have to think very clearly, ‘Psychic on,’ or ‘Psychic off.’”
“Like walkie-talkies, only you don’t have to speak out loud,” the time-traveler mused.
“Never mind. So—I’m guessing spies like these types of things?”
Alex grinned “You bet. We also get orders from the military, and it’s rather popular with celebrities who like to get tips from their staff offstage. We even have a product line for kids—not recommended for use in school, of course.”
“Wouldn’t it be rather distracting if you’re using this Psychic Colloquy thingy and trying to have a normal, face-to-face conversation at the same time?”
“Well, it’s not recommended for that type of use.”
“Recommended,” the woman mocked, the long blade of grass bobbing comically. “What is it recommended for?”
“It was made to be reminiscent of ‘texting,’ which is a form of communication they had some decades ago. While texting when driving was illegal, Psychic Colloquy doesn’t require the use of your hands.”
“Still sounds distracting to me. Are there any glitches in how the gadget works? No, let me rephrase that. Have you had any law suits?”
Alex did his best to appear scandalized. “I—”
“Come now, be honest!”
“Some people believe the transmission waves are slowly radiating users’ brains,” he complied, blushing, “But we contend that the radiation is very minor, and we’re currently doing lab tests to prove that.”
The grass blade dipped sharply, as if it doubted what the lab tests would prove. “How do you think this mind-reading technology has changed the culture? How has it impacted people’s mindsets?”
Alex lost it. He said something no salesman ever should: “Are you actually planning to buy this thing?”
The woman made a motion as if shooing a fly. “Of course I’m buying it. It’s for my collection; I don’t care whether it works or not. Would you answer my question?”
Trying to hide his irritation, Alex replied, “The Psychic has been of great advantage to the military. Among civilians, both news and gossip travels faster. I suppose,” he paused, “I suppose, because spreading information is so easy, people don’t as carefully consider what they’re sharing. But that’s life, isn’t it?”
“Sounds interesting enough,” his customer determined. “What’s the price?”
The gadget was paid for and tucked under the time traveler’s arm. “Ah,” she exclaimed, “Now I’ll be off to Ancient Egypt! Thank you very much for your help. Have a good day… what was your name? Oh, yes, Alex. Have a good day, Alex. Good-bye!” And she strode out the door, wool hood bouncing behind her. Alex partially collapsed against the counter in exhaustion.
Well, he concluded, that’s what one got for talking to hooded monks.