Today, a snow day (the perfect day to write!) I wrote a short story for one of my classes. I impressed myself with my immense talent. So, ladies and gents, I present to you my first ever COMPLETED fiction story of my fine and exquisite lifetime. Yes, I have written many a tale, however, each and every one is left endless, incomplete. Until NOW! Please enjoy my take on the ever-increasing world of technology in a futuristic, sort of creepy drama by the name of MY OWN SOCIAL NETWORK! Written and created entirely by MYSELF!
My Own Social Network
I approached a stranger for directions, though it seemed they didn’t hear me.
“Excuse me?” No answer. They were staring blankly at the screen of their large touch-screen device, typing furiously.
“Hey, do you know how to get to the train station?” I spoke a bit louder than usual this time and seemed to have penetrated their technology-induced trance. The stranger jumped at the sound of my voice and blinked and squinted at me as if she’d been staring at her touch-screen too long.
“Wha?” she croaked out, still blinking wildly and shielding her eyes. “Why are you asking me?” she accused, though the intensity and sarcasm I think she intended didn’t transfer because her voice sounded scratchy and dusty, unused, like she’d left in on an attic shelf many years ago.
I tried again, “I thought you might know…You look like a native here, so I was wondering if you knew where the train station was. I need to get home.”
The stranger blankly stared at me, so I assumed she was processing my question. Very slowly. Then, she turned back to her touch-screen device and ignored me.
After a minute, I said, “I’m sorry for bothering you.” I wandered down the street farther, looking for any sign of a train station. I had to get home. This place was weird.
About two blocks from where I consulted that stranger, I found another person sitting on a bench with three other people, all of them drooling over their touch-screens. I had heavy doubts I would have success with these strangers either, but I had to try.
“Excuse me? Do any of you know where the train station is?” The same reaction of sensational blinking and squinting and overall confusion occurred. “The train station?”
“What – ahem – what is that?” another buried voice. What is it with these people?
“You don’t know what a train station is?” I asked, rightfully incredulous. One of the four people started clearing his throat and squinted at me.
“How do you spell train station?” Since my baffled-meter had already been maxed out with the other stranger, I answered him seriously, dryly, and hopeful that he might be able to help.
“T-R-A-I-N-space-S-T-A-T-I-O-N.” He typed all of that into his touch-screen and examined the results of his search. Then, he beckoned me over and pointed to the screen.
A complete map of the area glowed on the screen, boasting a dot representing our location, black lines for streets, boxes for the buildings lining the streets, and a yellow trail leading me to the train station. “Thank you!” I felt relieved with a normal answer.
“Um…” the resourceful stranger stuttered. I had lost my patience with these weirdos and didn’t stay to answer any more simple questions. I walked down the lonely roads, occasionally spotting a stranger with his or her touch-screen cradled in their arms. I, for the fun of it, waved fanatically at the strangers, not expecting a reaction. I didn’t get one.
Finally, I reached the train station – a mecca of touch-screen obsessed strangers gathered around an even larger screen with a bunch of information listed on it and advertisements periodically scrolling across. I never remembered being in a train station like this one. Everything was stainless-steel, gleaming, spotless silver surfaces with automatic-everything. From automatic doors and automatic staircases to refreshment stands without bartenders and ticket booths without ticket-sellers. I walked up to the frighteningly unfamiliar train station with intimidation bouncing around my brain, yet a renewed hope of finally getting home pulsing through my veins.
I hopped in the ticket line behind a well-groomed man with the raw and almost disgusting stench of business and wealth emanating from him. I choked – I never really liked businessmen because they never really like me, only money. I peered over his shoulder, spying him doing some illegal downloading of software on his touch-screen. Hmph.
I observed the businessman as he approached the ticket booth, which, I discovered, was just another colossal screen, directing costumers to “CLICK ON THE LINK THAT BECOMES AVAILABLE TO DOWNLOAD, ENTER YOUR CREDIT CARD NUMBER, AND CLICK ENTER.” Well, how am I supposed to do that? I don’t have a touch-screen OR credit card. When the businessman finished his transaction, I stepped up to the ticket-booth-screen and said “Hello?”
To my surprise, it said “HELLO” back, in a freakishly human voice. Taken aback, I thought about what to say next. The screen urged me on, “Click on the link that becomes available to download, enter your credit card number, and click enter!”
I didn’t know what to say, so I tried, “I don’t see the link.”
The screen’s cheery voice replied, “Type in GRAND CENTRAL RAILWAY STATION on your LifePad and–” So that’s what they’re called…
“I DON’T OWN A LIFEPAD.”
“That’s a-ok! Type your credit card number in on my surface on the line that appears,” a green line appeared on the ticket-booth-screen, “and press enter.”
“I don’t own a credit card, either.”
“That’s a-ok. Find yourself on Facebook here,” an Internet browser popped up on the screen and a website called Facebook loaded, “and we can charge you through there!” I doubted that there was any other way to pay besides this, and I suspected I wouldn’t be able to ride the train if I said that I didn’t own a Facebook as well. So I typed in my name and clicked enter.
The search results turned up only one person with my name. But the picture didn’t match up – it was a boy from the Netherlands who was about five years my senior. I had no other choice but to select the Dutch boy as myself and hope he doesn’t get angry when charged with a one-way train ticket.
“Are you sure?”
“Yes!” I shouted, eager to slip onto a train and finally leave this place.
“Okay, processing your transaction…Please wait.” A green progress bar came up: 40% finished. Dear God, I hope it’s accepted. 80% finished. I am a Dutch boy, I am a Dutch boy, I am a- 100% finished. Accepted! I sprinted out of that line and into the waiting area, where strangers clutching their LifePads were milling about, making purchases and talking to people online. I wondered what would happen in the Internet connection failed. I would be the only survivor, that’s what.
I saw a group of screens with lists of places I could go and the times they would be arriving. I found my hometown and went over to the screen. I realized I had to go through the entire process I already endured at the ticket-booth, at the destination-booth. So, I waited in line, listed myself as a Dutch boy and got confirmation that my train will be coming in ten minutes. Thank God.
While waiting anxiously, I sat on a shiny metal bench next to a boy my age. I heard the sound of a train coming, but when it arrived, it was another surprise. The train raced into the station at lightning speed like a speeding silver bullet and screeched to a halt. People mindlessly boarded the train, bumping into each other and not even stopping to apologize. But no one seemed to mind. Weird.
As the train exploded out of the station, I caught the time: five minutes left.
Just then, I heard a voice, a voice coming from my left, a voice that also sounded under-used.
“What is your FaceBook?”
“What is your FaceBook?”
“Um, I don’t have one.”
An expression of such shock and confusion crossed his face that I almost felt guilty.
“How to you get to know people? If you don’t join a social network, no one knows who you are! That’s how I don’t know YOU!”
“Well, it’s quite simple: I talk to them. In person.”
A gasp escaped his lips, “You mean…you are your own social network?!” What in the name of our deteriorating Mother Earth is a social network?
“Sure…” I answered, unsure and on edge, for I only had two minutes to go.
“That is so…..weird. How do you do that?” The boy was way past incredulous at this point.
“It comes naturally, I guess.”
“That’s crazy! I can’t believe I met someone like you! This is so cool!”
“Indeed it is. Say, why do you want my name anyway?”
“I wanted your Facebook, and I don’t know, I…thought you were cute.”
I had to smile at that. He at least was a bit more polite than everyone else I had talked to. “Well, thank you. But my train is due in less than a minute so I have to go. Nice talking to you.” I waved and began walking away.
“Wait!” I heard about two steps later. “Can I at least have your name?”
I smiled. “You know what? I do own a Facebook.” He looked relieved. I gave him my name to type in and walked off. Two steps later, again, I heard: “That doesn’t look like you! I knew you “no-social-networks” were crazy!” That poor Dutch boy. All that I’ve put him through.
My home-bound train screamed into the station and I slipped on. No more than five minutes later, the rocket-powered train slammed on the brakes and I was home. Bubbling with excitement, I skipped through the crowds of lethargic LifePad-worshipers and ran off the train. I wanted to immerse myself in the familiar surroundings of my hometown train station to forget the loony strangers from the other town. I never thought of the dreary furniture and hustle-and-bustle of the small train station I used to know as welcoming until that very second. And I looked for that welcoming feeling for the rest of my life after I stepped off that bullet train and all the thoughts, feelings, emotions dropped and drained straight out of me. The train station I entered was full of zombie-like neighbors glued to LifePads, stumbling around a stainless steel jungle of screens and digital transactions. My neighbors were stranger than the strangers – I recognized them as much as I didn’t. How long was I really gone?