Dean Traylor is a freelance writer and teacher who writes about various subjects, including education and creative writing.
Winston Talisman shook his head in disbelief.
“No,” he mumbled to himself. “No. No. No.”
He fell to the earthen floor of his shack near the printer. His mumbles soon turned to screams of agony.
“I can’t believe this.” He whined as he began to choke up. He proceeded to let his frustration emerge from the depth of his soul.
The printer to his makeshift computer responded with a fizzle and buzz before emitting a weak strand of smoke from the area of the paper jam.
That’s it, he thought. All hope is gone.
The hope he referred to was his chance to get out of the impoverished wasteland of powerless shacks of the shantytown that surrounded the wall to the Gilded City – a beacon of electronic lights, holograms, and boundless social media. It was a city of opportunity beyond anyone’s dreams…especially if you were well versed in the ways of the electronic reality that the city possessed.
Yet, the one ticket to enter this magical place was the ability to type a letter – let alone write one. This may seem like an easy endeavor. But, the people of the shantytown had little, in terms of resource and literacy. Worst yet, opportunity for education was matter of finding the right place, the right material, and all the luck in the divided world Winston lived in.
Winston persevered through the years. He was optimistic of becoming a citizen of the Gilded City. Whenever he had a chance to learn – since schools were not affordable or visible in the shantytown – he took the opportunity to seek it by whatever means necessary. That education involved learning in strangers’ dwellings if the occupants felt the need – and had the ability -- to teach; reading any books he could scrounge from dumps and garbage heaps throughout the settlement (and those kept in the strangers’ homes where he learned much of his education); and a trial-and-error approach to making things work from scavenged material.
As his education expanded, his desire to reach the Gilded City propelled him to search for electronic scraps. These corroded and flimsy scraps (some with workable motherboards) became parts of something that operated like a computer. A treasure trove of used discs, flash-drives with software stored on them (many miraculously undamaged) supplied the programming of the computer.
The problem was having a workable printer. Like so many electronic devices, they barely existed in the town.
Even the need for power became a necessity; he searched and found solar panels and gas-powered generator (with a few canisters of gasoline that Winston often wondered why an advanced city would use in the first place). And, when he needed more power he found ways to make wind-turbines that generated enough energy to power the lights in the shack he lived in, as well as the computer he created. Most importantly, he found the bits and pieces he needed to build his own printer. Something, he hoped, would get him closer to his dream.
The problem was having a workable printer. Like so many electronic devices, they barely existed in the town. Those that did were outdated junk from a bygone era. Still, if one was willing and able – as Winston was – they could scrounge enough material for a printer and put them together.
He stressed, sweated, and lorded over his creations. He spent hours, days, weeks and even months putting everything together so he could accomplish one feat. Winston wanted it bad, and did everything he could to punch his ticket to this promised land.
The printer was the last thing to be ready. The “moment of truth” was upon him as he sat down in from of his primitive and non-Internet computer. Anxiously, he saw all his dreams cultivate in a simple letter typed onto the computer. Then he saw it get dashed when the printer coughed its last vestige of life.
He got off the ground as the printer paper (which was tough to find in the shantytown) started to burn. He leered at it before turning his attention to his lost dream. The wall to the Gilded City was bright and shining. The towers behind them scraped the sky and blotted out much of the sky and sun. Physically, the city was close, less than a mile away. It was so close, that Winston could see its residents meandering about on walkways and elevated parks. He could see them, smiling, laughing and enjoying life.
But, on that day, the city felt like a universe away. The pain of this knowledge hit him hard as the tears began to stream down his face.
It was so far away. So far, that it was a dream to get there. It was a very distant dream from the filth and decay he realized he would stay in for the rest of his life.
© 2020 Dean Traylor