Pausing just long enough to take a breath and glance up at Isabella’s intent face, Lexy turned over an old, wrinkled page and continued reading:
“It happened gradually, but suddenly–slowly, but surely. Government progressively obtained more and more control–financial, emotional and finally, physical, of its citizens. Near the end of the millennium, people were squeezed financially. Everyone owed money to cred cards, which were owned by banks, which were given money by the government; many people lived on loans and credit cards. Even students, encouraged to attend college at any cost, took out educational loans; some students were initiated into the “real” world owing a lot of money–it’s a lifelong pursuit–to earn enough not just to live, but to pay off debts, too. Nobody could really relax without the constant nag of needing to earn to pay. They were always anxious and worried about having enough money, and they worked nonstop. People did not have a choice about what to do with their lives, as they were forced to work to pay bills and make a living, the way they were told people lived–going to work every day to pay to live in a house and have cars and lots of toys. What a vicious cycle. Undoubtedly, this bleak cloud over our heads affected our emotions.
Being responsible and upstanding citizens, people spent the majority of life uptight and stressed out, working, sitting in an office or driving on crowded roadways. Needless to say, people weren’t as healthy as their ancestors were, who used to run and play in the Earth’s jungles and forests. In this fast-paced world, there was never any time for resting or relaxing. Today’s children ate convenient, processed food, worked indoors and breathed A/C dust and asbestos and lived in smog-laden polluted environments caused by technology. Cancer was the norm and almost expected by lots of people.
It’s no wonder when the bulletin hit the streets that one shot would cure all disease and ensure good health and increase one’s resistance to his unhealthy environment, everyone was eager to be first on the list to get injected.
‘Everyone should get a flu shot to protect themselves,’ read the propaganda. Many of the elderly and the children were given the shots, although some didn’t take the bait.
A few years after the initial bulletin, when it became apparent that not all mankind placed their confidence in a shot, another announcement was made on the radio and TV. This one strongly suggested that receiving the shot was a life or death situation–due to an airborne disease. Some still resisted and decided to leave the cities, suspicious of the shot the government was all but forcing them to accept. Instead, they relied on their God to save them from whatever evils the shot was concocted to ‘protect’ against as they fled, escaping their current realities. It was a weird society, but what culture (cult-ure = your cult?) isn’t a bit strange?”
“Hold on a minute! Wait!” interrupted Isabella. “What are you saying? Escaped? To where? From us? Is this true? Where did you get this? Alexis?! Start talking!” Isabella demanded, excitedly. “And Alexis–Lexy, you’re reading?! How are you reading this?” Isabella looked puzzled and upset.
Alexis was enjoying her friend’s amazement. “I don’t know exactly what this means,” she answered slowly, getting serious. “But I don’t think we were meant to have this.”
“How did you get it?”
“I found it. In Mountain View. When my parents used to take me up there for their meetings. I always had to wait in the car. I found it while I was exploring one day.”
“But how do you know what it says, Alexis?” asked an astounded Isabella.
“Oh, I learned how to read,” answered Alexis nonchalantly, as if she weren’t aware that people didn’t read in today’s times. It was considered an ancient art to Lexy and a waste of time to most of the members of today’s computerized time-saving society, who needed only to listen and speak, not read and write. Computers took care of that. Writing and reading were forbidden. There was no need for the written word, quashing the power of the pen.
Isabella shook her head. “You never cease to amaze me, Lexy,” she said. “When would you have time to learn to read, not to mention how? Do your parents know?”
“Of course not Isa! Only you and I know,” said Alexis. And Wynn-Elias, she thought to herself. “And it’s got to stay that way! My father would flip out! You promised me, Isa. Don’t breathe one word of this to anybody!”
“On my honor,” Isabella said, crossing her heart.
“Do you want to hear more?” Lexy asked, eyeing her friend with a steady gaze. Isabella nodded, saying nothing but still wondering how her friend had learned how to read. Eyebrows raised in curiosity, she leaned forward as Alexis began reading again.
“People slowing began separating themselves from the mass ideas about how one should live and began drifting into an independent and more harmonious way of life. Certain people and their families left the crowded cities and moved to the open quiet of the countryside. Mainstream individuals (an oxymoron) worked a minimum of forty hours every week and thanked their bosses for allowing them two weeks a year to be free (after a year of uninterrupted labor, that is). Weekends were also part of the deal, sometimes, and this schedule occupied people’s time well into the ripe age of 65, when they would stop work and often pine away because their work was the only way they knew anymore to fill the hours in the days.
Convenience was a major concern, as these busy people, with their waking hours centered on working and getting to and from their workplaces, didn’t have time for inconvenience. Fast food and email were highly regarded. Maybe that’s why when given the choice to dispose of the cash currency system and replace it with a scanning device that slipped right into one’s wrist and could be slid over a scanner to purchase things, people lined up in droves to get them inserted. Even more, the personal computer interfaced with the scanner also as a way of communicating, shopping, talking and even vacationing. Virtual reality tapes of places did away with the need to ever really leave one’s area of residence to vacation. Everything became computerized for convenience and saving time. Gradually, stores converted to the scanner method and people clinging to carrying cash had to search out other avenues or resign and make an appointment for the installation.”
“Girls!” Cynthia Roberts called as she turned the doorknob.
“Coming!” Isabella yelled, jumping up for the bed and motioning like crazy to Lexy who slid the book under the desk and grabbed the VR headphones. Isabella opened the door. “Sorry, Mrs. Roberts. I didn’t know I locked the door,” she said as innocently and convincingly as she could, but her heart was pounding so wildly, she was sure Lexy’s mom must have heard it.
“That’s okay, but Lexy needs to take these capsules,” she said, handing Alexis a handful of multi-colored pills. “You forgot to come and get these Alexis.”
“Thanks Mom.” Alexis tried to sound casual. Her heart was fluttering in her chest as she envisioned her mother discovering her secret. Her own mind was still reeling over what she had just read. “We got so involved, I guess I forgot.” Well, at least that was the truth, she thought. “Je suis desolee,” she apologized in French to remind everyone about the Paris VR adventure.
“D’accord mon cherie,” answered mom with a smile. “Aimes-tu des pellets?” she asked about the new food pellets she had ordered for her daughter. They were made especially for focus.
“Oui! Ces sont tres bien!” she laughed, making a muscle with her arm. The three women smiled.