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By Willow (willowashmaple.xyz)

Echoes of tomorrow (a flash fiction)

Echoes of tomorrow

a flash fiction

By Willow

June 9, 2024

The year 1997 C.E.

"Welcome to our new paperless office," announced general manager Heather Eng on the first day at Advantex Corporation's new, state-of-the-art office. "Today marks a new milestone in Advantex's 30-year history. We go paperless as we ride the wave of the Information Superhighway, and as we do so, we save countless trees!"

Gone were the old fax machines and dot-matrix printers. Now it's floppy disks, Zip Drives, and email. Over the coming months, old paper-based records will be scanned and digitized thanks to the OCR technology.

Office worker Melissa Stone finds her new cubicle, complete with a PC. She logs into the company network. Everything is online: office memos, purchase orders, policy manuals, forms, and more.

"The 21st century is here!" Melissa exclaims.

The year 2007 C.E.

Melissa is now 39 years old, and her 40th birthday is approaching. Her friends are organizing a big birthday party via email exchanges, and they sent out invitations on MySpace. So much of Melissa's life has gone digital. When was the last time she even wrote a paper check? A paper letter or greeting card? Maybe she won't even receive a real birthday card in the mail anymore.

Melissa goes to OfficeMax to buy a few flash drives. One 512-megabyte flash drive can store so much. There are also those new CD-RWs that can store more data, but she does not own a CD burner. She remembers the old days when she had a big stack of floppy disks.

"Digitization" is the trend now. Museums, libraries, and archives are making their collections into PDF and MP3 files so that they can be more accessible for researchers and perhaps better preserve the history for posterity. It fascinates Melissa that the entire library can fit into a box of hard drives.

The year 2017 C.E.

The American economy is booming again. Melissa is one of few among her circle of friends who survived the Great Recession unscathed. At age 50, she is now the Chief Operating Officer of Advantex Corporation. Her company has come a long way, too, now focusing on cloud computing and cybersecurity. She has become an evangelist for cloud computing.

"Back up, back up, back up," Melissa says as if it's a mantra. Advantex's cloud platforms are secured by redundant backups at multiple data centers. Yesterday, Russian hackers wiped out one of their major clients' data; fortunately, Advantex automatically backed up their data five hours before the incident and copied it to air-gapped storage. The damage is minimal.

In her free time, Melissa volunteers for local historical archives to help digitize the artifacts and documents. She imagines how the future world looks back at her generation, her parents, and her grandparents. She picks up a dust-covered box of old maps from the 1920s, carefully lays them out on a table, and scans them with a specially designed high-resolution digital camera.

Anything could happen, Melissa thinks to herself. Climate change, earthquakes, and wildfires could wipe out these precious artifacts of history, and then the history might be forgotten. Fortunately, the wonders of modern technology allow these irreplaceable records to be backed up not only on local hard drives but also at data centers in different parts of the world. If one goes down, there will still be others -- just as how the Internet was originally invented to protect the U.S. communication system from a Soviet nuclear attack.


The Year 472 of the Era of the Din Tats Dynasty

Queen Prastal's reign has seen an expansion of technology and commerce. Not long ago, people rode their dragon aurochs to the market town for a day. Dragon aurochs are tough and fast; they can carry a lot of things and can travel quite a long distance. It is said that God gave our ancestors dragon aurochs.

The new craze in town is the carriage. It is a box with round spinning things underneath, and it propels itself with burning stones and water. A carriage can run ten times as fast as a dragon auroch, and there's no need to feed that beast anymore. The rich lords in town ride the carriages nowadays, and children watch with amazement. The lords love to show off their carriages!

Mistress Miralena is one of those rich lords' daughters. She is about to traverse the land to study in the esteemed House of Learning in the City of Ins Segue. Her father, Lord Evet of Adurn, is a forward-thinking man and did not hesitate to send his maiden daughter to the House of Learning, even though many think it is a waste to send a maid to study anything. Some, even the commoners, mock Lord Evet's decision. He shrugged off the criticism and gifted Miralena a new carriage so she may travel to the Ins Segue in style and comfort.

The year 490 of the Era of the Din Tats Dynasty

Mistress Miralena, one of the few females to complete a decade-long study at the House of Learning, is now an acclaimed historian. She is particularly interested in old artifacts she finds in caves.

With the principal holy day of Dwavlan approaching, Miralena makes a long journey back to her hometown. A journey of two weeks on the back of a dragon auroch, her carriage can take her there in under two days.

Halfway through her journey home, Miralena stops by a lake shore to take a break and enjoy the sight. As she stoops down by the water, she notices something that appears to be an iron box submerged in water and partially encased in mud. Curious, she pulls the box out of the lake.

Inside the box, which appears to be of an extremely ancient origin, Miralena finds an assortment of curious objects tied together with numerous strings. There are several green plates with intricate copper patterns and many otherworldly black and rectangular jewels. The mysterious patterns inscribed on these plates appear to be some labyrinths, perhaps full of religious symbols, Miralena muses. Next to those plates, she finds a smaller box with a round, metallic disk. She is fascinated by these archaeological finds that possibly date back to the era of primitive savages tens of thousands of years ago. She is unsure of their meanings or utilities.

Miralena decides to find an inn in a nearby town and return to the site of her discovery the next morning to explore more.

The morning came, and Miralena, accompanied by several townsfolks returned to the lake shore to dig up more. They find more objects: several tablets with a hard, translucent side, some of which are small and about the side of her hand; and a box filled with hard rectangular objects the size of her finger. She breaks open some of them, and she also finds the mysterious green plates with intricate copper inscriptions albeit in smaller sizes.

Miralena collects the mysterious plates and places them in a basket, hoping that she will be able to study their significance once she returns to Ins Segue after the holy days.

The Year 493 of the Era of the Din Tats Dynasty

Lady Miralena was puzzled by the intricacies of the mysterious green plates she unearthed a few years ago on her way home. These ancient tribes had no known written language, as they never left any records. Historians concluded that these people, who lived tens of thousands of years ago before the invention of writing, committed their memories orally and perhaps by using chants or songs. In recent years, archaeologists discovered ruins of magnificent edifices that might have reached the heavens, as well as fragments of long bridges made of a strong metal unknown to them -- bridges so grandiose that they must have spanned over an ocean. How could a primitive ancient tribe without a sophisticated written language build such things?


August 20, 2135 C.E.

The human technologies have advanced by leaps and bounds since the last two centuries. Thanks to endless innovations, humankind has overcome a variety of challenges, such as the perilous climate change of the 21st century. Thanks to the 150 years of development in information technology, the entire knowledge of homo sapiens from the stone age to modern times has been successfully digitized, easily and freely accessible to all, anytime, anywhere. What once took a team of researchers years to dig through and analyze, now takes a mere two seconds thanks to the invention of generative artificial intelligence just over a century ago.

Today, everything depends on artificial intelligence. Manufacturing, transportation, government, education, healthcare, entertainment, and even religion have been automated thanks to AI. Humans now live like medieval kings and queens, no longer having to work to make a living. In fact, a couple of decades ago, we finally decided that we'd even automate politics! There are no more elections, no corruption, and no self-serving politicians; we have an AI-powered parliament, AI-president, and AI courts. We've achieved a paradise in our lifetime!

August 21, 2135 C.E.

Hannah wakes up around 8 a.m. and looks outside her window. It's another beautiful summer day and she is excited because she gets to go to the beach with her friend Rebecca. There has been a trend of nostalgia for the last two decades, and Hannah and Rebecca grew up spending some time in nature with the encouragement of their parents. Their parents gave them old-fashioned names, apparently from very ancient writings created long before they were digitized. In contrast, Hannah's mothers are named QxaF821MMjU and P8bnb7ksUYmsU - her grandparents thought those were "secure" names.

The Sun shines in the sky brightly, and ominously. It has been "acting up" a little during the past week. Its colors and brightness are odd.

Hannah and Rebecca are 25 years old, but they have only gone to school for five weeks like most kids their age would. Their grandparents used to say in the olden days, they'd spent 12 to 20 years in school to memorize a lot of things -- something they no longer have to because the AI client device implanted behind their ears does better jobs than the people their grandparents referred to as "PHD."

Hannah visualizes Rebecca's face, trying to contact her. The AI client device fails to connect to Rebecca. Panicked, Hannah once again visualizes Rebecca's face. It does not work.

Hannah grabs her tablet and taps it three times on the screen. It turns on but there's only a blank screen staring back at her.

Suddenly, the lights go out. As she looks outside, she sees all the vehicles abruptly stop and get stuck on the road. Then she sees an airplane falling from the sky, loudly crashing into a housing complex.

A massive solar flare disabled the entire computer system of the planet Earth in a blink of an eye.

All the digitized data that held the stories of humankind together, was wiped out in a second.

Wholly dependent on AI and supercomputers for generations, unable to even imagine a life without them, the civilization collapses in an instant and the inhabitants of the planet perish from starvation and thirst.

With climate control satellites no longer functioning, the sea level immediately rises by 50 feet, washing away all the hubris of homo sapiens, a species that almost became like gods, along with their artifacts and other animal and plant species.

Now the earth was formless and empty again. Darkness was on the surface of the deep and God's Spirit was hovering over the surface of the waters.


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