Fiction: Students embark on 'a tour of the past.'
by R.G. Trepanier
July 1, 2004
"Welcome to our tour. Be prepared for some weird and unusual sights. We ask that you do not touch or talk to the objects that you see. The temptation to do so will be strong, but you have passed the personality screening and we know you can handle it."
The voice of the guide echoed in the empty chamber. It did not seem to matter to the twenty or so advanced cadets in the Leader Training Corps, who had been hand-selected for this particular event.
"You are going on a tour of the past, to get a glimpse of how life used to be. It cannot be that way again. We wantyou to remember that... This is how life used to be. It cannot be that way again. We are too advanced and know too much to rely on silly superstitions of a lifetime long gone. Now I want you to repeat after me twenty times, 'This is not real. This is only a simulation.'"
The twenty plus voices started the monotonal chant along with the guide and didn't seem to notice that she stopped after the fifth repetition.
"Very good, class. Now let's begin our tour." A portion of the wall behind the guide silently slid open, allowing rays of pale blue light to enter the room. The guide turned and led the class through the doorway and into the hall. At once the group was surrounded by blue mist. When the mist cleared, the group found themselves surrounded by large brown poles with some green stuff around it. There were garlands of brown rope and things that lookedlike colored planes that zoomed back and forth. There were other forms, humanoid in form and manner, but had uniforms of some kind of fine stringy material that didn't fit too well, and they sounded funny too.
The voice of the guide seemed soothing in comparison to the surrounding noise. "This is what was called the pre-historic period. There were no machines or automats. If you wanted something, you had to get it yourself or make it yourself. These tall brown pillars you see with the green tops are called trees. These would have to be cut down with a tool called an axe and then shaved and shaped. After that they could be used for houses, boats, transportation. What was left they would burn with fire. All this took a long time to do. They had to go and search - often for days - to find food for themselves and their families..." The guide went on to explain about the backbreaking work, illness, very defined roles between male and female, dress, food, etc. and concluded that "...they didn't have it as easy as we do today. Any questions? Yes, Kayt'l?"
"Proctor, what are those people doing over there?" Kayt'l pointed to a ridge a few hundred feet away where two groups of these creaures were throwing sticks and rocks at each other. One fell, hit by a rock, and didn't get up again.
"That's what's called a fight or a war. Back then, people who didn't agree with each other, settled their arguments this way. They would hurt each other until one gave in or was killed. But we don't do that aymore, do we?"
"No Proctor. We always get along in peace and are dutiful and law-abiding. We don't need to fight because we all have the same amount of food, clothes, and shelter..."
"And from time to time there are bonuses!" added M'aran.
The Proctor made notes of the responses and blinked accordingly. "All right class. It's time to move on."
Immediately the talking ceased and the class formed two lines and followed the Proctor to the hallway, where, once again, they were enveloped in blue mist. Other times, other places were visited in this manner and, with the same result: "Things weren't as good or as efficient as we have it today. We have no need for the things of the past. They have no reason to exist - except for educational purposes; and only then for selected, potential leaders; for whom these field trips would have no meaning." In the days to follow, when scenes from this trip would be remembered, it could be explained as a dream, and that explanation would be sufficient. The pill for the day would also help of course.
The most difficult section of the museum was always saved for last. This was where the final test for leadership would always be won or lost. It was a room that the Elders would prefer to destroy altogether, but The Eldest ruled that it should remain - as a final test of a cadet's devotion and dedication to the people they would serve - I mean lead. One or two would always get left behind here, succumbing to the voice of a headmaster. Most make it through with no change and successfully complete their training.
...Once again they were enveloped in blue mist. As the mist cleared, and objects began to take shape, the group found themselves in a very large room. The first thing that they noticed was that this room was much quieter than any of the others they had visited. There were a few people pulling things off shelves or watching pictures on a screen, but there was no noise until the guide spoke up. "You have entered the last room on our tour. This is called a 'Library'. It is very old fashioned. Knowledge was stored in books and cassettes instead of in our minds as it is today. Their minds were so small, they couldn't contain all the things we can today, so they had to write it down. Again I want you to repeat after me, 'This is not real. This is only a simulation.' twenty times." This time she stopped after the first one and waited for the cadets had finished. "Come back when you hear the bells."
Kayt'l and Dek'k took off together, and were amazed as they saw row after row and shelf after shelf of "books", and "maps", and "magazines." What really held their fascination was a disk that spun around horizontally with a rod running at an angle across it. Out of a square box, noise was coming. It was weird, but pleasing at the same time.
"Like it?" The voice startled them and Kayt'l and Dek'k looked around to see where it was coming from. All they could see was a humanoid with unusual white hair and funny goggles over his eyes. "Like it?", the humanoid said again. This time they looked to see who he was talking to. They were the only ones in sight.
"Are you talking to us? Who are you? You're not real!" came one right after another.
"Yes, you. I am real. I am called the 'Librarian' by some, and the 'Headmaster' by others. This room is my domain. I am here to answer any questions you may have as well as to be your guide to the wealth of knowledge contained in this wonderful room."
"But you're not real! You are just an imaginative creation..."
"I am real. Just as the other people you saw are real. They are ones who decided not to finish the tour they were on in time past."
"But the pill..."
"...can be neutralized by an act of the will."
"I don't believe you."
Just then the sound of bells could be heard faintly above the music. Dek'k turned to Kayt'l "Come on... it's time to go. Let's go, Kayt'l" Kayt'l slowly turned and followed Dek'k toward the blue mist that was starting to form.
"Boys." The two boys turned to face the librarian.
"Remember - The Library."
"The Library," they repeated. Then they walked into the mist and disappeared.
The headmaster smiled.
Teachings of a Three Year Old... Turned Tyke,
by Hal Evan Caplan.
A father learns from the wisdom of his toddler.