SCREENS

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Chapter 4 - Reason

Chapter 4

“Here we are.”

The coach and the other teachers brought us into an almost empty classroom. Thrown through the doors by our teachers who clearly wanted us gone, who could’ve cared less about us. Through those doors in the empty classroom, we saw two familiar faces, the first spoke as soon as we came through the gateway in detention.

“Niles, Thompson? Just leave them here. Go back to the meeting; I’ll meet the rest of you there shortly.” Principal Summers ordered.

“Are you sure? These kids are a handful; they broke the projector in the planetarium.”

Floyd slouched down realizing what he had helped cause earlier.

“Jesus. I’m going to talk to them first then I’ll meet you. There are much more dire things going on that demand your attention until then brainstorm ideas, think of something.”

“Try to make this quick Mister Summers.”

“Niles, I’m sure you and the others are capable of making a decision without my presence, I’ll be there soon.”

“Sounds good.” Coach Niles then glared at us while he and the other teachers made their way out of the classroom. I’ll never understand Coach Niles and his ignorance, his want for segregation amongst all his students. I’m sure he has pain in his life, he just uses hatred to channel it. Immediately after they left us, Principal Summers addressed us.

“Take a seat.”

“Yay! Now all of you can share in my misery!”

“Trevor, enough.”

I sat down next to Trevor as Principal Summers slammed down the books he had in his hand and stood up from behind the desk.

“You three broke the projector?”

“Not Me!” Courtney blurted out.

“Yeah. It’s all my fault.” I said and subtly looked towards Trevor expressing my guilt.

“Why are you upset about? That’s epic man!”

“Alright! Enough talking!” Principal Summers then walked down the aisle to where we gathered together and began a parade of criticisms against us.

“Trevor? How can someone get into so much trouble in the first two months of school? With all of the harassment issues and constant fights, and what’s this I heard about the library last week?”

Trevor smirked and glanced back to us as if to brag that he got banned from the library. ”

“They kicked me out of the library because I moved all of the bibles to the fiction section.”

Courtney giggled slightly; we were quickly put in our place when Principal Summers slammed his hand down on the table and commanded our attention.

“How will your grandmother feel if I called her right now and told her about your episode today?”

Trevor then shut his mouth and looked away from Summers. “Do what you have to do.”

“We’ve finally reached a point of ultimatum Trevor. And now onto you three.”

I shot my eyes up at him and I was ready to take my scolding, I was sure we were about to be expelled. “Please Mr. Summers, it was her fault she hit me first! I should be back in class I didn’t have anything to do with..”

“You had everything to do with it, Courtney! You are just as guilty as them, I know how cruel you can be to my other students, and you are no favorite in my book. You three destroyed a two-hundred-thousand-dollar piece of equipment, that’s not something that’s easy to replace!”

I then felt like I had to break our silence, I needed to put in my word. “It’s my fault Principal Summers. Floyd shouldn’t be punished for this; he was just trying to stop the fight.”

Principal Summers, even though he came off as a hard-ass to his students, had at least one soft spot for every one of us. “Look, I wish he wouldn’t have ended up here. He’s an honor student and one of the top pupils in your class, but you brought him here Sasha. And now all three of you are going to face the consequences together.”

“Please, it was my fault!”

“I know, and that’s what makes this so difficult.”

I’m sure Principal Summers wanted to save us, he hadn’t given up on Trevor, and I know they hated each other. He wanted to forgive and forget, but he had a boss too. What would the superintendent say if the Principal didn’t expel three students for breaking a quarter-million-dollar machine and the other for constantly harassing teachers and classmates with no intention of stopping? His hands were tied when he made the regrettable announcement to us.

“Until further notice, all four of you are suspended, pending expulsion. You might want to think about how you’re going to tell your parents you need to find another school to attend.”

“Just like that? You’re throwing us out!”

“You’ve given me no choice. Now I’m going to call your parents and tell them they need to come pick you all up.”

“Please no.”

The one thing I tried to do to make a difference and it backfired horribly. At least I was taking down the two most malicious people in my class down with me. After this, they would never torture another soul at this school again.

“You did this to yourselves, take this time to reflect.” Principal Summers pulled out his phone, and we heard a very strange ping emanate from it.

We all directed our attention to him and saw his surprise when he discovered that his screen was frozen.

“What is this? Trevor! Is this you?”

“If only, see look my phone is….” Then as Trevor pulled out his phone, his began to ping, and Courtney’s, followed by Floyd’s.

“I can’t. I can’t pull anything up.”

“My screen is frozen.”

“No, no, no! Trevor cut this shit out!” Courtney barked to Trevor who stood up with his hands out in the open.

“Look I’m a troll, not a tech wiz. I know just as much about phones as the rest of you idiots.”

The tablets attached to the desks in the classroom then began to power up and follow the ping. The sound so synchronized that every time another device would ping, it would only get louder. And it became piercing to our ears once the all of the holographs around the room began to ping too.

“Oh my god!”

“It’s deafening!”

“Stay right here; I’ll be back!” Principal Summers jolted out of the classroom and swung the door right open. We couldn’t see, but we heard the unified harmony down the hallway. Every connected device was pinging all at the same frequency and wavelength, and their incessant ring echoed throughout the school and only made the effect that much more excruciating to hear.

Eventually, every single connected device in the school was emitting the ping, and when that finally happened, that horrid sound began to change its pattern. The pings started to make these rhythms across every device. It almost sounded melodic, and we all stood in awe as their melody continued while our phones and everything else began to flash.

Then every device in the room shut off. We stood there in silence gawking at what had just happened, looking to our phones.

“What the fuck was that?”

“Kids, stay here, I need to know if we are under attack.” Principal Summers then quickly shut the door behind him and left us alone in that room. We all scurried to the screens in our hands hoping everything was alright.

“It’s turning back on.”

“Come on. Please no” Courtney began to have a panic attack it seemed like, in fact, they all did, all three of their faces glued to their precious cell phones.

“You see this?” The phones booted up correctly, but where the lock screen should’ve been a message was displayed. White bold letters were above and below a red caution triangle; they read: Don’t Panic.

“How do we not panic! Why won’t anything work!” Courtney shook frantically attempting to unlock her phone.

“Nothing is working. The screen is stuck it won’t move!” Trevor exclaimed swiping his fingers across his phone.

“I can’t remove my battery! Hey, Mute! have you tried taking your battery out?”

“Courtney, you call him that again, and I will continue to beat the shit out of you.” After I had delivered my threat, I saw that Courtney at least had some common sense and was able to learn from her failures.

“Okay. Floyd?” Courtney glared as she re-asked her question. “Is your phone working?”

Floyd shook his head as he placed the back cover on his phone, unlocked it and signed to me when he saw the same message. “Sasha. My voice it’s gone. What do we do?”

“I have no idea, Floyd. You know I don’t ever use my phone.”

“Have you checked yours yet Sasha?” I pulled out my phone, which most of the time I forgot I had anyway, and showed it to the rest of them as my screen turned on.

“See, Don’t Panic, same as all of yours.”

“Think a satellite crashed or something” Courtney asked.

“This isn’t just a satellite Barbie; it’s more.”

“I don’t think I can live without it, what can we do? Can we fix it you think?”

Trevor then looked towards her thrown off by the stupidity of her comment. “Honey, none of us know what the hell is going on right now. So, probably not. I’m not sure if I could do it either. I need my release; I need my fix man.”

“Sasha, I can’t do it, I need my voice, I at least need my music.”

They were acting as they had never lost anything precious in their lives before. God forbid we lose our cell phones. But then I started to think about it, if it’s every device – how will people call in case of an emergency? How will people get money, nobody uses cash anymore it’s all electronic cards. There’s the stock market, the internet market, our nation’s infrastructure relies on it. So many things, all connected, now infected.

PING

I think I knew this was going to happen. This is what I was protected from. I tried to act surprised for them, I couldn’t afford to look suspicious.

It came from my phone; I set it on the table in front of us. After I had heard the notification my phone began flipping through images at an incredible speed, so fast it created motion blur. I felt my heart skip a beat.

“What did you do to it?” Courtney asked.

“Nothing! You saw me. You all did!”

My phone went silent, and the screen went completely black.

“So much for that.”

“Then why don’t we see the words?”

The installation text remained for only seconds.

Installing, please wait.

The dark lit room then became washed in white light by my screen. I saw three vibrant white circles appear in the very center of my phone. They were revolving around and within each other, creating a 3D image on my device. The brightness began to dim, and we all converged our gazes, desperate to see what would happen next.

A text appeared formed out of the circles.

Hello.

We all stood back for a moment. “Trevor, are you sure you’re not doing this?”

“Christ people! If I could do something like this, I’d be the king of the god damned world.”

“A troll king” Courtney scoffed.

“Damn right.”

“You two shut up. What are you? Who are you?” And how did you know I would kill my family? – I wanted to ask that but, for obvious reasons I didn’t voice it.

The circles then dimmed, and one of the holographs in the room then lit up. On it, a video began to play. A man was wandering around a dimly lit room, looking almost like some jazz club.

“Are we about to be rick-rolled?”

“Shut up Trevor.”

The man in the dark blue suit then looked towards the camera and lit up a cigarette as he sat down at the booth bathed in light by the dim orange lamp reflecting off the table.

“You are confused; I would be surprised if you weren’t.” He finally spoke.

“Can he see us?”

“Hey!” The man spoke again during Trevor’s attempt to hail him, and we came to realize it was a recording.

“There are 25 billion connected devices in the world, 6.2 million more are connected every day. Every second 6,000 statuses are updated, 40,000 search engine queries are entered, and more than 2 million emails are sent. We have created an entire world of information and connectivity, and it has indeed become something much larger than ourselves, now it is in jeopardy.”

My phone began to radiate with evolving and perpetual colors on its screen, and we watched as the man continued his bit.

“What you are looking at is the world’s first artificial intelligence, and it chose your phone as it’s host.”

“But why? You had to have chosen me since before the accident.” I pondered.

“What you hold in your hand has the power to reconnect other phones to the network. We need you bring it home so we can reach the entire world, and for your effort, during the reboot, we can grant you anything you could want out of the internet.”

We couldn’t even see outside the classroom. The entire time the man spoke I tried to find a flaw in his character, I aimed to perceive something untrustworthy about the way he carried his words and his posture, but the entire time I never felt compelled that he was dishonest. But I do know that this man speaking to us created this problem, he may not have been lying, but I wasn’t sure if I could trust him. The thought that he and whoever his team were knew me somehow totally consumed me. Despite the evidence in front of us and around us I remained pessimistic especially after hearing his offer.

“To whoever sees this, the fate of the digital world rests in your hands, and between you and any others, this secret must be kept close. It trusts you, through research more than anyone in the world. If word gets out that you hold the key to technology, like a magnet, it will attract opposites, and you cannot imagine the horrible things people have done in the attempt to steal this tool already. Be safe, and good luck, but more than anything – thank you. You will see me again as you proceed on your journey, this is Professor Leo Nyström logging off.”

My phone lit up and outshined even the projector as the short presentation was fading out. The holograph shut down and the lights came back on in the room, then we stared at the source of our confused state. My phone then had the GPS pulled up to our destination.

“Boston? That’s so far!”

The phone then analyzed the distance and time it would take.

Rerouting. 1675 miles till destination. 25 hours by car.

“Hold on! How do we know this isn’t a trick?”

It all happened so fast; our heads were spinning trying to wrap our thoughts around this. It was entirely overwhelming. Courtney and Trevor were yelling at each other trying to figure it out, and Floyd was directly in front of me signing to me relentlessly. I felt so claustrophobic, and I had to break that feeling.

“EVERYONE SHUT UP!!!” I screamed. It worked, and I could finally hear myself think.

My personal connection with this thing is apparent. But we need to focus on the priorities, this is obviously bigger than me, bigger than the four of us.

We needed to know what was happening, and I knew something had to be happening because we began to hear eruptions of panic outside of the closed and covered windows. It was far beyond the normal sirens every couple minutes.

“Please, tell us what is happening right now.”

The holographs around the room began to light up, and the images that started flooding in were striking, the reality of our situation began to settle in. Newscasters, reporters, and media personalities alike had taken over television.

“This is a worldwide event.”

“The internet, cell phones, computers, anything that has a screen is frozen.”

“We’re broadcasting this on the radio too, to anyone who can hear us, please do not panic.”

“All around China there is mass looting, crime has taken an unprecedented spike. Without the Internet, satellites, and essential communication services - the nation and many others like it have plunged into chaos, and first responders are doing everything they can keep the riots at bay.”

“Then, we all just heard this ping. It was everywhere, and it made music. It’s the weirdest thing.”

“The Internet and everything connected to it has been disconnected.”

“Our whole world is falling apart.” Trevor conveyed with a somber tone as we all continued to watch the newscasts.

“We’re not sure if it’s an attack, but if it is, we will be the first to strike back.”

“The internet and communications may be down but missile launchers here on the U.S.S Roosevelt are ready, and they’re seeking out targets right now.”

“The problem is without this 21st-century connection, we’ve lost communication. If we lose our ability to communicate with each other instinct will take over. If instinct takes over, we will lose so much more than just the internet and our smart phones. We need a cure, or we need an answer now.”

It was clear that the world was coming unraveled spiraling out of control from the panic. Tell people not to panic and what do they do? They go ballistic. The key to solving the crisis lying in my hands, I had to break my silence and share my secret with the rest of them.

“I have to know. Were you sending texts from the number 808-432-5687? And if you were, did you warn me, or did you cause it?”

A silence one again fell between us. Floyd knew of this secret from the report of the accident. But the others were very confused, impateiently waiting to hear an answer from this entity now living in my phone. And right on que, Nyström spoke – he knew I deserved an explanation he had to prove his investment in me.

“You were chosen at random long ago. Judging traffic patterns was a new task of this computer. You were one of many people these texts were sent to. We prevented 50 percent of the accidents on highways in California using this system. They anticipated with your trajectory, and previously recorded driving patterns matched against the other driver, there was a 70 to 90 percent chance of you getting in a collision – 20 percent to make up for human error – always unpredicatable. They tried to warn you with the one message they could send. We’re on your side.”

“But who’s they? I know I wasn’t chosen at random! Please I need to know.”

“All questions will be answered at the end. Now hurry.”

Luckily the two idiots beside Floyd and I couldn’t have cared less about my connection to this, they only cared about the opportunity and what they stood to gain from it. Like typical people.

“Well whatever the hell that was about – we know what we gotta do. You heard Mr. Jazz Hands, Sasha, he said it would give us anything we want. A million hits a month on my blog.”

“And ten million followers on my Instagram.” Courtney and Trevor are so blinded by their aspirations; they are willing to do anything to follow this, not having the slightest idea of what it is or what it wants.

“How vain are you two? He’s contradicting himself because he’s using your greed to motivate you to do what he wants. You’re not going.”

I can’t believe these two idiots thought they could so easily join Floyd and I. After all that both of them had done to us.

“Then you don’t have to bitch, me and the homo over here will be on our merry way.” Courtney then tried to snatch the phone. Floyd grabbed her arm before she could get close, and I took it back.

“You won’t be part of this. It chose me, long ago, so I’m taking Floyd, cause I sure as shit can’t trust you two.”

“You heard what he said, Sasha! Anything we want, I’m going with you! I promise I’ll behave; I hate this Barbie doll as much as you two do. Leave her behind.”

“No! You two get the hell out of here!”

As I barked at them Courtney leaned over her desk and stared confidently into my eyes, confident she could get what she wanted, “See here’s the thing Sasha, I know we can’t take it from you, Floyd the giant would crush us. If you don’t let me come with you, I’ll tell everyone about your phone, and then those “greedy” people will be after you from the start. You won’t last before leaving the zip code.”

I then glared disgustedly at her at the same time remembering what Nyström said: you can’t imagine the horrible things people have done. Even If I didn’t believe the rest of it I certainly believed that, and I feared that. Courtney had me. “I really hate you.”

“Mmm, me too sweetheart. Do we have a deal?”

I rolled my eyes and reluctantly accepted their company, knowing Trevor would do the same with the idea now in his mind. She tried to shake my hand, but I refused. “Alright, but you two ride in back, and if you start anything with me Courtney I will throw you out of the car without hesitation, I’ll take my chances at that point.”

“Hey, Sasha. I know you hate me, but we better learn to at least stand each other.”

“Shut up Courtney. You won’t regret this darling we are gonna have a blast.” Trevor said to me excitedly as we made our way to the exit of the room.

“Get off me, Trevor. And we’re getting you some deodorant before we leave.”

“You aren’t messing with my natural aroma.”

“Yes! I am! I’m not dealing with that smell for 25 hours!”

I then tried to open the door, but it didn’t budge, then I remember that Summers locked it.

“It’s an electronic lock.”

“Too bad it’s not a normal door, I could pick the lock,” Trevor said in his idiotic wisdom.

I then looked to Floyd, always the smarter one of us, who signed to me. “Remember? He said it’s a key to technology.”

“Phone, can you unlock this door?”

Instantly recognizing my command the door unlocked and we were free to exit the school. The rest of them seemed impressed.

“That is going to come in a lot of handy. Anyone up for robbing a bank?”

The response that it tried to warn to me of the accident on that horrible day was still fresh in my head. Even though my phone’s response was vague and frustrating it gave me some clarity. The strange texts, the accident, the relocation, it’s all been setup. To give me me this, there is no other explanation – not a logical one anyways. So one question answered and a thousand remained, all waiting to be unlocked at the end of the road.

But still.

My paranoia has kept me sheltered away and it always gave me a sense of comfort, shedding for whatever the hell just installed itself on my phone was not going to happen. Extravegant as it was I had to know that this was something real. I can hold on to something real.

“Okay, everyone may be following this blindly, but I can’t. Give me proof you affect the outside world, and we’ll make a deal.”

The phone offered no response.

Trevor then leaned towards me as Courtney shook her head, he could understand how I felt, I think they all felt the same on some level.

“Look you see all these quotes on the walls around the school; those are bullshit. Here’s the thing, sometimes in life you just have to go with it. I know it seems setup, I know it seems impossible, but it’s shown us what it’s capable of.”

“That all could’ve been arranged, a presentation.”

“I understand your paranoia. But ask yourself – who could do this, and why would they do this – the only other person I can think that even knows your name in this school is Barbie.”

“You better stop calling me Barbie, faggot.”

Trevor glared at my nemesis and continued to explain his resolve. “Courtney is way too stupid to pull off something like this, and it’s far too extravagant for me even to touch it.”

“I don’t know..” I responded.

Rerouting, distance to destination: 318 feet.

“What?”

“It relocated us to an ATM.”

“Guess we are robbing a bank after all.”

This was a moment of truth for me. Violence didn’t work and sealing myself away from reality and other people sure as shit wasn’t working. I needed something to fill that void deep inside. Maybe this was an opportunity to do just that, but still, I was reluctant to act. If I was going to spend it with these two people, if you could even call them people, I had a condition to announce.

“Alright. I’ll do it. But I need one thing.”

“Name it sweetheart. Me and troll face over here are with you all the way.”

“When we get there, and we get to have anything we want, Floyd gets 10 million followers on his Soundcloud account.”

“Done deal. What are we waiting for then? Let’s do this.”

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