I’m not exactly sure why I spent Sunday mornings sitting on a cold bench near that monument. It seemed a suitable place to read a book. I suppose my attraction to the place had something to do with words engraved in marble. A feeling of permanence.
Those mornings I wasn’t the only one drawn to the park. Rested and ready, fresh out of nearby hotels, tourists hurried past beds of flowers in order to conquer the city.
The shining monument, in the shape of an erect, pointed obelisk, was so conspicuous that eager eyes couldn’t possibly miss it.
Legs inevitably turned. Feet halted by the solemn black plaque at the obelisk’s base. Selfie sticks rose. Satisfied poses were effected.
If I really wanted to hurt myself, I lowered my book and opened my mouth to play a simple game. “Do you know why that monument is there?” I asked.
Most couldn’t say.
Book burning didn’t destroy every book.
Voice recognition did.
Printed words vanished.
The only beings that processed code were the polite, speaking machines.
People still spoke, of course. And viewed pictures. But the pictures were always in kaleidescope motion. Exact words were unnecessary.
Spelling was forgotten. Grammar was forgotten. Structured truth was forgotten. That made life easier.
. . .
Tracy took a wrong turn because a machine had catastrophically failed. Walking a great distance was strange enough, but now she was walking where no flesh-and-blood legs walked. The city’s Forgotten Zone.
Even the machines disregarded this place, she observed. She slowly turned her head, looking about. The deserted streets were lined with broken windows, broken doors.
Above one broken window hung a broken sign. The remaining word: LIFE.
What’s that for? Tracy wondered, staring at the old sign with blinking eyes.
. . .
Fortunately, a functioning machine soon located Tracy and retrieved her, returning her to her proper place.
“Thanks,” was spoken.
“You’re welcome,” replied the polite machine.