One Percent Inspiration

The Event HorizonWith our intrepid explorers safely embarked on their Mission to Mars, we here at Channel 37 would like to briefly interrupt our regularly scheduled program to bring you an episode of The Event Horizon. Enjoy!

* * *

The darkened room was silent and still, the dim flicker of the gas street lamp barely visible through the grimy window on the far wall and casting vague, dancing outlines on the piles of boxes and equipment seemingly scattered around the room.

The silence was broken by the sound of fumbling keys and a rattling door knob. To the left, the door flew open abruptly and just as quickly closed. Then, with a click, a naked bulb in the ceiling lit up the room, casting sharply angled shadows. A man wearing a trench coat with an upturned collar that brushed against the brim of his pulled-down fedora moved quickly to the window and pulled down a shade. Then he took off his hat and looked around the room

He seemed relieved at the sight of the piles of crates and the haphazard stacks of mechanical equipment. He wiped his balding brow with the back of his gloved hand, then touched the parts as if reassured by their solidity. Hurriedly taking off his trench coat, which he draped on one of the boxes, he sat down at the small writing desk next to the door through which he had just come. On the table was a nondescript typewriter and a stack of paper. Still wearing his gloves, he picked up a sheet of paper and fed it into the typewriter, the platen knob producing short bursts of metallic zipping as the man hurriedly scrolled the sheet into the machine.

When the paper was aligned properly, the man hesitated, then began to write.

* * *

I don’t know if this typewritten manuscript will survive, but it is the fastest way for me to tell the story of what has happened to me, and what I have discovered. Perhaps by some miracle, if I hide it well enough, the Stealers will miss it and someone will find it someday. So I am writing this to you, whoever is reading this in the future.

I have discovered the secret of genius. And it is a dark, dark secret.

Perhaps if you’re reading this, you’re wondering what kind of amazing person could write these letters. For surely no hand could have reproduced each letter so carefully, so identically. That is because they are written with a machine called a typewriter. It is a device that uses levers to move metal bars to make imprints of letters. The details don’t matter because I don’t have enough time. Hopefully if you find this letter, you will also find the package with all the plans for the typewriter. You must safeguard these plans, hide them from the Stealers and pass them along to the future.

Make only one typewriter. Keep it secret. Write only what you must, and pass along what you write carefully, hidden from the eyes of the Stealers. Otherwise they will find you, like they found me, and like they have found all the other geniuses in human history.

It begins with the Sleep.

One night I went to bed a happy man, an ordinary typewriter repairman. You might not believe this, you might think I’m crazy or delusional, but I tell you that I once lived in a world where typewriters were everywhere. Typewriters were in everyone’s homes. They were so common that an ordinary man like me, just another schlub, could actually make a living fixing them. And I was really good at it too. I made a decent living, fed my two kids, and life was good.

Then one night, I was so tired I couldn’t stay awake for my favorite radio show. Radio — you don’t even know what that is, either, do you? It was how we entertained ourselves then. Well, I slept so hard and deep that when I woke up I felt like I had been in a coma for a year. But other than that, I was fine. I got up and went downstairs, where my wife was making breakfast for the kids before going to school. And as we were talking, I noticed that the radio set was gone from the living room. I asked my wife whether she had moved it to clean behind it, and ever so sweetly she said that she didn’t know what I was talking about. Radio? What radio?

Then she asked, What is a radio?

That’s when I first felt the chill run up my spine.

She literally had no idea what I was talking about. And my kids — my kids who loved listening to cowboys and indians stories on the radio every night, laying on the floor staring up at the glowing dial with their chins in their hands — had no idea either. It was like I was speaking a foreign language.

I thought they were playing a gag on me, so I went off to work. My car didn’t have its radio in the dashboard. At the typewriter repair store, the radio was gone too. Clearly, this wasn’t a stunt.

Now, I’m no fool, and I can’t afford to have other people thinking I’m off my rocker, or I’ll lose their business. So I kept my yap shut. I mean, how would you react if some guy told you that suddenly, one day, he woke up into a world where a piece of technology had been lifted clean out of it like a flower plucked from the ground, and everyone except him was totally unaware of it having ever existed? That’s what I would think too.

Well, about a week later I had another one of those nights where I slept deeply and dreamlessly, and awoke feeling like I was climbing out of a black cave. And this time, would you believe it, there were no cars! Everyone’s riding around on horses and being pulled by carriages. You reading this are probably wondering what’s wrong with that, right? Well, in my world we had horseless carriages. You’ll have to find the hidden plans for those somewhere else. Someone probably has them, but I don’t know who.

Now, this kind of thing went on for several years. I would fall asleep and some amazing technology that I remembered would be removed from the world, and everyone would be getting along just fine, as if everything had always been like this. But other technologies would still be there — electricity, fans, lights, things like that. (These words probably don’t mean anything to you now, I bet.) And typewriters.

See, if I was some kind of really smart guy I could probably reinvent each of these things myself and get all the credit and the money for them, but all I know is typewriters. I don’t know how a radio works beyond you turn a knob and sounds come out. So I couldn’t build one to save my life. Or to become rich and famous. Like I said, all I know is typewriters. So I just kept my head down and made do, sometimes lying awake at night wondering if I was really just going crazy.

Then I met Horace.

He came into my shop on a Tuesday, looking very nervous and acting kind of twitchy. He asked me if I could help him build a metal box out of spare typewriter parts for an invention of his. I tried to talk to him, calm him down a little bit, and eventually he fessed up that he was working on a new idea for something he called an internal combustion engine.

Well, the expression on my face must have said it all, because suddenly we said, “you know about cars, don’t you? And telephones and the rest of it?” There was something so plaintive, so desperate in his voice. “Please, please tell me you remember them too.”

I quickly assured Horace that I did, and I ran to the front of the store to lock the door and flip the sign in the window to CLOSED. Then we huddled in the back and just shared everything we could remember, like two starving men sharing a sudden bounty of bread. We were the first to find each other. See, Horace used to be a car mechanic, and he knew car engines, so when he woke up one day in a world without cars he decided to build himself the world’s first internal combustion engine and become rich and famous.

But the more work he did, the more he felt like someone was watching him. Following him around. Shuffling things around in his office when he would go out. Stealing parts and prototypes. Sometimes he’d see a shadow or someone running away.

And so here’s what we figured out.

Every genius you ever hear of is someone like Horace and me. A person who woke up one day in a world completely the same as the world the day before, except for some technology or scientific discovery that has been subtracted, erased, lifted without a trace out of our world. Except they’re the only ones who remember that the technology ever existed.

Now, if you look at the technologies that are disappearing, they are the ones that help us all connect with each other. To grow and develop and share things and ideas faster and more efficiently with each other. Transportation like cars and railroads and airplanes (yes, we had flying machines once). Communication tools like radio and even the telegraph.

Things that were the technological equivalent of the biblical Tower of Babel.

Someone, or something, wants to keep humankind from doing something that these technologies make possible. Is it people from the future? Is it aliens from another planet somewhere? Horace and I, well, we don’t know. But whatever it is they do to people to make them go to sleep and forget everything in the morning, it doesn’t work on everyone. Some people like Horace and me are immune to it. We wake up and we remember.

The problem is, whoever’s doing this, they don’t want anyone to bring back what they’ve taken away. They don’t want some lonely “genius” re-inventing the radio or the light bulb.

Or the internal combustion engine.

I know because one day, Horace didn’t come to the shop like he did every afternoon. I went by his house and it was like he was never there. No one knew where he was — or even remembered him. And of course his workshop was completely clean. Spotless.

And then that night, I could feel another one of the Sleeps coming on. By now I was almost used to it, so I wasn’t too worried. Maybe I might even wake up and forget about my only real friend, Horace. That would make things bearable, at least.

Instead, I woke up in a world without typewriters.

So I did the only thing I could do: I built one. And I left a typewritten letter in the library for someone to find, stuck between two obscure books. One day, another skittish fellow came into my candle store holding the letter. He was another one of us. I built a typewriter for him and he started leaving letters too. And one by one we began to find each other. We were a secret society. We called ourselves the Rememberers. And each one of us began to build the things we remembered, and helped each other figure out how they worked. We figured out ways to hide them. Soon we had couriers delivering typewritten letters from other countries around the world. It was slow, painfully slow, but we were coming together.

Sometimes one of us would disappear, but more would always find us. We were beginning to win.

But now it’s happening to me too. A shadow, the sounds of footsteps running away, parts missing. The Stealers are going to find me just like they found Horace. And they’re finding the typewriters. The machines and the people. One by one, they’re disappearing and their families and neighbors don’t remember they ever existed.

And now the underground newspapers that we write, the way we fugitive geniuses manage to find and stay in touch with each other, the secret underground network that we have established, could disappear at any moment.

The tenuous, tentative resistance movement against the invisible Stealers relies on you, the person reading this. Take this letter, take these plans, and make one typewriter. Write. Write and share and connect. Find someone who went to sleep and woke up remembering. And share these plans with them. Spread the word about the Stealers and create a movement of believers. You must have faith that what I have written here is true. These miraculous typewritten letters are themselves proof of what I say.

They got Horace’s plans, but they can’t be allowed to get mine. You must stop what’s happening so that civilization can rebuild. You can make the future happen. Spread the word. Please! Find the people who know about these technologies — the crazy, scared people — and support them. Help them to build their devices. Help them prevail.

It’s up to you, reader!

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