Can we talk? 2022-03-17 on Kenneth Dodrill's blog

"How do I start? I sometimes question how words were once created. It's amazing that someone decided to create text so that we could communicate with each other. I mean, if we didn't have that...things would go very wrong. How would we describe fantastic fourth planet vistas? In what way could we convey intentions to a lover? Tell me, how would be able to work together to build massive space planes? Text is the only reason we can do all of these things."

I raise my hand. The professor types out across the screen: Yes, Judith?. I type back: Judeth. Apologies exchanged, we continued. I could go line by line with the texts, but I'm sort of tired of that. Essentially, I came out of college with less knowledge than I went in with. I also had a large set of uninformed opinions. I would write daily to my reader, including funny things my professors would emit during class. People I didn't know would write back.

After college, I decided to focus my efforts on text and how it is rendered onto readers and other various outputs. I worked at my first job for two years, until my sister died. The network used for text went down at the hospital, and nobody knew how to fix it except her. Fortunately, she was on her way to the hospital around that time. Unfortunately, she arrived in an ambulance. Because no-one could use text systems, many people died. Things were said on TV about how we may need more network experts.

I became distraught with grief. I didn't quit my job; I simply allowed myself to be fired. I lived on grey for six months so I could use the excess money for drinking. My sister and I were the last of our family, and I didn't really have any good friends that I could trust. Unsure why this is important. I suppose it makes sense to tell you this because it is so important in how obsessed I became.

My obsession with human communication started with an accidental peek at the notes my sister had. She had dozens of notebooks, filled with information about text networks: how to set them up, how to change them, how to restart them, etc. However, towards the bottom of the stack was a special looking box. Inside, I found three things. At the top was a sealed envelope, addressed to me. To the side of that was a strange looking object that was rectangular and thin with two holes towards the middle of it. Below these was a square object that looked like an old-school computer. I noticed that it had a few buttons towards the bottom and that it had another strange thin object inside of it. Fumbling with the buttons, I jumped when the machine opened quickly and spat out the rectangle. It was labeled Spanish with Dave Moss. I set all of that aside and opened the envelope. Inside was a letter from my sister.

Hi sis. I hoped you would find this. Funny how I'm writing that when you, perhaps, will never find this. Anyways, I've hidden this note and tapes because I believe in you. I know you can do this. Love you

It felt like if someone came back from the dead just to tell you that your zipper is down. Putting aside my immediate emotions, I studied the note. It was hastily written. It's likely she didn't have much time to write it. I was still unsure of what the cause of death was. The readers at the hospitals hadn't fully recovered their data yet. I stared at the rest of the contents of the box. I guessed that "tapes" were the thin rectangular objects. I put the Dave Moss tape back into the square machine and fumbled with the buttons. I weeped, though I wasn't sure which emotion was driving my tears. I was frightened, but didn't notice any immediate danger. The square object was producing text somehow, although not through some type of reader or output.

I stayed like this for two days, pressing the "Play" button and then crying until the text stopped. I then remembered that there was another tape. I played it. It, too, played text inside of my head. This time though, I recognized the text. It was word-y, scattered, and drawn out.

"Hi again, sis. I want to hope you played this one first, but I know how this must feel. What you are feeling is a feeling called sound. Or, at least, I think it is. That's what the old world called it. You may end up calling it something else! Probably something stupid."

Ouch.

"Just kidding. I'm sure you have plenty of questions. I'll start off with this: I'm dead. I know that I'm going to die soon, and it's because of what you have now discovered. I want to tell you that I found these objects in the back of a clearance store, or perhaps a random stranger gave it to me, or maybe a comet fell down and there they were. The truth is...I'm not sure where these came from. One day, they were just there. I began to try and look up more information about the old world. Did you know there was once water here? Water, of all places! More stuff started to show up. The tapes and the tape player were at my doorstep, but then the documents and manuscripts I received by mail. I doubt you read them, so here I am telling you what's going on."

Scrambling, I went back to the box. I found no such documents. The tape continued.

"The information in the documents is essential to the survival of the human race. Inside are detailed blueprints of computer systems that can produce and process sound. I truly believe that this will help everyone. The trick is finding a way to effectively tell people. You can't just show random people the tape player. They will want it and will take it. If that's destroyed, we don't have much else except for diagrams. Having that player is crucial to figuring out how this works."

Be careful with the player and tapes. Got it.

"I forgot something! Go and take your suit off. I'll wait."

Okay. I took my suit off. I waited.

"Now go outside."

...What? That would kill me.

"The oxygen won't kill you."

The tape player clicked to let me know that it was done playing. A few minutes passed. I stepped outside.