I think one of the hardest parts of free writing is coming up with good titles.
A Very Important Question
by Nojh Livic
“Ye-” Daring started to say when his visor went dark. He reached up and hit the side of it once, twice, but his vision didn’t return. He also realized that the background music he had been listening to was no longer being piped into his ears. The old thing had likely shorted out. He had been meaning to replace it for a month now.
Daring cursed and ripped off the visor. He reached out and pulled the touch pad from its slot next to the main box into his lap and began tapping at it to force the machine into wide display mode. He he was halfway through the commands when he realized that the room was dark and the main box’s power light was missing. He reached out to hit it once but he already knew the problem wasn’t with the box. His apartment had no power.
Cursing more, he pushed himself from his beanbag chair and made a dash for his bag.
He was in the middle of an important conversation with Quizzical, who he had been dating for three years. Quizzical was an online handle just like Daring. More offline people knew him by Daring than his birth name, however. Daring’s avatar would be just standing there staring at Quizzical. He had been about to answer a very important question and his avatar staring blankly was worse than any answer he could actually give. He needed to message Quiz right now, vide0, voice, or text the medium didn’t matter.
He pulled out the small plastic brick from his bag that served as his MCD. Except that it was acting far more like a brick now than a communication device. He had forgotten to charge it. Daring blinked several times. He felt sweat begin to form on his brow. Forgetting to curse he made a dash to the front door, swung it wide, and then dashed the few steps to the opposite door, the front entrance of his neighbor’s apartment. He knocked furiously. “Hey! Dasher! You in?” he called to the door. Dasher had a top of the line box he could use, assuming she would answer the door. She had a tendency to zone out. He had been offline for a minute now. His avatar would likely auto log out any second. Quiz would think he had logged out on purpose.
He didn’t have time to wait.
Flying more than jumping down the stairs, he exited his apartment building onto the sidewalk. It was mid afternoon and fairly busy. A little cold but Daring wasn’t about to waste time going back up to get his jacket. Across the street was a net cafe that he sometimes used on occasions like this when his main box fried or he forgot to pay his carbon debt. It wasn’t common but he had been glad it was there. He played frogger with the traffic, pulling open the glass door wide and running to a automated kiosk that proudly listed the prices for net time. He reached for his bag and froze. No bag. No wallet. No account feeds. No cash. No net.
His heart was racing now. He wasn’t sure what to do. It had been at least two or three minutes. Was he too late? Had Quiz logged off already? This was turning into a nightmare. He considered, briefly, knocking on the door and pleading his case to an actual person when movement outside caught his attention. A woman holding an MCD to her ear walked by.
He burst out of business and waved his hand to the woman. “Hey. Excuse me. This is an emergency. Can I borrow your ceedee?” Daring panted as he came to a stop next to the woman. She was staring at him in surprise. He was flushed and sweating now. He tried to seem earnest but he could tell he was creeping the woman out. As she debated it he raised his hands. “No it’s okay. Can you just message someone for me. The id is-” He realized he didn’t have Quiz’s id memorized. Who memorized ids anymore when you had your MCDs and your boxes to keep track of them for you? He cursed again, loudly, and the woman gave up and ran away. Several other pedestrians were now staring at him and the exchange, looking worried.
“Come on… think!” He chided to himself, clenching his fists as he watched the vehicles hover past. He bounced up and down on this toes, feeling the frantic need to go somewhere, anywhere, as if he could somehow outrun this problem. He stared into the increasing traffic. A bike zipped in between two conveyors, breaking at least three traffic laws, and sped off. Daring froze in place.
Daring had a full communication suite in his bike.
His feet began moving before he had even decided to run to the garage. There was a line for the vehicle retrieval kiosk. He cut it, the other would be motorists protesting with angry cries. He exclaimed it was an emergency which did very little to pacify them. It took an agonizing ten seconds for his bike to be delivered to one of the garage receptacles.
He didn’t bother trying to leave the garage but keyed the bike’s entry code, booting the bike’s internal ceedee. A holographic display welcoming him and offering an array of music channels and navigation points hovered an inch above the main screen. He wiped it away to the messaging system. A few more gestures and he access to his account and contacts list, showing everybody who was still connected and their status.
Quiz was still online but an away icon was being displayed.
His fingers motioned furiously, typing out a text-only message as quickly as possible. When he finally keyed send, no relief came. His heart thundered in his ears as he stared at the conversation log. He wiped the refresh nodule several times, until the new message icon flashed green with a confirmation and new text appeared. He blinked several times then laughed a semi-hysterical laugh. He then fell off his bike.
Two strangers ran over to see what was the issue. They help him to his feet. He was feeling light-headed, which helped to dull all the other raging emotions within him: worry, joy, relief, and excitement. When the strangers asked what was wrong he found he couldn’t speak and instead just pointed at the message dialog. It read:
Daring: “Sorry! I lost power! YES! Yes I will marry you!”
Quizzical: “Are you on your bike? How many times have I told you to not text me while driving? Shut up and get over here so we can celebrate properly!”
I actually pre-planned this one out a little before writing it. Several things changed during writing. When I wrote the summary plot, it wasn’t futuristic but the present day, at least until I came up with the idea of a communication device (Ceedee? Get it? Nevermind) in a bike. I also didn’t know that I was going to keep the gender of Daring’s significant other ambiguous. Did you even notice that I didn’t even reference the gender at all? You might also be questioning the feasibility of someone asking someone else to marry them over the net. I suggest searching the web for terms like ‘geeky marriage proposals’ and see the multitude of video games, online comics, message boards, and other mediums used to propose to someone.
Oh and despite what I said at the beginning, the title for this story was actually rather easy.
Hope you enjoyed the story!