YA Science Fiction
Everything is set up now. All I have to do is wait.
One Monday, Hallie slid quietly into her room and then her bed. She plugged old headphones in to the computer, minimizing the sounds she made to let her mom sleep. Any noise would echo from her room up and down the length of their temporary trailer home. At least, it was supposed to be temporary when the New New England government placed them there after their house burned to the ground. With more money, they could have moved to another house. There likely never would be quite enough on Hallie’s parents’ salaries. The only reason they were able to live in the house before was because her dad inherited it. Now there was nothing left.
While her laptop booted up, Hallie tapped out the rhythm of her password on her wrinkled bed sheets. Moving some of her dark curls aside, she scratched the back of her neck just below the small, chrome spider embedded there. New New England mandated at-birth Brainware installation; Brainware demanded the inclusion of an ornamental spider as part of their marketing strategy. The laptop screen glowed as the login page appeared. The fan inside whizzed as if in agony.
The clacking of the keyboard was like rainfall. While the desktop loaded, a blue-tinted square floated into Hallie’s vision. Text slid on a loop across the middle of the box. You are connecting to Outware. Would you prefer to use Brainware™?
No, Hallie responded silently. Sleep.
She wished, just for an hour, she could turn it off entirely. Sometimes she thought she could feel it working even while she slept – updating widgets, receiving Bmail, defragging. What was it like to sleep without Brainware? To be in true and total silence?
She clicked on the Google Connect icon hovering at the bottom of the monitor in front of her. The desktop image lingered while the homepage loaded. Her little brother Gregory smiled up at her from the glossy display. He had grown so much since Hallie snapped the picture with Brainware a year before. She should take another soon. Maybe while she and her family celebrated his seventh birthday next week. That would be as good a time as any.
The page finally loaded, a colorful sequence of letters greeting her. The cursor blinked in the Google text box. Hallie let her fingers hover over the keyboard, unsure of how to search for a description of utter silence. She opted to type just the single word into the box.
The internet provided several links. Hallie selected a website with quotes on everything, silence included.
Soon silence will have passed into legend. Man has turned his back on silence. Day after day he invents machines and devices that increase noise and distract humanity...like a gray vegetation. – Jean Arp
The latter part didn’t make sense, but it was good enough. If only she had a printer so she could get the quote on paper and pin it to her wall. It seemed so funny, that someone from so far in the past could identify how she felt about the present. Maybe her mom would agree to write it out on paper in her fancy, practiced script. Her mom, who was lucky enough to have a job that gave her a reason to leave the cramped trailer every day.
Hallie jumped. “You scared me, Greggy.”
“It’s Gregory,” he said, crossing his arms across his chest and stepping fully into her room. A small stack of dishes fell over as he brushed past them.
Now that he was in her tiny space, she felt more packed in than ever. Still, Hallie rolled her eyes playfully. “Sorry.”
“Will you get me some ice cream?” Gregory asked. He dropped down onto Hallie’s bed. “It’s too hard for me to scoop out.”
Hallie shifted her laptop off her legs and onto her mattress. “I don’t think so. We haven’t had dinner yet.”
“But Mom’s asleep!” Greg let his upper body fall face down on the bed.
“I know. And we should let her sleep until she’s awake. She has to work tonight.”
“Mom always works at night. Why do they have to write the books at night?” Greg rested his chin on his fist and pouted at Hallie.
“They don’t. Mom does because that’s when her shift is. Others write during the day.”
“Why can’t we just upload it all to Brainware?”
“Because. We have to keep records in case something happens to the Storm Cloud. Besides, they’re commissioned.” How could she explain the entirety of the whys behind Brainware and hard books, especially to a six-year-old? “How about this – one scoop of ice cream.”
“Sprinkles?” Gregory hopped off Hallie’s bed, pushing her blankets askew.
“No.” She got up and followed him to her bedroom door.
“C’mon! Whipped cream?”
“Gregory…” Hallie said, warning him not to keep pushing. “And don’t tell Mom I let you have ice cream.”
Gregory nodded, leading his sister down the central hallway to the kitchen at the head of the trailer.
“What flavor do you want?” Hallie asked.
“Vanilla.” Gregory paused. “No, chocolate.”
“Are you sure?”
They reached the kitchen. A pulse shot up Hallie’s body as she stepped onto the cold tile but she recovered quickly, grabbing a small bowl from a cabinet. It wasn’t entirely clean, so she took it to the sink and blew the dust out of it, nearly knocking the frayed photograph of her mom and uncle above into the sink.
“Can I have both?” Greg slid a magnet along the surface of the fridge.
“No. One or the other. You’re not getting two scoops,” Hallie said, moving to the fridge.
Greg sighed, looking up at Hallie with big eyes. Then he left the kitchen. “Oh,” he said. “Hi, Mom.”
“Mom’s here?” Hallie asked.
Julia Fletcher sat at the miniscule kitchen table, sliding her right hand in a container of transparent blue balls. Her left hand curled around a stainless steel coffee mug.
“Hi Hallie,” she said, stirring the collection of orbs.
“What are you two up to?”
“Um—” Hallie faltered.
“Hallie was going to get me ice cream!” Gregory blurted.
Hallie gave him a look. Julia lifted her hand out of the container of blue spheres and rotated her wrist. Outside, wind whistled through the rows of trailers.