Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays to all of you. Like last year, I'm offering you a new Christmas tale, a totally fictional article inspired by one or more pop culture stories with a touch of parody and especially tech.
For those who remember, last year I delivered a very personal, and a bit sad, version of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol in a slightly dystopian cyberpunk world. I obviously invite you to read this article, of which I am very proud:
But this year, I decided to take a less intimate and more joyful approach. So it's a patchwork between several Christmas tales and cult movies, from How the Grinch Stole Christmas to Mommy, I Missed the Plane, and more obscure and less festive inspirations like Horizon Zero Down or even Metro: Exodus (infinite respect to the people who'll find the videogame refs!).
The story is also inspired by an inside joke I have with my colleagues and regular readers of the site, according to which I'm a fanatic of note-taking applications [translator's note: he is], to the detriment of weather applications, and that I sometimes take this "passion" (which really isn't a passion) a little too far.
This article serves no other purpose than to entertain you and take your mind off the holidays. I hope you enjoy reading it and I look forward to reading your feedback in the comments.
1. Mom, I Missed the Time Skip
- "Come on Dad, we were supposed to leave two hours ago. All my buddies have already warped for the holidays. We're the only ones on the block still stuck in 2221. If you had let me go alone too..."
- "Uh, let's calm down, Caleb. And what do you mean by 'alone'? And what do you mean by 'warp'? Did your generation forgot how to use the verb 'jump'? Either way, time warp is not a joke. Jeff Bezos III almost got stuck in 1917 with his own jumper not even two years ago. I might as well tell you I don't have Blue Origin's budget, so we'll take it easy.
- "We're not gonna get stuck in 1917, are we, Mom?"
- "No, Allyah, Dad's talking nonsense. We're going to France, to the Paris of the second Glorious Thirty."
- "The Thirty what?"
"You see? Instead of buying that stupid machine that looks like the inside of an old Tesla and takes up the whole living room, we should have paid for the kid's private lessons, honey. if your great-grandmother was here, Caleb, she'd kick your ass, and believe me, you would remember very quickly about the Union Split War and the second Glorious Thirty."
- "If only he could have landed in Russia in 1917, so could Jeff."
- "Caleb! Don't you want to talk your nonsense even louder? I don't think Alexa heard you!
- "Sorry, Mom..."
*Bam, bam* "Come on, you bastard. I downloaded the DLC and paid the family subscription. What else do you need? My NFT credit card number?"
*Dum dum dam, dudam* Samsung Galaxy Warp 10 activated, Hello Noam. Your time jump assistant is ready to be configured.
- "Ah, finally! Come on, let's go. Hey remember to wear your wristbands."
- "Oh, listen to him being all smart, the 17-year-old warp pro. I'm in charge, big guy. Allyah, sweetie, please put your bracelet on. Altea darling, can you pass me mine?"
- "It's already on your wrist. Hey, Caleb! Stop playing with your bracelet, these gadgets are fragile."
"Okay, everyone's connected. ER bridge calibrated. Ready to jump. Here we go. Come on, kids, Mommy, we're holding hands. If you're good, we'll let you open presents tonight. Well, tonight was over 150 years ago, but okay."
- "Seriously dad, a dad joke before a time jump?"
- "3, 2, 1 warp bridge engaged"...
* Spack* "Wow, what the hell?!", Caleb exclaims, just before he feels his wrist throw him with searing pain.
- "Honey, I think there's something wrong with Caleb."
- "Stop the jump. Caleb has a problem with his bra..."
- "F***ing shitty b..."
- "... braceleeeeeeeeeeeet! What? What? Dad, Mom? Where the hell am I?!" it takes Caleb a while to come to his senses. He's still alive and more importantly still inside the Galaxy Warp. But the seats occupied by his family are empty.
*scrsh scrsh* Cal... *scrsh scrsh* ...eb *scrsh scrsh* The onboard display is now a mush of pixels and interference.
- "Dad, Dad! I'm fine, but I don't know where I am." Or when, for that matter, Caleb immediately noticed as he glanced at the broken meter that was supposed to at least show the current date on the other side of the glass hole he'd just walked through. The rest of the interior seems to be intact though. Just stay put and wait for help.
*"Damn, did that really knock?!"
Book 2: The Great Application Schism
*Well, there's no doubt about it, someone or something is trying to get into the Warp, or at least out of it, Caleb concludes after the third round of muffled knocks on the vehicle door. Either way, they're going to force their way in eventually, so he'd better face them.
*Tssss tchommm* The door depressurizes and opens from the bottom up gradually letting the thing- ah no, the obviously (and thankfully) bipedal person get a glimpse. "Whew, a girl. Well, a girl armed to the teeth and shooting me a cold, sharp look, but it could have been worse," Caleb sighed inwardly.
- "Uh, hi? I'm Caleb. Do you know what year it is?" he asks, never doubting for a second that the young woman in front of him, who may be from another country, or even another planet, speaks the same language as him.
- "What are you doing here?! Did the notists send you?" she blurts out before stopping dead in her tracks and staring at the exploded bracelet Caleb still wears on his wrist.
- "The what?!"
*schwing* With a single, barely perceptible gesture, the young warrior(?) slips the tip of an almost proto-artistic-looking spear under his throat, but at the same time far less technologically primitive than it appears.
- "Choose your next words carefully. Agents of both the Order and the Republic are not welcome in tribal territory. The neutrality of my tribe will not protect you."
- "I'm not a Notist, I'm not part of any Order, and I don't even know what Republic you're talking about. I landed here by accident. I don't know what year it is!", Caleb snapped, trying to regain some semblance of manliness, even if feigned, after letting out a slight crack in his voice despite himself. "But, you have to admit, she's taller and looks a lot bigger than me, armed or not," he admitted.
- "Hmm," the young woman murmured before releasing the pressure she was exerting on Caleb's throat. Her pupils, glaring at him fiercely, recede a little, allowing a glimpse of the blue of her irises that her very fair skin and ashen blonde hair only bring out more."
- "You say you landed here. Where are you from, the Meteo Republic? The Empire of the Order of Notism? The outer rim or neutral territories? Then what's the year? You mean the date? The last day of the Sol cycle, the anniversary of the Application Schism. Do you really want me to believe you don't know that? We're talking about a thousand-year war. You might want to wake up."
- "Hey, what's this? Do you have a smartphone? She does, pointing at the Galaxy Warp's edge screen with her spear. "A smartphone," Caleb laughed, having only read those words in history class.
- "Sort of. Do you have those too, smartphones, back home? Could you take me there? I don't even know your name by the way."
- "The lands of the messenger tribe are off limits to you. And if what you say is true and you are from another time, or another world, the Order, as well as the Republic, must surely be looking for you."
*vroooom* A low, muffled roar from the sky comes echoing right into Caleb's rib cage. "The Notists!" he hears the warrior yell as she grabs him and drags him at a run into the thicket under the pounding of what sounds like a flying warship, the design of which clearly seems to be inspired by an insect, like a dragonfly.
- "You led them right to us. Damn, Elowen, you always have to get yourself into trouble," the young woman said aloud to herself. "Hey, I didn't ask you for anything. All I want to do is go home," Caleb whispers in the least discreet way possible.
"If what you say is true, I only know one way to send you back where you came from."
Book 3: The geek who tried to ruin Christmas
- "Wait, wait. So in your tribe, you really believe that a thousand years ago, your technology took such a leap over humanity that real beliefs and systems of thought developed around such absurd stuff as brands or even apps? Note apps, really? Noticius, the first of the saints, all of that is really not bullshit? And the meteoists in all of this, they're the good guys in the story, a little bit eco-friendly who fight the religious fanatics of the Order? Am I all right?"
They have been traveling on foot for several hours through the sacred fields of the cipher, yet a land of pilgrimage for the messengers, his tribe and forbidden to outsiders. And Elowen suspects that Caleb only half believes the refresher course she just gave him on his world. Even if she still doesn't see what a greenie is supposed to be.
- "There are no bad guys or good guys. Just fanatics on one side or the other and the rest who try to live in the middle of it all," she says, a little tired of her companion's incessant questions.
- It's the same story every day at the end of the cycle. Some blame the others for stealing all the minerals from NextPit Mountain to prevent them from making smartphones to practice their faith."
- "Their faith...app? What about the end of cycle day, do you mean Christmas? Or maybe New Year's?"
- "Call it what you will. One thing is for sure, someone or something has robbed every person in this world of the only way to keep their traditions alive. But this is all so old. Even the elders of my tribe have only snippets of memory from stories themselves reported only indirectly."
"Okay Caleb, play it cool," the young man said to himself, a little puzzled. "You've already read and seen much stranger things than this and the cult-like aberrations around a tech product, it's frankly not science fiction anymore where you come from."
- "How about we go get those smartphones?", Caleb finally blurts out, finally coming out of his inner dialogue.
- "What a great idea, maybe that's why I didn't wait for you to get it. According to the meteoists, the smartphones and especially the knowledge to make them are kept in the temple of Noticius. The holiest place in Notism, protected by the Supreme Archpriest of the Order," Anote O'inh the madman.
His obsession with Notism goes far beyond mere religious fanaticism and has given him unnatural longevity. But if we can defeat him and dig up all the knowledge and technology he's been hoarding for centuries, we can fix your warp thingy and send you back to where you came from.
Final Book: The Spirit of No... from the last day of the third cycle
"Wow... It's big and... *gulp* it's high," Caleb exhales, arriving at the base of the mount with the Temple of Noticius sitting atop it, following closely behind Elowen who looks unnaturally on edge.
- "This is the NextPit mount. For the last day of the troi... for 'Christmas', the temple is virtually unguarded. The Order is concentrating most of its forces along the walls of Notopia, to fend off Republican raids, and the five messenger tribes have joined forces with the Meteoist forces to provide a diversion to keep the Notists occupied to give us a free hand."
- "So, shall we go for it? Are you sure about this one?"
- "Don't tell me you're scared Caleb," Elowen chuckled, a little mockingly but with a knowing smile, and Caleb sighed, "Well, that'll teach me to make fun of my father's dad jokes. Right? Nothing. Here we go."
The two begin the long climb in one go, finally ending up in front of the Porta Principalis, the main entrance to the temple of Noticius. The door, made of solid gold and three meters high, is surrounded by enormous statues with a metallic sheen and a human but androgynous form. Each holding a codex under the left arm and a disproportionately large pen in the right hand, outstretched, like watchmen wanting to block the way to any intruder.
No password in a mystical language or incantations to whisper, the door opens by itself and closes as soon as Elowen and Caleb arrive in the great hall.
"The Archpriest is surely in the crypt of Amenotep, the first Archpriest Supreme and founder of the Order who ruled the city of Notopia and laid the first foundations of this Empire," Elowen murmured but Caleb did not listen, too absorbed by the vastness and giganticness of the place.
They finally arrive in the crypt. The walls are covered with inscriptions. There are wall representations, bas-reliefs, or engravings resembling the two statues at the entrance to the temple. The room is swarming with worshippers, dressed in red, their skin scarred with scriptures, some of them still freshly engraved.
In the middle of the crowd, a man overlooks the assembly, a large scepter in his right hand and his codex under his left arm. He, too, wears a long scarlet toga, as does his high headdress, which is encircled by an ivory-white headband whose purity is only marred by his long, ugly green beard.
- "Anote O'inh the fool! The usurper! Your decadent reign ends today!" Caleb doesn't have time to turn back to Elowen after hearing her yell as she throws herself forward head first, not down but high, so as not to take her eyes off her target. She became one with her spear and flew through the horde of worshippers, stunned by the outpouring of rage and strength.
The priest finally looks up, too used to looking down on his world, and can only witness, passive and powerless, the spear that pierces him. A final note, a pencil stroke to erase his existence from memory. The mad priest's blood marks Elowen's pale skin in the manner of scriptures on the skin of the faithful before she erases them with a clean gesture as if to prevent them from having time to set.
The usurper, with his last breath, hands his scepter to Caleb, who can't help but wait for Elowen, finally coming to herself after the intoxication of her mad dash, to call out, "Break it, so we can get it over with."
- "So the moral of the story is that technology is bad and that using the scepter to find the smartphones, or at least to find the knowledge to make them, would only restart this vicious circle that has already lasted for over a thousand years?"
- "I don't know, Dad, but when she told me to break it, I knew it was the only thing to do. It was instinctive."
- "She's too strong Elowen!!!"
- "That's right Allyah, she's pretty tough."
- "Pretty ballsy to bring your brother home anyway! Too bad you can't really see each other anymore. For once you find a nice girl. Well, if not, with all the fuss while you were missing, our back and forth to the police, and the search, we haven't unwrapped your Christmas present yet. You in?"
- "Is that a real question? But definitely, come on give it to me."
- "Your mom and I have been thinking about this. Well, actually, she did the thinking and convinced me. So here we are, we know you've become quite fond of those old smartphones and stuff."
- "Aaaah stop the suspense" - Caleb snatches the box from father's hands and opens it at least as fast as Elowen slew the Archpriest last Christmas. He finally opens the box.
- "Uh.... So, what's up? You happy? Huh?"
- "... ...an iPhone 69... That's... really great. Thank you. [Laughs] -_-