Ray grumbled to himself as he walked down the hallway from his locker. He had homework in all of his classes, and he was supposed to play baseball with his friends tonight! He felt it an injustice that homework, and so much of it, should be given on a Friday. Eighth grade had been only trouble since the beginning. His mood only worsened as he stared helplessly at the bus lifting off from the loading dock. He kicked the air and yelled at the ‘stupid bus that can’t even wait two more seconds’. But, it didn’t hear him.
He switched on his oxygen-pack as he left the oxygen controlled atmosphere of the junior high school. Ray had a hoverdisk, a broken old hand-me-down from his brother, Forest, but he doubted it would work. To his surprise, and delight, the disk managed to hover all the way to his house, some times very slowly, but it was still quicker than walking. If he started his homework now, he could still have time to play.
He hurriedly inserted the assignment disk into the armrest of his comp-chair and swivelled to face the viewing screen. He switched to personal screen mode, and the small screen unfolded from the side of the chair and was suspended by a bar in front of him. He looked at his assignments. Math; mind numbing algebra. English; read this, then write that. The word ‘project’ blinked next to the history file. Oh no. he scanned through the task. Basically, he had to research about, make a poster of, and give a presentation on nature.
Ray recalled learning that up until the late 21st, early 22nd century, Earth gave home to a thing called “nature”. Nature was something like the surrounding environment, and it depended on the Earth, and in some cases, itself to survive. He didn’t understand it.
He wrote “nature” on his personal screen, then “find all” and hit enter. The holo-site came up. Ray didn’t know what he was looking at (it was a lovely idyllic scene with flowers and rabbits) but he thought it was beautiful. There were four topic bubbles. That was it. If Googlepedia didn’t even understand it, why should he?
The first topic bubble was “Plants”, the second “Animals”, the third “Ecosystem”, and the forth was an advertisement. He pressed “play all” and sat back and prepared to learn. Plants (a holographic image of a tree projected from his personal screen) was all about how plants used to provide breathable air, so nobody needed oxygen-packs, and they also provided shade from the sun. Also, some plants provided food. Fruits and vegetables used to be plants, not flavors. Some plants, cotton, were used for clothing, but it was not as efficient as todays plastic clothing. Animals (an image of a dog was projected) used to eat plants, as well. Those that didn’t ate other animals. Some animals were used for food, meats, and others’ fur was used for clothing. Some were kept as pets. When plants were all killed to create more cities, animals died for the most part. Those that survived soon died because they could not live off of synthetic food or breath through oxygen packs. That was the end of the ecosystem. Everything natural was gone. Everything became synthetic.
The advertisement was for a museum that provided simulation nature. It was down town and was open the next day.
“How was school today?” Ray’s mother asked.
“Fine.” Ray poked the colorless blob of chemical mush that tasted like ham. He loved ham-flavor and was very hungry, but he was too deep in thought to eat.
“Something on your mind, sport?” His father asked. Ray told him all about the project and about the museum.
“So, can we go tomorrow?”
“I thought you were playing baseball tomorrow?”
Ray shook his head. It was that evening he supposed to play, but he’d forgotten all about it. “Well, I’ve got work tomorrow.”
Ray looked at his plate. “Oh”.
“Your brother’s coming home from university tomorrow,” his mother chimed in, “I’m sure he’d be more than happy to take you!”
The next afternoon, Ray and his brother Forest flew in Forests’ clunky old aeromobile to the museum. Forest, despite his obnoxious attitude and attempts to model himself after various music icons, loved nothing more than being an older brother. He also loved it when Ray knew more about a topic than he did (feeling that it helped Rays self-esteem and kept his own ego in check) and this was one of those cases. They learned about how the water became so polluted that there were only a few drinkable resources of water left. And also how each and every plant and animal functioned, ate, and all together survived. It was called “science”.
The sim park had to be the most gorgeous place on Earth. Ray must have collected a million images to project from his comp-chair to watch and admire. On the way home, Ray observed his metallic, manmade world. Shiny, cold, manufactured. He spent countless hours watching his images of plants and animals, enthralled in the majesty and perfection of it all. He went to that holo-site so many times he could have recreated it perfectly himself.
And after those countless hours of picture watching, countless holo-site viewings, countless trips to the museum, and after the nature project for his history class (which he got an A+ on), they moves on to the next topic in class. Ray forgot about nature, stopped visiting the holo-site, forgot about the museum and its beautiful exhibits, and erased the nature images off of his comp-chair to make room for things. Life went on in the metallic, manufactured, world-wide city.
Deep under the metal and asphalt, under the gravel, under thin lair of dirt, under the rock and crust, the Earths fiery core was getting a little colder. What did it have to burn for? It was not needed, no plants grew from it, and no animals ate from it. Hardly anybody even drank from it any more! It’s fire was dimming, and it was letting the coldness come, and it was colder every day. It wouldn’t be long now. It felt it was no longer needed. Metal didn’t grow.