Society Lost

This short story is different from the other entries I've read, but I had a lot of fun writing it and I hope you all like it.

Chapter 2

The HoloPhone

There was a skip in my step as I headed to the bus at the end of the first day of school. The days were shorter now that lunch and Phys Ed were on double duty. This year was going to be awesome. Using the iPads was far more interesting than paper and pencil. For one thing, it was way more interactive because instead of the teacher having to write everything on a chalkboard, students could do it themselves on the screen, which had been made to look like a chalkboard. You even got to choose what color chalk to write with. For another thing, technology and school were two things that didn’t really mix two years ago, and definitely not in Switzerland. Now, we were all being swept into a technological world where everything was reinvented. It was almost overwhelming, the bright colors painting the screens and the crystal clear images, the sound radiating from the speakers that seemed to saturate the entire room. A dull, plain classroom of old was nearly unimaginable.
I was about to climb onto the bus when an earsplitting noise made me turn my head. Three men in ratty jeans and t-shirts were cutting down the apple trees in front of the school. I watched in horror as a branch hit the ground, causing a fruit to snap off and roll away.
“What are you doing?” I cried over the buzzing of the chainsaw. One of the men spun to look at me.
“Trees just aren’t important anymore,” he said with a shrug. “The school doesn’t have the money to care for them, now that they bought all those iPads.”
“But we need trees for oxygen, don’t we?”
“No need for trees when we’ve got OxyPure installments on every corner.” He pointed to a black lump lying in the grass a few feet away. It was blowing air in every direction, flattening the blades around it. It smelled like chemicals.
Another tree fell. “What about the bees and butterflies that depend on those trees?” I was practically yelling over the chainsaws. “The birds that make their nests in the branches?”
The man shrugged again. “They’ll just have to go somewhere else.”
The bus driver honked at me, forcing me to abandon my thoughts. I ran onto the bus, the deafening noise of metal biting into wood ringing in my ears.

* * *

“Welcome home, Gemma! How was your first day back at Orchid Valley?” I’d been too exhausted last night to talk to my mom much, and when I got back from the airport I barely managed to take off my shoes before collapsing into bed.
“It was the best. I can’t believe they waited until 2022 to renovate it.”
My Mom grinned and hugged me. She smelled like honey and cinnamon. “I almost forgot, I have something for you.” She reached into her pocket and pulled out one of the mysterious glass panels. “Your very own HoloPhone. The newest model. I’ve already installed all the apps you’re going to need.” I drew in a breath. The phone was light as a feather in my hand, and I noticed my fingers didn’t leave smudges like they did on the screen of my old iPhone. I tapped the surface, and the screen sprang into focus. My eyes scanned the icons decorating the glass: HoloChat, Virtual Society, Screen Projector. None of it was the least bit familiar, but I’d figure it out.
“Thanks, Mom. I love it.”
“You’re welcome, Gemma. Trust me, you wouldn’t get far without a HoloPhone these days.” Apparently school wasn’t the only thing that had changed drastically.
I called Perry. I didn’t even have to hold the phone next to my ear, I could just set it on a table and talk from all the way across the room.
“Isn’t Orchid High amazing?” Perry gushed. “Even better than I expected!”
“I know, right? They did all this over the summer?”
“Well, it really started at the beginning of 2022. All the students got issued iPads after Christmas break, and no one really used paper much after that. It went uphill from there. But it was never as full-scale as this until today.”
“Hey, can I come over? I just got this new HoloPhone and I have no idea how to use it.”
“Better to just pull up HoloChat. It’s the same as meeting in person, but it saves time. My username is Perrywinkle202. All you have to do is create an account and type my name into the search bar.”
Though I was a bit skeptical, I agreed. With a quick tap of the glass, the connection was severed.
Just then, my dad came into the living room. I was so surprised I almost dropped my HoloPhone. He’s a lawyer, so he’s usually gone all day. It was also a shock to see him wearing sweats instead of the tailored suits he practically lives in.
“Gemma! I missed you. How was Switzerland?” He lifted me off my feet in a bear hug.
“Dad? Why are you here?” He set me down.
“Oh, that’s right. You don’t know. The firm went digital, so now all I need is my HoloPhone and I’m good to go.” His phone beeped in his pocket. He pulled it out and started texting. “I hear it’s almost the same with your school.”
I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to have Dad at home all day. Would I ever see one of his suits again? What would happen to the yellow silk tie I’d brought him all the way from Switzerland?
His phone beeped again. “I’ve got to get back to work. You’ll have to tell me all about your trip tonight.” He walked away, eyes glued to his phone. Neither of my parents had ever been very tech-savvy. Now they new more about it than I did. This was going to take some getting used to.
I made a HoloChat account and typed in Perrywinkle202. Suddenly an image jumped out, and there was Perry’s head, floating above the coffee table. You could barely tell it wasn’t real.
“Long time no see, Gem,” she said casually, smirking at my astonished expression.
“Yeah…you can say that again.”
“Here, let me pull up Holly and Emmaline and we can all give you a HoloPhone lesson.”
“Sounds good to me.” I hadn’t seen Holly or Emma today. Suddenly there they were, suspended next to Perry.
We talked for an hour. By three-thirty, I knew everything there was to know about the latest HoloPhone, and I’d told Perry, Holly and Emma all about my year in Switzerland.
“Do you guys want to go see a movie?” I suggested.
Holly perked up. “I’ve been wanting to see the new thriller that came out yesterday. I didn’t have time, with my dance lesson and everything.”
“Sweet,” I said. “Can one of you drive?”
Emmaline laughed. “Don’t be silly. You do have the VirtualTheater app, don’t you?”
I raised an eyebrow. “Well, Mom said she installed everything for me.”
“Then all you need is a blank wall.” Emma told me the name of the movie, and I browsed the HoloPhone until I found VirtualTheater. I selected the movie, and the phone projected a huge rectangle onto the opposite wall. The lights in the living room dimmed automatically.
“Much better than an annoying movie theater,” Perry said. It was like old times, when we’d go out to Oceanview Cinemas for a matinee, but without the crying babies and cell phones going off constantly.
When it ended, the screen disappeared and the lights came back on. Holly, Perry and Emma were talking excitedly.
“That was awesome,” I agreed, “but how about we go to Oceanview tomorrow? I’ve missed their popcorn.” All three stopped talking.
“Gemma…Oceanview Cinemas closed months ago,” Holly informed me. “Everyone uses VirtualTheater these days. No one’s gone to an actual theater since the beginning of 2022.”
My jaw dropped. “What? People used to go there all the time! Movies would sell out in an hour!”
Holly shook her head. “Not anymore.”

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