The Town of What If
A lone word fell upon a page. Looking around he began to sob. Loneliness has but one cure. It needs another. Soon another small word joined it there. The two became best friends, each playing with the other. They traded places on the page. Soon an object, looking like a tree, was seen on the corner of the paper. One of the words went and hid behind it.
“Where did you go my friend? I’m all alone now.”
“Look behind the tree for me.”
“If this is a game where we hide and find each other, the tree is the only place we can look.”
Suddenly, with that word spoken, another object found a resting place on the page as well. It was a house with many rooms in it. The two words were then joined by several others that asked to play their game with them. Why not, there were plenty of places now to hide.
Then the real fun began as all of the words, except the one seeking, would hide in the rooms of the house. A curious thing then occurred. Unusual sounds were heard up in the tree. First a furry little creature was scampering about along with a few others dressed all up in feathers and flapping their wings. Many different chirping sounds were heard as well.
All of the words that were hiding in the house, came out and began climbing the tree.
Soon the tree was filled with words that were hanging and jumping from branch to branch. More creatures and words began showing up on the page, and the paper began to fill right up. It looked like there was no more room for even one more object or even a short word.
Lying right beside the one page was another blank piece of paper. Our first word that had come to our once empty page jumped quickly to the white paper. The scene we had just reported above began to repeat itself until the second page was full too.
When it came time to jump to a third page, our very first word looked up and saw the writer with a pen in hand. The writer looked down and smiled kindly and said, “Go ahead I’m waiting for you. I want to at least finish these opening lines to my book” The Town of What If.” So the prologue was completed so the story could begin.
That same first word then landed quickly on the third page and the story continued without any interruptions. This first word knew he was a vital part of the telling of this story, since this tale had to start somewhere. The lone word looked up at the writer/creator, and if a word could smile, it is what was happening. He knew before long the writer would bring more friends to fill up yet another page, so that he was never ever alone.
What if all of the people stayed indoors? What if none would venture forth? What if no one trusted their neighbors anymore? This was the quiet little town of WHAT IF.
Cars, buses, and trains were no longer running. There were no more folks out bustling in the quaint little shops of their town. All stores were forced to close their doors.
Inside of each dwelling were a frightened and insecure group of citizens. All phone lines were inactive, and most we in disrepair due to the lack of phone calls and outside communication.
What if someone would reach out to a neighbor; extend a hand. Well, something terrible might happen. No one could be trusted, and the only safety was to remain indoors; shut off from the rest of the outside world.
All was not lost. Each person had their own personal computer. Now their world would be lived on the internet. They traveled anywhere in the known world and beyond, to distant galaxies on a cyber-space sort of magic carpet. In a matter of seconds, a mind could be transported to a dense jungle or be found climbing the tallest mountain range.
This new world encased each family member in their own little space, each sitting in front of their newest friend; the computer. WHAT IF had been marked out as a government project and computers were sent to each of its citizens in the town.
Individuals that once would meet in groups, began shutting themselves up in their rooms. They needed no one else. They had their new friends to play with, and so their partying began. They had something to interact with. No one was alone now, all had something to help occupy their time.
Suicide became a practice of the past. Loneliness used to drive folks to this. But no longer did this cruel emotion render their hearts faint and vulnerable. The government felt that this new computer companion would be mankind’s last hope. No one was without someone - of sorts. Now everyone had that special someone, that virtual friend. Somehow, actual people took a back seat to these new shadowy cyber friends.
The town of WHAT IF was a top secret operation. The government, in an effort to protect and preserve the lives of its citizens, felt this experiment would eventually be the answer for all of mankind. So the citizens here were put into this virual pattern of a new lifestyle.
Some day every town in the country and possibly the world would be made to comply with this new directive. Shootings and gang wars became a thing of the past also. It appeared that everyone’s life in WHAT IF was peaceful and that fighting and wars would end.
Everything in this sheltered environment had come to a grinding halt and outdoor noises had stopped entirely. The only sounds to be heard now were the whirring and buzzing of the computers in the rooms where each individual family member was sitting and viewing the glaring screen.
Now, as all of these folks are enjoying the comforts inside of their quiet little lives, inside their special little bubble of a life, something was happening outside each of these utopian homes. No one gave any thought to the grasses, the trees, the vines, or the birds and other wildlife. Grass that used to be cut to two inches was growing out of control. Vines were snaking their way all over the property and were enveloping the houses where everyone lived. Trees grew taller and fuller.
Birds and squirrels began moving into their newly developing neighborhood and finding homes in the trees. Most other towns nearby had already gotten rid of most of their trees for the expansion of their homes and businesses.
The trees in this small town of WHAT IF were being allowed to grow untended. This real forest of trees, the vines, and the wild grasses were literally taking over each home, unchecked by human influence.
Much time passed as the environment outside of their dwellings kept growing, while more birds and other animals continued to move into this new neighborhood. Leafy vines had covered over most windows so no one could see out. But sadly, no one had been looking outdoors, but were all glued to their computer screens.
A great thunderstorm suddenly came crashing into their lives and town. With the crack of a whip, the power to each home was cut off. It was replaced by ominous lightning strikes. At first the people were frightened half out of their minds, but then something strange happened. They all began lighting candles for light or turning on flashlights. Some even started fires in their fireplaces that had sat there unused for years.
Feeling helpless in this situation, and with all outside communication shut down, and computers unable to function, they all began to turn and look to each-other. The life they had forgotten about came back to them in a flash.
For some who were more fearful, thoughts of suicide returned once more. There was that all too familiar sound of family members fighting again. The peace they thought they were enjoying was shattered with life staring them square in the face. They couldn’t run to their computer friends anymore. They could no longer live alone in their tiny little rooms away from the rest of the world and other family members.
Once the storm had ended, and all had returned to normal, thoughtfulness and reflection had returned to their once narrow lives. Curiousity had also set in. Birds were singing their various tunes in the trees all around everyone’s yard. Squirrels chattered noisily among the trees. Barking, and howling, and other animal sounds had returned to their world. This was quite a contrast from the almost silent life they had been living.
Folks were beginning to come out of their rooms and were even heading out-of-doors. They had all forgotten how beautiful their outside world really was, with all of its colorful birds and flowers. Many found lost pets who had been neglected during this indoor life. The animals, such as dogs and cats, were looking for their human companions, and found them.
The sky had never looked so blue, and the rainbow was still glowing after this recent storm. Children had rediscovered trees, and many climbed up in them. Laughter was heard again in the land. Folks were also meeting new friends, as neighbors were coming together once again.
When the power was restored in WHAT IF, folks remained outdoors. Some were putting up tents; and hammocks were seen everywhere hanging in trees. Children wanted to sleep under the stars the first night. Some parents did too. On porches, folks were sitting and chatting about the recent events of their town. Stories were being told to children once more. A feeling of real family life was being restored.
The computers, over a period of days and weeks, began crusting over with dust and cobwebs from little or no use. Finally they were all carted to the recycling bins and were nicely hauled away. They were never replaced, and this project of the government was deemed a dismal failure, and was never repeated elsewhere.
A whole new world had emerged. But it was really the old world returning along with common sense. What was once before a tradition of family living was no longer forgotten and neglected. It was never broken in the first place, so why did they try to fix it with this new computer lifestyle?
Mowers and saws were heard all over the town. Everyone’s life was back in business. Houses that were a tangle of vines, began to look like homes once more. Flowers were planted in every yard, and animals ran free once more.
Children would learn more about their world by living right out in it. All had said goodbye to their soul-less cyber world. This junk food of the mind was replaced with the fresh air of the natural world all around them.