Arbitrary Number by Edwin Escolero
Arbitrary No. – C:\UNE 06
Lights flicker inside a tavern as a man types on a laptop as he tries to retrieve a message from an unknown sender. The powers goes out in the tavern just as the screen goes blank. Bar patrons clamor about the power outage but the host assures them that the backup generator should kick in momentarily. The conversation continues in the dark while other patrons try to use their phones, however, it seems that electronic devices are disabled. Someone opens the door to look outside but there is no light as far as the eye can see.
Stepping out of the tavern Une is in utter darkness and without the benefit of street lights to guide his path. The rain has stopped but its a small consolation as the man has little direction to go by. Looking up Une is able to see the stars in the sky which is a rare sight in the industrial zones. Clouds cover the moon leaving the man with little choice but wander through the dark to find his way back to the motel.
Climbing up a step hill Une passes through an open lot for a supermarket and to his surprise the power is still down. The streets are empty as well and the sky void of planes and patrolling drones. Reaching in his coat Une takes out his compact laptop but he’s still unable to power it up. Approaching a distant fire he spots, Une finds a man a couple of years his senior maintaining the open flame. The senior invites him to join and Une approaches cautiously while thanking him.
The man strikes a conversation and tells Une that he once was a scout and enjoyed camping it out in the wilderness. Advanced in age the man explains that the youth born in the modern day have forgotten nature and depend on technology. During his generation, his peers and himself had only memory, imagination, and guts. Nowadays people are at the mercy of the fancy commodities that they depend on. Criminals can hack into devices to create chaos and disorder. The man concludes that there needs to be a middle ground with technology and nature.
Upon finishing the conversation the man bids Une a farewell and walks off leaving him with the campfire. Left with the senior’s words in mind Une rests his eyes as he leans against a post. The fires dies down as the night draws to a close and the man rises to the early morning sun. Walking a couple blocks Une finds himself back at the motel and immediately collapses to bed after opening the door. Tossing his coat on the chair an unfamiliar disk falls from the pocket on to the floor. He reaches for the disk when suddenly power returns and his laptop begins to flash.