Paris, August 14, 2249
Rain fell from the building across the street, a thousand drops at a time, bouncing off the puddles on the ground. The drops ricocheted at a sharp angle, reminiscent of the reckless alpine skiiers you sometimes came across in very old sports videos.
Jasper pondered over his plans for the day. Croissants for breakfast at the brassérie next door, and then a cozy cup of NonCafé to warm him up. Yum! He’d bring his walking bubble, and afterwards, he’d take a moment to stroll the streets, strutting his stuff like a tourist.
Tourist, such a fun word. Like touring, as if all you had in the world was spare time. Juggling several self-employed jobs was, in fact, the complete opposite of touring around as a tourist, and it was a pure miracle that Jasper even had the time to use his travel option at all. He felt grateful.
And he noticed that traveling to Paris awakened in him a dormant passion for history. He felt so alive, so awake, his eyes suddenly so wide open. How much history the city exhibited! All the streets and all the walls around him simply exuded history from so many eras – that was what they always said about Paris, wasn’t it? A cliché, but every bit true.
Earlier this year, before Paris, Jasper had only used one of his three annual travel options. He’d traveled to Norway for some parrot-watching, taking the opportunity to document their behavior and diet for his library project. Some people dreamt of traveling more, but the regulations were strict – no exceptions. Jasper didn’t mind, after all, he was in Paris now! The memories would last him a long time.
I sure hope I’ll see through the walking bubble, since it’s raining, he thought, while checking his wrist hologram’s map function for a good walking route.
First, I really should visit the Notre Dame. The cathedral’s over 200-year-old frescoes were calling him: rarely could you see something so old with your own eyes. After that, he intended to visit the Louvre Art Memorial.
To think that Paris was once called The City of Love! This historians’ paradise, better known as The City of Tears, had endured so many attacks throughout times. And survived.
People had gone pretty much bonkers when natural resources had finally run out, and large groups of rioters and hooligans had ransacked every place imaginable. This had happened all over the world, in all of the largest cities and metropolitan areas, including Paris. Local storekeepers had fled, and families with children hadn’t dared to stay in the city. It wasn’t until recently that you could see a real renaissance of city life, with new generations moving back and claiming their heritage.
This wave of moving back into the city, combined with strong nationalist ideals, was interesting to follow on the holograms. Nationalism had evolved into a peace-loving concept, now that country borders no longer existed. Everyone seemed to finally understand that things needed to be built and improved together, and not destroyed. That we were all part of the same planet and the same DNA. Was it too soon to hope that history would stop repeating itself?
After visiting the Louvre Art Memorial, Jasper intended to walk over to the artificial river of Seine, where brightly colored artificial fish swam around, producing electricity. He’d heard there was a ball held there almost every night, outdoors, where people danced to the rhythm of the bangs and cracks produced by fish electricity. The Fish Dance sounded like fun.
But the thing he was the most interested in visiting on this trip was the Zuckerberg Foundation’s Internet and Social Media Museum. After all, he did have an antique tablet at home, as a curiosity, restored and fitted with an old-fashioned, internet-based browser. Most of all, he used it to read the texts written by one of his ancestors. They were little diary entries called “blog posts”. In fact, he’d read through all of them so many times that he almost felt like he knew the author personally. Her writing was addictive. Family research could be so fascinating.
Right now, the Zuckerberg Museum in Paris was featuring a wide collection of hashtags that had changed the world, and Jasper wanted to explore them. Obviously, the worst of them had been #yolo, notoriously causing masses to stop studying and working, and just travel.
The yolo trend had lead to the incredible mass tourism wave that had been one of the drivers of the Great Destruction, coming soon after. With so many people traveling to the same places at the same time, it had simply been too much for the eco system.
As we all know, emissions of air travel had multiplied in a very short period of time, post-commercialism had gotten out of hand, and shallow coastal waters all around the globe had become poisoned by chemicals in sunscreen lotions, all manufactured by the same global conglomerate.
The hand-held phone devices that had gained wide popularity in the Age of the Internet had ended up requiring such enormous amounts of lithium for their batteries, that the whole continent of South America had drifted into an energy crisis and an epidemic of poverty, leading to a most destructive war.
The war had spread across all of the borders, destroying what was left of the rainforests. Simultaneously, Europe had run out of drinking water after blue-green algae had mutated and spread. And despite all the warning signs, certain large corporations still kept drilling towards the very core of Earth, causing vast earth quakes all over Asia. And that’s how the Great Destruction began.
Jasper had to smile, since he still remembered the year of the Great Destruction: 2024 was deeply rooted in his memory. His history teacher would’ve been so pleased.
That’s also the year his great-great-great-grandmother’s blog ended, just like that, without any warning. Jasper wasn’t smiling anymore. He shifted his thoughts elsewhere.
As far as he could tell from his historical research of the Internet, people in the olden days appeared to have had important rituals as part their daily lives. Obscure as they seemed, these rituals had apparently involved the displaying of personal images publicly, serving as a means to gain respect and status in society and amongst peers. Some of the images had received a thumbs up, and others a thumbs down, much like in the lores of Ancient Rome and its circuses. Knowing this, it was easy to see how the people of those times had felt the need to travel more and more, in order to achieve those coveted images that made them fit in.
Luckily, mankind had evolved since those days. It was hard to truly understand the motives of such time-consuming rituals that left many with low self-esteem and lowered happiness levels.
Jasper closed his eyes and took a deep breath: this day was going to be unique and he was going to enjoy Paris to the fullest, without any distractions. Just be there in the moment, see, and sense. That way, he’d be able to conjure the day’s memories anytime he wanted to, and re-live them again and again, just by shutting his eyes and letting his thoughts flow.
The past few years had been tough and full of hard work for everyone, but now he finally felt like optimism was winning. Humanity was doing better and the only way to go from here was up.
If he had enough money left over, he decided he’d buy a genuine tulip to bring home as a souvenir.
Helsinki, August 14, 2019
Jasmine closed the lid of her laptop, stretched her fingers and shut her eyes. She had a vision, the same one as always, and she saw it very clearly. It was her happy place, where her mind went whenever it was time to think of something soothing.
She saw a sandy beach. And a little boy with curly, brown hair. The boy was happy and he was playing in the sand. There was someone in the background… the boy’s father was approaching. The man started telling his son about a faraway place that he’d visited, as they sat down together, the boy in his father’s lap.
The little boy listened carefully, fascination shining in his face. His father was holding something red in his palm – a flower. The boy was looking at it with amazement.
For some reason, this image brought Jasmine peace. Her mind always returned to this scene. This moment had never actually happened, and she didn’t know who the father and boy were. A figment of her imagination, or maybe from a commercial or blog post she’d seen. But sometimes… sometimes she dreamt she was there, too.
And maybe part of her was.