Over in the U.K., it’s National Storytelling Week. What better way to celebrate than to join in a round of storytelling. So here’s the challenge. Continue the story with your 300-word-or-less contribution in the comments. But just to kick it off, here’s a little story starter:
“Okay, class, who can tell me the worst invention ever?”
Thaddeus Marshall stood at the front of the lecture hall, staring at all hundreds of impressionable, eager faces. More like dozens of eager faces amongst hundreds of eye-rolling bored-out-of-their-gourd or hungover faces. He took a mental snapshot of the eager ones while he waited for the hands to rise. Step one, narrow down the pool. Done. Those dozens were the ones he would invite to his discussion group. Step two, uncover the ones he sought.
Worst invention ever. He knew it wasn’t a fair question, the answer not to be invented for another twenty years, by one of the short-sighted yet brilliant idiots in the room. Not until one of these other fools would develop particle compression, another would actually realize the Star Trek dream and invent the transporter, and a third (maybe in this room now, maybe just the curious roommate with the side job as a magician) happened to actually stay awake throughout class when the professor discussed string theory. But it would be at a drunken party (which may or may not have included illicit drug use, he’s not entirely sure, but definitely included a bonfire in the woods), when they would have a drunken conversation that would lead to a brilliant idea that wouldn’t go away the next morning, and would eventually lead to the actual development of the fateful time machine.
The drunken party was meant to occur sometime over the next week—-if Thaddeus’s calculations were correct—-and he was determined to be correct, he still had a chance to dissuade the fools from making the biggest mistake possible.
“The atomic bomb!” said one kid. Oh, how unimaginative.
“It’s always the weapons that get the blame,” said Thaddeus. “But those are known to be destructive. What I’m looking for is something that seems to be helpful, but ends up causing more harm than anything else.”
“The printing press?” called out a little blond girl whose voice turned out to be louder than he would have imagined. And perhaps she picked up the hint he had tried to throw.
“Your name, miss?” He didn’t want to get his hopes up and thus forced his face to look bored, maybe even a bit freakish as he bit the insides of his cheeks to keep from smiling.
“Lacey Delancey,” she continued as the boys around her talked amongst themselves. “If the only writing that people saw was still hand copied by monks, then we wouldn’t have all the crap writing out there.”
“And people would still be illiterate,” called out a boy from the far right side of the auditorium, way in the back. He had shaggy black hair that seemed to go to his shoulders, and he wore a plaid shirt unbuttoned over a black t-shirt. Not someone Thaddeus would have suspected to be paying attention in class. Certainly not one of the original curious dozen.
Thaddeus strode over to the other end of the hall—deciding as he walked on his best professorly pose—and settled into a wide-legged stance, left arm crossing his waist, right elbow resting on his left hand, chin resting on his right fist. Yes, he thought, that looks pensive and in command, just the look I was going for. But maybe I ought to practice these a bit more in front of a mirror. “And you are?”
“Mr. Sendak. Please support your premise.”
“Simple,” he said. “No printing press, no writing. No translating the Bible into the language of the common man, a continuation of the feudal system, and little betterment of man. If you can’t read or write, you can’t go beyond your daily survival unless you’re rich, and even then you’re not inclined to make life much better for everyone else. Without writing, there’d be no other scientific advancements.”
“Bah,” called out Lacey.
Thaddeus was about to say that his assessment might be a little simplistic, but bah worked. “Your rebuttal, Ms. Delancey?” he said.
“Brains didn’t only develop because of the printing press. Clearly sharp minds were out there inventing things—like the printing press. So you can’t say for sure whether things would be exactly the same. It is human nature to be curious. But what the printing press did was allow anyone—intelligent or otherwise—to spread ideas. And that has had a harmful effect. If it wasn’t around, good discoveries would still be made. But thanks to the printing press, the good ideas get mucked up and have to compete with the bad ideas.”
Thaddeus smiled. Yes, she had to have been (or was going to be, he couldn’t figure out the proper tense to conjugate this current scenario) part of the TeST Rock Team. Or, if she wasn’t (or wouldn’t be?), Thaddeus had to make sure she became part of it, to make sure things didn’t go horribly wrong…again.
He managed to convene a group of six students—including Lacey and Blake—that expressed interest in his impromptu scientific exploration. He pitched it well, suggesting they gather in the woods (where he could keep an eye on the TeST Rock) and discuss the matter further. Sure, he may have promised them that maybe he could arrange summer internships in research labs as a possible benefit. But he was definitely vague enough that he surely wasn’t actually lying. Besides, if they were interested enough in internships, and believed they would get them, then they probably would. And maybe he could come back and actually finagle these jobs later. Maybe. He’d have to see. But first, they’d have to prove to be the actual group of fools who thought it’d be a good idea to invent a voice-activated time machine that looked like a rock.
Who’s next? Want to take a stab at storytelling? Continue this tale in the comments below; we recommend 300 words or less. Let’s see how far we can take collaborative storytelling this week.