art by Cheryl L Owen-Wilson
The Future Faire
by Dustin Adams
The sign comes first. It hovers high in the sky, projecting green neon light, and we believe it because we don't have technology like that.
Site of the first ever Future Faire.
Mysterious builders spend several summer weeks carving a circular clearing within the dense forest at Portland's edge. We're allowed to observe, at a distance of course.
When opening day arrives, we stand in an unmoving line with thousands of strangers, modest admission fee clutched tightly in our hands. I'm curious why people from the future would need cash, but my father says, "Business is business, no matter when you're from."
Mom and I laugh at that.
Eventually, the coolness of early morning wears off and the sun crests the distant cedars. My father shifts his weight back and forth a few times and I wait for his outburst. He smacks his palm with the back of his hand. "If only we'd been rich, we could've bought him the Cochlear 2--"
Through my caption glasses I see my mother stare at my father. He glances at me like he's revealed some secret I shouldn't know.
I know what a Cochlear Model 2 is. Hearing for the wealthy. And I know what my caption glasses are. Hearing for the poor.
A blinding light interrupts our tension. Some sort of noise causes those around me to thrust their hands over their ears. I blink, and a translucent dome appears all at once in the clearing.
People have traveled back in time.
Those in line cheer and my glasses become littered with caption bubbles full of exclamation points and graphical hands clapping.
We amble forward, and eventually, my parents and I step through the de-tech dome, and the Future Faire stretches out before us. A dozen big-top tents strategically pock a landscape brimming with carnies hawking future-games of skill.
I look down. The ground is dry earth, brown and cracked, flattened by workers' feet.
"Tyler?" My name floats across my glasses in a bubble with an arrow pointing toward my mom. I look up. "Meet back here in an hour, okay?"
I nod vigorously. She hands me a brochure containing a map of the faire and I read the words listed in all caps on the front cover. NO TECHNOLOGY IS TO LEAVE THE FAIREGROUNDS!
"I'm going to Future Vid-Games." I subvocalize, and my glasses' mini-speakers verbalize my lie for my parents. They always believe me because my electronic voice was programmed to be emotionless, and my eyes are blurred behind a cloudy display.
On the map, I trace a route to the Medical Pavilion with my finger.
Unfortunately, that would take me past Future Vid-Games and Future Movies. What will video games be like? Or are there just more crane machines whose claws don't grip cheap toys?
I run past the game tent, ignoring the excited faces of the boys lining up to enter, but I slow when the scent of barbequing sausages drifts past my nose. I'm starving, but so are dozens of others willing to brave another long line. I turn, and keep running.
Atop the Medical Pavilion is a white flag emblazoned with a red cross flapping in the breeze. My heart is pounding from my run and brimming with excitement. Soon, I might be able to hear. Really hear.
I stop at the threshold and keyword ear, hear, hearing, Cochlear, deaf, and aural so they'll appear in a red caption on my glasses.
Then I step inside.