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The Fax Machine

By Kurt Hartman Jr

His eyes closed, wearied from too much Wikipedia, and staring at a lonely inbox. As they did, the screensaver on the monitor on the desk kicked in, strobing enough light to alternately illuminate his inner eyelid with light blue and white.

As his mind drifted along, Mark thought about how technology had changed his life, how much information was available, how alone he was in the universe. Mind spinning, approaching darkness, all his thoughts spun into blissful nothingness.

A muffled slam of the car door brought him back to consciousness. He heard the telltale sound of keys jingling, as someone struggled to find just the right one. After 3-4 obviously unsuccessful attempts, Mark ran past the coffee table to open the door, knocking over a flat can of soda in the process.

"Just a minute", he yelled, distracted by the quickly spreading dark liquid, making its way across the carpet. He flicked the deadbolt open, deftly twisted the knob, and ran to get the first absorbent piece of cloth that he could find. This happened to be his one pair of running shorts. Oh, well. Sacrifices must be made.

"How was your night?", he asked his sister, as she stumbled through the door, with an unwieldy box. "Good. Check out what I bought last night. Took me forever to save up for this." Mark examined the box. The writing was in black and dark blue:

"Brother Thermal Facsimile?...You bought a Fax machine. These things are obsolete.", Mark half-laughed, half-yelled down the hall. "It weighs a ton. What are you planning on doing with this thing? You have some hot-shot legal career I don't know about?"

Sherry emerged from the back room, wearing jeans and a t-shirt getup that was practically her uniform. "For your information, that is the very latest model. It transmits at 14.4K, up from 9600 Baud. I thought of all the people in this family, you would be able to appreciate it."

Mark played along. "Oh, I'm sorry. This is so nice. Wow, it takes thermal paper and everything. You don't have to use any ink. This is going to save us so much money. Now we can fax our order to Pizza Hut."

He waited for her to crack, but she fell on his remarks with genuine enthusiasm. "Yeah, isn't it great. I hadn't even thought of faxing in orders. What a great idea. I was just thinking I could use it to send assignments to my professor, if I happened to be under the weather."

The fog was beginning to lift from Mark's brain. It might have had something to do with the cola-soaked running shorts lying at his feet. "Hey...umm..what's today's date?", he mumbled. "Tuesday.", she said. "The DATE!", Mark said, slightly irritated "Not the DAY."

"Oh, April 23rd, 2009".

"What electronics store did you go to? Seriously, have you lost it. They have fax machines that are half that size now, if you need to use them at all. That relic looks like it dropped in from 1991."

Sherry's eyes narrowed. "That was the best model. You can go down to Best Buy and look at it yourself. It's way more advanced than that Nintendo you have sitting in your bedroom. I have laundry to do.

It's just like you to snub your nose at anything that competes with you, Mr. Pentium. Ever since you bought that overpriced machine, you've been an insufferable jerk."

"I have an AMD processor, and my computer is an HP, thankyouverymuch." Sherry laughed. "Yeah? Then why do you have all those Pentium stickers covering your desk?."

At this point, the weirdness all became too much for Mark. An uneasiness was pressing on him. It was the tiniest thought...something about the Nintendo had triggered it, and it had grown ever since. Mark didn't own a Nintendo. He hadn't owned one in nearly 12 years.

He ran to the bedroom, and his should barely glanced a picture frame on the way past. Mark caught himself, long enough to catch the frame and lay it to the side. He nearly lost it, when he reached the bedroom.

The LCD next to his headboard had been replaced with a 13.5", 512 color monitor. His sleek Dell, had been swapped for a bland, beige box, the size of a house. No ethernet cable, no modem, no phone line.

Last, but not least, was the Nintendo. He wished for a moment that the orange and grey gun was real, and loaded. He sat down, and waited. He was waiting to wake up.

He didn't. When his parents returned that evening, he gave no them no clue that he was depressed beyond words. He cheerfully took the bag phone that his dad brought in from the car, happy to see that there was at least some semblance of civilization that remained.

As he went to bed that night, he thought about how he ended up here, away from his precious devices, away from his lonely inbox.

As the CRT shocked him with static, he asked himself why he had been doomed to wander the earth as a technological Job, who had everything taken from him, in a single day. He received no answer.

In the living room, his sister ordered a late-night pizza, with her new fax machine. "Isn't technology amazing", she asked her dad. "It sure is, honey." he said, as the 14.4K modem bleeped its way to life.


About the Author: Kurt Hartman is the head of Web Development for OTR Tire Supply. They sell heavy equipment, and loader tires on their website:

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