Society Lost

This short story is different from the other entries I've read, but I had a lot of fun writing it and I hope you all like it.

Chapter 1

School, Reinvented

It was a movie theater.
My new classroom was more of an entertainment system than a place to learn. Mountainous screens covered the walls, and the latest iPad models were built into every desk, which were transparent plastic cubes with futuristic-looking chairs sticking out of them. No groove for a pencil at the edge, the only writing utensil we’d need was a fingertip. Glancing around the room, I’d noticed I was the only one who even had a backpack. I guessed we wouldn’t need them if everything was going to be stored electronically. I was a little disappointed--I’d gotten an awesome new backpack at a vintage shop in Geneva--but the thought of using a brand new iPad 13 all day pushed all disappointment away.
My friend Perry spotted me, then ran up and threw her arms around my neck. “Omigosh Gemma, I missed you so much! There’s so much I have to tell you!”
A grin crossed my face. “I missed you too. I thought you were going to write me.” A look of confusion crossed her face. “You know, like a letter?”
Perry smirked. “No one writes letters anymore, Gemma. We just use our phones. It’s way faster. Why write a letter when you could use HoloChat?” Now it was my turn to be confused. I shrugged off my backpack, which now looked ancient and shabby next to all the technology. Clearly, I had a lot of catching up to do.

* * *

After a year studying abroad in Europe, I was psyched to go back to Orchid Valley High School for my senior year, where I could finally see all my old friends and visit all our old hangouts. I was even more thrilled to find out that over the course of the year I’d been gone, OVHS had been completely renovated. Since I’d gotten back last night, I’d barely been able to sleep out of eagerness for the first day of school, excited to see all the changes that had been made.
But I hadn’t expected…this.
From a distance, the outside of the school had looked normal enough. There were the same old apple trees in front, that blossomed with gorgeous pale pink and white flowers in the spring. The circle where the buses pulled up in front of the school, and the brick-lined pathway leading up to the front doors were still there. It wasn’t until I walked up that path and got a closer look that I realized anything had changed. Instead of the old, painted sign above the doors that said “Orchid Valley High School” in flowing, curlicue script, there hung a new-looking plasma screen, built into the wall. It was covered with a glass case to protect it from the elements, but I could still see the high definition scrolling message that read, Orchid Valley High School 2022-2023--Happy First Day! Freshmen, We Welcome You! Then a slide show began, showing pictures of students, and teachers all engaging in scholarly activities and looking happy. I glanced around, but the old sign was nowhere to be seen.
“Pretty cool, don‘t you think?’ I jumped and nearly dropped my backpack. I hadn’t noticed Principal Kelvin approaching, all ready for a new school year in a new suit, black shoes so shiny I could use one as a mirror, and an expensive-looking leather briefcase. “It’s the latest in advertisement technology. The eBillboard. It adds a friendly, upbeat touch, don’t you think?”
“Um, sure,” I answered, unsure why there was advertising technology at a school. Although, now that I thought about it, it was pretty cool. It felt great to be back in a school with state-of-the-art technology after so long in Switzerland.
“Well, It’s nice to have you back, Gemma,” Mr. Kelvin said. As he walked away, he pulled out a thin panel of glass plastered with holographic images. He tapped the panel, and spoke softly into it. Silently, the holographic images rearranged themselves into a PowerPoint presentation. He tapped the glass again and disappeared through the double doors. I blinked, realizing I was still standing in the middle of the brick-laid path with chattering students streaming around me. I followed them into the building.

* * *

OVHS was almost as foreign to me as Switzerland had been when I’d first arrived. The auditorium had been gotten rid of completely, since we could watch all the assemblies on the enormous screens right from our classrooms. The cafeteria no longer had lunch ladies serving food from behind counters, but electronic menus built into the wall with a slot that spit out your lunch tray after you’d made your selection. The cafeteria tables even had iPads built into them, although why one would need to use them during lunchtime was beyond me. The gym had been reduced to several rows of treadmills and exercise bikes with--you guessed it--more iPads. Everything was sleek and shiny. All the walls had been painted a blinding white, and the floors were made of a material so smooth I was practically gliding. At eight forty-five I sat at my new desk in the hard, uncomfortable seat. The teacher, A dark haired young woman in her thirties named Mrs. Allen, was sitting with her legs crossed behind her desk. Hers was a lot like the students’, but it had a bigger screen implanted in the middle, and the chair was cushioned and looked a lot more comfortable. She was tapping at a glass panel exactly like Mr. Kelvin’s. Suddenly, the screens on the wall sprang to life, glowing blue and then cutting to a close up of Principal Kelvin’s face.
“Listen up, class,” Mrs. Allen said, without looking up from the panel. Everyone stopped talking and glued their eyes to the screen.
“Welcome, everyone, to a new year at Orchid Valley High School!” Mr. Kelvin announced. “As you know, there have been some changes to the way we function. From now on, due to the new technology installed in the cafeteria and gymnasium, lunchtime and P.E. will also be used as educational time.” My eyes widened. So that was what the iPads on the tables had been for. I looked around. The rest of the class seemed happy with the new system. A few were even tapping away on glass panels of their own, which surprised me, because whatever that thing was, it didn’t seem like something that would be allowed during class time. Of course, that was two years ago. Clearly, a lot had changed since then.

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