Penny Reed’s hopes for the future came to a crashing halt when her father died, making her a ward of the state. Knowing her grandfather was still alive and recognizing she’d never survive in the ‘system,’ she stole her father’s boat and sailed away.
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J C Allen Books
Forrest Reed was a man who danced to the beat of his own drum. Having little tolerance for most people and appalled by the worsening political climate in America, he created his own island somewhere in the Pacific to escape the madness. He thoroughly enjoyed his quiet, sheltered existence. Imagine his surprise when Penny showed up, claiming to be his granddaughter. Could Forrest say good-bye to a life of solitude, making room in his heart for his only grandchild, or would events from a painful past always stand between them?
January 1, 2040
Jordan was nervous. He was about to make the biggest announcement of his career - to him anyway. He sighed deeply, waiting for his latest understudy, Samantha White, to begin the report.
“Today, on his 70th birthday, world-renowned author, Forrest Reed, has announced in a statement issued by his agent, Philip Conrad, that he is releasing his final novel,” Ms. White read from the teleprompter with an appropriately despondent tone, which actually appeared to be fairly genuine. She was situated in front of a BREAKING NEWS logo which rotated slowly, while dozens of books swirled in the background, emerging from the blackness as if bubbling up from the bottom of a stew pot. Forrest Reed's familiar covers adorned the front of each book - and more surfaced endlessly. She continued to read the statement. “It is with a heavy heart that I am forced to inform you that Mr. Reed has decided to hang up his vocal processor and enjoy the remainder of his life at his newly completed home at an undisclosed location. He has requested everyone respect his decision to retire, and refrain from future contact.”
As Samantha finished her script, the camera switched focus to Jordan. “Wow, Samantha,” he soberly intoned, shaking his head in disbelief. Jordan, a legend in the business, had been spinning the news from the same desk since the inception of the interactive 3-D Holo-TV broadcast. Now in his sixties, he was by far the oldest anchor still on HV.
Samantha White was the newest face of the show, which seemed to cycle new, young, attractive women into Jordan’s evening news show annually. Jordan was obviously rocked by the news, but managed to finish his comment with, “He’s the last of a dying breed.”
“Yes, Jordan, he is. With 150 novels reaching number one on the bestseller list over the past 30 years, he has consistently released an average of five books per year, when nobody else seemed to be writing anything. That’s going to cause a severe void in the ever-declining book market.”
“And movie market as well,” Jordan added. “Seventy-two of his books have been made into films. His movies have grossed $48.9 billion in box office sales and have sold a staggering 3.4 billion copies in the aftermarket. He is reportedly worth an incredible $200 billion - definitely one of the world’s richest men.” As he spoke, the statistics appeared in colorful displays all around the two reporters.
“How did he become so popular?” Samantha asked the experienced newsman.
“Well, Samantha, it’s really quite simple. He was the only person out there who could come up with interesting, unique ideas.”
“What do you mean?” she pursued, genuinely intrigued.
“In 2010, when he began writing, the well seemed dry. People were growing tired of the cookie-cutter novels - the generic, molded, scripted repeats of previous successes. Forrest Reed came along and made people disengage their auto-pilot minds from the internet and immerse themselves into his imagination. He often criticized the entertainment industries of being so cold and calculating with their formulas for success, and challenged them all. The industry seemed unable to produce anything new. Old movies were recycled, mainly because nobody would chance anything different. Forrest Reed blasted the school systems and parents for not pushing young minds to be creative, to solve problems, to think other than in a linear fashion, but kids were being increasingly left plugged in and tuned out. They had mastered the world of digital communication, but had lost the ability to communicate with each other. All the languages of the world were degrading into a universal, anachronistic, lazy impersonal, and emotionless waste of space - according to Reed. He called the entire generation screenagers, and predicted they would reach new lows never previously thought possible. He said his generation strove for mediocrity, while this one strove for nothing. In 2015, twelve of the top 100 songs were remakes of old songs. He predicted that by 2035, more than 95 of 100 would be recreations. A quick check of the numbers –” he deftly manipulated the area around him to show the statistics, “reveals that, indeed, Reed was right. Ninety-seven of the top 100 songs in 2035 were remakes.”
“Amazing,” Samantha commented. “Why can’t anyone create something fresh and new?”
“Reed believed the minds of children were polluted with the ideas forced onto them by our education system. He thought parents lacked the ability to inspire their children because of their own poor levels of education, causing each generation to become worse, compounded by the previous mistakes. In his record-breaking non-fiction book titled, A Lost Art: Thinking, he details personal beliefs on the state of creativity in the world - and he appears to be right about all of the predictions he made.”
Samantha sighed heavily. “With Forrest Reed gone, and this show the only remaining source of creative commentary, what will happen?”
Jordan shook his head sadly. “I suspect the book industry will finally die off and the sole source of our entertainment will degrade into 20th century commercial jingles, remakes of '80s movies, unreal so-called ‘reality’ shows, ridiculous sitcoms and a continual stream of OMG, WTF and WGAF.”
It was obvious he found this scenario rather revolting. Jordan had always prided himself in being a student of Reed’s, concurring with the famous author in nearly every sad detail of the pathetic state of the planet. He really didn’t want to think of the world that would rise from lost creativity and originality. It seemed everyone thought being like everyone else was a good thing; the biggest problem Jordan and Forrest saw with that was the population all met at the bottom, not the top. He and Reed appeared to be the last two dinosaurs that had broken away from that path.
The show continued with several old clips of Reed preaching his gospel to the masses of mush-minds, most of whom just didn’t get it. Jordan and Samantha set out several charts which the HV users could peruse at their leisure. One showed that Forrest Reed’s novels outsold the rest of the market three to one in the last year. His last two movies grossed $3.8 billion, more than the total of all other movies for the previous four years.
Jordan finished his broadcast by pleading, “Forrest, if you can hear me, we really need you. Please don’t leave us.” His somber mood didn’t abate after they signed off; he was really crushed.
Concerned, Samantha asked, “YGBOK?”
Jordan stared a hole into her as if she were from another planet.
“Sorry. Are you going to be okay?” It was a rule of his show not to use acronyms, one that he still tried to enforce off the air.
“No, I think I’ll go read his last book, then just shoot myself,” he answered drily.
Now she regarded him as the alien. “Good luck with that,” she responded.
He chuckled. “And Reed says there’s no hope for this generation. But you see? You are capable of independent thought - even humor! That was really funny, Sam,” he said sarcastically.
“I was serious,” she informed him with a straight face.
He laughed harder.
“Poor boy,” said Forrest Reed, 500 miles away in his home in Durham, North Carolina. The admiration Jordan had for Reed was reciprocated; Jordan was the only newscaster the old author would watch. It was the only reason he even owned an HV. They had met several times over their illustrious careers since Jordan was the only reporter ever granted an interview with Reed in over 20 years.
He stared, transfixed at his floating likeness. “Wow, I was quite the sport at one time, was I not?” The image before him was of a strong, virile young man, a couple inches over six feet tall, with dark hair that had just started graying in the distinguished pattern above his ears. He had a neatly trimmed beard and mustache, angular features, and wise, caring green eyes that held the depth of a dreamer. His eyebrows, perhaps his most prominent feature, curved sharply at the end and stretched all the way across the bridge of his nose. He compared that with what he saw in the mirrored table: his hair had turned to the point that it was now three parts salt, one part pepper. His face was fuller and softer, and his body was not the lean, muscular one floating as ionized particles before him. He was by no means fat; in fact, he was in exceptional health for his age at just about 25 pounds heavier than he had been 30 years ago, weighing in at 220 pounds now, give or take a bowl of ice cream - of which he was known to frequently indulge. He walked his sprawling compound daily, opting out of the virtual net where most people sat plugged in constantly, as if it were a respirator, necessary to their existence.
He sighed, looking around. “I thought I would miss this place, but... nah, good riddance,” he said aloud. With that, he stood, leaving the HV on, and went to gather his things - just the necessary things, for everything else he needed was in the Pacific.