By Nick Cross
Can you believe I’m writing you an actual letter? It’s beyond retro. And even better than that, I’m using an actual typewriter. You can’t imagine the feel of the hard plastic keys beneath my fingertips. Or the thumping sound as the metal letters hit the inked ribbon.
I’ve never used a typewriter before, so excuse my misteaks mistakes. In fact, no-one’s used a typewriter for fifty years – this one at the British Museum is the last in the world. I had to break in to use it, so they’ll probably catch me soon. But it’s totally worth it.
I pull the metal handle and move the carriage back for another line. I can’t believe how hard you have to hit the keys to make anything come out. Each letter is like a gunshot in this tiny room - surely the guards must hear? Computers are so easy nowadays, using our minds to control everything, and no wonder because typing is really HARD.
Clack. Clack. Clack.
The letters come slowly and I can feel sweat forming on my brow. I imagine sliding on my cold titanium headband and sending you all these thoughts in less than a second. But I keep typing, because there’s something freeing about pounding these keys, something hypnotic.
Do you remember, Diana, that simulation of the typing room we visited for History class? You thought those 1950s secretaries were hilarious, their hands a blur as they wrote a hundred words per minute. The sound of the typewriter helps me bring your laughter back, until you could almost be in the room with me.
The noise this thing makes is startling, and it’s doubly weird, listening with my ears like this. Kieran was surfing the archives and he said that in the Old Days, people used to walk around using their ears all the time. Later on, they got headphones and started listening to their own stuff instead. Now, of course, the sound gets beamed directly into our heads, and we wear earplugs to keep the noise of the world out. Yeah, the earplugs do make talking difficult, but why would you bother talking when you can show someone exactly what you mean by sharing your brain with them?
That’s probably why the guards haven’t heard me, because they’re plugged up and logged in. But it won’t be long before Mum and Dad realise I’m offline.
Thump. Clunk. Ping.
They’re always telling us, Diana, how much better it is since we gave up our privacy, that war and language and cultural differences are behind us. Because there’s no hiding your feelings when everyone can see what you’re thinking.
Clack. Clackety clack.
I hear your laughter again, but then I remember Kieran telling a joke and how you laughed even harder. I know you think I hate you, Diana, because Kieran spends all his time with you and I won’t join in. But it isn’t that at all.
Sorry, I pressed too many keys at once and the levers got tangled up. Have to concentrate. Have to build these words like a wall, one I can hide my true feelings behind.
I could send you an e-thought about what it’s like to type out this letter, how the sensation of being fully alive helps to numb the pain from my aching fingers. But I can’t tell you how my breath quickens when your mind touches mine, or how the hairs rise on the back of my neck every time you’re near. Because you’re Kieran’s girlfriend, Diana, not mine.
That’s why I’m going to stop typing, rip this letter to shreds and go outside to meet my fate. In a world without secrets, I think I’ve found a way to keep this one for myself.
If you enjoyed this story, you might also like to read my short story Mindworm which you can download as a fully-illustrated PDF with artwork by Mei-Li Nieuwland.