So sorry that I’ve kept you waiting. Unfortunately, you’ve met me at a very strange time in my life. Things just feel so upside down lately. My wife doesn’t seem to understand, I try to explain it to her, but its just no use. I do my best – honest to God I do, but most of the time I just can’t keep it straight.
It’s my job mostly. That’s what she tells me. She says I was different before, but a guy’s got to work right? And besides it’s just like any other sales job. I’ve sold just about everything there is to sell – cars, houses, vacuum cleaners, I even tried selling bibles once – that didn’t work out so well. Actually thats when the whole business started, the upside-down. All because of some damned woman out in New Jersey that stirred up all this… business. I still remember the woman – the one that cost me the bible gig – like she was standing in front of me.
She looked like one of those wire-haired yappers that chased me along their fenced in fiefdoms. Salt and pepper hair, coarse and thick sprouted from her head and locked into a curly miasma over her too-round face. Her small squinted eyes sat behind her cheeks like rodents peering over a hill. They were so small I couldn’t even tell what color they were. Her unnaturally long cheeks – which made her look a bit like a mastiff – hid behind a pair of glasses that filled almost half of her face. She was short, not exactly a fat woman, but slender was not a word that would ever be used to describe her. I guess most would call her stocky, but I hate that word. It always reminds me of other descriptive words that people use and just seem dishonest, like husky. I guess I would say she was rotund, but that doesn’t sound much better than stocky at this point. And boy did she, point I mean. Once she found out what I was selling, she put that pink little digit in my face and waggled it like she was trying to catch a fish with it. Her other fist was buried in her hip, but by her tone I could have guessed she wanted it in my face.
She was upset that I was selling the bible as an Imprint. I didn’t really see the difference between the old school paper jobs and the imprints I sold for the most part, but she insisted that the bible wasn’t something you could just “download”, thats how she put it.
“You can’t just download the Book, son. It’s something that takes time, an’ work. If it don’t take time an’ work its meaningless, an’ if there’s one book that shouldn’t be up for download it’s the Bible.” I couldn’t help but laugh at her accent. You could tell she wasn’t raised with Imprints, they tended to erase accents pretty fast. One of those weird side-effects that no one really expected, but never really got questioned too much.
She saw the smile on my face and it only screwed her face up even more, and got that finger to moving even more violently. “I can tell it’s all a big joke to you, son, but I ain’t laughin’, an’ I tell you somethin’ else.” She shuffled her stance, setting her feet to look even more stubborn than before. I didn’t think there was anything that she could do to look more obstinate, but she managed to all the same. “You oughta try actually readin’ this book instead of just downloadin’ it. You’ll see what I mean, it ain’t just the words and the ideas that make the book worth somethin’ it’s work, son. Remember that.” She slammed the door in my face, the little angel hanging above her peephole rattling with the force of the slam.
It wasn’t the first time I’d had a door slammed in my face, sure wouldn’t be the last time either, but instead of getting too worked up about it, I tucked my tablet under my arm and spun around to leave. I went to at least twelve other houses that day, I’d like to say I sold a few more units, but I really can’t remember much after that woman. She really had gotten in my head somehow. All her talk about time and work, hell my job was to give people the tools to save time and work – those were my main selling points since I’d started selling the damned imprints. It was supposed to make it easy to keep on top of all the current information for whatever you needed it for.
I started out selling technical manuals, and textbooks. Those were easy, no one liked to read those. You could get someone, a mechanic say, to set up a subscription for – hell I dunno… boat repair, and every year, like clockwork, the company would send him a new imprint with all the latest information. Ten minutes under the feed and you got everything you needed. Who could argue with that kind of efficiency. Those were the easy days, there wasn’t a house you could go to that wouldn’t need a subscription or two, but as the tech became more available, and people got all the subscriptions they needed, the market for new clients started to dry up. Putting the salesman, people like me, out of business altogether.
That’s when the idea-guys upstairs started putting out the more artsy books. Novels and books of poetry came first, and people were pretty open to it. You could get the entire American Literature Anthology for a couple hundred bucks and know everything there was to know from Smith to Bukowski. Sure the intellectual types opined about the “soullessness” of this new tech, but it didn’t take long for all the teaching and scholarly positions to be filled up by people who had also learned from Imprints, so at that point, even the intellectuals were in the corner of the tech. They said that as long as the students got the information, they would take care of the rest.
I kept going over the need for the imprints over and over again. It made perfect sense to someone like me, information was simple. Knowing what to do with it and how to apply it was a bit more difficult, but that could be figured out pretty easily once you had the information itself. Of course there was a limit to the amount of information you could push through at a time. It seemed as though going under the feed would definitely make the learning part faster, but a brain still needs time to put all the information in the right place.
I remember the guy that developed imprinting, Greg Lyons, I think… something like that. You see, human brains are different from everything else on the planet. We use information differently anyhow. So, basically, all the tests on animals were useless. He put a rat in the feed, and gave it all the information it would need to solve a maze, but it would still get lost. The information just wasn’t used the same way. So he tried it on himself. I remember reading in the paper that the first thing he ever imprinted was instructions for folding a paper airplane, and it worked beautifully. He kept going, giving himself more and more complex instructions, and loading more and more information into the feed. He didn’t know about the limits. I think he’s in a hospital upstate now. One of those drooling vegetables that walk around and scribble on the walls.
But the point is, that you can’t just go into the feed and come out with all the knowledge in the universe. It had to be done over a period of time, and in order too. If you give someone the last step first, it gets muddled and doesn’t make sense. That part actually happened to me once. I was imprinting a manual on how to fix my lawn mower, and put the slides in backwards, the second before the first. I ended up taking my whole mower apart and looking at it for six hours before I realized what I’d done wrong. It’s the weirdest feeling too. I was looking at the pieces, knowing what they all did, and how they did them, and it felt like I should be able to put it back together, like something on the tip of your tongue, but i just couldn’t. No matter how hard I tried, and how long I stared the pieces just wouldn’t go back together in my head. I came back in from the garage and grabbed the unit so I could call the company and say something about it, but when I grabbed it I realized that I had them backwards. It was only a couple of I-points so I could reload it pretty quickly. Anything more intensive and I may have been stuck, but I had to pay attention for a few weeks after. I’m not gonna end up like Lyons, thats for sure.