Its 4am. I woke up from a dream. It was an idea for a story. Here is it.
Opening scene, close up of an eyeball with the reflection of a screen in the iris. Zooming out, you see people seated watching TV with blank looks on their faces. Next is a kid, watching a screen, hands folded on his lap, watching a video game being played on a screen. He is not playing, just watching, same blank stare. Next is a close up of a paint brush, painting thick oil onto a canvas. Zooming out you see a mechanical arm controlling the brush painting a woodland lake. Behind it, seated, looking blankly is a woman. She is watching the automaton paint for her. She says, “OK, add in a person swimming.” The arms pauses and the shifts slightly to grab new color and starts to add a person to the canvas.
Scene shifts to a boy about 16 years old. His eyes are darting around. His hands are fidgeting. He is watching his family. The mother is seated in the kitchen watching an automaton cook a meal. The others are seated watching a TV. The father coughs with a phlegmy sound. The boy lets out a few words, “I’m bored.”
The mother glances at the boy and then to the father. She looks worried.
Later that night, she is in bed and says to her husband, “Maybe we should get him tested. Maybe he can’t concentrate.” The father says, “Ill take him tomorrow.” He coughs some more.
Next day, the father and son are sitting in a car. They are not driving, the car is autonomous. The father is watching the TV in the car. The boy is looking out the window, eyes darting rapidly in that way when you look out of a moving train. There are no people on the road. The boy sees a an old part of town with some old stores. One building says Auto.
In the mall, the stores are simple and white with generic words above the entrances. Hungry. (People inside eating food) Bored. (People watching screens) Sick. The boy and father walk in. The father coughs again,
Inside, the father takes care of himself first. The machine diagnoses his cough and asks him to sit still while it fixes the problem. As this is happening, the boy gets up and walks around and then wanders out of the store. The father doesn’t notice. He is watching the machine work on his chest.
The boy goes outside. He walks a while looking around. He comes to that building called Auto. Inside, it’s deserted. There are old books and old machines. It’s the interior of a 20th century auto mechanic shop.
Switching back to the father, he is finished with his treatment. He looks for his son and realizes that he is missing. The father panics and starts to yell for him. People divert their gaze from the screens, but do nothing to help. One woman looks sad, briefly and then goes back to watching a machine paint her nails. The store she is in is called Ugly.
The boy is seated, reading a book in the auto shop. It’s a schematic of some sort. He looks up and searches the walls. He walks over to a set of parts and rummages through them. He finds a part and holds it in his hand. He caresses the gear. Black oil rubs off on his hands.
Montage. The boy is building something with the parts. He works quickly, focused. Screwing this, tightening that. It takes a long time. You see his mom crying while watching the TV. You see the boy in the mall eating quickly and then going back to the shop.
New day, the garage door opens with a loud clunky sound. A roar of an engine is heard. Out of the shop rolls a classic old Corvette from the 1960’s. At the wheel is the boy. The engine is loud and obnoxious compared to the electric whir of other nondescript cars. He drives down the street with a big smile on his face.
He honks the horn loudly/proudly. People turn away from their screens. People stare at the car and the boy with the same blank look they use for their screens. All except one teenage girl. She is wide eyed. She slowly starts to smile broadly and then wave energetically at the boy. They briefly make eye contact as he drives by. The boy yelps “Woo hoo!” as he cruises down the street.
He continues to drive until he gets to his house. His parents hear the commotion and come out. The mother is crying and the dad looks angry and relieved. He grabs his son and hugs him.
The next scene is back at the mall, in the Sick store. The boy is getting a treatment of some kind. The drive back is different. His eyes aren’t darting around. His hands aren’t fidgeting.
Last scene the boy is outside sitting on the lawn. The car is in front of him and an automaton is converting the car into a normal car. It’s adding in a screen and making the engine electric and autonomous. The boy stares quietly.
Fade out to the song Dreams to Remember by Otis Redding.
The inspiration for this story is my youngest son, Matthew. He has tried many different hobbies over the years (baseball, soccer, horseback riding, tennis etc) and lost interest in most of them. He watches videos of people who recorded their video games. To be clear, I watch plenty of screens myself. I’m no saint on this topic.
When we dream, it is our brains way of sorting out what we are feeling in a visual way. Clearly, I am feeling that something is changing about how we live our lives. Automation is taking many jobs and it’s not hard to see a future where we don’t do anything original.
I think I was also inspired by One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Black Mirror and Phillip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams have also been on my mind lately. What does out future hold? Will it be utopia or dystopia. I honestly don’t know.