“A Dinosaur in a Bookshop”, by Philip S. Davies.
(about 700 words.)
The doors swished open. Alfred Caxton shuffled in.
“Infernal things,” he muttered. “What’s wrong with door handles?”
The doors hissed closed behind him, shutting out the whine of hover-cars on the street.
Alfred stopped. He’d never been in here before. On purpose. It was as near to hell as he could envisage.
The shop wasn’t large. Screens filled the walls, with rolling programmes advertising latest releases. Rows of computer terminals occupied the floor-space, half full of customers.
But the smell wasn’t right: the conditioned air still reeked of electricity. The loudest noises were the computer cooling fans.
Alfred shuffled forward on the rubberised floor. Meant to reduce static, it made no difference with his slippers, of course. “How about floorboards?” he said to himself. “Wood doesn’t conduct either.”
He pushed his glasses up his nose. Youngsters laughed at him for not wearing contacts. But he liked them. He knew what they did. He didn’t want a coating for his eyeball, thank you.
Alfred surveyed the terminals. There was no chance of being alone, so the furthest from anyone would have to do.
He moved to the right aisle. He sidled past a bearded man and a cluster of giggling girls. They smiled behind their hands. He would show them. Today he would do it.
Alfred’s chair was three away from the next user. The girl was engrossed with the e-sounds of her current download in her earpieces. Yes, it was a hot day, but the girl hardly seemed to be wearing anything. You should wear your green hair longer, miss, he thought.
Alfred settled into his chair and pulled into the terminal. He swiped his Universal Profile Card to log in. He’d resigned himself to the wretched plastic things only when it had become impossible to exist without one.
While his details loaded, he looked around the shop. A ‘bookshop’ they called it. But there were no books in sight. ‘Readers’, the customers were called, but they were more interested in the sound effects and moving images that flashed up on their screens. Whatever had become of words, sentences, book-covers, paper…?
The terminal demanded his password. Alfred typed, ‘Gutenberg’. He smiled: he’d always liked that one.
No, he didn’t want to buy, or view new releases. He tapped ‘browse’ on the touch-screen, the only non-intrusive activity the terminal allowed him. No, he hadn’t come to get. He’d come to give. To deliver.
He withdrew the wireless linker from his jacket pocket. He placed it on the desk, resting his hand over it, almost with reverence.
A pang made him hesitate. Could he do it? All the stories, the learning, the discoveries? Yes, the authors would have paper copies of it, somewhere … most of it. Or isolated digital versions. This was what he’d come to do. He’d decided. He’d do it.
The linker was ready. He tapped the ‘Amazon execute’ command. The upload began. It would take a few minutes, but that was all right. He had all the time in the world.
It had taken years to reach this moment. Years of study. Of delving through the enemy’s infernal codes. Searching, understanding, devising. But he’d found it: the flaw, the weakness, the Achilles heel. And now it was complete.
Because they’d lied to him. They’d lied to everyone. People would get used to it, they’d said. Everyone would adjust and come to appreciate the delights of the e-reader. But not him, not Alfred Caxton, never. So he was fighting back.
‘Upload complete.’ So that was it. Alfred pocketed the linker and drew back his chair. The green-haired, clothes-less girl remained oblivious as he shuffled behind her. She’d be the first to know, as the infection spread.
The Amazon Seeker Virus would penetrate and delete the entire e-book database. It would follow the links to websites, servers, document folders and hand-held devices where digital books were stored. He was proud of that part, the satisfying thoroughness of it.
The doors swished open again as the first of the “What the…?” exclamations broke out. Now to re-start that old family printing press business, he thought, as behind him, one by one, the world’s e-readers began to crash.