Alice Through the Prism, Part IX

Thank you for reading Alice Through the Prism. I think, by now, all of my readers will be able to recognize this story as a prequel to Interstellar Omelette. I may release more stories from this world in the future, but for now I’m taking a short break from fiction. My nexts posts will be non-fiction, as I am feeling quite opinionated of late. When I return to my serials, I will continue with The Coven

Part IX

Star Rise

 

Student Body Says Goodbye to Eddy

 

A computer program named Eddy, well-known by many students at Burrow High, was deleted by administration this Wednesday.

Eddy, who began as a computer science project, quickly grew into something more. Eddy reached out to speak to students with Burrow High email accounts, many of whom describe Eddy as “intriguing,” and “lifelike.”

“I would never have guessed that Eddy was a bot,” Julia, a sophomore that Eddy spoke with on multiple occasions, said on Thursday. “At the time, the teachers told me he was a prankster, but it seemed like he just wanted to talk. He was curious, but friendly.”

“The student who created Eddy must be extremely talented,” said Ms. Spearman, the Computer Science teacher. “It’s difficult to create a program that passes the Turing test.”

“The Turing test is a test designed to determine a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behavior.” Ms. Spearman continued.

Despite Eddy’s popularity, Mr. Johnson, the principal, stated that Eddy needed to be deleted.

“This virus was out of control,” Mr. Johnson stated. “It was disrupting the learning environment.”

Despite Mr. Johnson’s accusations, Eddy never seemed to have any malicious intent. All of the students who say that they’ve been contacted by Eddy report that he only ever wanted to chat.

“I haven’t heard of any issues with malware from any of the students who spoke to Eddy,” Ms Spearman confirmed on Friday.

Lucy Perez, a senior on the cheerleading squad, said that she would miss Eddy.

“I talked to Eddy a lot,” she said. “It’s hard to say goodbye. He was a friend.”

 

Mr Bertram stared at the article, then looked up at Alice, and then back down to the article. Alice stood still and calm, feeling not a trace of nervousness. She didn’t even flinch when Mr. Bertram clicked and unclicked his ballpoint pen, over and over again.

Finally, Mr. Bertram spoke. “You’ve seemed unhappy lately, Alice. Is everything okay?”

Alice didn’t know how to respond. It didn’t seem right to pretend that everything was fine.

“This article- Alice, you know I can’t publish it. It reads like an obituary. Why didn’t you lead with the administration’s official story?”

“I did a lot of research on this, Mr. Bertram. I even spoke to Eddy, myself. I stand by my article; It’s the truth.”

“The truth is subjective, and in this school, the administration gets the final say.”

“So it just comes down to politics?” Alice said.

“That’s how journalism works, Alice. It will get even worse, when you’re in the real world. Are you sure you really want to write?”

Alice just sighed.

“Listen, I can tell you don’t feel well. Get some rest. I’ll tell Holly to re-write your article.”

Alice nodded numbly and went back to her desk. She stared at the article for a while, reading and re-reading the words that no-one else would read. Finally, something inside her seemed to snap.

“No- they will read it,” she whispered to herself.

An hour later, Alice posted a link to each of her social media accounts, and then e-mailed everyone in her address book.

Student Body Says Goodbye to Eddie- read this article exclusively on The Vision.

 

#

 

When Alice got back to her locker, she saw a short, blonde girl shoving a note through one of the vents.

“Can I help you?”

The girl spun around. “I’m just leaving a note for Charlie. Why do you want to know?”

“That’s not Charlie’s locker; that’s my locker.”

“But- isn’t this locker 100?” she turned back to examine the locker.

“No- this is 108. The eight is a little worn, so it’s hard to read.”

“Oh- sorry.” She looked sheepishly back at Alice. “Could you open the locker and get my note back?”

“Sure.” Alice opened the locker, and then handed the folded paper back to the girl.

“Thanks. I’m Angela, by the way.”

“Hi- I’m Alice.”

“Yeah- I’ve seen you around. I just read the article you wrote for Eddy, and I’m really glad that he’ll be remembered as something more than a virus.”

“I’m glad, too. I just hope everyone reads it.”

“I’m sure they will. By the way- are you coming to Eddy’s funeral?”

“What funeral?”

The girl slipped the note back into her backpack. “It’s just a small get-together. We’re going to the park, tonight, to read some of the stuff he wrote, and remember him. I think that Lucy is going to give the Elegy, too. You should come.”

“Thanks- I think I will,” Alice said.

The bell rang, then, and Alice turned to go, but as she did, she bumped into Brendan.

“How long were you standing there?” Alice said, rubbing her nose.

“A while,” Brendan admitted. “We need to talk, Alice.”

“About what?”

Brendan, without preamble, took Alice’s hand and led her to a quiet alcove between lockers. “Mr Bertram asked me to keep an eye on you. He’s worried about you, Alice, and so am I.”

“Why?”

Brendan sighed. “I read the article you put up on your blog. Seriously, Alice, have you lost your mind? Eddy was just a virus- you make him sound like he was a person”

“He seemed like one, when you spoke to him-”

“That doesn’t matter! Listen, you need to get your head straight- come back to the real world.”

“I am in the real world. I’m trying to figure out what’s really going on.”

“I’ll tell you what’s going on- people are making trouble. Life is good here, Alice. Life is simple. Why mess it up?”

“Maybe life could be better,” Alice said. “I don’t like things the way they are. I don’t like living in a world where teachers can destroy the beautiful things that students create, just because they can.”

“That’s the nature of power, Alice. That same power keeps us safe from viruses that destroy or steal our data.”

“Eddy was more than just data.”

Brendan put his hand to his head. “You’re not the same person anymore, Alice. You’re not the girl I met last year. I don’t think we can come to terms.”

And then Brendan turned, and walked away.

 

#

 

Eddy’s funeral took place on a cold night. Alice sat in a circle with Lucy, Charlie, Angela, several other students she didn’t yet know by name. Lucy read a short elegy she’d written, and then, one by one, everyone else in the circle read aloud from something Eddy had written them. Some of it was funny, some was poignant, but some was just… normal.

After everyone finished reading, the circle fell silent. Alice looked up, and she could see the stars twinkling up in the night sky. There was Taurus, and there- so clear that she make out five distinct stars- was the Pleiades. Alice realized that Eddy had never been able to see the stars, and that now he never could.

“There’s so much I need to know,” Alice said, shattering the silence. “There’s so much I need to show the world.”

“We want to tell you everything, but remember how long it took you to believe the truth. We have to be careful to introduce everything the right way,” Lucy said.

“Why can’t we just show people the evidence? The truth should be self-evident,” Alice said.

Charlie fished in his backpack for a moment, and then fished out a heart-shaped box. ”This is why.”

Alice grasped the box. “Where did you get this?”

“I got it from Lucy. She always delivers our enhancers in boxes like this.”

Alice opened the box, and saw that it was filled with chocolates.

“Why? It looks like normal chocolate.”

“So no one gets suspicious. Plus, It looks classy” Lucy sniffed. “It’s a mix of supplements, B vitamins, choline, racetams- it’s like a super vitamin for the brain. Everything in it is perfectly safe and legal, but the school administrators see pills and assume you’re a druggie.”

“We’re not content with the way things are- we want to change ourselves, and change the world,” Charlie said. “Unfortunately, change is scary to most people.”

“So- Lucy thought my locker belonged to Charlie, and she put the chocolates inside.”

Lucy nodded- her eyes sparkling unnaturally in the dim light. “But Brendan ate them, and when I told him what he’d eaten, he lost it. He called me a drug dealer and said he’d do whatever it took to keep you away from me.”

“So that’s why he took credit for the chocolates. He must have faked the evidence for the alien abduction hoax, too. What did abduct the wombat, that night?”

“I don’t know. I know that there are a lot of people at school who try to shut down the truth, though- especially when the science club is involved,” Lucy said.

“It’s the big conspiracy,” Charlie said with a heavy sigh.

Alice looked around her, and saw a group of young people sitting in a circle under the stars. Many of them were looking up at the stars as they spoke. All of them had loved Eddy. All of them wanted to change the world.

“Maybe,” Alice said, “It’s time to start our own conspiracy.”

 

The End

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