by William R.A.D. Funk
“No. No. No,” Van Richter whined. He slapped a hand against the steering wheel.
The hover car, its battery reading empty, puttered to a halt on the scenic roadside. Without adequate thrust, it sank down into the grass.
The twenty-forty hover model would never have done this. Goes to show, Van thought, newer isn’t always better.
“I knew we should’ve recharged back at the last station,” said Ula, his wife. Arms crossed, she stared at the road ahead, unable to see Van’s irritated glare. “What are we going to do now?”
Van took a deep breath. When the ire subsided, he said, “Relax. Emergency roadside will send someone.” He pressed a button on the dash. “In the meantime, enjoy all the trees. You don’t get much of those in the city.”
Surrounded by tall, green conifers, Ula glanced their way and then back at her husband. “If I wanted to see trees, I would’ve chosen to live out here like some cyber-social recluse.”
“Yes, dear,” Van said, trying his level best not to absorb her negativity.
“Hello,” an electronic voice emanated from their dash. “I’m the automated roadside assistance operator. My input says your battery is empty. There’s only one towing company within forty miles of your position. They’ve been notified. Average response time for this company is…ten minutes. Thank you, for using Omni-Assist.” The voice went silent.
“Ten minutes,” said Van. “Could be worse.
Ula rolled her eyes.
Ten minutes sitting next to an angry Ula felt like ten years for Van. When the hover truck arrived, he whispered, “Thank you,” and stepped out of his car to greet the driver.
An old man with a scraggly gray beard stepped out of the truck. “John.” He thrust a thumb at his chest. “Ride’s a ratchet?”
Van paused. As hard as he tried, he couldn’t discern the man’s meaning. Instead, he tried to explain their plight. “Hello, Sir.” He reached out to shake John’s hand. The stranger recoiled from it.
Great, he thought, Ula was right. Only cyber-social recluses lived out here, away from the cities, where the hustle of modern life had passed them by.
“My hover car needs to be recharged,” Van tried again.
The old man bent his brow, looking equally as confused. “Lemme eye yer ride.” He moved toward the hover car.
“Van?” Ula squawked at the stranger’s approach.
“Calm down, honey,” Van consoled. “I think he wants to check on what’s wrong with the car.”
John popped the hood, stared a moment, and then whistled. “No juice.”
“Exactly,” Van shouted. His excitement appeared to startle the old man, who kept a clear distance as he attached the winch cable to the disabled car. Four temporary hover boosts were then attached to give it vertical lift while pulled.
“Hop on, playa,” said John, motioning to the cab of his hover truck. He slipped into the driver’s seat and shut the door. “What’s popping?” he asked when neither Van nor Ula moved.
“Honey,” Van said. “I think he’s waiting for us to ride in the truck’s cab.”
Ula grumbled. “Fine.” She slammed the passenger door. “But, I’m not sitting next to him. Cyber-socials can be twitchy in the presence of others.
The truck and its cargo were moving a minute later. An endless panorama of green flashed passed on either side. Ula’s arms were still crossed, miffed at the inconvenience.
“I’m sorry,” Van whispered to her. “You were right.” She relaxed her tense jaw. “I should’ve stopped at the earlier service station for a charge.”
Ula’s arms loosened, settling on her lap. “It’s alright. I’m sorry if I was mean about it.”
They shared a smile.
“That’s adorbz,” said John, smiling at them both. He pointed to a building approaching fast from a clearing in the woods. “My crib.”
“Do you understand what he’s saying?” asked Ula.
Van shook his head. “You know the older generations always have that archaic way of talking.”
“You’d think we could understand some of it,” Ula said.
Van shrugged. “After a recharge, we’ll be on our way. I don’t think it’ll matter then.”
The hover truck pulled into a lot by the service station. Their car settled in front of a charging hose.
“Hey, brizzle,” John shouted to an elderly woman sitting in a rocker. An old fashioned smart-phone rested in her hands, thumbs tapping a message to someone.
“What’s popping, hustler?” she asked, without looking up.
Van and Ula glanced at one another. They climbed out to watch as John plugged the charging hose to their hover car.
“Davy Dave!” John shouted.
“What it is?” cried someone from inside. Out came a younger man. He shared a resemblance to John, perhaps a grandson.
“Don’t diss,” John said. He jerked a thumb toward Van. “Bake the bread.”
Davy Dave noticed Van. Something in his eyes seemed to click. “How are you folks this afternoon? My name is David.”
John rolled his eyes.
“I apologize for my grandfather,” said David. “He still refuses to change with the times.”
“Does he always talk that way?” asked Ula.
David nodded. “He and my grandmother still act like its twenty-fifteen. They still use text messages to communicate with friends.”
“Why?” Ula asked, shocked.
“A lifetime of interacting electronically and not in person, I guess,” said David. He shrugged to show he didn’t care. “That will be two-hundred credits.”
“Of course,” Van said. He plucked his card from a breast pocket and handed it to the youth.
John disconnected the charging hose, walked over to the elderly woman, and sat in the adjacent rocking chair. He pulled out an ancient smart-phone, his thumbs pattering away.
John listened to the odd pops and clicks meant to pass as communication between his grandson and the strangers. It didn’t sound human, much less like English.
???, he texted his wife from the seat next to her, essentially asking why kids didn’t speak regular English these days.
She replied with a semi-colon and a closed parenthesis.
William R.A.D. Funk is a native Floridian living abroad in Canada with his wife Andrea. William, a former civil engineer and police officer, has turned in his badge to write under the umbrella of science fiction, horror, and fantasy. He is currently working on a series of short stories.
About this story, William R.A.D. Funk writes … “I’ve always been interested in the way one generation evolves a language (through slang) from the language of their predecessors. There seems to be a correlation, as well, of how these generations tend to view the alterations (often with disdain, or confusion). Loving science fiction as I do, I wanted to put this concept into a futuristic setting, where any generation—past, present, or future—could read the story and perhaps get a good laugh at their own expense.”
Visit William R.A.D. Funk’s website at http://writtenontherun.com/