A man, who had seen 50 summers, was bent over the prototype of a printing press. He was very pleased. It had been a hard year with mounting financial burdens and court cases. Now his invention was almost perfected. It would revolutionize communication.
For centuries, written words had been transpired only through manuscripts which were made at a huge cost, time and effort. Public communication, hence, was condemned to be oral. This unique way of printing, with its movable types and offset transfer, made mass production of the written word possible.
Knowledge would be made available to the common man at a fraction of the effort. Illiteracy would diminish. Armed with information, people could make informed decisions. Johannes Gutenberg was at the cusp of knowledge revolution. Yes, he was pleased.
The blinding flash made him turn and he faced an apparition emerging out of the light.
Was it God?
Was He not pleased with Johannes for trying to take His words to the masses circumventing his temple?
Johannes instincts made him grab the Mazarin Bible, the first book printed with his prototype.
‘I have been sent to destroy your invention’, a calm voice approached the startled Johannes, ‘But what good would it do if you still had the knowledge to replicate it?’
Towering over Johannes Gutenberg, the weird being said, ‘I am afraid I have to kill you, the creator, to kill the creation in its entirety’
The apparition, which now slowly coagulated as Theo, went on to hit Johannes several times with a club wrenched out from his prototype. Finally, he propped Johannes upon his own invention, the printing press and set it on fire with copious papers and paraffin.
Up went in flames, the Gutenberg Printing Press and its inventor, Johannes Gutenberg and with it, the Age of enlightenment.
‘I have a mission for you. Please check your IDEA’, the leader of Unity, wheezed into Theo’s ears. Earlier that day, there had been an assassination attempt on the leader and now he laid, tubes and wires fighting to keep him alive. It was suspected that the radical group, Printi, had infiltrated several walls to annihilate to the leader. It was time to strike back with vengeance.
Theo felt his IDEA, Information Dispensing Electronic Appliance, vibrate. The details had been transferred.
When the brightest recruit of Unity’s intelligence wing read about the mission he had been assigned to do, he knew it was a one way ticket. But that did not shake him, for he had been programmed to follow the instruction without questioning them. The citizens of Unity never questioned their authority. They have been taught that questioning might lead to new information and they all knew what happened when there was too much of information.
Remember Internet Era?’, the groomers kept warning them from young, from their pre citizen days.
They were fed with a diet of fear against an age when the information was freely and unabashedly available with no weight of authenticity or authorship. There was no truth and there was no way of finding the truth. The society crumbled under the heaviness of such rogue knowledge.
Those were times of fragmented thoughts and agitated minds.
From such a churned times rose a socio-political movement called Unity. Under Unity, people who were overwhelmed by the flood of information surrendered willingly to be kept away from it. They shunned information and deemed it unhealthy.
‘Knowledge is dangerous’, the motto of the movement read.
It soon garnered support throughout the amoebous boundaries of the countries, consolidating its authority as it spread. As destined as any other well-intentioned movement, Unity turned autocratic where detractors were demonized, wars were waged, purges were orchestrated until nothing but one state remained, The state of Unity.
Here, the pre citizens, as the babies were known, were brainwashed to fear knowledge and they became citizens who dreaded information. All babies born in the state of Unity were tagged to IDEA on birth and whisked away to the incubation centers where they were ‘groomed’ to serve the Unity. IDEA served two purposes, an electronic marker on the citizens of Unity and a device through which the high command communicated with them. At the incubation centres, the pre citizens, were taught submission without a doubt. No dissent, not even the slightest, went unnoticed or unpunished.
The citizens of Unity were happy to follow only the daily instructions that popped up in their IDEA, with no burden of contemplation or reflection. They truly believed that any unwanted knowledge would lead only to chaos. They had a disciplined form of cultivated ignorance.
But Unity faced a formidable resistance from Printi. Printi’s root dated back several centuries before Unity, as Masons or Illuminati or Knights Templars, at different period of time. Their mission was to make information available without any barriers. They were self-appointed soldiers who broke the barrier that prevented access to knowledge. When the Bible was freely printed, the group became associated with religion. When currency was printed they were parts of the Governments. They reached their pinnacle during the internet era, the era of unbridled information proliferation.
The Printi’s existence and functioning were shrouded in mystery but the reverberations of their acts were felt throughout history.
When the State of Unity systematically cultivated a fear of knowledge in its citizens, Printi had retaliated several times. Many skirmishes had happened, small and big, but none so close to the centre as an assassination attempt on the Leader of Unity. The hit back had to be decisive and Theo was assigned to do it.
Unity could retort by killing one of their leader or past haul to annihilate their leader as a pre citizen. They had done it before. But eliminating just one would not suffice now. Leaders, if eliminated, could be replaced. They had to strike at the irreplaceable, Theo instructions read. The symbol that the Printi venerated, the printing press that made literacy possible, the Gutenberg press had to burn and Theo did not falter in spite of his impending martyrdom.
The mission involved 800 years of past haul. Only shorter hauls had been performed so far, a maximum of 300 years, broken as 100 years of past haul and 200 years of volley back. The volley back sapped twice the time as past haul. The mission’s demand was way beyond their current abilities. Even if Theo was to past haul to 1450 AD, there was no way, time would regurgitate him back to the present.
But Theo did not think twice before he popped in his disTra capsule, which disintegrated his quarks and transported him to Mainz, Germany to the room where Gutenberg was installed.
While the Gutenberg Printing Press and its inventor was being reduced to cinders, Theo noticed that his quarks were still translucent. He estimated he had a few hundred years worth of volley back before his body turned opaque and finally solid before staying stuck in that particular time period. It was better than being the murderer of Johannes Gutenberg. He gulped down his second DisTra capsule and hoped he would be carried as forward in time as possible from the scene of the murder. Surprisingly, he had made it as far as a few hundred years.
The time threshold spat Theo out on an expanse of grass and a sight to behold. Luscious grassland, rolling hills at a distance, pristine waters, salubrious evening sun. What a world!
He could see smokes curling out from the chimneys of an idyllic village at the edges of the pastureland. He had gone on a mission prepared for martyrdom and here he was delivered to heaven. He could spend the rest of his life here in contentment if he could integrate into this medieval society. The poison of hope started spreading in his placid mind.
He stayed hidden in the forest skirting the grassland hoping to surprise a wayfarer and usurp his identity.
He did not have to wait long before he saw a man approaching the village. Theo would have presented a terrifying sight for when he startled the traveller, he dropped his rug sack and took to his heel. Theo went about rummaging through it and found a length of coarse cotton and a leg of cured meat. How lucky!
He ate greedily realizing how famished his travel-worn body was and in his hunger, he failed to see several dots of torches approaching him from the village.
Thus, the villagers discovered Theo. A strangely dressed man, eating a slab of meat, in the medieval times when vegetarianism was violently followed. Yes, Time had spat out Theo into an era when meat eating was condemned to death by burning.
The crowd bound and dragged him to the village centre.
It took more than a few brawny men to overpower Theo and tie him to the stake. Amidst the assorted faces of children women and men in the crowd, Theo was sure he spotted the wayfarer from whom he relieved the rug sack. Printi had had its revenge.
‘Meat eater, meat eater, kill him, kill him’, the entertainment deprived mob bayed for blood.
Theo burst into flames gloriously fed by ignorance, just as how a Johannes Gutenberg had burnt his printing press