The following was written by Regina Parker, an eleventh grade student at The Lawrenceville School in New Jersey. In 2005, she published her children’s book “Let Freedom Ring” through the charity Kids DOnate, Inc. When she’s not writing, Regina stays busy playing Varsity tennis, running, tracking politics, and leading an active Red Cross club at her school. A certified single-engine private pilot, Regina hopes to one day exercise her Second Amendment rights when she becomes legal age.
The clock strikes ten Zulu at School#15. Herds of students cram through the iron gates. The halls echo with rhythmic marching and reek of caffeine-free coffee brewing at the Teacher Appreciation Buffet. The children hastily secure their badges and hide toys in their backpacks before reaching the Guards.
“Hey guys, check out my new iphone. My Dad bought it for me since I brushed my teeth this entire week!” Li, a gutsy seventh grader, surreptitiously shows off her new device. “It was only ten thousand Euros at The Store. It can play 267 movies at one time, change colors depending on your mood, and even TimeWarp!”
Augusto takes notice, “How’s the call reception?”
“I didn’t buy the calling feature… how unoriginal…”
“Gimme that!” exclaims Muhammad, grabbing the iphone. “I’ve been dying to get my hands on a TimeWarper forever!” Muhammad rapidly presses buttons, “2-0-1-0 and presto!”
The iphone glitters like fireworks on Dependence Day. Seconds later, a confused girl appears in the hall. Wearing a blue t-shirt and pink skirt, she sticks out like a sore thumb against the red uniforms. Muhammad squeals with delight, “It really does work like on TVX!”
The girl questions in a daze, “Where am I?”…
“Mom, Dad, you won’t believe my radical dream last night,” Sally Reynolds chirps as she skips downstairs one morning. “It felt so real!”
Ms. Reynolds murmurs, “Mmm, really honey?” pretending to be interested as she flips another pancake for Mr. Reynolds.
“I dreamt that I spent a day in the future!” Sally pours herself a brimming bowl of cocoa puffs. Mr. and Ms. Reynolds roll their eyes and prepare for yet another one of Sally’s painfully long stories:
I was gargling Listerine last night when I started feeling…woozy. The whole bathroom seemed to spin away from me. I felt like Dorothy tumbling towards Oz!
Next thing I knew, I was in a hallway, surrounded by a bunch of kids wearing red uniforms. The place was a cross between Chapel Hill high school and a prison. It was eerily quiet…like everybody was paranoid about something.
This girl named Li latched around my arm and whispered, “Welcome to the year 2020! I’m going to give you a taste of the ‘future.’” She pinned a badge on my shoulder and giggled, “I’ll send you back to 2010 tonight.”
Behind me, a boy whined under his breath, “Ugh, another school day. We get worked like mules! Five whole class days a month!”
Another student chimed in, “It’s ridiculous that we have school on Global Tree Appreciation day!”
Blue lights flashed on the door panels, and the students filed into classrooms like worker ants. They sat in a checkerboard fashion according to race and gender. The teacher reclined with her hot pink pumps propped on her desk, sipping a latte and chatting on a Bluetooth phone. She wore a red jumpsuit and a badge similar to those that the students wore.
She blabbered on her phone, “Like, totally I’ll rally tomorrow! We can plan it at the Union Meeting tonight. I have to work now. You are so lucky you got a pension for your pinky sprain! Can’t wait for the Pension Party this Thursday! Bye, honey bun.”
Li showed me to a desk, “Class is a drag, but we’ll get out of here in an hour or so.”
Shortly after taking our seats, three monotone beeps sounded over a loudspeaker. I mindlessly followed suit as everyone rose to salute the flag at the front of the room. But it wasn’t the good ‘ole Stars and Stripes; the flag was a jumble of various patterns with ‘OSO’ printed in bold red. In unison, the students and teacher chanted “I pledge allegiance to the flag of Obama’s Socialist Organization…”
My anxiety level skyrocketed. What was Obama doing in 2020? What happened to the USA? I almost fell over in shock and bewilderment.
“Today, class, we’ll be studying the life of Obama, praise be to him,” the teacher read from a teleprompter built into the whiteboard. “Mother Theresa discovered infant Obama, praise be to him, floating down the Mississippi River at the turn of the millennium. Krishna sent Him there to be baptized in the holy waters. After spending His childhood shadowing Mother Theresa, Obama ascended Mt. Everest and was enlightened by the Angel Gabriel to rescue the world from Evil. When Obama, praise be to him, reached the age of twenty, he peacefully united all the people of the world in His Socialist Organization.”
Pretty creative dream, huh Dad?
“Brrinnngg,” a bell rang and students scurried out the door.
“Go directly home, kids!” shouted the teacher, shaking her finger after them. “And start tackling your 500 duty hours… and finish reading Karl Marx by next class day!”
“School’s already over?! Do you do any after school sports? Or clubs?” I questioned as Li led me out the gates.
Li replied, “I used to play soccer… but our best player, Julie BinLadin, moved away last month. We can’t play now that the teams are uneven. And yeah, of course I’m in a club. The OSO Club.”
As it turned out, everybody in 2020 attended mandatory OSO Club meetings each Sunday to recieve instructions for the week. They were told how much fruit to eat, how much ‘TVX’ to watch, what to plant in their gardens, etc. The OSO Club was like a universal boot camp!
Exiting the school, I noticed a peculiar situation across the courtyard. Some runt flung a rubber band at a bigger kid who was obviously picking on him. An angry security guy popped out of nowhere, confiscated the rubber band, and gave a pink slip to the runt who shot it.
“What was that pink paper for?” I asked Li, pointing at the bully’s victim.
“Just ignore him…” she responded, “Runts get fined all the time for committing AVs (Acts of Violence).”
We entered a neighborhood packed with a gazillion, identical blue houses, each with a small white car parked in the driveway. No mailboxes, no chimneys, no flowers, no street signs in sight. Bare bones. Puzzled, I questioned Li about her peculiar neighborhood.
“Pshhh. Mailboxes are prehistoric. We only use e-mail so that it can be scanned for our protection,” Li rolled her eyes. “And you’ve got to be kidding me. Chimneys? Could you scream ‘global warming’ any louder?”
I marveled at the cookie cutter homes, “Are we walking to your house? Aren’t there any school buses?”
“I only live five miles from School#15. My house is number 403. And no we don’t ride buses! Gee wiz, do you want global warming to kill us all?!” Li was obviously irritated by my pestering, so I shut up for the time being.
“Vroom…vroooommmm,” a shiny red tank-limo sped past, spewing exhaust. Li dropped her backpack and stood in military salute.
The vehicle disappeared around a corner, and I asked, “Who was in that car?”
Li proceeded to lecture me, “First of all, it’s not a ‘car’… it’s a really big ‘MPV,’ aka Motorized Privilege Vehicle. The red MPVs are for the OSO Civil Patrol guards. Next time show you’re respect and don’t be so rude!”
My legs felt like jelly by the time we reached Li’s house. She scanned her thumb, and the door swung open. Her house felt like a hospital; impeccably clean, and so, well, empty! No board games, bookshelves, pictures on the walls, etc. The sole splash of color was the fridge, which was covered with Li’s school assignments graded in pink sparkly pen and stickers galore! Oddly there were no letter grades on the papers. Just check marks and smiley faces.
A note taped to the counter read “Left to pick up Advil prescription at Hospital. Get Veggie Hut for dinner. Euros in cabinet. Love mom.”
Li groaned, “Ugh, My mom isn’t going to be back until late tonight… You know how hospital waiting lines are.”
Li used the bathroom, and meanwhile I noticed the numerous cameras hooked up around her kitchen. I asked Li about their purpose when she returned.
“How unfortunate! You don’t have Civil Security in 2010? Obama, praise be to him, installed the system to keep everyone safe,” Li explained.
“Cameras, huh? How awkward when you’re taking a shower…” I mumbled under my breath.
Suddenly the cameras flashed brilliant orange. “Hey, watch it, nutzo! You could go to jail if OSO caught you saying that!” Li tugged me out the door. “Come on; let’s get to the library before it closes.”
The shack Li called a ‘library’ was flooded with people. The waiting line was three times longer than the line for Space Mountain at Disney World. People had folding chairs, sun umbrellas, and crafts to occupy their kids during the wait.
At long last, Li paid the fee and we were admitted. I was shocked to find a collection of computers in place of the books I was expecting! “This is the strangest library I’ve ever seen! Where are the books?!”
“Haha. You’re like a martian! We read on Kindles,” Li explained. “Behold!” She took a thin device, around 5×4 inches, out of her book bag. “You download eBooks on it. No wasted paper.”
I stood wide-eyed as Li downloaded Karl Marx onto her Kindle. Amused by my primitive amazement, she said, “Type in an ebook and I’ll show you how to download it.”
I racked my brain for good reads and decided on one of my favorites, Fahrenheit 451. To my dismay, the computer screen went black and read “Banned for your protection.” Next I searched for the classic novel, Animal Farm, but it was banned as well!
“Why don’t you try something less.. provocative… like Little Red Book?”
By that time, I’d had enough of Li’s twisted future. I pinched my arm, but couldn’t seem to wake myself up. Before I could complain, a library official notified us that our allotted time had expired. Jane slung her bag over her shoulder and suggested we go swimming. She had an extra swimsuit for me in her bag.
The smell of chlorine signaled the pool nearby. I was antsy to cool off in the water and irritated when Li paused at the pool gate.
“Watcha doing?” I asked. “Are we going in or what?”
“No, silly, we can’t go in now,” Li rolled her eyes yet again. “Didn’t you see those white boys go in ahead of us?”
In 2020, there was an unspoken law prohibiting racial imbalance. I sat on the curb, frustrated. Li and I had to wait until non-white kids showed up before we were admitted into the pool.
“It usually doesn’t take long,” Li claimed. “And there are vendors around the back so we can shop while we wait!”
Our swim was cut short when the lifeguards benched me. Apparently, my flip off the diving board put others in danger.
“Gosh I’m starving. You hungry? Let’s get some Veggie Hut and head home,” Li decided.
“I’m really not that hungry,” I replied, starting to feel homesick and somewhat concerned by the length of the dream. “I just want to wake up from this everlasting nightmare!”
“Don’t be so cranky,” Li elbowed me. “Keep me company at Veggie Hut, and then I’ll send you on home.”
The Veggie Hut resembled a Pizza Hut at an international embassy, and with a troop of guards in place of pizza. The short menu was ridiculously confusing because it was written in seven different languages!
“I’ll have a number four,” Li told the cashier. She turned to me, “Sure you’re not hungry?”
“I’m a little thirsty,” I replied. “I’ll take a small Pepsi.”
“She’ll have a punch,” Li told the cashier. “There is no ‘small,’ Sally. Everything is one size fits all. And there hasn’t been Pepsi since I was in diapers.”
Li handed the cashier a wad of bills, “I included five Euros for a napkin and a ketchup packet.”
Li’s combo meal was half the size of a McDonald’s happy meal. My so-called ‘punch’ was grotesque. I complained in disgust, “Surely this isn’t the sweet sugary punch I know and love!”
“Sugary?” Li chuckled. “You really are out of this time. Sugar was outlawed years ago.”
Fortunately, I spotted a water fountain to rinse the fowl taste out of my mouth. In fact there were two fountains: a big, sterling silver one, and a small, dingy one. Of course I drank from the nicer one…
Mid-sip, an obnoxiously loud horn blared and two guards jumped on the scene.
“What the heck? Let go of me!” I struggled with the guards.
Li tossed me a shiny black box, “Quick! Push the purple button!”
Panicking, I jabbed the button, and the box sparkled and shook out of my hands! The Veggie Hut swirled into oblivion, and my stomach twisted inside out. That must have been when I woke up.
Sally paused to drink the sugary chocolate milk remaining in her cereal bowl. “It sure is good to be home! Haha. No idea how such a radical dream got rooted in my brain…”
Recognizing the pause cuing the end of Sally’s story, Ms. Reynolds snapped out of her daydream and sat at the table with a plate of steaming pancakes. As she poured herself a glass of juice, she noticed a glaring red spot on Sally’s blue t-shirt. “You already found a way to stain the clothes Nana bought for you?” she sighed, tugging Sally’s shirttail.
Perplexed, Sally set down her bowl to sniff the mysterious spot. Her jaw hung agape, “Smells like punch!”