She could feel that the book did not want her to rest, that it had more things to tell her. She did not want to let the book go. After one final deep breath, she placed the book back on the table. It took her a long minute to raise her hand from touching the cover. Magnetically, she pulled her hand away from it, turned around and decided to walk out of the room; maintaining a gaze at the book, still.
The precise moment she started walking through the door, she could feel her body shiver, feeling little bubbles on her skin, she tried to hold on to something tangible. Still, the sensation lasted only for a second. Or so it seemed. She opened her eyes and found the vast “dos and donts” poster hanging in front of her.
“Don’t visit the dinosaurs.”
It took her a split-second to adjust her eyes to the pale blue lights from the machine. The lab technician was standing and beside him, was her boyfriend who was looking at her nervously. “How was it? Enlighten me now!” He was an early-birthday-present-giver, after all, and this had been his idea all along. She got up and realised that she was standing in the middle of the room. She could feel the waves of something of some sort around her - matter, anti-matter, time, space, energy - surging all around the room and were probably responsible for the blueness in the place.
“Ah, it was different. Weird even…,” she suggested. She reflected and added, “But the good kind of weird.” And then she smiled and nodded. Her boyfriend looked at the technician, grasping to understand what did “weird” mean, was there any explanation to this? The technician lifted his screen and shrugged his shoulders. “But I don’t understand. What do you mean by weird?” The boyfriend sighed.
She took a leap towards him and hugged him. “No, no. It was not bad at all. It was…”, she was not sure what word was she looking for, “just different?”
“But how could it be? You have always told me that you have loved reading.” He couldn’t face her now, he felt he had let her down. “I thought, you knew what those things were, those books…”
“Yes, yes. Of course!”, she said, holding his face. She explained to him how the whole experience was overwhelming for her. She found herself to be utterly oblivious of her reactions. She told him how she had spent nights researching about ‘books’, looking at photographs from the online archival libraries. “I know, I know what books are. But I wasn’t expecting what I saw…”, she struggled for words again. “There was no backlight, there was no touch screen, not even a minimalistic UI, you can’t… it was surreal!” She ran her fingers into his hair behind his ears. “It was beautiful!”
He looked lost, still. “Real… really?” “Yes. Really. I did not want to leave, I think.”
The technician coughed and looked at them - pointing at the timer which was close to echoing 00:00. He shook his head. She frowned. Was it scientific, what she had just witnessed? She wasn’t sure. But it was definitely magical. She couldn’t believe how excited she felt at the real rustling sound everytime she turned a page; how the paper pages felt in her fingers; the static placement of the words - nothing was movable or selectable or zoomable. It suddenly felt like a distant memory to her now. Books were technology that we had ceased to consider technology.
“Thank you,” she told her boyfriend.
He sighed. Time travel was indeed expensive.
Note: I read The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate from Exhaltion last night; a beautiful story about time. And I remembered reading a scene from a short story a couple of years back (I can’t remember the title of story or the book for the life of me). The story revolved around a couple who goes back in time to find objects like a camera, books, an inkpot among other things and their revelation of discovering those things and understanding what technology truly is for them. This one’s a simple tribute.