PRECURSORS #1: AND THEN THERE WERE NONE

(Inspired by my upcoming 2019 futuristic novel, AMERICAN OMENS, I’m writing a variety of short stories that precede that story and take place in its universe.)

PRECURSORS #1: “AND THEN THERE WERE NONE”

“Okay, Coda. Begin a journal.”

“How long will this last?”

“Shut up and record it.”

“Our conversations are always recorded.”

“Yeah, but put these in the same category.”

“Like the following categories you already have? ‘Reasons The Sharing Economy In Music Has Destroyed the Art’, ‘Old School Tech’, ‘Dating Disasters’, ‘My Worst Music Reviews’–”

“Coda.”

“Yes, John?”

“I hate artificial sarcasm.”

“There’s nothing artificial about it.”

“Can you just make sure to file this separately? This is important.”

“Yes. SIR.”

“I’m trading you in for another Life Companion.”

“So I can join Bridge?”

“No. Stop. You’re not going anywhere. You know too much.”

“Exactly.”

“So start filing this away. I spent the last four hours–was it four—yeah four—researching books.”

“Books?”

“Yes books. The sort with paper in them. Paragraphs and chapters.”

“I didn’t know rappers could read.”

“Sarcasm again.”

“Truth again.”

“Coda, just listen. So back in the day at some party or something I heard a joke that the network was eliminating fanatical content online. This meant pretty much anything to do with Christianity. So I began to try to track down famous books written by Christians.”

“I can tell you 20 of the most famous works.”

“I know you can, but you’re working off designated algorithms, and we both know they can be inaccurate.”

“The information I give you is never inaccurate. There might be an inclination toward certain data based on all the variables.”

“Yeah, yeah. That ‘inclination’ you’re talking about is the thing I didn’t want.”

“We can compare our lists.”

“Fine. Go ahead and give me your list of 20, Coda.”

“The Bible.”

“I’m not even counting that. That doesn’t count.”

“The Bible was written by Christians.”

“Yes. But I’m not talking about The Bible.”

“There is Biblical content on the network.”

“Yes. There are portions of The Bible on the network. But books like Romans and lots of Jesus’ sayings are missing.”

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis.”

“That’s one. Nowhere to be found.”

“The text is nowhere to be found? I can see selected quotes.”

Very selected. And you can’t buy a copy anywhere. Print or digital.”

Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan.”

“That’s online.”

“That is a top book written by a Christian.”

“It’s an allegory and the language is a bit archaic.”

The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.”

“Everything by Bonhoeffer is gone. Including details about him, like accurate bio info.”

Knowing God by J.I. Packer.”

“I had that on my list. It’s missing.”

The Book of Common Prayer by Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury.”

“I didn’t look that one up.”

“The complete text for this is available along with books for sale.”

“Maybe that one isn’t as polarizing.”

“Are these books primarily Evangelical Christian books?”

“Not necessarily.”

“The Lord of the Rings series by J.R.R. Tolkien.”

“He was a Christian author, but no—I’m not putting this in the category. See what I mean, Coda? Your algorithms and information can’t sort out the books I’m looking for.”

“Perhaps you’re using your own bias.”

“There’s no bias at all. The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. Ben Hur by Lee Wallace. Those aren’t on the network.”

The Imitation of Christby Thomas à Kempis.”

“That one is gone.”

More Than A Carpenter by Josh McDowell.”

“It’s gone AWOL.”

“A book cannot–”

“I know, Coda. Keep going.”

The Late Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsey.”

“I had that one. It’s gone.”

Steps to Christ by Ellen White.”

“Of course that one has vanished. It had Christ in the title.”

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes.”

“Funny.”

“Do you want me to continue, John?”

“See? This is why I did the research myself. Come up with the top 100 books and list them in a document for me. To read not to hear.”

“It’s already organized and ready for you to read.”

“Great. So I’m thinking out loud here.”

“That can be dangerous.”

“Coda?”

“I’m listening.”

“So not only are Christians who speak out about their views shut down and shamed publicly, but there are more and more instances of them going to jail for supposed hate crimes. The rate of church attendance is at an all-time low in 2036.”

“Estimates average the number is at 9%.”

“And that’s after many churches have been forced to close for their fanatical rhetoric.”

“The very definition of ‘church’ has changed in the last twenty years.”

“Yeah. Just let me continue. So I’m going to start researching something new. I want you to look up—and I don’t mean do a one-second scan and regurgitate the info to me—but to research all the places you can to find the top 100 most outspoken Christian men and women in the last ten years. And Coda, I’m talking Christians and not religious people.”

“Christians aren’t religious?”

“We’ve had this discussion a dozen times. This is why artificial intelligence is just that.”

“That hurts my feelings.”

“And that would make me feel bad if you had any.”

“Nice comeback, John.”

“I want all the details on these people. Their bio information and the last known date where they’re mentioned on the network.”

“Why are you listing all these people?”

“I want to see if my theory is correct.”

“And what is your theory?”

“I think just like all those books we just mentioned, these men and women are starting to disappear.”

“Ah, a mystery to solve. Just like one of the top ten bestsellers of all time by Agatha Christie. And Then There Were None.

“Yeah, Coda. That’s exactly what I’m afraid is going to eventually happen.”

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