Walk On Water


Video messages from another time.

Words by & illustration by Sarah Bissell

Message from Dr. Alexa Okanawa to Dr. Jim Stones. 18.11.2117.

Begin message:

Hi Jim,

Below I have attached a transcript of what we could recover from the files you sent us. You owe me – and the two PhD students who helped me out with this one – a round or two of drinks, I can tell you. This was much more work than the small favour you asked for. I am sure you were not aware of the content of this message and if you had known what rebellious thoughts you would submit us to, you would have never taken this on. It is very interesting find from a linguistic point of view as you suggested- we would have given up earlier on it if it were not I can tell you – but I can only recommend that you refrain from publishing the data. At least in the state it is in now. We have added annotations where we thought they were needed for understanding, but do let me know if you have further questions.

I’ll hold you to that drink!



Transcript of the translated video:


“I finally made it. I connected the camera to my toothbrush to use its battery and the storage and now I can finally record something. I could even have a conversation with myself: “How are you Sarah? Oh, very good, thank you Sarah. Hope you are well too.” But that sounds a bit crazy, doesn’t it? I will just pretend this is a vm [a video message – means to communicate in short snippets of video – note translator] and let it all out.

This is day 31 without my terminal. No notifications, no way to get in touch with anyone. I am stuck in my pod [a standard habitation people lived in after the flood: sub-units of towers in which people lived without direct contact with each other, communication was done electronically over the terminals. Academics such as Wiseblood assume that some kind of societal trauma led to these structures – note translator]. My punishment ended 16 days ago now [terminal kept offline for 15 days was a common practice of punishment in those days – note translator] and I really want to know what happened. Have people forgotten about me? Has my punishment been extended? I don’t think that my blasphemy was worth more than 15 days, but to be honest, I did not think it was worth punishing at all, so there you go. No penance from my side.

But if they tried to get in touch, how would I know? My terminal’s out. Out out. Believe me, I tried everything. I ended up connecting my camera to my toothbrush, because nothing else works. That is all I am saying.

I start to wonder if there is someone out there at all. If something has happened. There were rumours that the waters were about to rise, but without screens to the outside I have no idea what’s happened. Maybe I am the last one alive here, talking into my toothbrush until the water pressure breaks down my door and I get crushed into the wall.

Maybe the priests decided to make an example out of me. You know what I said? I said, wouldn’t it be nice if there was no water and we could walk over to the other towers? Oh, wait, no, it was a poem I wrote. Just a fun little thing to share with my followers:

Walk on water
If I could walk on water
What wonders would I find?

Walk on water
Crossing over the mirror
Where would it lead?

Walk on ground
No water
Where could I go?

At no point did I mention the leaders, at no point did I critique their lack of foresight in dealing with the changes that were about to come. Do I think they were to blame – yes! Did I say that – no! I think my punishment was excessive and I do not understand why it is not over.

The internal delivery still works and I get my food, so I am not going to starve anytime soon. There is still fresh air, so the system seems to work, but does that mean everything is ok? I’d like to get out anyway to find someone, but I do not dare to open the door in case of water – or worse? I honestly think the worst is not knowing. Or maybe not being able to talk to someone? “Hello Sarah, how is your toothbrush today?” Honestly, I know that leaving is a crime – and nearly impossible anyway. I am not about to pack my things and go anywhere.

They tried to cut me off, but, I came back. I am telling my story. I hope someone can find it. No, I hope my terminal access will be restored soon and I can talk to the people I know and care about – Io, Ben, Gado, this goes out to you – but I do not think this will happen for whatever reason anytime soon. So I hope someone will find it. I hope it makes sense. Because it is all the sense I have left.”

[If you’d want to see the rest, we have it available. But it goes downhill from here. We have about 30 more recordings here. Many short, just a couple of minutes. Most likely not consecutive, but the time stamps have corroded, so we cannot fully know which order they go in. They become increasingly violent. Incoherent. Then they stop. – note translator]

End message



Message from DrAlexa2000 to JimmiTheJim 18.11.2117

Begin message

Jim, I am sending this via our encrypted channel to talk to you more about the file. I know why you sent this to me and I am incredibly grateful. I know Sarah talks of priests and we are more pestered by zealous politicians, but I want to use the transcript in our meetings to warn people what could happen if we let politics work this close with the tech companies – again. I can see all the parallels, how they are trying to separate us, trying to make us dependent on tech and I am sure if we can share this, we can make a much better case than we could on our own. We need an open net and free access and Sarah’s story tells us what will happen if we do not fight for it now. And we both know that there is no law for saying that, but we also know what will happen if we say it. We will lose our funding – academic freedom, my arse – and most likely we will miraculously lose access to the machines at work. Did you notice how close our stations are to the terminals Sarah describes? Yes, they are more distributed, but let’s face it you only have one access with the face scan. They could cut off access just as easily. We need to make sure that we cover our tracks! We cannot even be suspected to be behind this. Neither can my PhD students. I cannot allow that their career ends before it even started. I wondered if we know anyone in the network, who would be prepared to take the blame. Someone more senior who will either not be touched by the priests or someone who is at the end of their careers anyway. Let’s have a chat soon. You owe me a couple of drinks now that will give us the perfect cover. Speak soon. Free the Net! A.

End message




Creative Commons Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

@brifrischu is a PhD student by day and a science-fiction writer at night. She thinks about the technologies we have, those we are likely to get and those we might not want.