The last cell phone conversation killed the English language July 3, 2008. Exhaustion. It wasn’t a particularly egregious conversation. It had primarily to do with Joanne’s trip to the stylist not being a satisfactory experience. They gelled her up too much; the style wouldn’t last more than two days before she’d have to wash it. The only reason she’d paid him was she had no backbone. She didn’t say this. What she said was she should have told him I’m not about to walk out like this, please, I don’t know who you think you’re fooling. Then she laughed the laugh of haughty displeasure. A snorty exhalation, actually, since she was poor compared to the rich, and haughty is always badly mishandled by the poor.
Joanne spoke outward for a tiny bit of fiction in her ear, a Bluetooth it was called, a receiver dreamt up to make the ignorant believe they are cutting edge and finally provide the insane a welcome sense of community. She spoke outward because the machine made it so: only something so convenient could make the utterance of every banal thought into a necessary reality, and the beauty of such conversations was that in having to pay for them—-because the cell phone service was not free—-each conversation was therefore a thing of importance, if not absolutely imperative. Only a fool wore a Bluetooth without speaking into the air. Only a fool kept a cell phone tucked inside his or her pocket rather than held at the ready to respond.
Sucked dry and dazed, language (being a living thing) fell face down, blind in the desert, rolling with effort onto its back and uncaring about the heat on its face or the certainty of doom. The end of things was not so much sweet, not so much necessary, as it was appropriate; other languages would certainly join it. English, born tattered and pastiched, forcibly ignored the sand in its crevices and mouth and focused on the heavy slowness of its body. The area around it would inevitably become a mass grave. Here lies English. There lies French. Beloved Italian, neither flowers or wine...
Joanne’s mouth worked the entire time between driving to pick up lunch, all the way through reaching the checkout. English died while she purchased sesame chicken with extra sauce. A large posted sign read PLEASE END CONVERSATION AT REGISTER. Joanne smoothly uttered “Brb” (the letter b, the letter r, the letter b, as though they were three words) to whatever was on the other end of the line, shlooped money across the counter, received and dumped the change into her huge purse, and whisked off with her food, conversation resumed the exact moment she touched the plastic bag. Plastic released one from constraints. The restaurant she frequented was notorious for cancer causing MSG and plastic but she loved it. Went there at least twice a week. She would call people to tell them she was on her way there. She would call them to tell them she was there. There was someone, always someone, who needed to hear she wasn’t particularly going anywhere. The important thing, deep in Joanne’s heart, was that she call someone, not that she have something to say. In the scheme of things her voice was small but it was constant. She spoke, therefore she was.
Unending winds whittled English to its white bones, and those bones to sand. It was a painless death. It had been disoriented too long to feel anything. The death wentlargely unnoticed. News anchors continued uttering “gonna” but didn’t notice its increased frequency. “I’m Ain’t”, which got its start on tee shirts, became the norm for expressing any defiant attitude, particularly among young white-collar males. Movie titles became, in effect, Roman numerals. RB’s—-or reading books—-required expository videos at key moments on the ipod screens in order to continue to exist. RBTV, the latest addition to the MTV roster, was the pod of choice for college students 19—24. Communications companies merged into the largest corporate entity in the history of the world, The Party Line, once it dawned that there was no need for competition: everyone wanted to talk, everyone wanted to pod, everyone wanted to text. The Party Line literally encircled the globe. Data and information were bothersome. People had more important things to do. With The Party Line’s One World plan you could talk/text/email anytime you wanted absolutely free as long as you kept your semi-annual dues up as a member of The Party.
A researcher found a piece of English in the desert. No one knew how it had made the trip to Africa or why. Wikipedia theorized that Shakespeare had been Zulu. The Party Line postulated that it had died escaping terrorists, brave, stalwart language that it was. They put their top scientists the task of cloning it. The twisted, mangled results were never publicized but, at under cover of night, were shuffled into the public domain. Some died immediately, others slogged away, altering a word here, a usage there, like sludge covering candy. No matter what The Party Line’s scientists did, English never came back.
Honestly, no one missed it, except the cultists, the ones in the Library Compounds forcing “quiet zones” on their children and invoking the Presidential Standard of Religious Benefice as a means of being left alone. They were tolerated as long as they didn’t try to interact, which meant they were entirely at the mercy of the larger world for food and other necessities. Librarian farms were wonderful things, but three quarters of all crops went toward Benefice costs. Three quarters of what they consumed came from Party Line subsidiary companies. Television broadcasts regularly denounced Librarians as unhealthy and hardly something an enlightened society should tolerate, no matter how well the nuts maneuvered government loopholes. They pointed to the Davidians, Ghana, Bloomfield Hills—-nutz and ballz all, “Nutz and ballz!” the rallying cry of Orville Smythe, the first and only talkshow host to topple Oprah and one of the leading dismissers of these bastardized “Librarians.”
Supposedly, and there was of course no way to confirm or deny this, there was an enshrined Librarian who knew the precise time and cause of English’s death, a death kept quiet by The Party Line. Language Over Libraries (perpetually enraged at LOL), a rogue offshoot, carried out neighborhood liberations in this unknown Librarian's unseen name, sabotaging link-towers with randomly activated worms. An edgy population never knew when its service might cut off in the middle of a conversation or YouTube InnerVision debut, however, an increase in commercials and tie-in placements for Party Line products and services proved sufficiently mollifying. The Wrong Number Give Back Plan had recently launched. The idea was for every minute you stayed on the phone with a wrong number a donation would be made to a—-to the Party’s benefit figuratively (and clandestinely literally)—-charity with an appropriately vaguely philanthropic-sounding name. This coincided with the release of a movie thriller whose nationwide preview featured a seductively voiced woman’s moist lips saying into her phone, “Is Fred there?”, with a man on-screen absentmindedly answering, “You have the wrong number,” to which she replies, “No, I don’t.”
Sex, friendship and closeness were all products of talking to somebody miles away. The Party Line made sure the world woke up to this, showered to this, made love to this, commuted to this, shopped to this, relaxed to this and went to bed to this. Security meant hearing your voice in the crushing darkness, and the world was dark no matter the time of day. The enshrined Librarian, being “the light to read by,” indeed finally knew that years ago Joanne Ashmon’s cell phone conversation killed the English language like an ice pick slowly pushing its way through tissues and muscle toward that one precious spot. How she knew this is through arcane genetics, but the how is not as important as the group of LOLers currently creeping in on Joanne’s location. To be tried for crimes against humanity was never a good thing.
The chances of Joanne BRBing into old age were not good.