Dawn broke as a spectral glint of aurum over the jagged skyline of dark abandoned buildings. The empty streets were strewn with the flotsam of ancient newspapers and shattered bottles. The wind whispered from the mournful alleyways and a nearby parkette.

The lone figure of the Advocate approached the grand entrance of the Central Library. His sense of anticipation made him pause a moment in reflection. He remembered the weighty responsibility he had assumed back at the Colony on the mesa of New Mexico. There, hundreds of young people awaited his return with a vital gift that could only be found in the catacombs of the Library. The gift to activate hungry minds. The gift to restore a broken world.

His journey had been long, more than a thousand miles on foot. It was based on a legend, a rumour really, of a technology that could enable mankind to rebuild the software infrastructure upon which so much of the Twenty-First Century civilization relied. A hundred and fifty years had rendered the knowledge of this technology little more than a consoling vagary.

But it was a desperate act taken out of a profound need to escape the ennui of a world without software. The software that had been decimated by foolish members of a web-obsessed cult that had unwittingly unleashed digital hell…

It was called the ECMA Perversion, aka the “Blight.” An insidious technology based on JavaScript had infiltrated every corner of IT. The tech worked well enough for a while until things began to fall apart. The Blight disrupted global communications and brought transportation to a halt. Planes fell out of the sky. Self-driving cars could no longer drive. Financial markets collapsed. Chaos reigned in the urban centres (the rural areas were less affected).

People began to desert the cities. Without the software infrastructure, nothing worked. The flow of goods ceased. Food and medicine became scarce. Street gangs ruled.

At least in the countryside, people had a fighting chance to live.

The Advocate entered the Library, the main foyer unlit. He turned on his lamp.

The only clue he had for the whereabouts of the gift was a codeword: “MakeSmalltalkGreatAgain.” He had no idea what “Smalltalk” was, only that it was a timeworn technology accessible to young minds not used to arcane commands and programming concepts. He was told it would make software creation much easier and faster than imaginable.

As he rummaged through the printed catalogues, he found occasional references to Smalltalk, but one stood out: “Pharo project archive on crystal-synth ‘MakeSmalltalkGreatAgain’.” What was a “crystal-synth?”

The Advocate made his way to the catacombs where the storage archives were. He eventually found a series of racks containing “crystal-synths.” Apparently, they were storage devices that imprinted data within crystal lattices.

Each crystal-synth was labelled with some sort of classification/codeword combination. The Advocate surmised that he could track down what he was looking for by finding the right “classification.” He had to make many educated guesses which took hours.

After an arduous search, he found the classification/codeword: “software engineering/MakeSmalltalkGreatAgain.” And there before him was the prize.

Now, his next mission was to find a device capable of reading or accessing the crystal-synth. If he was successful, he could bring back the gift to the corps of eager young minds at Colony seeking to learn the secrets of the software mages and help reconstruct the Old Digital World.

(This story was written in one morning on a lark. The idea came to me in bed in the wee hours of the morning as my mind wandered into whimsy. It’s a very rough draft that will never be completed, so please cut me some slack.)