The Sound of Distant Thunder
by Mike Barretta
Diallo brushed himself clean of gray de-fabricator dust outside the kitchen door.
The dust coated his clothes and collected in the sweaty creases of his skin, and if
he didn't clean himself well enough before coming inside his mother would anger.
He entered his home, pausing long enough to kiss his mother's cheek as she
prepared dinner. Upstairs, in his bedroom, he retrieved the Tutor, his most valued
possession, from the sunny spot on his desk.
The Tutor was a window onto the world and it was a found object, discovered in
one of the 120 cubic yard containers of electronic junk his father purchased as
feed stock for his business.
The Tutor woke at his touch and its silver surface shimmered like oil on water.
"Good afternoon," said the Tutor.
"Good afternoon," said Diallo.
The Tutor asked many questions and provided few unearned answers. It taught
him philosophies and equations, generated a hologram instructor to teach him
stick fighting, filled his room with images of this world and the ones around
Eridani, Tau Ceti, and a place with only numbers to describe it. He enjoyed the
pictures of faraway places though sometimes he had a hard time deciding which
was stranger, the eerie fog forests of Eridani or the crystal towers of New York
"What is my destiny?" asked Diallo.
He could have a good life carrying on his father's business, but smashing circuit
boards into a de-fabricator held little appeal. He wanted more than to prosper and
come home covered in gray dust.
"Destiny," said the Tutor "is a pre-ordained future. From what I know, there is no
pre-ordained future. Perhaps, there is an optimal path for an individual to follow,
but there are too many factors to calculate. Let me ask you a question: What do
you choose for your destiny?"
Diallo sat down and thought. "I want to see more. I want to be the first. I want to
"Good answers," said the Tutor. "Attendance at a university or emigration to a
country with greater opportunities are avenues for achievement, but both are
expensive and arduous."
"What am I to do?" asked Diallo.