The year was 2052 when Ms. Opaula Troutwine-Casper-Braun began hosting the popular children’s television show called Wordless. For thirty years, Opaula had a great following of young families watching her sentencing words to their death. She told the audience that words could be harmful to people’s feelings. To Opaula getting words removed from dictionaries and published works was a worthy crusade. Opaula’s partner in the crusade was Tab. Tab was a green and yellow colored Parrot. Perched in a cage shaped like the letter O, Tab squawked “Offensive!” when Opaula passed judgment on an iniquitous vocable.
After a lifetime of achievement and awards for her dedication to erase harmful words, Opaula was invited to see her legacy. The invite came from time travel journalist Roger Johnson. The Man from the future was the host of a television show called Legacy. Opaula agreed to the interview. The word Warrior entered the time review suite which resembled a music recording studio. Opaula was greeted by Roger wearing a futuristic silver suit.
“Mr. Johnson it’s a pleasure meeting you. I enjoy your show Legacy. It’s very fascinating! Ever since the time travel calculation was determined, I was hoping you would reach out to me. I’m honored.”
“Thank you, Ms. Troutwine-Casper-Braun, for agreeing to meet. After fast forwarding through time we discovered that your show had a profound effect on the Human race. I’m glad you agreed to travel with me to see the future you impacted!”
“How grand! I never knew that what I did would make a difference!” Opaula boasted.
“I enjoy bringing a person to see how their legacy unfolded.”
“I’m so excited. Oops I should not have used the word ‘excite.’”
Roger gave a curious look at Opaula.
“Did you mean incite?” He asked.
Opaula gave Roger a scowl. Incite was not a nice word according to Opaula.
“Please don’t use that word.” Opaula scolded. “It is a very aggressive word and some people may feel threatened by it.”
“My apologies. I have to think before I speak.”
“And that’s the whole idea of my show Mr. Johnson; for people to think before they speak.”
Opaula stared into Roger.
“Have you thought about changing your surname Mr. Johnson?”
“Why would I do that Ms. Troutwine-Casper-Braun?”
“Well it is hard for me to come out with this. Sort of embarrassing, but your name could be considered connected with the male anatomy. You don’t want to offend anyone do you?”
Roger’s eyebrows raised, understanding what Opaula was alluding to.
“I’ll take it under advisement. Just so you won’t be offended by my family name, you can call me Roger. If that is acceptable?”
Opaula’s eyes shifted side to side thinking if the name Roger could be offensive.
“Roger is an acceptable name. Please call me Opaula. I know that Troutwine-Casper-Braun is a lot to say.”
“Sounds good Opaula. Shall we begin with the interview?”
Roger directed Opaula to a chair and then sat across from her.
“Opaula, as you know, I take people to the future to see how their decisions or actions impacted the future. And that is a perfect segue to the brief introduction on time travel. I will make this short because, no pun intended, we don’t have much time.”
“Very witty Roger.”
Roger’s face looked serious.
“It will be hard for you to hear. The world at this moment, like your television show, is a recorded broadcast. Right now, in the year 2052, you Opaula Troutwine-Casper-Braun are a duplicate in a recording. A recording that has repeated many times.”
Opaula looked on with confusion.
“I’m dead? Is that what you are saying?”
“You’re a recording of the original Opaula Troutwine-Casper-Braun.”
Opaula clutched a hand to her heart.
“I’m a clone?” She asked.
“No, just a recording. Opaula you are alive, just a recording of the original.”
“Let me get this straight, I am alive right now and this world is real?”
Roger gave an assuring smile.
“I’m not one to mince words, that’s your expertise, so I’ll try to explain this better. I know this sounds disturbing, but before you can see your legacy, you need to come to terms with the meaning of your life. Let’s stay with the example of a recording. As we discussed, there once was a live version of you, the present, but now you are in a LP.”
“An LP? What is that?”
“LP is a long play recording. Think of the world like an old black vinyl music record, phonograph, with each groove on it storing recorded history. Records of records stacked up on each other holding every single action and thought of a living being on Earth. Every event Human or nature made is collected on record. Think of Earth as a juke box collection of these once living events.”
Opaula cringed after hearing Roger’s comment. She felt a loss of identity. Was she just an image going through a previously recorded program? Opaula wondered about freewill.
“I understand Roger, proceed.”
Roger paused. He knew Opaula was distraught. It was a normal reaction when an interviewee realized their faux existence. Opaula realized she was just a living duplicate of someone that passed a millennia ago.
“I won’t get into the science or the equation on time travel. What I will say is that just like music records, time travel is based on modulation and speed. We will travel in time by adjusting our current speed to match the speed of the desired point in time. Essentially, we are picking up the record player needle and placing into a groove of our choosing or in other words, putting a quarter in the juke box and select the recorded time.”
“And then we come back here when we are done?” Opaula asked.
“There is no need to come back, because you will already be here.”
Opaula looked perplexed.
“I apologize Roger. Your comment went over my head. That is a phrase I don’t like to use since it means someone with not that strong of an intellect.”
Roger was waiting for Opaula to say the word stupid.
“You can take a person from a particular place in time and bring them to another time. Since life is a recording, the next day, or when the needle moved into the next groove, a new duplicate, would be there to continue. Yet the person you took at the extraction point would be wherever you placed them.”
“My head is spinning,” Opaula said holding a hand to her forehead.
“Since life is a recording, we can’t change it. However, you can travel and exist in any time. You can live in a different period of time for years if you prefer. You just have to remember that you can’t, no matter how hard you try, change what has happened. There is no butterfly effect with time travel. No changing of the trajectory of the world. Just remember when the record player needle leaves the groove, time resets. For example, you can kill someone in the past, like Adolf Hitler, but it would not change the recorded history of events. If you killed Hitler one day, he would only return back to life without knowledge of your action. You could kill him hundreds of times but Hitler and anyone who witnessed your actions would not remember it. You can’t alter the original recording.”
“I get it. It’s a lot like TV but we can’t splice, edit or alter the tape.” Opaula said defeated.
“Are you ok Opaula?” Roger asked. “I know this is tough to come to terms with.”
“Whatever, I’m ready to do this.”
Roger looked at Opaula.
“Very well, let’s begin. What fascinated you Opaula to do this crusade on words?”
“Well my love for fellow Humans. I love people but feel we could treat each other with more kindness. Especially when it comes to using words. Just like the singer-actress Cher said in her Turn back time song ‘Words are like weapons they wound sometimes.’ To me words, harmful ones, wound all of the time and it is my mission to find these toxic words and eradicate them from our vocabulary.”
“Admirable.” Roger said.
“Yes, I suppose it is.” Opaula said with pride.
“How did it work? What was your process to eliminate a word?”
“I look at a word, each letter of it, and decided if all or some of the letters in that word are offensive.”
“An example?” Roger asked.
Opaula laughed. Roger smiled.
“You said, example. That word has e.x. in it and e.x. is used in the offensive word sex. Example just like the naughty word I used earlier, excitement, should be removed.”
“There’s a lot of thought that goes into this.” Roger said.
“You see people just don’t know what can be offensive. It’s up to me to educate people.”
“I see and when you deem a word to be erased, your little feathered friend, Tab the parrot screams Offensive!”
“Tab is my partner. The Children love him and he’s my best friend. He doesn’t say much, which is good, but he gets me.”
“What are you expecting to see when we arrive in the future that you help shape?” Roger asked.
“A world in peace and harmony where no one feels pain from any word.”
“Well Opaula it is time. If you follow me to the elevator we will get to the big reveal.”
Opaula followed Roger to the elevator and entered. The elevator moved but it did not ascend or descend. Opaula got tired and fell asleep where she stood. In her mind a soft woman’s voice spoke. It was a familiar voice Opaula recognized. It was the Legacy Show’s narrator Julie Ortiz.
“Opaula welcome to the future! The years went on and more words were erased thanks to you! After death, your legacy continued. The children who watched you and Tab took on your crusade and sought out new words to erase. Your audience became lawyers, politicians, business executives and scientists. One day an inspired computer programmer, a numbers guy, denounced words altogether by coming up with a computer application called the ‘Filter App.’”
Opaula felt like she was dreaming as Julie told the story.
“The Filter app was a program that could integrate with all media platforms. The app recognized when a person speaking used an inappropriate word and muted it. When a person said a bad word, it would not be heard. It looked like a person mouthing the word. The centuries passed, and words were determined to be insensitive. Through the years, more words were erased from all forms of media and also from the human voice. More years passed where people’s approved vocabulary was around only 300 words. Lyrics in music were removed only leaving the instrumental. Welcome Ms. Troutwine-Casper-Braun to the year 2105!”
Opaula awakened to the elevator door opening, revealing a long white tiled hallway. Opaula followed Roger out onto the hall. Opaula looked around the modern facility.
“What is this place?” She asked.
“It’s the Opaula Tr-per-Brn museum.”
“You said my name wrong.”
“It was changed. Some of the letters were removed since it was considered offensive. Like Troutwine. The Wine was offensive to alcoholics.”
“I never thought of it that way.”
On the walls were large framed photos of Opaula.
“This museum is dedicated to me?” Opaula asked.
“Yes, because of your profound influence on the Human race. Follow me.”
The two walked the hallway and entered a large room with wide screens. On the screens were People gesturing with their hands.
“What are these Mimes doing? Is this a festival in my name?”
“It’s not a festival, it is the Human race from all around the world.”
“Can you turn up the volume, I can’t hear them?”
“It is silence they speak.”
Julie Ortiz’s voice started.
“The centuries passed, and the words diminished. Books and other literal forms of media were destroyed. Humans’ physical appearance changed from the lack of culture that books and lyrical music gave. The people turned pale and gaunt as their malnutrition soul, like the words in a dictionary, diminished. The muted People and their pale features resembled Mimes. The planet Earth was like the title of your show, Wordless.”
Opaula watched the multiple views on the screen looking at the pale people. The world looked like a pantomime performance of the sad and poor.
A spotlight shined on a pedestal. Opaula walked to it and saw a large book on it. There were symbols that Opaula could not understand.
“What is this?”
“A book of words not to say.” Roger answered.
Opaula opened the book and noticed the contents.
“It is a dictionary,” Opaula cried. “No! This isn’t what I intended!”
“I know Opaula,” Roger said. “Some ideas and concepts get extorted and become absurd. Look at these shell of Humans, Mimes, that through evolution changed. The People can’t physically speak. But People stopped speaking during your show out of fear. They knew your show was wrong but were afraid to speak. For if they spoke their opinions over the absurdity of your show, they would get cancelled, lose money, a job or be labeled as racist or ignorant. They went along with your war on words. Humans were already turning into Mimes.”
“I did not want this! I just wanted to make a difference!”
“You made a difference so profound you left people literally speechless.”
“How dare you!” Opaula yelled. “You said my legacy was noteworthy!”
“It is noteworthy as a warning.” A voice said in the darkness. “Freedom to speak should never be shackled and caged. Who are you to decide what words are good and which are bad?”
“I believe in freedom of speech!” Opaula yelled.
“No, you believe in freedom of speech until you are offended!” The voice said.
“Who’s there?” Opaula asked stepping away from Roger.
“The Human race has devolved into mutes thanks to you.” The voice continued.
Opaula turned back and saw that Roger was gone.
“You were never open minded just blinded by your opinion and your warped sense of right and wrong. You gained power by being judge, juror and executioner of words. Words! They were only words! Yet like most people power goes to their heads. And whenever a word was removed, you gained more power.” The voice said.
“Show yourself!” Opaula screamed.
A light shined on a bird cage in front of Opaula. Inside the cage was a descendant of her Parrot Tab and, besides Opaula, was the only living creature on Earth to speak a human language.
Opaula gasped and staggered backwards.
“Holy Fuck!” Opaula yelled.
The Parrot looked at Opaula and squawked “Offensive!”