"Look!" Gates exclaimed, pointing at the screen. "There he is!"
The editor relaxed his grip and turned to see a giant wave appear on the monitor. The two men left in Figment’s office could just see a small surfboard with a tiny figure on it, perched precariously on its crest.
"Oh my…" Gates mutters. "This has never happened before. Usually they are simply lost in cyber-space but this one – he’s actually surfing it. He’s surfing on his imagination!"
"Bill!" the editor exclaimed, drawing Gates out of his awed reverie." Lost in cyberspace? Surfing his imagination? Usually? What are you babbling about? Has this happened before, by any chance? You must fill me in. Mr Figment is a very dear friend of mine."
"I suppose you have a right to know," Gates conceded. He glanced at the screen.
"Is Mr Figment in any immediate danger?" the editor inquired. After all the trials he had helped Figment overcome, he couldn’t bear to see the little chap consumed by this new nemesis.
"There’s nothing we can do for him at the moment, but he seems to be faring better than the last few who shared his fate."
"Please, start from the beginning, Bill," the editor suggested.
Gates smiled. "That’s a rather difficult thing to do after living and breathing hypertext for so long, but I’ll try."
"It all began back in the mid 1990's. You see hypertext just wasn’t catching on fast enough to sustain the Microsoft empire."
"But I thought it was an immediate success."
"Yes, at face value, the figures looked good. But that was because schools and universities caught on fast and many individuals did too, but most of them were already computer literate. Unfortunately, the vast majority were intimidated by the technological aspect of the system."
"I can understand that."
"We envisioned making Hypertext accessible to the masses," Gates explained, "and since most people have no inclination to undergoing lengthy training or learning Hypertext Mark Up Language, we had to find an alternative."
"What prompted you to follow this line of research?"
"Although hypertext has already surpassed print technology, it still uses its metaphors such as readers, tables, menus, pages. We aimed to transcend that limitation, making hypertext an environment in which the explorer can become totally immersed. So our research division pounced on the schematic organization of the system as the point of departure for developing a new method of relating to hypertext."
"The major attraction of hypertext, especially in those early days, was that it mimicked basic cognitive processes. We merely expanded on this concept and have developed it to its fullest potential."
"Yes, we are rather proud of it ourselves. It has enormous potential."
"So what’s standing in your way?"
"We’ve run into a few problems," Gates admitted quietly. "The prototype over there, is operational as you saw, but each time we get to a critical stage in its development…"
"… you lose the operator," the editor supplied. "Yes I can see how that would be a problem."
"Some of the most brilliant minds in science have been lost in the line of duty," said Gates, wiping a non existent tear from his eye. The editor cleared his throat uncomfortably. "Yes, well, Mr Gates, I’m sure it’s very upsetting, but…"
"You simply can’t imagine the insurance and compensation problems we are having, Mr Editor," Gates continued. "How do you explain four grown men being sucked into a disk drive? We’ve had to keep the whole thing very quiet, of course. Can you imagine what would happen if the media got hold of this? We’d be ruined, I tell you. Ruined!"
"I can understand that the whole situation must be very trying for you, Bill," said the editor, "but I’m afraid that I must reveal a further complication."
"Go ahead," Gates muttered dejectedly.
"Do you know who Mr Figment is, Bill?"
"Look, Mr Editor, I understand that he was a friend of yours and I assure you that he was a valued employee of the Microsoft Corporation, but…"
"You really don’t know, do you? When you said all that about surfing with his imagination, I assumed you did know the truth of Mr Figment’s identity, but I suppose that was just hypertext jargon."
"Mr Figment’s true identity? He wasn’t a corporate spy, was he Mr Editor?"
"No, Bill, I assure you that is not his line of work. Mr Figment is in fact, Figment of the Imagination. He is the deity that controls creativity, ingenuity and originality."
"Have you been using the WordPerfect thesaurus?"
The editor glanced disdainfully at Gates. "Mr Figment is the representation and manifestation of all our imaginations."
Gates’ jaw dropped. "Oh my goodness," he muttered. "His resume and references said he was an imaginative scientist, but I never dreamt that he was the Figment."
The editor nodded. "That is exactly what he is – a scientist of the imagination!"
"But… but this means," Bill spluttered.
Copyright © 1996 Ilanit Tof, All Rights Reserved.
Illustrations by Rhonda Willson, © 1996.