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“We should have done what that couple did last night,” Shawn said.
“They could have killed you,” Van said.
“At least they already have a copy of the book.”
“How do you know?” Jerome said.
“He wasn’t saying that when they were holding a gun and knife to his back,” Yusef said. “And he wasn’t saying that after, when he was shaking like a leaf.”
“Well I’m saying it now,” Shawn responded.
“Then you’re an idiot now,” Yusef said.
Shawn turned to Yusef. His eyes were filled with the same anger Jerome saw in the eyes of those behind them in line.
Jerome knew what was coming, but before he could do anything, Shawn had already thrown a punch. It was a reckless haymaker that missed Yusef’s head by at least a foot. Jerome wondered if the miss was on purpose. Yusef, clearly not interested in finding out, charged at Shawn, cocked his clenched fist back, and was about to throw a punch of his own, but his punch, like countless other punches about to be thrown throughout the line, abruptly stopped as everybody turned their attention toward the bookstore’s reopening door.
A woman stepped out of the store.
“Are there still books left?” Van said.
The woman at the door smiled and nodded.
Relief was restored. Fists were unclenched. Fingers were relaxed. Smiles started to spread. Jerome saw the same people who kicked, shoved and punched those lying on the ground helping them back up. He saw them patting their victims on the back, and in the case of many, sharing a laugh with them, as if the victims immediately forgot they were ever victims at all.
As soon as Jerome walked into the store he saw a stack of books and a big sign that said each person was limited to a single book. He immediately grabbed one and marvelled at the historical object. The cover was jet black with the title written in silver, and underneath the title the A.I.’s pseudonym, Sam Wild, was also written in silver. There was a sticker on the cover saying the copy was autographed. Jerome opened the book and on the first page he saw a ten-digit bar code on the bottom right corner. He turned and saw Yusef, Shawn and Van holding their copies of the novel.
“Check your autographs,” Shawn said.
All of the young men read out the ten-digit bar codes. They were all different, confirming that each one was unique.
“What do you think the title means?” Van said.
“I don’t know,” Yusef said, “but I can't wait to find out.”
Led by Jerome, all of the young men approached another long line of people waiting to purchase the books they had all waited so long to get. When it was finally his turn, Jerome handed the book to the exhausted employee who without looking up took the book and scanned the bar code on the back of it. Jerome reminded himself to check if the bar code on the back of the book was the same as the autograph on the front.
Jerome gasped at the high price of the book, and realized that up until that moment he had not once thought about how much he was going to have to pay for it.
After leaving the store, goodbyes were exchanged between Jerome and Yusef, Van and Shawn. Jerome walked to his bus stop, but not before looking back at the long line of people still waiting to enter the store and get their own copy of the historical book.
As soon as Jerome got home, he started reading, and didn’t stop until he finished the book a few minutes before three o’clock in the morning. The story was incredible. It was unlike anything he had ever read, seen or even heard about. He couldn’t wait until the next morning to hear what everybody else who was lucky enough to get a copy thought of it.
As soon as he woke up, Jerome turned his computer on, and just as he had hoped, his love of the book was unanimously shared by everybody else who got a copy. From decorated academics to regular people, the book was hailed as an instant classic. Some trusted critics said it was the greatest book ever written. One critic said that Sam Wild did not have the insight of just one author, but all authors, and did not capture the spirit of one person, but all of humanity.
By the early afternoon, the universal acclaim had become so overwhelming that people started circulating jokes online about it. Jerome's favourite came from a blogger who said the book’s reviews had become so glowing he had to wear sunglasses just to continue reading them.
Later that day, the CEO of the company that created Sam Wild called a press conference. Jerome, who had not left his computer since he had woken up, as he didn’t want to miss anything about what he believed to be the story of the century, watched attentively as the CEO, with a wide smile, thanked everybody for their gracious compliments of the book. She then followed up that statement by thanking the brilliant team who aided her in creating Sam Wild in the first place. She then thanked Sam Wild itself. And she concluded her press conference by saying that as a result of the incredible success of Sam Wild’s first novel her company was going to proceed with a historic rollout of other A.I.-created art that would take place over the next twelve months.
The CEO stated the first part of the rollout would be a publicly performed symphony composed by an as yet to be named A.I. system. The second part would be an art exhibition consisting of dozens of A.I.-created paintings and sculptures. And the final part would be the release of the first film ever written and directed by A.I.
The applause following the CEO’s statement was thunderous. Even Jerome, sitting alone in his home, staring at his computer screen, couldn’t help but clap at the announcement of what was to come. He couldn’t wait to hear, see, touch and watch what the various A.I. systems had in store, and judging from the deafening applause and the wave of online celebration, neither could the rest of the world.