Carl Santiago became known as an expert on scooters. In terms of knowledge, he was the best, the number one collector by the year 3043.
He enjoyed spending his time at Orion Park, walking on the real concrete, feeling the breeze and the natural sunshine. Sunny spaces were hard to come by this day and age, Carl thought, if you wanted to stay on the ground. There were too many tall buildings, too many hover structures (hov-strucs, the kids called them) that obscured the sun and the sky from the solar roadways. But the parks were fiercely regulated by the government so there would be clean greenspaces, with enhanced vitamin D sunrays and FDA approved CO2 converting plants.
Sometimes he watched the kids at the skatepark, reliving the days that he’d been one of them, flipping, whipping, playing with his friends without a care in the world. Everyone who frequented the park knew him and waved when they saw him.
The kids knew that if they needed help, they could leave the Hov-Strucs to go down to the Real Street and find Carl’s Garage with an open door. It was like a time capsule, lined with vintage and rare scooters, concrete walls instead of the typical Plexi ones. He owned a lamp that mimicked real sunlight, giving them the vitamins they needed even on days when it was scheduled to rain. They’d ask him advice on how to land a trick or how to repair damaged plastic bases when they landed wrong. He ranted about how everything was made of Plexi, even though it was cheap and brittle, how nothing compared to the metal that scooters used before, how real rubber was really what you needed in tires, even though it was expensive ever since the trees went extinct.
Sometimes they went just to hear him wax poetic about the time before electric scooters. You would have needed real leg power to get across town or up the notorious hill in Orion Park.
He showed them vintage magazines, made of real paper, holograms of old video ads from the early 2000s when scooters were really just getting off the ground. It was a little over a century later, and most people preferred hover, or at least electric, to manual scooters.
Carl had worked for scooter companies for years, and he had the know-how of a mechanic, plus the passion of a collector. He’d started off in the company as a mechanic and engineer. As his career advanced, he was able to move up to a designer—trying to recapture the simplicity of a classic scooter and combine it with a sleek contemporary look. He worked a steady, albeit boring, career for years until he was old enough to retire and he left as soon as he could.
He started in his own little garage, with a focus on specialty scooters, mods, and alterations. He worked out of his house, filling it with parts and supplies, but very few people came to see him. Mostly other collectors, other old men with a penchant for the past and a simpler time.
Everything these days was so uninspired. It was the reason he left the scooter companies in the first place. He missed a time he hadn’t lived in, a time where kids played out in the sunshine on asphalt roads, pushing themselves around on a scooter, not letting some engine push them on a glass, solar paneled street.
The scooters were all that he had. His wife had left him alone with his daydreams and misplaced nostalgia. “I can’t complain that you don’t think ahead,” she’d said, “because you won’t even look at what’s right in front of you. I love you, but do you see me? These damn things will be the death of you one day and you’ll be happy about it.”
She left, and he was alone in a house full of mechanical bits and bobbles, paints and screws.
Carl threw himself into his hobbies to distract himself from the absence of warmth in his home. He continued to collect the scooters, favoring older models (of course). Some were rarer than others, with special mods, or limited release colors. Things like that. The more he had, the less alone and the more alive he felt. Business was still slow, but he didn’t particularly mind. He had retirement checks coming in, and that was enough to live on if he was frugal, enough to save so he could buy a new scooter when one showed up.
One day, he received a letter—a real, paper letter! Not just some text or holo message—requesting his assistance.
I’m told you are the one to ask about these sorts of things. I’m looking for something in the way of scooters. I’m sure you’ve heard of it. It’s the famous model #77.
I understand that finding this particular piece may take some time. You will be paid well for your time and effort.
I will wait until you have found the piece. Please write once you have, to this address, so we may arrange a meeting and we can exchange the goods.
Thank you for your time.
A Rider, like yourself
Of course Carl had heard of the 77 Scooter, but he’d never seen it, just like he’d heard of letters, but he’d never received one until today. The only mentions of the 77 he’d ever seen were in old magazines or manuals. And he’d certainly never seen it for sale anywhere, or he’d have bought it already. It was well known as one of the last scooter designs before the introduction of electric motors. It was the end of an era.
To ride it, to touch it, would be an honor.
Carl called around with the comm-tablet, checking in with people he hadn’t seen in years, searched on forums and boards he knew of with any device he had available (his watch, the comm-tab, even an old computer). He set up alerts on his search engines, anything that mentioned anything related to the 77 would instantly notify him through his Devi-Watch. He watched news shows, read every article, virtually visited every museum that might have one through the projected hologram with the watch as soon as a notification came through. Any lead he got, he followed.
Bad and good news came a few months later, in the form of a funeral. One of his contacts—a collector of different small vehicles (motorcycles, bikes, and the occasional scooter) had passed. His body was being used for fertilizer at Orion so he could be with the paths he loved and lie in the sun for as long as it burned.
The good part was his storage locker finally being opened after years of being sealed, and his things were going to be auctioned off. The unit hadn’t been opened in decades. He’d had so much that a lot of his lesser favorites went into storage.
Faces Carl recognized from other auctions and sales, from message boards and holo calls were there. Everybody was older than he remembered since the last time, everybody slower and more tired.
He’d been saving money for a long time and snatched the scooter up easily from other bidders who were more interested in the motorized vehicles. Carl even paid a little extra for the original carrying case that came with it. He wasn’t interested in anything else there and returned home early.
There was a letter waiting, stuck in his doorjamb.
Excellent work on your recent procurement. I trust that you have not forgotten your obligation to me as I will pay you handsomely. May we meet at Orion park by your home? I will meet you there.
You may ride the scooter if you wish.
Devastation hit him like a ton of bricks. He didn’t even have time to write back to the man—write his very first letter—before the man was laying claim. He thought he’d have more time with the scooter. To organize his thoughts. In general.
Carl fell asleep in his large recliner clutching the letter to his chest with tears on his face, the scooter fit snugly in its case next to him. He dreamed of the sun, of clear blue skies and fresh air.
When he woke up, he went to the garage with the 77. It was in better shape than he’d originally thought. The handlebars were still padded with the original padding that had held up over the years thanks to good care, the wheels were hardly scuffed as if nobody had ever ridden it. (Poor thing.) The metal was a little foggy, but that would clear up easily with some polish.
Carl slung the flimsy case over his shoulder and opened the garage. His heart was pounding in his ears as he set one foot on the scooter.
He was so old now. It had been so many years since he’d ridden.
He pushed off the ground, gliding out of his garage and down the street, the smooth glass solar roadways offering no resistance as he whizzed down to the park, the wind whistling in his ears. The scooter skurr-ed beneath the rushing breeze as he rode, propelling himself with a power he didn’t know he still had.
He felt amazing. He felt invincible.
He felt like a kid again.
A man in an old-fashioned black suit and hat waved at Carl with his hat, smiling. He had sunglasses on. “You’re in for a ride, aren’t you?” he shouted. “Where are you headed off, so fast?”
Carl couldn’t help but laugh.
“Aren’t you coming back with me?” the man shouted after him.
Back he’d said.
Carl’s eyes flashed back at the man, still waving with his hat. He was wearing dark sunglasses against what? The filtered sunrays? His watch was gold, not silicone like all the other Devi-Watches.
He’d gotten to the top of the hill without realizing it and was coasting downwards now. The man fell out of his sight as Carl felt the pull of gravity.
He could see the city. No hover structures obstructing the sky. No skyscrapers in his way. Black asphalt underneath his feet and sunshine on his skin.
It was so bright, and so beautiful.
He fell, but he heard the man in black coming to get him.