“Hargreaves! Did you finish replacing the signage?” Richard Arkwright called down the spiral staircase leading to Arkwright Labs’ House of Tomorrow exhibit.
“Just this last one to go, sir!” Timmy Hargreaves answered from the bottom of the stairs where he was pulling last year’s poster off its display stand. Visit 1983 in the Wellington Wells House of the Future!, it read. He had another identical poster from further down the lane rolled up on the ground at his feet. The one he was peeling off the display now ripped at the corner, but they were just going to throw them away.
Every year on the second of January, the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research renovated the House of the Future exhibit. That is, they updated the signage and Uncle Jack’s guided tour video to be one year further into the future. Arkwright had just finished replacing the sign underneath the television screen in the foyer and now he was ready to test the updated tour video the Broadcasting Corporation had sent over before the Christmas holidays. A fresh tour video was filmed every year to detail all the “new” technologies the DSIR were planning to bring to Wellington Wells.
Sometimes they actually did add something new. They were working on things in earnest, but as far as Arkwright was concerned, it never hurt to hedge your bets. Twenty was a rounder, more audibly and psychologically pleasing number than sixteen anyway. Not that anyone was – or could – keep count these days.
Hargreaves appeared at the top of the stairs just as Arkwright turned the motion sensor that activated the video back on. As Hargreaves tripped the sensor, the video snapped on and the familiar Wellington Wells Broadcasting Corporation bumper tune trumpeted the start of the film.
“Have you ever wondered what life will be like twenty years into the future?” Uncle Jack said. “That would be the year 1984. Sounds a very long way away, doesn’t it? But 1984 may be closer than you think!”
“I don’t know, Jack,” Hargreaves said, smirking at the television screen. “Twenty years feels like it gets longer every year.”
Arkwright chuckled and said, “In twenty years, you’ll still have a job whether we get any of these things to work or not.”