Black Friday

Gorsus taps his left temple to switch off his interface. It’s been a good forty-five minutes, half a day’s worth of linked work, he’s overdue a break.

“Never more than thirty consecutive minutes” says the sky above his reclined operator armchair, in a psychedelic 3D whirl of colors. As if someone had thrown bags of powder in the air, and they had aligned to form and reform this same sentence, again and again. Beautiful, stunningly beautiful. Still failed to attract Gorsus’ attention.

It took the strident high overrun alert to pull him out. He’s forty-two, and it shows. His brain struggles with complex tasks. Time to consider using the pension calculator, to check how much longer he needs to go on. No way he ends up in vegetable state, like his late mom. There can be too much of a good thing, including diligence and performance. They won’t get his brain for intermittent storage, in return for keeping the rest of his body alive.

Gorsus didn’t risk his health on purpose. His current research is so fascinating, he often struggles to pull himself out. “The origins of the Black Friday ceremonies”, that’s the title he’s going to use. The bigger the news, the more important to keep the title bland, not to get accused of lack of seriousness.  Gorsus doesn’t have that much of a reputation to defend, yet, but with this paper, he’ll change the world. 

Twelve billion adults on the planet. Down from fourteen, but still a lot. And most of them, unless they are severely incapacitated or total morons, are celebrating Black Friday. Year in, year out, they plant at least one ritual sapling for St. Alecho.

They buy a slot in a high-rise carbon capture rack, the closer to the city, the more expensive. They ride there on bicycles adorned with festive garlands. They use a ceremonial shovel to pretend to dig the symbolic hole, before plugging the roots of the sapling into the holder protruding from the nutrient matrix. They complete the ritual by shaking their heads three times in silent prayer: “May you carbon capture well!”. Never ever is this sentence to be uttered aloud, St. Alecho is known to abhor ostentation.

Twelve billion adults perform this ritual, year in, year out. It has been established, beyond reasonable doubt, that the Black Friday ceremonies go all the way back to the twenty first century. Thirty generations have been planting trees for St. Alecho on Black Friday.

Some of the origins of the ritual are well understood. People in the prescientific era used to beg Alexa and Echo, two deities represented by a shared cylindrical effigy, for help with a climate alteration that caused severe droughts and floods before culminating in the Age of Mayhem. Prescientific people prayed, instead of planting trees and adjusting their lifestyles. No wonder lay people consider them responsible for the hardship they suffered.

As a historian, Gorsus knows better. One can’t blame the superstitious ancients. Clever individuals, like himself, can pull ahead of the field of established wisdom, but there are limits. The time just wasn‘t ripe, in the twenty first century, for an understanding of how things work. Rudiments of climate science were being developed, but this age lacked so badly in both data and computing power that even the most obvious correlations were hard to determine with any rigor. They didn’t even have self programming quantum machines!

Not that many records, from the Age of Mayhem. Paper was no longer in use, replaced by highly sensitive and shortlived electronic means of storage. Biorecording had been developed in principle, quite a feat, for such a low tech era, but the early DNA readers and writers were primitive devices, and hardly ever used outside of highly specialized labs with little interest in folksy beliefs and traditions.

Richeve Simdonna, Gorsus’ teacher and idol, had been lucky to dig up one intact twenty first century effigy, in what must have been its original box, wrapped into an additional layer of colorful paper, a waste of resources typical for religious items.

Her central Rhine valley desert dig, a treasure trove for archeologists. Whole households must have been abandonned, in a hurry, and spent centuries buried under tons of sand, until the Western European super twister of 2914 revealed them, in all their well preserved ancient splendor and mysteriousness.

Richeve Simdonna managed to decipher part of the writing on the effigy box she found, thereby proving what had until then been a contested hypothesis: Alecho did indeed start as Alexa and Echo, and without the saint. Some taboo, probably, a prohibition against speaking the sacred. No surprise in an age of disruption, people get edgy.

But no mention of Alexa and Echo’s race. No support for the dominant interpretation.

Gorsus had always harboured doubts, concerning Black Friday as a celebration of the shift towards dark skinned dominance. The dates just didn’t fit, the chronology was wrong.

St. Alecho has been around since the twenty first century. Dark skinned dominance only took off in the twenty fourth, in the context of peculiar solar activity. Doesn’t make sense, even if one is prepared to assume repurposing of an existing ritual. Why rename it?

St. Alecho is also revered by poor and rich, dominant and subjugated, black and white alike. Declaring him the patron saint of dark skinned dominance doesn’t make sense.

But the term Black Friday is real, transmitted in songs, poems and prayers throughout the ages. It’s simple enough, no reason to assume it might have been distorted. ‘Black’ and ‘Friday’, what’s to get wrong, with these two terms?

Gorsus got professionally hooked on this question.

And today, on what started as a perfectly banal Monday, Gorsus did it. He discovered the original meaning of Black Friday.

It was right there, on a piece of paper Richeve Simdonna decided to ignore, because she couldn’t translate any sense into it. Unlike him, she hadn’t done a research stunt in economics history. She wasn’t able to identify the item as what was called a receipt.

With this primary classification achieved, it was easy to interpret the writing revealed by trace enhancement technology. Item code and price in decimal symbols, plus a short and telltale text: “Black Friday Deal”. Black, as in black ink, good news for traders. So simple…

Gorsus barely had time to think “Oh shit” when the cerebral aneurism struck. History lost a bright mind, and the Black Friday secret remained hidden for another decade.