Finally, the well deserved break. As this pandemic forces me to work from home for too many days now, I treasure every moment I can walk in the open. So I grab a lunch out of my kitchen and step outside. Breathing in the fresh outdoor air, I try to let go of all tension. Tomorrow I’ll have to give a presentation to my fellow programmer buddies. And to be honest, I am quite stressed about this. How should I convey my message? Yeah, I made some slides. But still, will they really understand it? How can I even get them to stay focussed all the time? Especially now I have to do present remotely.

While thinking about all of this, I reach the park of our local city. This is the place where I normally relax. A lush green lawn surrounded by little creeks. The only way to enter it is by passing one of the wooden bridges that span the water. I walk to the closest one on the left. The timber planks are slippery though. I try to find my balance, but with all these thoughts in my head I cannot think properly. Before I know, I stumble and fall. My head bounces against the railing. And the world turns to blackness…

Though my head feels sore and everything seems to hurt, I feel the power to open up my eyes again. A weird feeling comes to me. I see sands all around me. It was midday when I left my house, but now the sun seems to indicate evening is coming quickly. Even the very air feel less humid and more warm. In front of me, vivid colored buildings rise left and right to the sky. Enclosed by half created statues a path in the middle leads to the front gate. What is happening to me? Am I hallucinating?

Suddenly it starts to make sense to me. The buildings are well painted, because they are quite new. The statues look broken, because they are still in construction. The air is dry, because I am in the middle of a desert. Somehow I am standing in ancient Egypt! Panic attacks come and go. Reading about such an event is fine, watching a movie even better. But experiencing it first hand is way too much. I am no bloody hero!

'Boy, are you lost?' A fat bald man, a little bent by age, appears at the front gate. Well, at least I can understand him. I try to reply, but nothing more than 'I, uhh, well…' comes out of my mouth. The man starts to watch me more closely. So I try again with a rather ridiculous answer. 'Sir, I was walking home in a green land far from here. I tripped and I fell. And then the gods brought me here.' Half expecting him to start laughing his ass off, I cringe on the inside. But clearly this time is different than mine, as he nods. And then something unexpected comes from his lips. 'Yes, I was waiting for you. The Gods did reveal to me a stranger from distant lands would come to our temple to be released of a great burden. I am Ankhefenamen, the high priest of this complex. Be welcome and follow me!'

We progress through a maze of alleys until we walk into one of the temple buildings. Inside is a serene silence. We enter a chamber on the left and sit down on three-legged stools covered by wool. 'Now dear guest, tell me your name and purpose!'. I feel flabbergasted with all that’s happening, but still I start my story. 'My name is Ethan. I come from a country where the fields are green and the rains are many. You would probably call it a paradise. But not only did the gods move me from there to here, they also sent me back in time. Our time is vastly different. We can fly like a bird, dive like a whale and move as fast as a cheetah.' Ankhefenamen glances me and says: 'You look different, but not that much. You don’t have wings nor fins. How can this be?'. I start explaining we use a lot of technology.

'So that is your burden then? This technology?' I start to laugh. 'No, this technology is wonderful. In fact, it’s my job to work with those tools. You could call me a craftsman, just like the builders of this temple.'. Ankhefenamen bends closer to me. 'But you are burdened. The Gods told me so. And I can see it in your eyes. You are tired, aren’t you?'

The nonexistent gods… I don’t know why I am here. This whole thing shouldn’t even be possible! But then again, covid shouldn’t be a thing as well. 'I was talking about our land being a paradise. Well to be fair, the future is not all bright and shiny. The world is still full of war, famine and disease. Where I come from a deadly unseeable force is raging on, killing everything in its path. We keep distance between one and another to stay healthy. For more than two years we are living this way. But it’s taking its toll now. It’s so hard to keep going on.'

The old man looks at me with compassion. Then he is silent for a minute of two. At last he starts speaking again. 'I sense grieve around you boy. The weariness and sadness. Yet I feel even this force you are talking about is not the reason you are here.' Suddenly I start to get angry. What does this dude even know about me? Reason to be here? I don’t want to be here at all. I wanted to prepare for my presentation tomorrow. Now my time is slipping away in this godforsaken desert. 'Listen man', I snap at him. 'Tomorrow I have to explain to a bunch of people how we tend to forget all benefits of old tools once we start using new once. I don’t know how to do it well. I can’t even see them properly, because we are only connected by some magical device where you see each other real small. And I just want to go home'. The last words are barely audible, because my voice starts to break.

Ankhefenamen is quiet for a moment once more. Then he stands up and commands me to follow. We leave the building and walk to the very end of the temple complex. We walk to a building where the construction crew is still busy with work. We stop at a place where a man is painting newly carved hieroglyphs. 'Dear Hemnetjersetekh, could you tell us what you are doing?'. The man turns around, but seems to look past me. 'Do not be troubled', he says. 'I am blind since the age of ten. But still I can do my job. By feeling the wall I can give color to the stories of the Gods and royals on these walls!'.

'Why do you show this to me? I don’t work with stone nor paint. This does not help me to tell a story at all!' Ankhefenamen only smiles to me. Just when I want to shout to him again he start to react. 'You have to believe boy! A story is nothing more than a string of words. To give it meaning, you have to breathe life into it. Just as Hemnetjersetekh believes he can color those images though being blind, you have to believe your explanation matters. You can use images and nice examples to support your story. You can think of structure and logic. The use of color and the choice of words. But above all, you have to believe!'

I open my mouth to react. What does believe have to do with presenting something? But just when I want to make a reply, I start to understand it. You can learn all about shapes, order and structures. But if you can’t stand behind your story for the full 100 percent, you can’t convince your audience at all. So I look to Ankhefenamen and say: 'I believe'. As soon as I spoke the words, the stress and tension in my body seems to vanish. 'Then there is no reason be here any longer', Ankhefenamen concludes. 'You can go home now'. Before the last words are spoken, my world turns to black again.

'Hey, are you ok?' As I open my eyes, I found myself lying on the wooden bridge again. A girl is standing in front of me. She looks a little worried. 'It’s ok', I reply, 'I just had to fall to find my confidence'. Confusion appears at her face. 'Are you really ok?'. I look to her with a grin and say: 'I believe I do!'.

The next day I am boasting with confidence. I open the conference call, start sharing my screen and begin: 'Though forgotten by many these days, the ancient temples in Egypt where not boring yellow brick stones. No, they were full of color, painted by the best craftsmen of that age. Through time, both paint and knowledge slowly vanished. The same thing tends to happen to our technological stacks we use day by day. Back in the days we rendered everything on the server. Then the client-side-rendering age began. And we forgot of all the benefits we used to have. But should we? Well, let’s talk about that…'

The author is convinced the gap between technical writing, presentation and storytelling could be lessened.