• Creighton Olsen


Kevin’s WrisTy jangled with it’s eternally chirpy audio wake-up call. “Damn thing’s more excited to start the day than I am,” he grumbled to himself. Rolling over in bed, Kev gently tapped the small glass square twice to silence the jangly tune. He swung his legs out from under his red and gold comforter and rubbed his crusty eyes awake. With his right hand, he aligned the center hole of the device with the tiny metal pin protruding from the back of his left hand, then slid it neatly into the shallow grooves that were callused into his flesh. The pin popped its anchors into place and he felt the familiar weight settle into its home. After a brief pause, the light weakly winked on and a large number two displayed on the glass. About all he could expect at this early hour. He double-tapped the screen to hide the counter.

The older WrisTy models used to slot onto the user’s wrist, but last year they had widened their range to offer a hand-mounted device and offered free pin-relocation surgeries on site at their stores. Kev was proud that he had been third in line for the newest model at his local shop. The hand-mounted model was well worth the price. The new location removed the range-of-motion problems, and the battery life was a little longer, with no decrease in functionality.

After tossing on some gym clothes, Kev slunk out the door, walked through the shadows that the enormous black buildings cast on the manicured lawn, and hopped into the waiting transport that WrisTy had called for him when he had crossed his threshold. In the 3 minute ride to the gym, Kev absentmindedly projected a few vids onto the ceiling of the white, boxy vehicle and checked his number. Up to five. Maybe one of his poker buddies was planning the guest list for next weekend or something. His battery was running low though, so he mostly drifted in and out of cognizance, wondering whether Karen was going to call him again today.

“Bleem!” Kev’s brain registered the cheery noise it had been fed as the transport used the WrisTy’s cerebro-audial interface to announce his arrival at the gym. The white, boxy car automatically slid open the rear passenger door. Kev took a deep breath, gestured to his WrisTy for some tunes, popped in his earplugs, and jumped out the door into the morning chill.

The gym was packed. Mondays were always a rough day - everyone trying to charge their batteries back up, as well as maybe get a jump-start to their numbers for the week. As he walked through the sliding double doors, he felt a gentle short-long double buzz emanate from his carpals. The WrisTy had announced a double digit bounce. Exactly what you’d expect when all the gerbils on the treadmills see you walking into the gym, so he didn’t bother to check the exact number. They’d all forget about him in the next quarter-hour anyway.

Kev hopped onto the nearest open treadmill, placed his WrisTy in the charging port, and got to work with his warm-up. The device usually ran on energy that it harvested from the miniature electrical signals that your body put out. A digital leech. But over a lazy weekend, the device often had troubles self-sustaining, so a quick charge in the gym (or personal transport, if you were lucky enough to own one) was usually in order.

As he ambled toward the least-sweaty looking treadmill, Kev looked around the gym. Nothing new today. A few people watching vids that were being projected onto the front of their machines. Some girls flipping through mid-air, holographic cooking websites, looking for the most appetizing way to use up the rest of the quinoa and asparagus tips that resided in their crisper drawers after disappointing weekend dinner dates. Of course, a few of the real junkies were checking their numbers too.

It was usually a little tacky to check your numbers so conspicuously. But since your numbers varied the most on the weekends, Monday morning was a slightly more acceptable time to check out how well you’d done. Kev had stayed in all weekend, so he didn’t expect anything big from his WrisTy when he finally got around to checking it again. He finished his recce of the gym, climbed onto an open treadmill, and swiped on to one of the videos of this weekend’s big fight. After watching a few ads for personal transports and sponsored news stories about tonight’s record lotto drawing, the fight began projecting onto the treadmill and blaring into his head, and he disappeared into his run.

An hour later, a sweat-drenched, 150 BPM Kevin slapped his WrisTy back on and hauled himself into a gym shower. In his few minutes of private time, he made a series of taps and gestures that caused the WrisTy to show him his performance graphs from last week. Not great. He had peaked at 35 just after his presentation to the marketing team on Thursday afternoon. He had spent most of his days in the high single-digits, but he was pretty happy with his valley as well. It was during his dinner date with Karen, so really, the red number one that was showing on his hand was the only one he had cared about at the time. She was a sweet girl. He hoped she would call.

A short trip back home to snag a bagel (160 calories, according to his stomach sensor) and get his suit on, and Kev was out the door just in time to catch the company transport to work. He nodded hello to his colleagues, then followed their lead by slipping his earplugs back in and staring up at his WrisTy’s projection on the transport ceiling to check his emails.

He slid into his cubicle, double-tapped his WrisTy to check his baseline stats (hovering between 3 and 4 right now) and got to work.

A few emails later, and Kev pushed away from his larger glass screens to grab a coffee. Since he had the newest model, he was able to pay for the latte at the first floor coffee shop by hovering his hand over the card reader. This gave him an extra moment to weakly smile at the coffee girl with the flouncy ginger hair. She smiled back, but he checked his WrisTy while he was waiting for the pour-over and his number was still at three, so it must have just been a customer-service facade. Feeling ever-so-slightly deflated, he wandered back to his plot at the cubicle farm just in time for the Monday morning meeting.

The Monday morning conference room meeting was a good tradition. The senior company reps spent a few minutes verbally sharing empty pleasantries and “getting everyone on the same page.” Then everyone took a few moments to shake hands and say hello with as many colleagues as you could for a quick WrisTy boost to start off the week. Useful, but almost always forgettable.

Kev’s six turned into a seven at around 3:00, and his carpals buzzed a few moments later. He was getting a call from Karen! They both silently exchanged greetings and he smiled as hard as he could. The cerebral interface on their devices kept up fairly well as they mentally chatted and then thought through their weekday plans together. He got the sense that she really liked him. Kev’s newer model had promised to more accurately transfer your conversation partner’s feelings than some of the older models were able to. This was his first real relationship since he had bought the new WrisTy, but so far he thought it was working pretty well. They made a date for Thursday evening, and she promised to think of him as often as she could until then. He promised the same, and their connection clicked off.

After work, Kev walked in the fading sunlight from the company transport to the convenience store near his flat, rectangular black apartment building. He picked up the usual - some pre-steamed rice, a pack of frozen veggies, and a sleeve of 4 eggs. Fried rice was always quick and easy. He made his way to the checkouts and checked his number quickly again. Eight. Huh. Eight people had thought about him in the last 15 minutes. I guess those last few emails he had sent must have made an impact. He wondered who else it might be. Karen, he hoped. Maybe a few of the guys from shipping and receiving? Mom and Dad? He should call them. He should also call his brother...

He slid into the express lane and wondered if he could make a bigger splash tomorrow with his role in the upcoming Kowrek development. The attendant scanned his three items and mumbled a total before he extended his hand and hovered it near the card reader. As he looked up to confirm his total on the screen by the register, the sheer number of zeroes in the weekly lotto draw caught his eye, and he figured “What the hell,” and asked for two lotto tickets too. He shoved the two curled-up paper confirmations into the side of his grocery bag and headed for home.

Halfway across the complex, between buildings A-23 and A-25, Kev’s thoughts of where to take Karen on Thursday were interrupted when he noticed an unusual stain on the normally Fenway-quality complex lawn. A fraying brown lump was lying motionless in between the otherwise razor-edged buildings. Kevin pulled out his earplugs and slowly walked toward the strangely-shaped blob.

The mass of blankets heard him coming and rolled over onto her back with a moan. Oh fuck: it was alive! The homeless woman made fleeting eye contact with Kev before her gaze sailed down his arm and settled on his hand. As soon as she saw his dimly-glowing WrisTy, her crackly voice went to work. Amongst the mumbles and hacking coughs, Kev made out a few of her words as he stealthily called for the local security force with his left hand.

“Chipped? Ahh … get the gov’munt … like dogs … know who you’re thinking about … trackin’ your brain bone …” Kev instinctively pressed his left hand tightly up against his thigh and just gazed in wonderment at the display of wretched humanity in front of him. Her grumbles and gasps faded into a wheezy moan just as two portly, out-of-breath security guards arrived.

“Are you injured sir? Did the assailant make physical contact with you?” the blonde one asked with a lackadaisical, practiced drawl. Kev shook himself back into the moment and choked out a “No, it’s all fine.” He tapped his chip into the bio-metrics reader the rent-a-cop had presented him with to register the incident before grabbing his shopping and heading back to his apartment.

With the toothless lawn rave still occupying most of his mind, Kev pulled the rice, frozen veg, and eggs out of his bag. He flicked through some of yesterday’s late-night shows as his rice sizzled. He cracked four eggs into the skillet and chucked the shells into the grocery bag he’d left on his counter. Just as the eggs started to solidify a bit, he stirred the rice back into the mixture. While the cooking finished up, he gathered the rest of the refuse together and chucked it down his apartment’s built-in garbage chute. As he munched on the bowl of rice, he briefly considered calling Karen to see what she was up to. Ultimately, he thought his tiredness might come through their connection. Even though she had an older WrisTy, he decided not to risk it. After enjoying a few older talk-show interviews with his favorite actress, Kev slouched up to bed, disconnected his WrisTy, and laid it by his bed. He made a concerted effort to think of Karen one last time before he his head hit the pillow and he drifted off before the 10:00 news even started to play.

7:30. Kev tapped the glass to shut off his later Tuesday alarm and gingerly connected his WrisTy to his hand. He lazily double-tapped the screen to check if Karen was awake and thinking about him yet.

452,552,045. And climbing.

“Huh. That’s a weird glitch.” Kev popped the glowing glass off his hand and initiated a hard reset that would finish while he showered.

He toweled off and strolled from the en-suite back into the bedroom to see if the reset had fixed the weird numbers glitch he had seen when he woke up.

475,892,040. And climbing.

“Shit. Is my hardware faulty? Thank god it’s still under warranty.” Kev mumbled under his breath. Maybe he had to go old-school. He used the voice commands to audibly activate a system registry check. The device blinked for a moment and then glowed green. The audio signal fed smoothly into his cortex through the usual interface- all clear. Battery reset? Nope. Software update? Nope. Display crystal damage? Nothing. Maybe it was something that only a tech could reset. No other functions seemed to be damaged or non-functional though. Weird.

Kev went through his Tuesday morning routine as usual, with the notable exception that he was now checking his WrisTy every few moments. He was over 500 million, and the number was still climbing.

At 8:45, he found himself vaulting across the lawn, scrambling to catch the last transport that would get him to work on time. Writing a late form was a real bitch, and he doubted his personal technical difficulties would garner much sympathy from upper management. Luckily, he was able to slide into the last seat of the jammed transport. Without so much as a nod or a grunt to the rest of his unimpressed colleagues, Kev squished into the back corner and checked his display.

530,332,892. What the actual hell was happening? The number was climbing so fast, he was surprised that the hardware could keep up. These were numbers that even most celebrities on the talk shows only dreamed of as they were doing their pressers for their newest movies. If I were this famous, he thought, surely I would be dating several models by now, right? Kev kept tapping his display, but chose not to project it onto the ceiling of the transport. His colleagues had probably raised some eyebrows at his sudden need for privacy, but Kev wouldn’t have noticed.

By the time he rolled into work, he was just breaching six hundred million. Feeling a bit worried about the long-term effects of the apparent bug, he found the website, opened a support chat with WrisTy, entered his hardware ID, and waited for a tech to log on. Luckily, he was able to dash off a few emails in the 45 minute interlude before his support session connected. Once he got this problem sorted out, he wanted to make sure his Tuesday morning results weren’t as bad as last week. If he dropped below an average of 5 for the week, he would be in danger of losing his influencer status, and would be locked out of a few of the more enjoyable social functions of the new model.

With an assertive “PING!” the support chat initiated on his second glass monitor. Kev went through the usual data and verification functions and then Akhbal the tech requested to connect directly to his device to check in.

Akhbal’s first message was not enheartening. “Woah! That’s an interesting bug. Not sure I’ve ever seen this happen before. Might be a pathway error, or possibly an infinite duplication glitch happening with the dual-factor authentication server. Let me run a few diagnostic…” The rest of the chat deteriorated into overly-polite service talk.

Following 30 minutes of testing, verifications, and re-verifications, Kev was getting a little annoyed. Even with a unique bug like this, the WrisTy team was well-known for their quick service. Surely their team of ground-breaking engineers and global market share dominance could buy them a few half-decent support techs.

“Mr. Keese? I’m afraid that our diagnostic options end here. Now that we’ve exhausted our bug fix options, the only other option to consider is that you’ve become the most famous man in the country overnight. :)” The unexpected levity from the service tech made Kev chuckle to himself, and he responded with a quick “OK, thanks. Will you guys be in contact once you figure out what’s going on?”

“Of course, Mr. Keese. If we can track down the bug, we’ll let you know. It’s likely that a daily update will catch it without an active bugfix request, so I would expect things will be back to normal in a day or two. Please do be in touch if you have any further questions.” Akhbal’s icon then blinked off screen, replaced with a three question “How’d we do?” survey.

The most famous man in the country overnight. He. Kevin Keese. The middle manager at a mediocre property marketing firm in the world’s most anonymous major city. Kev sat in his chair for a moment, turning over the notion in his head, then chuckled as he sunk back into his regular office routine. The rest of the day passed with comparative normalcy, with the minor exception of his WrisTy numbers, which peaked around 850,000,000 near the end of the workday.

After sharing a quick call with Karen on the way home, Kev settled back into his normal evening routine, though he did pick up a bottle of wine at the convenience store to go with his eggs and rice. After dinner, the number on his WrisTy was down to 600,000,000 before spiking again just after 10:00.

As he nestled himself into bed, Kev idly wondered how long his WrisTy would be busted. These implants weren’t cheap, and if the software was glitching out already, he was going to be pretty pissy. He smiled as he turned over in bed and thought about what a nice story this would be on his date with Karen later in the week. As he slowly closed his eyes, he mentally laughed at his own prepared joke: was she one of the 800,000,000 thinking about him on Tuesday?

Early Wednesday morning, before sunrise, a garbage truck rumbled away from an indistinguishable black monolith. It was carrying a crumpled paper bag which contained four eggshells, a plastic rice container, and two curled, crinkled pieces of paper: one of which was much more important than the other.

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