A Tale of Prophet & Loss
Written by Simon Penny
Logan couldn’t believe what he had just heard. He removed his nibbled fingernails from his mouth and moved his hand up to his right ear to form a seal around his bud. They were so fiddly these days. He wondered if the delivery drones whizzing around above his head were causing interference again. He hated getting his updates in the street. Where was his pod? This was the fourth time this week it hadn’t arrived. He knew he shouldn’t have changed transport solutions; now there was something else he was going to have to sort out today. “Prophet, repeat report” he said, contorting his face in the way people do when straining to hear something. Prophet responded in the same emotionless voice it always did. The message didn't change. This was interesting thought Logan, releasing the tension and relaxing back into his body. He had already received the training he needed to proceed, but having to actually have the conversation was something he contemplated in quiet disdain. He was tempted to get Prophet to convey the news for him, but company protocol was to keep the human touch on occasions such as these. As much as he felt uneasy about what was coming next, there was no way to avoid it.
It was 7:33 am when Aria got the news. Her eyes were still dry and her vision slightly blurry as she peered, like she did at that time every morning, into her bathroom mirror. Aria, raised her hands, pinched open the skin around her eyes and contemplated her eyeballs. What a night she thought. She tried not to focus on the vivid timeline photos which seemed to hover over the surface of the mirror as they scrolled past. She wondered how many more times she could turn up to work hungover before her workstation would lock her out. In a croaky voice Aria uttered her first words of the day, “Prophet, what do I need to know?”. As she reached for her toothbrush a familiar voice responded with several pieces of insignificant community news, the usual international doom and gloom, another message from her Mum and finally her schedule for the day. Aria was jolted into full consciousness by an unusual entry; a 2pm video call with Logan. What did he want? Aria usually got her comms through Prophet. It had been months since she had last been asked to face-to-face. It was probably not going to be good news. She stood up straight, placed her toothbrush in the holder and clicked her teeth together as if to test that they still worked. “Prophet, start shower, cold”.
Logan coughed, composed himself and blinked three times in quick succession. “Prophet, face-to-face, Aria Jenson”. He listened whilst his bud played the personalised ads. Suddenly, the jingles ceased and Aria sprung into view. “Logan, how are you? To what do I owe this pleasure?”. Logan paused. This is why he hated face-to-face. It was such a power struggle. He felt exposed. There was nowhere to hide. “Hey Aria” he said, attempting to convey an assertive yet casual demeanour. He failed. “I’ve got some news,” he continued awkwardly, “it’s just, there’s no easy way to say this”. Aria knew what was coming, “just get it over with,” she said in a less confident tone this time. Logan took a breath, “I’m afraid we’re going to have to terminate your tenancy”. Aria felt sick, “It’s been a difficult time Logan, but it’s getting better, you know. I’m getting over it. I’m going to knuckle down”. Logan wasn't entirely comfortable with what he was having to do. In fact he didn't feel comfortable at all. He was old school. He had been at the company for long enough to remember what it used to be like, but he knew he had to tow the policy line now. “Our risk stratification has indicated that it’s 98% likely you’ll have another episode in the next four weeks. You’re an income risk. We need to take appropriate action. I’m afraid there’s no other way, I'm giving you notice, your home access chip will cease to work at midnight in seven days time”. Aria suddenly felt a wave of emotion wash over her. Deep down she knew Logan was right, she had felt it that morning as she stared into the mirror. But it just felt so unjust. If only she could afford to get that kid down the street to block the bots, Prophet wouldn’t be able to access her social media profiles, bank accounts and voice calls. The company wouldn’t be able to see where she had been and who she had been with, and they wouldn't be able to make their ‘intelligent’ predictions and map out her ‘probable’ future. They wouldn't be able to make decisions about her in such a cold, un-empathetic way. Logan listened to the low dull hum of his bud. He knew that this time there was no interference, there was just nothing left to say. There was a time when he could have offered Aria some support; talked things through before it got to this stage, but that was before company protocol changed and the customer relationship had been automated. As he left the conversation he wondered why this was the only transaction the company insisted he did face-to-face. It somehow felt cruel to everyone involved. Perhaps it wouldn't be like this if the policy was being set by humans he thought. Logan longed for the old days again, he wasn't cut out for this new world. He leaned back in his chair, blinked his eyes three times and pressed his bud firmly into his ear, “Prophet, dim lights, open archive files, replay 9th November 2018”.
Original Image Credits
Logan - Azeddine Laghzaiel | Pexels
Aria - Kat Jayne | Pexels
Prophet - Nick Reynolds | Upsplash