This is my response to the earlier Flashback Track Friday prompt, where today we are given Operator by Jim Croce and asked:
If you could call anyone, past, present or future, who would it be?
I have been waiting for this moment, the highlight of my year. A chat to my great-great-grandchild, Danny. In my time, Danny has not yet been born, but through the miraculous invention of the Jumptime App, I am able to speak with him. In his time, the year is 2208, and the reason for my call is his special day, his coming-of-age, his eighteenth birthday. A celebratory phone call from his great-great-grandad.
The time is arrived. My wall is covered, floor to ceiling, end-to-end, in plasma screens, and I glance at the “Mute” button. This Gaze Detection technology is incredible, I think, as my PanorVision system immediately quietens.
Jumptime was developed by the state. This could never have happened before the creation of Demos, a single, global perpetual government, and they had certainly made rapid advances. There are rumours that this app is just another way they exercise control, but I don’t subscribe. If we have nothing to hide, we have nothing to fear. That’s what they always tell us, and I have nothing worth concealing.
“Hey Siri”, I think. Life has become so much easier since speech was rendered unnecessary. Immediately, Siri’s response. They have made this technology so good now, although retraining my brain to engage with the new tech took some doing. But the end result, I am hardly aware that the voice chiming in my head is entirely digital.
“I’d like to place a Jumptime call to Danny Brewster, please. For five seconds I hear a repeating monotone, as Siri automatically accesses my records. The voice comes back on. “I’m sorry for the delay, sir. We’ve had a few problems with our internet today.” Nothing changes, I think, but Siri thankfully ignores my insolence.
The cast is eventually arranged. “I’m just connecting you, sir”, says the helpful Siri.
As I wait, my attention is drawn back to PanorVision. Beautiful high-definition images of icebergs crashing gracefully into the ocean, of some long-extinct animals hunting. I can’t even remember what they were called. Next, there is footage of somewhere being flooded, but by now I’m conscious that my connection is taking a while.
“Hey Siri”, I think, “What’s the delay?” “I’m sorry, sir, we’re trying to connect you. Please hold.”
I glance at PanorVision again. Images, this time of the food riots. They happened when I was so small, I have no recollection. A juxtaposition, as the wall comes alive, showing footage of the forest fires they had long before even I was born. Five seconds later, the image is tranquil once more, an image of the ocean. There is a jellyfish floating in the distance. I remember these from school. The camera gradually zooms in, and I see that this is not a jellyfish, but instead a plastic bag.
“I’m sorry, Mr Sachs”, comes a voice in my head. “We are unable to connect you at this time. Please check your details and try again. Thank you for using Jumptime. Before you go, would you be willing to rate your experience today?”.
Strange, I spoke to him only six months ago, and connected to his iChip without problem – so I know those details are good.
“Retry”, I command. Five seconds later, the same response. An error connecting the call.
“Hey Siri, Error Code”.
“Processing…”, comes Siri’s response, and a short time later: “Jumptime reports Error Code 512”.
That’s weird. Of all the times this thing has gone wrong in the past, I never came across that one before. “Explain Error 512”, I command.
A short delay, then: “Jumptime reports that Error 512 corresponds to message ‘user extinct’”.
- In terms of creating a piece of flash, this is the first time I tried sci-fi and was the biggest buzz yet – anybody who writes creatively will know the feeling. I had the story in my head and the words almost fell over themselves getting onto the page, although I thought the very end could have been written smoother.
- This flash all stemmed from a discussion I had with KK about whether she should include “future” in today’s question. My gut feel was “of course”, for the simple reason that I would be fascinated to be a fly on the wall, at some point in the future, to ask “what actually happened to the planet, in the end?”. Today’s prompt set that up.
I then thought about taking it one step further. We ask, but there is no-one there to reply, because they too became extinct. From then on it was simply a case of putting something down.
- Various things about my story are implausible, and plausibility is normally a big thing in me, but I figure that as soon as you step into sci-fi, everything becomes plausible.
- On some of the subtleties, yes, I wrote in Apple as the government of the world. That’s not so implausible. Look around you. It’s them, Facebook or Google.
- Demos is a play on democracy, because that’s how it’ll be sold to us. That’s already happened. Remember East Germany? One of the most illiberal places you could imagine? They called themselves a Democratic Republic.
- In the same vein, we used to call it brainwashing but this is a guy willingly “retraining” his brain so it thinks a certain way as to fit in with the software’s requirements. What’s the difference? Look around you.
- Lastly 512 is part of my phone number. For some fun over the weekend, why not see whether you can guess the rest, then we can maybe say Hi? 🤣.
Anyway, it was great fun to write this. Thanks for the seed, KK.