2016-08-28 13:34 fiction short-story flash-fiction

Scanner, Mostly

I knew everything about him. When he woke up. How many steps he took. Where he went. When he ate, what he ate, how many calories. There were graphs for productivity, and overlays for social activity. What he watched, what he searched for (what he found), what he bought and what he was offered.

I was not looking for a specific point of information. For whatever reason only this one fascinated me. The purity there maybe, the perfectly mundane example.

The average life is demonstrably pitiful. We can measure this, we collect the metrics of misery. You probably don't like to think about it. That's why we do it. Well, we collect the evidence anyway. You must remain productive. Consider this as a mutually beneficial service.

There are graphs, of course many different kinds of graphs. One graph is for social alignment. There are four quadrants, each indicates some kind of sentiment drift. This one, the one I'm talking about, he was in the middle. I mean the dead center. This is like a statistical absolution. A degree of mathematical potency which lives in null, or at least zero, conceptually.

There is no obvious depth in the unremarkable. "Unremarkable-ness", as a quality, is something that most people do not concern themselves with, by its nature. Only with statistical analysis does this reveal impressive subtlety. Something artistic. Something remarkably unremarkable. A flatness that belies, that hints at some monstrous future extrusion or consequence.

I felt like I had to draw out the essence of this. There was a secret there, I believed. Nobody could be dead center. The only entities that could do this were mocks, tests, which were produced to create particular results uses to assess a series of environments and conditions.

I looked for that first -- was this a test? And was I supposed to notice it and adjust accordingly.

However, there would've been some signal or vector that gave this away, and a repetition. The point, however, was indeed organic.

One night I found myself outside a BoxMart watching. The parking lot was full, it was always full, people came and went. I saw them walk from the interior to the exterior, and visa versa. Each of them had purchased an item within range. Some of this was recommendation, some of it algorithmic anticipation, but none of it was haphazard. This is what we do.

I watched. Was that him? No, the car was flashy. Was that him? No, I didn't think so, the person had a demeanor, an affectation. I watched and watched. I couldn't have been wrong, the stream indicated this was where he would be.

Frustrated, I left, having waited longer than I should have. Perhaps I made an error, instead had made assumptions.

No, I was sure.

Retreat, rematch, geo-gather. The next several days were also misses. Each location, a coffee shop, a restaurant, a grocery store, revealed nothing to me. I did not see my subject. I doubled down on my data set.

Many of these places I'd already visited. Perhaps not regularly, but it was clear we crossed the same paths, were not dissimilar. This may have been the source for the maybe irrational belief that I would instantly recognize him.

In the end, I suppose I did.

The experiment handed to me was suddenly conclusive when, in a large branded specialty goods store, I turned a corner and stood before a counter behind which was a mirror.

And I did recognize him.