SpaceLogo Sciences Participating with Arts & Culture in Education

By Spencer Hou February 19, 2024


             And just like that, your life is finally yours.

These words ring wherever I go.

They follow me as I pick up coffee from the Starbucks next to my office, jeering as I spill dark liquid onto my new shirt. They drift around me as I examine the apples at the supermarket, stalking upon flyers and crawling off the tongues of passersby. And now, as I trek home in the pouring rain, drenched to the bone, they dance upon the shining billboards—singing, twisting, mocking—as inescapable as the maws of fate.

 None of us saw it coming.

It started simply. An insignificant pop-up on the corner of our computer screens next to our favorite YouTube videos. An ad we scrolled past without a second thought. A three-second mention on the TV which everyone scoffed at; the topic of ridicule at dinner tables. We laughed at their naiveté. It’s just going to be another failed experiment of some Silicon Valley trust-fund baby, we said. No one would ever want that. Who would want to live knowing every second of what happens next?

And now I see them, all of them: earpieces in, frames glinting, Light flashing blue — they’re not laughing anymore.

Turns out, there’s attractiveness in predictability. The Light, shaped like a pair of regular glasses, can take in mass amounts of data through cameras embedded in the sleek frames. With an accompanying earpiece and electrodes, it plucks thoughts right out of your head. The Light had a rocky start, when customers complained of inaccuracy and gave ranting one-star reviews due to false predictions. But with more terms of service agreements signed without a thought, more servers hidden kilometers below ground, and a hell of a cooling system, it is now able to project terrifyingly accurate answers to your every move straight on to your lenses. There’s comfort in knowing that every action will result in exactly what you’d expect. There’s beauty in probabilities. You could call it freedom, even: freedom from chance.

Or so they say.

The streetlights outside have broken again. Wiping raindrops from my face, I fumble in my wet pocket for my keys in pitch blackness, juggling the groceries, my fingers numb. I didn’t expect it to rain today: the sky this morning hadn’t a single wisp of a cloud. But at last, my hand finds the cold metal of my keys, and I open the door to my apartment.

My foot snags on a pair of shoes.

Before I know it, my knees are making contact with the merciless ground, exploding in pain as I fall with a yelp. My grocery bag crashes down with me, apples rolling across the floor. I curse.

“Oh my gosh, are you alright?” My roommate rushes out of the living room, probably hearing the crash. She takes a step forward.

The blinking light of her earpiece flashes blue: the signal that her thoughts and current situation have just been transmitted through the barely noticeable electrodes attached to her scalp. Megabit by megabit, the powerful calculation matrices of The Light are processing everything she sees in real time. She stops in her tracks.

Not again.

“I would go help you up, but there’s an 83% chance that I’ll slip and fall if I do, so…” she trails off, looking apologetic. “Sorry. You know me, I don’t chance anything above 75.”

I pick myself up from the floor, my knees throbbing. I don’t need a headset to tell me that it’s going to turn into a nasty bruise. “That’s alright,” I mumble, picking up the apples.

“You know, you wouldn’t have tripped if you just—”

I interrupt her, “I know. We’ve been over this.”

She purses her lips, looking as if she wanted to say more. I ignore her disapproving gaze and kick off my shoes, heading into the kitchen. It’s dim in there: a bulb has burned and neither of us has gotten around to replacing it. I open the bag to check the other produce. The carton of eggs I just bought has perished, turning into a mess at the bottom of the bag, coating everything in a layer of slightly pungent slime.

“I just don’t understand why you don’t get one. It makes everything so much easier,” I hear her say from behind me. I resist the urge to sigh. Ever since she got the Light a month ago, she’s been on my back about getting one as well. “It’ll make everyone else’s lives so much easier too! I mean, the more data they have, the better their calculations are. Plus, I’ll know exactly what’s gonna happen in our apartment as well.”

She said the last part a bit quietly, but I know that’s the main motivation behind her nagging.

“Like, you wouldn’t have been soaked if you had the Light. I knew there was a 75% chance for rain this morning and I brought an umbrella when I left,” she says proudly. “Did you know—”

“Do you ever shut up?” I burst out, turning around. Her eyes are wide. A twang of shame curls in my chest. Then her face twists into a scowl.

“Fine. If you want to live your life like a gambler, whatever. But you don’t have to be so rude about it,” she sniffs. Her eyes flicker down. “Plus, you’re dripping water all over the floor.”

She stomps away, muttering something about “not expecting to mop today”, “if only…”, and so on.

I rub my temples, feeling the beginnings of a migraine. My phone rings in my pocket.

“Hi Mom.”

“Hey baby,” she says cheerfully. “How are you doing?”

“Fine,” I lie.

“Aha! I knew you would say that!”

I sigh. “Did you know that, or did The Light know that.”

She laughs. “Aw, you’ve got me. Honey, isn’t it amazing what technology can do these days? I mean, I already knew what you would say next without you saying it!”

“What does the Light think I’ll say?”

“Let’s see… 45% chance that you’ll ask me about my day, 65% chance that you’ll start ranting about the Light again.”

“I was about to tell you a knock-knock joke about electricians, actually,” I deadpan.

 “Don’t be silly. Now which one was it.”

 I don’t want to admit that she is right— no, that the Light was right.

I was about to start talking about the Light.

How she never should’ve gotten it, how it’s making everyone overly conscious of every insignificant thing they do, how we assume the actions of others without interacting with them. How we base our lives upon on these percentages listed on our lenses, these numbers blasted into our earpieces.

“It’s a bad time actually, Mom. I’ve got to go. Call you back later?”

“Fine. See, I would’ve known you are busy if you’d have only got a Light! Alright, alright. I’ll talk to you later.”

“Bye.” I hang up.

The silence hangs thick, almost tangible, as I stand alone in the middle of the dim kitchen, still clutching my phone. I glance at the grocery bag: cleaning up the sticky eggshell-covered mess feels like a Herculean task. A well of emotions claws inside my chest, a nebulous mixture I can’t quite place.

My temples are pounding now. My new white shirt is still stained. My wet clothes still stick, clinging uncomfortably, water dripping slowly down my legs. My knees still ache, dully throbbing as the pain gleefully reminds me of my fall.

        If I had known — if I had done everything right — if I had seen it all coming

        I open my phone.

        If it all went according to plan

        I navigate to the site I swore to never visit.

        If everything in life were certain, every decision calculated

        My thumb hovers over the button.

        Would life finally be mine?

But for whatever reason — call it fate, perhaps — I look out the window.

The rain still falls outside. The streetlamps remain broken. People still pass, their figures almost invisible in the darkness, reduced to blurred shadows and desaturated umbrellas. As I gaze onto the scene, a raincloud gently passes.

       A bloom of pale moonlight spills over the nighttime world below.

       It is a full moon, I realize. I didn’t know that.

       I see.

       I put down my phone.

I run out the door, barefoot, rushing down the stairs, my hands gliding along the rails. There’s gravel biting into the bottom of my feet, but there are no thoughts in my head as I slam open the front door. The rain greets me outside, the wind I thought so grueling caresses my skin, and the water dripping down my hair cools my burning face. I take a deep breath of the petrichor air, letting it fill my lungs, seeping deep into my body. And I begin to laugh — childishly, jubilantly, like I’ve never laughed before.

I look up at the moon, opening my arms like an embrace. The moonlight glows, bathing me in it: it’s not bright — no, not at all. But I see so much better now.

       Passersby stare.

      Their Lights blink blue: they’re only pinpricks.

      That’s right, I thought victoriously, you didn’t see that coming.


Photo by Darius Bashar on Unsplash

About the author

Spencer is a first-year student in Enriched Health Science, but they are an art kid at heart.   

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