Honorable Mention, 2014 Bethesda Magazine Young Adult Short Story Contest
Beep! Beep! Beep! The constant ringing in Pilot’s ear awoke him. He slowly rose from his bed and walked over to the bathroom to insert his lens. As he stood over the sink with careful fingers, he put his lens in, blinked twice and heard a voice say, “Seven-twenty-five a.m. The fifteenth of May. Year: 3000.” The date was displayed in front of him, and information began to unfold before his eyes. In the right top corner of his view he saw, in red lights, his homework assignments due at nine that morning. Underneath that, a virtual thermometer boasted a temperature of 55 degrees, an incredibly hot day. Two sets of blinking lights caught Pilot’s attention. He noticed that his security chip was running low on battery and must be replaced soon. The security chip’s main purpose is to protect the citizens from “dangerous and unnecessary information,” as the Government puts it, which may be lurking around in cyberspace, easy to collect without the chip. Replacing was a daily task, but not doing so was a crime so extreme that its punishments are nearly unthinkable.
Pilot lazily opened up his schedule through the voice activation in his lens and made a note to replace his chip. The daily tasks had begun to take a toll on Pilot’s already- low energy. The simple things like changing a security chip were magnified until they felt unbearable. Pilot’s walk had slowed exponentially, his movements were sluggish and his mood was consistently dull. Underneath that blinking light was a symbol of an envelope with the constant flashing of the number two. He touched the thin air in front of him, designating his lens to open the messages. They were, of course, from his two best friends Cole and OC. He decided to call them; something about seeing their faces comforted Pilot. He put three fingers in the air and said loudly “OC, Cole.” His lens immediately began to display their pictures in the air in front of him, and the three began to talk. Pilot watched as OC scratched his forehead, and Cole adjusted his hair.
“Did you see the homework assigned for tonight? Ridiculous! Who in the world cares about the past! Like, come on, why do we need to worry so much about the past if all we want to do is advance into the future?” Cole was always questioning the necessity of the homework, no matter what the assignment.
“Wait wait wait. We have homework? When did this happen?”
“So typical OC. You’d think that after 19 years the kid would get into the habit of checking for homework, but no,” responded Pilot.
Pilot thought for a moment. Nineteen years. It’s been nineteen years since he’s physically seen OC or Cole. In fact, Pilot has only seen them once since they were born. He began to think back to the Meeting Session when he was a child. The Meeting Session is held once a year for five-year-olds, so that they can meet at least two people to become friends with. Then, for the rest of one’s life, they have no other physical interaction with anyone else. As he became older, Pilot’s curiosity and desires grew. The messages and video calls were not enough, he yearned for more.
His lens read aloud “Time: eight thirty, thirty minutes until homework is due. Security chip is now dead.” Pilot sat up. “Shoot!” he thought to himself. The security chip took at least 20 minutes to load, which would not leave enough time to do research and turn in his homework. He decided that immediately after he finished his assignment, he would load a new chip. Although the Government is alerted when a security chip dies, how much harm can 30 minutes make? Pilot somberly walked over to his desk and lowered himself into his chair. Such a small excursion, yet it took so much effort. He opened a browser file and his eyes dropped for a second. He stared as his hands. They had become thin and his veins were prominent. They rose into the air to click on the browsing file symbol, but fell quickly after. They weighed hundreds of pounds, and Pilot struggled to keep them up in the air. There was no doubt that the world was unfairly consuming him. First his hands, then his mind. Then, he’ll be gone. “I’ll be gone. I haven’t done anything yet. But, I’ll be gone,” thought Pilot.
An icon in the file caught his eye. It had a symbol on it but it had no name, probably because it was too old and corrupt. He decided to open it, and a screen popped up with a video of a man standing in front of a crowd with one hand on a book and another in the air. He was surrounded by thousands of people as he vowed to protect his country. He clicked on about a dozen more videos until he stumbled upon one in which a score of people stood around a table with hundreds of plates of food. They all took turns talking about what they’re “thankful” for. Pilot failed understand what was going on. Why were all the people standing so close to each other? Where were their lenses? Why was there so much interaction? Why doesn’t everyone talk and hug like in this video? “OC, Cole” Pilot said, with three fingers in the air for the second time today.
“Dude, what do you want? I need to submit this stupid assignment in twenty minutes,” OC said rudely.
“We’re gonna do something different. I hate this place. Let’s mess it up. Break a rule. I need to do something different, I need change. Let’s meet up. Let’s go out! Let’s do something for once!”
“Face to face? No way, man. You know we’re not allowed to. Come on, Pilot, you’re talking like a crazy person. I'm out.” Before Pilot got a chance to speak, Cole’s picture disappeared.
“I mean, I guess it wouldn’t hurt anyone if we just met up once, right?” OC scratched his head, contemplating the consequences of such an act.
“Ok man, plug in the coordinates 36° 30’ 48”, and we’ll meet there. I just pulled up a map and I checked your location. It’s central to both of us. I’ll see you in ten.” Pilot’s pace quickened as he walked over to his dresser and pulled out clothes. His movements sped up as the adrenaline pumped through his entire body. He was finally going to do something.
Pilot turned from the shiny glass into a dark alley way. His leather shoes stopped gliding on the sleek streets as they felt a hard material underneath them. He looked around at the chrome building that surrounded him. The alley was not well kept; the chrome was beginning to peel, exposing a red, crumbly, rectangular shaped substance underneath it. Pilot looked down as the glass flooring came to an end and met with a black, hard substance with yellow lines. He looked up and saw two men approaching him. So Cole decided to come, Pilot thought. But as the men came closer, it appeared as if one man was pushing the other forward. The two came into the light as Pilot took a deep breath and struggled to let it out. OC was standing in front of Pilot, handcuffed by a tall man in a black, striped suit. He displayed no emotion, but Pilot could still recognize him. It was a Government official.
Pilot sat at a cold metal table, on a metal chair, in a room made completely out of metal. It was icy, uncomfortable, and hostile. He felt the air vents blowing against his feet. Pilot looked at his hands. They were colorless and cold, mocking the very room he sat in. He was placed next to OC, who sat with his head hanging down. An old man with a black robe walked in. He stood in front of the boys, towering over them to demonstrate his monopolizing authority.
“Pilot Fairway, you are hereby under arrest on account of the following charges. Neglect of your security chip. Failure to install a new chip. Illegal search of cyberspace browsing files. Conspiracy of physical interaction. Execution of physical interaction. John O’Callahan, you are hereby under arrest on account of the following charges. Conspiracy of physical interaction. Execution of physical interaction. Both arrests were made after the review of a call made to the Government by a Cole Potter, who will be receiving a Medal of Respect for his loyalty to the Government. You will now be consulted by officials separately, and we will convene in 20 minutes to hear your pleas.”
Pilot was directed into another metal room, exactly the same as the last one, but smaller. A man in a black suit entered and aggressively approached Pilot.
“Listen, punk. You’re going to go in there and throw that other kid under the bus. You’re going to say that he planned the whole thing and you were forced to comply with him. Then, we’ll both go back to our regular routines. Got it?” the officer said.
“No! Is this some kind of a joke? I’m not going to betray my friend! Not OC! I’m not going to be like Cole. I’m sticking with OC, just like he’s sticking with me.” Pilot’s cold hands shook against the table. He placed them in his lap to stop the shaking, but they continued to do so. His eyebrows became shelter to the endless beads of sweat that dripped down his face, and his feet rhythmically moved back and forth.
“What the hell is your problem? You actually think he’s your friend? You’ve barely talked to the kid other than those stupid messages and virtual calls! Heck, I have had more interaction with you than that kid. You’ll see. Those messages don’t mean a thing. OC doesn’t care about you. Never has. Never will. But hey, do what you want. ”
Pilot thought for a moment. As his leather shoes scraped the metal floors, he thought back to all the times that OC had helped him with his homework. His hands became moist, and he viciously wiped them against the front panel of his pants, but it didn’t help. He swallowed hard, as if he’d just eaten an apple without even chewing it. Pilot slowly walked back into the room and saw OC talking to the judge. He feared that OC was taking the blame for everything. Why? They were in this together! OC turned back to Pilot, gave him a somber look, and walked out of the building with his hands glued to his side, completely emotionless. There was no doubt. Pilot knew that OC, being a true and loyal friend, would have taken credit for all of this. Pilot was devastated, but in the back of his mind, he felt the smallest bit of relief. He wasn’t going to jail; he was saved by his best friend. Pilot approached the judge with slow movements, mimicking his energy from the beginning of the day.
“Pilot Fairway, you are hereby charged guilty for the crimes that you have been previously charged with. John O’Callahan has admitted, under oath, that he was forced to meet with you, and went to the given coordinates out of fear for his life. You have been sentenced with life in prison without parole. Your lenses will be immediately removed from your possession. Good day, Mr. Fairway.”
As the judge walked away with impassive, long strides, Pilot looked around. He stood alone. He walked over to the table where he was sitting before he chose to stand by his friend. Friend. OC was no friend. The official was right. Those messages meant nothing. Nothing is produced from them except maybe some false, artificial happiness. Pilot had been abandoned and betrayed by his only friends. But it was them he felt sorry for, because, as he rots in jail, they’ll be living their lives, so oblivious to the truth. “I know the truth,” Pilot thought. “I know what kind of world I’m living in. And to think my only intentions were to do something. Well, I sure did. I finally did something.”
Amal Haque is a junior at Walt Whitman High School In Bethesda. She began writing in elementary school, when she was a part of the creative writing club, which sparked her interest in fictional writing and its endless boundaries. Although she does not get much time to write outside of school these days, Amal frequently finds herself composing stories while daydreaming in class.