It’s not everyday that you’d stumble upon an odd feature on your web browser—the kind of feature that would, perhaps, make you wonder if it’s April Fools’ Day. After all, our technology couldn’t have possibly advanced in such a way. Or, at the very least, not in any capacity to question our reality.
“They haven’t rolled it out for everyone yet but I got the update this morning,” I said. “Have you?”
“Nope,” she replied. “Don’t tell me you think it’s legit.”
I chuckled—of course not. Not a single sentence of the user algorithm commentary, listed in the patch notes, made any sense. So perhaps, April Fools’ Day was really in August wherever the developers were from.
“Sounds pretty cool though,” I said. “I’ll play around tonight.”
That night, I allowed my browser to run the application update. It took ten seconds before a solid crimson ‘forward’ icon appeared beside my ‘ad block’ extension. Without any hesitation, I launched the feature. And instantly, a search engine page flicked to the front of my screen.
“Search future,” I read the minimalist block typography in its archetypal red. “All right. Juke Matthews,” I echoed, typing my name in the search column. Then, setting the date to a year from that evening itself, I hit enter.
About 59,300 results turned up in 0.46 seconds—majority of which weren’t me. There was ‘Juke Matthews the physicist’, ‘J. Matthews the science-fiction author’, but no ‘Juke Matthews the boring accountant’. What was I expecting? I wasn’t famous. I was a nobody. But perhaps, I wasn’t looking far enough. Deciding to change the date—fingers-crossed that one day I’d find recognition—I began scrolling through five years, ten years, twenty years, and even up to fifty years into the future. Alas, I never accomplished anything noteworthy to make it on the internet.
“Never mind that,” I assured myself. “Does this work with socials?” I furrowed my brows before excitement sparked at the wild possibility—could I peek into my future through my social media accounts?
On the same page, I pulled up my favourite platform and logged in. Expecting to see the familiar layout—of which I’ve spent most of my weekends staring into—I was briefly confused. Had I just logged into a bogus site? Did I foolishly give my login details away? A second later, it dawned upon me—this was my timeline ten years into the future. Surely, the interface would’ve updated. Ignoring the settling apprehension, I clicked into my profile.
“I have… a girlfriend?” I asked in disbelief. My profile picture had changed from the badly lit snapshot of me at my cluttered work desk to a vacation photo with a woman—a woman I had never seen before. Granted, our faces were barely distinguishable as we stood against the sun—the sandy beach and the deep blue ocean prominent in the background. “Not bad, Juke. I’m impressed.”
If the update was a prank, it did a great job at making me a fool. Oh, how I wished it was all true. Despite my lack of internet fame, I seemed to be doing all right in the future. Expecting to find myself further entertained, I scrolled down my profile.
There was a job update—“Ah, I got a promotion. I guess Aaron isn’t such a prick after all.” There was a picture of a black Labrador pup, presented as a gift with a pink ribbon tied around its neck—“Oh, I always wanted a dog.” There was an essay-long status about the ten things I was grateful for—“Wow, life sure is good.” And then… there was a picture from when I was a baby, cradled in my mother’s arms—the caption read, “We will never stop loving you.” That picture came right after another of an empty hospital bed—“Cancer?”
“Not funny,” I added. “Not cool.” I contemplated closing the page but curiosity kept me lingering. Even after the little voice in my head had warned me not to proceed, I still needed to know.
Down the timeline I went—one status update after another. But after eight years, I still couldn’t find a beginning. When was the diagnosis? Perhaps, it was too sensitive to publicise. Wondering if I should act on the information, I decided to give my mother a call. It was better to be safe than sorry.
Grabbing my phone, I dialed her number. The moment the phone line clicked, I said, “Mum? I need you to see a doctor this weekend.”
Silence lingered on the other end of the line. “Mum?” I repeated. “Can you hear me?”
“Who is this?” my mother asked.
“It’s me, mum. It’s Juke. I need you-”
“Whoever you are, this isn’t funny,” my mother replied.
“What are you talking about?”
“Goodbye,” my mother said, before promptly ending the call.
Bemused, I dialed her number again, and again, and again. Alas, not once did she pick up. Resorting to a message, I asked for an explanation—why was she acting strange? Did something happen? When my mother finally replied, after my twelfth line, she wrote, ‘My son is dead. Stop messaging me or I’ll call the police.’
I frowned. Did my mother change her number without informing me? Shaking my head, I contemplated calling my father. But before I did, a notification appeared on the screen before me.
“Your session will expire in sixty-seconds,” I read. “Click here to continue.” I clicked.
Upon the command, the page scrolled on its own—breezing past all posts and settling on a date. It was that day—the day I ran a poll to see who else had the browser update. The day right before a series of condolences filled my page—“We will miss you, Juke. You were a great friend.” The day my brother posted on my behalf for the first time—“Keeping this page alive in memory of Juke. Love you forever, bro.”
But who else had the new search engine feature? No one answered my poll—it was only me.
12 Genre Months © 2019 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.
(Click HERE for the list of stories in this writing challenge.)