Original Works

Search Future [12 Genre Months]

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.)

Original Works

Broccoli | Internet | Papercut

Three papercuts on a Friday night. Two more on a Saturday morning—my weekend had gone off to a great start. The stack of recycled paper, of bank statements and reports, were placed inked-side down on the living room floor. They were brought home the night before—a collection from an hour of rummaging through my office drawers for dated paperwork—all because of a special request.

“We need them,” he told me.

“It’s important,” she chimed.

“How many do you need?” I asked.

“As many as you can get,” he replied.

“The more the better,” she added.

I heaved a sigh and scheduled it as a to-do on my phone. Though, that wasn’t actually required—they reminded me on Friday morning of its dire importance. It was as though there were lives depending on my simple task. And perhaps, there were. After all, the duo lived on another plane. Their existence different from mine. Their requirements of survival more challenging to fulfill. And since I chose to be a part of their lives, I valued theirs more than mine. So there I was, on a Saturday morning, directing them to the old documents I had gathered.

“Thank you,” he said.

“Yes, thank you,” she echoed.

“You’re welcome,” I replied with a smile.

I was tempted to see what they would do with all that paper but my day wasn’t over. I had to peel three carrots, cut two broccoli, season one whole chicken, and toss them all in the oven for lunch. The carrots and broccoli must be soft to the bite and the chicken must be tender, as how the duo often requested them to be. The food must also be served on white oval plates with a side of a red sauce they called, ‘Scarlet’s Shadow’. It was a meal they would consume if done correctly. But if it was too salty, too dry, or too hard for their taste, I would either have to reason with them or start over—thankfully, the former has worked so far.

“They’re not going to be easy,” a friend once told me. “Are you sure this is something you want to do?”

I had contemplated long and hard about my decision. And when I finally said ‘yes’, I wasn’t planning to go back on my word. As enthusiastic as those who chose not to embark on this quest, I was ready to take on the challenge.

“There’s a reason why people are pulling out of this program,” my friend added. “It’s not as easy as you think.”

“I know—I know it’s not easy,” I said. “But, I want to do this. I know it sounds crazy, but I want to do it.”

My friend nodded. “You have my support then. If you need anything—anything at all—let me know.”

“Can I call you over to lend a hand?” I joked.

“No way.” My friend waved her hands. “Anything but that.”

Oh, how naive I was when I first signed up. Fortunately, I was quick to learn. I had the internet on my side—connecting with those who were on the same adventure and finding solutions to the strange problems these creatures presented. But, I won’t say that the journey has been smooth sailing.

There have been many sleepless nights—pulling myself out of bed after an arduous day—to attend to their bizarre requirements. Those late nights were often followed by hectic mornings, where I had to ensure the duo had everything they needed before I rushed to my desk job. Then, came the demands. I was told to follow the manual given, but when I refused to give in to their wants, they would change forms—the strength they could muster in their fits of anger would leave me breathless on the floor. So yes, I was and I am, tired. I have cried in frustration and exhaustion. I have stormed out—leaving them screaming and shouting—in attempts to preserve my sanity. I have wondered what I was doing wrong—those clueless days were the worst of them all. But oddly enough, I have never considered giving up.

They are unlike me. They are different. They don’t understand my world. Thus, I have had to accommodate—to be their guide. And though they have never once showed comprehension—unaware of the things I had to do, the tough decisions I had to make, and the effort I put into my work with them—I hold no grudge. I have hope that one day they would see. Perhaps when they enroll in a similar program themselves, they would finally understand my ‘no’s, ‘don’t’s, and ‘stop’s. But even if they never grasp the hardships of my journey, I would still love them. After all, they are my children.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Broccoli, internet, and papercut were words given by Billy Ho on Facebook. If you’d like to challenge me with your own 3 words, leave them in the comments below! There’ll be two more of this before the year ends and your word set might be used for one of them.

Now, it’s your turn! Write a story of your own with the three words given. You know the drill by now.

*To download the banner, left-click then right-click to save.

3 Words, 1 Story © 2018 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.

(Click HERE for a list of stories in this writing challenge.)