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

Five Words [12 Genre Months]

I’ll be back, I promise—five words scribbled in black ink on a note. They were the first words I read that morning as I headed to pour myself a glass of milk. Stuck to the door of the fridge with a magnet, I thought nothing of it—he had left many notes as such. But that evening and the evenings after, I started to doubt he would ever keep his promise. Until one day, twenty years after he’d left, another note appeared.

Would you like to reconnect?—five words in a sans serif font blinked periodically on a card. They were the first words I read on a chilly December morning as I went to collect the mail. The card made no mention of whom it was from but I had an inkling. Still, I hesitated. My thumb hovered over the green ‘yes’ button on the device. Was this how I wanted to see him again? I decided to accept the request. And, there it was, the chronicles of his life.

I scrolled through the magazine of what he had been up to—the places he’d visited, the parties he’d attended, the food he’d loved, and the people he’d met and then left as digital memories. He was using a different name, or at least, not the name I used to call him. And, after I had flipped through the past ten years of his seemingly exciting and adventurous life, five more words called for action—would you like to chat? I clicked the green button once more.

“Hey Will, how’s it going?”

Will is typing a reply—the device read.

“Hey! Long time no see!”

Could I define this encounter as ‘seeing’?

“Long time indeed. What’s up?”

I wondered if I should bring up the promise he’d made twenty years ago. It didn’t really matter that he left—I moved on. I had my own collection of countries, events, food, and people, in my own magazine of life. But I wanted to know why he left, with no explanation, only to reconnect now.

“I thought about you recently.”

“That explains why you reconnected.”

“Haha! Still sarcastic I see.”

“Why all of a sudden?”

“I made a promise, remember?”

So he didn’t forget after all—those five words that left nothing but expectation. Five words that gave me no reason for his disappearance. Was he finally going to own up to his broken promise?

“Right. What’s up with that?”

“Well, I’m keeping my promise.”

“Are you serious right now?”

“I am back, aren’t I?”

Was he joking? Did he think this was acceptable—that a simple ‘hello, I’m back’ on a device was enough? Did he not think to be a little more courteous—to actually show up in person after all these years? Who gave him the right to hide behind a screen?

“It was nice ‘seeing’ you.”

I wanted to end the conversation there. And I could. All it took was a click of a red button and I would archive the entire exchange. I even had the option to ‘delete’. Then, I could toss the card out and carry on with my day.

“Wait, don’t go just yet!”

“What do you want, Will?”

“Look, I’m sorry all right.”

“Of course you are, Will.”

“Five words are too little.”

“You realised that only now?”

“I mean, on this chat.”

Five words was how the device worked. ‘Five Words’ was what it was called. It was ‘a small step for man, one giant leap for mankind’—their tagline on every highway billboard and at the top of every salesman’s pitch. It was designed to reconnect people in a disconnected world. And the rule was simple: only five words—no more, no less.

“I know that too, Will.”

“I have much to say.”

“Then say it in person.”

“I want to, trust me.”

“Right. I’m signing out now.”

“Wait wait wait wait wait.”

“Our friendship was long over.”

“Can you come to me?”

Was this another joke? Did he expect me to take the first step? I was not a pushover—I never was. If he wanted a convenient friendship, he came to the wrong person.

“No. You come to me.”

“I can’t. I’m… I’m sick.”

“Sick? What kind of sickness?”

“Life threatening, the doctors say.”

“Oh. Wow. I’m sorry, Will.”

“I’m not a good friend.”

“You left without an explanation.”

“Let me apologise to you.”

Perhaps I could make an exception this time. Perhaps, for a dying friend, I could put my pride aside. After all, he wanted to make things right… and in person.

“Where are you right now?”

“I left you a box.”

“You left me a box?”

“The Yung Brothers & Co.”

“Yung brothers? Who are they?”

“My lawyers. I’m really sorry.”

I was expecting the name of a hospital. I was actually willing to make the drive. Why did Will want me to meet with his lawyers instead?

“Your lawyers? Why your lawyers?”

“I can’t apologise in person.”

“What do you mean, Will?”

“I’m sorry. I should have…”

“You should have what, Will?”

“I should have said more.”

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12 Genre Months © 2018 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.

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