Author : James Riley

“Oof!” Miller grunted, raising the bar for John to take it. He exhaled deeply and sat up. John casually dropped the weight onto the maglev lifts and patted his friend on the back.

“Think that’ll do it?” John asked.

“Should. . .” Miller replied, tapping his left forearm twice. A pale blue display appeared on his skin. A graphic was rotating and a box of text popped up that read “Updating. Please wait.” Expectation began to stir within him.

A faint vibration on his forearm indicated that the calculation was complete. Miller watched a cherry red bar slide from left to right on the display. He urged it forward. There was just a bit further for it to go. . . and. . . a loud metallic chime was emitted from the display and rang through the gym. It was wholly satisfying, like taking a long drink of water after waking up in the middle of the night. “Ding,” Miller said, grinning widely.

“Grats,” John said, giving him a high five. Several other weightlifters echoed John’s congratulation. Miller’s strength level was now 42, almost where he wanted it to be.

His display buzzed and he looked down. A message had popped up in a small square toward his elbow, “Just reminding you about our date tonight–Marina.” A heart graphic pulsed below the text. Miller smiled again and headed to the showers, he didn’t want to be late.

For hours the sun had been setting, but Marina and Miller, walking hand in hand, never noticed. Part of the reason they didn’t was that the light posts lining the street had been smoothly illuminating, little by little, to compensate for the waning sunlight, but mostly it was due to the fact that they were having so much fun together.

As they were walking Marina was telling a story about how her shoes got stuck in a vent that day at work forcing her to walk around barefoot for the rest of the day. In between laughs Miller quickly glanced down at his display. Tonight’s date pushed the little bar forward that measured their relationship. He wasn’t surprised. He had ordered Eggplant Parmesan, her favorite, for her at the restaurant, given her his coat when they went for a walk, and had even complimented her new shoes— Miller had done everything a good boyfriend should. And each correct decision had automatically been given a value and recorded.

Soon, they reached Marina’s apartment. “Oh,” she said, before opening the door, “Julie’s engagement party is next month. Want to be my date?”

Miller chuckled. “Want to? Nah. Boring small talk with people I don’t know isn’t my thing. But I’ll come, because I know it’s what you want, and that’s what good boyfriends do,” he continued.

“But you’d rather not come?” she asked, her tone cool.

“No, to be honest, but I will, because it’ll make you happy.” He hadn’t noticed her demeanor change because he was glancing at his display. Sure enough, his willingness to do something he didn’t want to for her sake caused the relationship bar to inch forward. According to the meter, Marina should be elated with him. He looked up from his arm, though, just in time to see her slam her front door in his face.

Miller stood for a moment, his mouth slightly agape. The meter indicated Marina’s happiness with him should be at a peak. He snorted. “Stupid thing’s broken again,” he muttered, shutting the display off by punching his arm so hard that he made himself wince.

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