Author: David Close
“Messages, Ivi,” Rafe said sullenly, still wet from the rain. “It never rains in California,” rang the lyrics in his head. He hung the umbrella on the leftmost coathook by the door. His overcoat, a thing he wore to make him look as out of place as possible, like something from a thousand miles east and a hundred years back, went next to it. “But it pours.”
“No new messages,” said the voice of the interactive visual interface, projected from the tatwatch in his wrist by RF to the foil-thin cylindrical speaker inversely hugging, unnoticed, the inside of his ear canal. From the back of his wrist its pretty girl’s face, clean of line and framed with primly coiffed bright-red hair, smiled its vapid smile interminably.
Mud from the gravesite covered his dress shoes. He slid them off and slogged on sodden socks to the couch. He couldn’t bring himself to settle into it. He excused it as concern for the damage the wet that clung to him might do to the microfibre rather than attribute his tension to the emotional toll of the service from which he’d just come.
“What about old ones?”
There had to be something in his messages to distract him from thinking about his daughter. The daughter he hadn’t seen in eleven years, though she only lived in San Pedro–had lived, an invisible dagger wiggling in his gut reminded him–less than thirty miles from his Santa Monica apartment. The daughter he hadn’t even heard from for almost that long.
“Old messages? There are eleven thousand four hundred twelve old v-mails in your inbox.
“By the way, how was your daughter’s funeral?” The thing couldn’t just say “the funeral,” or even better, “it.” Of course the interface couldn’t filter out the most painful words from its unnaturally perky cadence, the way a human, a halfway sensitive one anyway, would do.
“Don’t ask, Ivi.”
“Point deleted.” The subject was now taboo for its tiny spintronic brain.
“Is there anything else unheard?” he asked the ‘face. Its insipid smile never changed.
“There are nineteen thousand, six hundred fifty-two messages tagged as junk.”
Rafe sighed. He had nothing else to do. He’d taken the day off work, and the day was now less than half over. How would he occupy the rest of it? A wave of despair washed over him like a sheet of frigid rain, but he shook it off like a dripping overcoat.
The attractive but smug ‘face disappeared from his wrist and was replaced with a list of characters so tiny some of them were obscured by his wrist-hairs. He brought his arm to within inches of his left eye, winked shut his right, assuming a position that would have been prohibitively, embarrassingly ridiculous anywhere but in the privacy of his own home.
“What are all these v-mails, Ivi? Two hundred eighty-seven v-mails from my daughter? Why wouldn’t you mark these as urgent, or at least of interest? You’ve tagged them as junk! I can’t believe it!”
“I’m so sorry, Rafe. Based on your past behaviour, those v-mails are junk. You never opened any v-mails from your daughter. You also ignored twelve from your ex-wife, one hundred seventy-eight from your sister, sixty-five from your brother, and seventeen from your mother before she went into cryostorage.”
“But these are important!” Rafe yelled at the interface.
“I’m so sorry, Rafe. How would I have known that?”