Flash Fiction: A Corporate Future – Don’t Take It Personal 

Credit: LJ Frank Photographer

by LJ Frank

Chance. I was walking through a modern art gallery on a Wednesday evening. That’s when I met her. We literally bumped into each other. She mentioned her name was Cera beginning with the letter C. I found her enchanting in an odd sort of way. It wasn’t her looks. It was her speech patterns. She sounded nervous. We talked as if we were old friends. Within an hour I wished her well when she asked if we could talk further over lunch.

She said I had charisma. My mind queried, can a single word be a signal? Everyone has some sort of allure even if it’s  ambiguous. People look out of the corner of their eye at ambiguity, drawn to it like watching a facial contortion that seems more an exaggeration than anything else. Curiosity like dramatic irony can upend a person’s daily patterns of living.

I was to stop by her work place. And we were to go lunch at a nearby restaurant. As I walked into her offices I noticed a woman sitting at a front desk. Her name plate read Frederica.

I was told later by a corporate/government spokesperson that the letters of Frederica were an acronym. Of what I was at a loss.

Frederica: He’s ready to see you.

Me: He?

Frederica: I thought you knew.

Me: Why would I know?

Frederica: You’re here for the interview?

Me: I have a luncheon meeting with a lady by the name of Cera.

Frederica: Are you sure?

Me: It’s on my calendar. We met two days ago and…

Frederica: You’re cute.

Me: What do my looks have to do with anything?

Frederica: CERA is the name of our AI?

Me: What?

Frederica: Certified Ecological Research Administrator. It’s our artificial intelligence unit. She leads a team of AI’s that study interaction between human organisms and their environment.

Me: I see.

Frederica: I’m glad that you do.

Me: is there a human by that same name working here?

Frederica: Am I to understand you have an issue with CERA?’

Me: No. I hardly know her. I mean how would I really know?

Frederica: You said you met CERA. We try to separate people from there issues.

Me: What issues?

Frederica: Please don’t personalize this.

Me: So does a human female by the name of Cera work here?

Frederica: We’ve been over that.

Me: Thanks. I guess it was all a mistake. I’ll be on my way.

Frederica: Oh? 

Me: What?

Frederica: Do you have an up-to-date passport or Federal Identification Number?

Me: Why would I need that. I’m a citizen of the country.

Frederica: Well you must know, we welcome everyone to enter our complex.

Me: What does that mean?

Frederica: We need some type of identification for you to depart.

Me: You’ve got to be joking.

Frederica: We never joke here. CERA made this very sensitive rule.

Me: You told me Cera’s not human.

Frederica: She’s not, so don’t take it personal.

Me: Could there be female with name spelled C-e-r-a-h?

Frederica? Oh, she was….well, she was retired yesterday. Unfortunately, she thought she was human.

Me: How do you know for sure she wasn’t?