Flash Fiction: Paranoia, The Eleventh Commandment, AI & the Other Ones by LJ Frank

Source: HET ELFDE GEBOB

My suit coat pocket moved. My cellular phone was vibrating. I retrieved it and  placed it near my ear and heard the gasp of a shallow breath.

“Hello?” I asked.

“Forgive me!” 

“Is it you?”

“Yeah?”

“Where are you calling from?”

“The Central Train Station. Just got in. We need to talk.”

“Okay.”

“Can we meet at Het Elfde Gebod?”

“The Eleventh Commandment?”

“Yeah. Think of the commandment as thou shall not expose thyself.  It’s a café about five minutes or so from the train station.”

“Yeah, I’m familiar with it. I’ll find a taxi….be there around ten or fifteen minutes.”

“Thanks. I’ll be waiting inside.”

“It’s been awhile but…?”

“I changed my hair color. I’m now a brunette. Long and straight. I have brown shaded contact lens and will be wearing a gray pinstripe suit and black high heel pumps.”  

“I’m sure I won’t miss you.”

About fifteen minutes later the taxi pulled up near the café. I walked in and she stood up from a table near several religious statues. We hugged and I ordered the same drink she was sipping.

She looked at me with a searching expression. “There’s something I need to share. I landed in Paris this morning and I took a train here this afternoon.”

“This is a surprise.”

“I forget if you remember my company manages a type of what we call health care facilities.”

“No I don’t. Please go ahead.”

“The facilities in fact are similar to debtor’s prisons we have in the United States but with a focus on people, regardless of age, who might not be earning enough to be a productive member of society. It’s profit driven. Definitions of productive are made by the board of directors. Residents are expected to work and pay monthly fees and are confined to a special work unit. They are to reimburse the corporation through their work and the money earned while being a resident. I’ve never heard of a resident leaving unless they escape. Residents pay into their own insurance policies which supposedly pays for burial but that’s a lie. They’re cremated and ashes used as fertilizer.” 

“What?”

“I discovered war is not the only place one can be dehumanized. I was one of the Vice Presidents until yesterday. It’s symptomatic of something more profound, technologically speaking.”

“Seems hypocritical for a country overwhelmed by its own debt?”

“It is but not for those who are financially and technologically savvy.”

“What are you suggesting?”

“This past year we introduced artificial intelligence units in the form of nurses and aides among others.”

“I’m both astonished and not surprised.”

“I saw what was coming next. I’m here because your name came up on a potential resident list – a prospective person who isn’t considered a productive enough member of society.”

“This is surreal.”

“That’s not all. I came home late one night to find my partner with one of the Artificial Intelligent nurses in a compromising position.”

“The AI’s are that advanced?”

“They’re even programmed to electronically reproduce their own kind. Anyways, as I was quietly leaving through our shared office space when I noticed my partner’s computer was on and your name was near the top of future residential candidates.”

“Jesus.”

“I couldn’t talk over the phone. I was supposed to travel anyways so I thought I’d meet with you face to face. There was a date next to your name.”

“When?”

“Tomorrow.”

“What the…?

“Listen to me. Look around you. AI eyes are cameras like the one’s on your cellular phone and computer. They take photos of us at work and play. We’re never alone. For some odd reason I’m on the list too.”

I cast a glance around the room and noted a few people return my gaze and blink their eyelids like photographic lens on a camera. And then looked back at my friend. “This is paranoia,” I said.

“Exactly. That’s why I had to escape,” she then blinked and noticed my look and grabbed my hand, “Let’s get a taxi now and I’ll explain more on the way.”

Within five minutes we were climbing into a taxi when I noticed a woman had followed us outside. She appeared vaguely familiar, like my friend, similar clothes and shoes but with long auburn colored hair. I glanced again at her face and noticed she inserted her forefinger into her mouth, bit down and then moved her face side to side as if to say, no!