Word Count 499
All That Glitters
By Mike Cecconi
She awoke as she did every weekday, three-fourteen in the morning, one minute before her alarm, just enough time to prepare herself and then commute. “Payroll at four,” she thought, “one more shift to survive.”
“BZZT BZZT,” it blared, “THIS ALARM BROUGHT TO YOU BY STARBUCKS, PUT BUZZ IN YOUR MORNING WITH STARBUCKS, BZZT BZZT,” then it cycled again, “THIS ALARM BROUGHT-” and she hit the off-button. The buzzing stopped. The ad did not.
She stepped into her shower and a light projected any movie in history onto the far wall, ads scrolling on all of the edges. She washed then dried off, dressed plainly with little make-up, the dress code was casual and there wasn’t anyone there she cared to impress, anyway. The feed shifted from shower to mirror and so did the ads. “Eye-shadow, lip-color, enough to not look like I’ve died,” she thought, “and just make it ‘til four.”
She put a kettle on for tea and an ad popped saying her gas power was brought to her by the NRA. “PACK SOME HEAT TODAY, ALL THANKS TO THE NRA.” She halfheartedly watched morning news, new Miami sea wall, only two school shootings yesterday. On the train, shows in every known language and constant reminders her fare was subsidized by Wal-Vape.
“GET STEAM IN YOUR ENGINE WITH WAL-VAPE OR ELSE YOU AREN’T SEXY.”
She worked customer service for Circle-Cell, taking complaints from data-clients in India. She spoke fluent-but-heavily-accented Hindi to them and called herself “Parvathi” even though her name was Ellen. Callers complained they were getting too much data, getting it too fast or how their scheduled outages weren’t happening.
She would credit accounts or call tech-support to slow feeds or kick it upstairs, over and over, the whole shift. There were lunch and bathroom breaks when she watched something or other on her celltab, but if you had asked her later, she could only remember the ads.
After an uneventful day, she rode home through a lecture on how if she didn’t vape no one would ever love her, then returned to her apartment where the ads still ran, along with every piece of the information in the world.
Four P.M. on the dot, her tablet chirped, she fumbled to make sure her pay went through then said “Celltab, charge one weekend to adblock.” All the shows stopped. All the ads stopped.
Her parents told her once how when cellular tablets were first invented, people used to pay for information and a premium to get it faster. Somewhere in the ‘30s, the I.T.I.P. corps realized the real money was in giving it away and then having folks pay to make it stop. “Celltab, guitar instrumental,” she said, “ad-free.”
Ellen laid back into her bed next to the blissfully silent alarm clock and remembered how her grandmother always used to say “Silence Is Golden”. She wondered to herself when they must have coined that phrase. Probably in the 2030s, she chuckled, then drifted back into sleep.