[Flash Fiction] Register

Danielle accepts my agreement, I accept hers, we log each other's digital signatures, and we do a little making out while we wait for the results. The cloud starts in on the various databases, and before the first kiss is really over, we've both received preliminary go‑aheads. She is warm, and she places a hand behind my neck, hovering there.

I open my eyes for just a second and find that hers are already open. I stop. She's not moving, not responding. Barely breathing. Maybe she got a false positive on me, though I can't imagine how. I haven't missed a swab in four weeks. Some error, must be. Maybe she's glitching, I worry, but no; this has gone on too long for that. My vision becomes slightly blurry as my ocu‑console heats up, flashing dozens of stills per second, my taskbrain scanning for negative microreactions. Nothing. She comes back into focus, the exact same look on her face. She still hasn't responded. Her hand falls away from my neck, into her lap.

I sit back and stroke her shoulder as the results of our initial query come in: she's clean, I'm clean, she's received a report that I'm clean, and we've both received separate, notarized reports from the Hygiene & Contact Adminserv certifying all of the above. I squint, visualizing the phrase 22_stenoVT on the process deck to the right of my visuals. The Virtual Guarantor thanks me for my signature, doffing his top hat and then disappearing into it.

The report hangs, waiting for her response. This is not normal, I think. Too clearly. The Virtual Guarantor returns, confused by my extra response and Danielle's lack of one. The anthropomorphized clipboard grins blankly in my taskbrain, awaiting clarification. Cancel, I think, and Abort request. He spins dramatically, bows, and disappears from the taskbrain's process deck with a cartoon pwing.

I hold her hand as I browse her public data, my eyes closed. Her date‑wall seems normal. No unusual interactions or dangerous access terminals, or at least not in the last few days. She logged our date for tonight. Mostly, everything appears normal. There's no listing for emergency contact, but she also doesn’t note any special medical conditions.

She opens her mouth as if to say something, then closes it. "Sorry," I say, not quite knowing why. Automatically detecting an apology, LegalBuddy pops up in my taskbrain, as yet inactive but ready for anything. My pre‑social end‑user agreement is fairly comprehensive and Danielle still hasn’t responded, so the software has yet to request the involvement of a Virtual Barrister. The caricatured Abraham Lincoln figure anxiously clutches a fedora. We wait.

She blinks rapidly, almost as if booting up. Is she cyber? No. Cybers don't kiss like that. Cybers don't taste like that, like crushed leaves. Like coffee.

"Can I get you a glass of water? Anything?" LegalBuddy logs my eager assistance, and I can just barely see the ocu‑console glimmer, grabbing a still of the scene as further evidence. The Lincoln shifts his weight uncomfortably, looking past his feet. Below him, a close-up from the still: Danielle's hand in mine, circled in red. The tiny President has a point. I let go of her, the ocu‑console taking a new still to replace the previous. The little Lincoln winks.

"It's just..." she begins. Seconds pass.

My body temperature lowers, my heart rate slows, the thickening ocu‑console scratches my eyes as I blink, and I suddenly realize that I've been holding my breath. LegalBuddy has donned a much-too-large diver's helmet. My software thinks I'm underwater.

"I still miss him."

Register by John Dowda is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available here, in the comments section.

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