The Right Decision by Van Alrik [sci-fi]

The Right Decision by Van Alrik

This had better be worth it.

The thin plastic chip feels weightless in the palm of my hand—almost cheap. I clutch it tightly to keep it from blowing away in the light breeze outside the outlet store. It definitely wasn’t cheap. When Tess finds out about the payday loan I took out to pay for it, she’ll be hysterical. I can almost hear her:

“Timothy Alan Dunway, you’ve ruined us! Absolutely ruined us! And for what? A piece of plastic?”

But she’ll be wrong. This chip will rescue us from ruin.

I walk down the street towards the high-speed rail platform. As I wait for the train, I look down at the chip. But what if I’m wrong? After all, I’ve been wrong before. I was wrong about the house, wrong about the cars, wrong about the credit cards. I was wrong about the investment company that disappeared, taking with it what remained of our savings.

But this is different. This chip will make all those wrong decisions right. Instead of having to rely on my own intuitions, I’ll be able to rely on the chip. It’ll fix things.

The chip is the absolute cutting edge—the latest in tech sophistication. It implants right into your brain behind your ear, where your phone usually goes. Based on sensory inputs, it perpetually runs scenarios to determine which possible outcomes are most likely to be favorable. Every decision I make—caffeinated or decaf? solar or nuclear? should I wear that sweater? should I make that purchase?—I’ll have this chip in my brain, running millions of simulations, and determining, based on real data, which decisions have the greatest probability of success.

It will fix everything.

The train rounds the corner and slows to a stop. I press the button for the door with one hand, the chip still held firmly in the other. I find a secluded seat and open my hand.

I frown. Why haven’t I put it in yet? This isn’t like those other decisions. This was a good decision! But I can’t quite bring myself to do it. Sure, it’s not technically on the market yet. And the guy at the shop acted a lot like those guys at the car lots. But that’s part of why this is so smart—I got cutting-edge technology, and I got it at a fraction of the retail price!

My frown deepens. Well, at least what the retail price will be once it’s legal to sell.

The train starts pulling away from the station. I turn the chip over in my hands, and then turn it over again. I take a deep breath and hurriedly insert the chip into the flesh behind my left ear.

I sit there, staring blankly, trying to detect the difference, searching for some evidence of my new reasoning power. But there’s nothing. A minute passes, and my eyes flutter, blinking away the developing mist. I try to control my heart rate and breathing, but I can’t help it. I bury my face in my hands and sob. I feel the awkwardness in those around me, but I don’t care. I think of the money spent, the promises made, and gradually my anguish contorts into rage. I raise my face from my hands, eyes burning, and reach up behind my ear to rip out the sham chip.

And then I stop. That is not the correct course of action. There’s no warning bell, no flash of data, just a feeling. An intuition. A certainty that I’ve never felt before.

I put my hand back down. It works. I know it, deep within me, more confidently than I’ve known anything in my life. It really works. I grin, sheepishly at first, but then proudly—defiantly. And why not? I was right, wasn’t I? I was right! I start asking myself questions. Should I get off the train now and go celebrate? No, of course not, I’ve got to go home and tell Tess! Should I wait to tell her until tomorrow and make it a big surprise? No, better to tell her right away. Maybe I should have other people on the train ask me questions. I could bet them money. Should I go to a casino?

My thoughts are interrupted by the overhead speakers announcing that my stop is next. I’m still smiling. I stand and get ready to disembark. I reach for the orangutan bar.

I freeze. I reached for the what? The train starts to slow. I look out the window as the talk show homogenizes. I shake my head again. What was that? The telekinesis canned headstone appurtenance blurs past the analgesia emus brain. Something curtain crying wrong with gullet brain phlebitis chip? Peppery larval dessert stops usher. Door thick muslin opens inaugural walk vole down coltish steps. Can’t sporty think miserable doorbell stumbling spyglass flashy out despotism onto train gastronomic tracks. Respite conductive lights storefront oncoming librarian train graduate oh—

I open my eyes and see the sky. I turn my head a little to the right and feel the chip, knocked loose, drop from behind my ear. I see my train. I see people from the train coming towards me. They speak to me, but I can’t hear them. I look down at my crumpled body. I look past it to the other train, looming above me. People are coming from it as well. I feel my organs struggling.

I was wrong. About the chip; about everything. I’m always wrong. I think about Tess. She’ll be hysterical. She’ll blame me for everything, for leaving her penniless. Ruined. For leaving her widowed. She’ll be angry, and bitter. She’ll be lonely.

But at least she’ll be right.

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