Circles

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

This story is called Circles and is around 7300 words. It imagines a world ten years from now where the Coronavirus is not only still a part of our life, but worse than before. The story centers around a typical, everyday family and how their lives have changed over time. Then one of the family members begins to discover that all is not what it seems, that the world they live in seems to hold a darker secret.

“And now the Daily Coronavirus report. The number of reported cases from COVID-30-BI and COVID-30-BJ has been decreasing. BI currently has a fatality rate of 3%, and BJ has a fatality rate of 6%. The latest two bring the total for the year to 59. This is a decrease from 2029, which had 85 by this date in April. More good news is there haven’t been any Hyperviruses reported in 7 months. It is a clear indicator that the latest measures are working. Now, we turn it over to Sarah for the Stock Market update.”

“Turn it off. It’s depressing.” Cindy said as she bit slowly into her breakfast bar.

“But why, honey? The news said this is good.” She didn’t answer. Eventually, John picked up the remote and turned the TV off with a quiet click.

“Mom, I need some help,” Amelia said as she walked into the kitchen and sat down. “Girly Gabrielle said it would work. Why isn’t it?”

Cindy stopped her breakfast and looked at her daughter with a sigh. “Amelia. What are you talking about, and who is this Girly Gabbi?”

“Oh, mom, you know who Girly Gabrielle is. She is the influencer right now. Gabrielle has amazing advice on hair, makeup, and really important things. She said that to get a man, you just have to be obedient and compliment them a lot. I’ve been doing that on these dating sites, and every guy just seems to stop talking to me after a day or two.”

“Amelia. That is the worst advice ever. Be a woman. Stand up for yourself. Your father married me because I have a spine, not because I bend over backward for him. Men want confidence, not some meek little girl. Isn’t that right, John?”

John knew better than to get into this conversation. He nodded quietly and then re-focused on his breakfast. It was almost time for work anyways.

Logan, the youngest of the family, walked in and put his laptop onto the table and started typing furiously.

Cindy frowned. “Logan, I don’t like it when you bring your laptop to the kitchen table. We should be eating as a family. Now put it away.”

Logan was about to close the laptop when a notification popped up from somebody named Outkastic. “Your friend got in touch with me. If you want what you asked for, meet me in the alley near 33 Elm St at 3 PM. Payment in gift cards only. Don’t be late, come alone.” Logan was trying to hide his excitement. He had been checking his inbox every hour for the past week, waiting for this.

“Mom. Jimmy wants to hang out in the park this afternoon. Is it OK if I take a break from school for an hour or so? I’ll finish my classes tonight.”

John and Cindy were both more than a little surprised. Logan rarely spent time outdoors. It seemed all his friends were people across the Internet with no real name or face. They were hoping he was finally trying to find friends he didn’t have to talk to over a microphone.

“I think that would be good for you, Logan. Just be back by 5 PM.”

#

As usual, Logan was done all his schoolwork before noon. He had some time before he needed to meet up with Outkastic. To kill time, Logan logged into some of his favorite Dark web chat rooms to see if anybody had commented on his posts. Both of his parents were busy with their jobs during the day, so they were oblivious to how he spent his time. They assumed Logan was doing schoolwork, but instead, Logan was usually BreakTheCircle22 on alt chat rooms. In case they checked on him, he always left a half-finished essay on his screen, he could quickly switch to.

The more time he spent in these chat rooms, the more he wanted to understand the deep inner workings of his Circle Allowance Monitor, also known as a CAM. The screen on his wrist had a band that was red, white, red, yellow, green, and blue. It was permanently attached, and he couldn’t remember a time where he wasn’t wearing it on his wrist, feeling its vibration, or hearing it’s beeping. If somebody had your colors, they were in your Circle. That meant you could interact with them as much as you wanted. But if another person outside your Circle got close to you, both you and the other person’s CAMs would vibrate and work it’s way up to loud beeping. If it persisted, it would broadcast your position to the authorities. The Circle Allowance Monitor was the government-mandated Social Distancing that had been in place for most of his life. He didn’t hate it like many people in the chats did. Instead, it was something Logan wanted to explore and get a deeper understanding of. When he wasn’t doing schoolwork, he spent as much time as he could trying to understand how CAMs worked.

Scanning through the posts, it was the usual nut jobs. Coronaviruses are hoaxes, Hyperviruses are not real, CAMs are monitoring your every move, CAMs are listening to your conversations, CAMs are killing you, and so on and so on. Logan had gone as far as he could with his CAM trying to reverse engineer it, but it was very secure. Most of his posts were asking other people if they had had any success understanding CAMs.

As 2:30 approached, Logan headed out the door. Both his parents were in virtual meetings and barely noticed him leaving. There was a quiet hissing noise as the door air sealed behind him. Elm was about a 20-minute walk away, so he had to give himself enough time to get there. As he walked, his CAM did the usual vibrating and beeping as he tried to keep the mandatory distance from people not in his Circle. Unfortunately, most people on the street were not in his Circle, so Logan often had to cross the street or wait for somebody to pass. If nobody was around, the walk would probably have taken half the time. As he turned onto Elm, he was surprised to see a crowd of twenty or so people in front of one of the buildings used for issuing Driver’s Licenses and Passports. They had picket signs and were shouting angrily at the building that was unlikely to answer them back. 33 Elm St was just beyond the group of protestors, so he crossed the street, hoping to avoid them as much as possible.

As he reached the other side of the road, the sound of the protestors CAMs constant beeping was barely drowned out by their shouts. All these people were not in the same Circle, and they didn’t care. He could see the familiar red and yellow uniforms of the Social Distance Police around the crowd. Social Distance Police was their official name, but it was long, so most people just called them Sodicks. The Sodicks were keeping their distance, ignoring the flagrant disobedience of the rules. He saw many signs supporting 3rd Rail. 3rd Rail was an organization that fanatically believed in herd immunity. They wanted to ignore social distancing completely. They were sure that if enough people got sick, many would die, but the survivors would be immune.

Sweden had successfully implemented herd immunity and was put on a pedestal as a model of success. Then the world's first Hypervirus hit, and a whole new terror started. Instead of the usual 1% to 10% mortality rate, Hyperviruses killed everyone. Nobody survived. All of Sweden was wiped out within a month. It became a real global tipping point. “Remember Sweden” was a familiar rallying cry for the isolation movement. It wasn’t long after that CAMs were rolled out, many policies changed, and people were much more willing to accept extremes to isolate. Although Logan was too young to remember Sweden, he had read about it in school and online, so many times, he could recite the timeline of Sweden's downfall by heart.

As he walked by the protesters, he heard some of their shouts:

“No CAM! It’s a SHAM!”

“Social Distancing WHY? It’s a big LIE!”

“Confess, Confess! Hyperviruses FAKE!”

Logan took a peek and then cautiously turned down the alley off of Elm. The sounds of the protest diminished as he worked his way up the dark and wet alley. Walking carefully, he could see a figure emerge from behind a dumpster. This lone figure wore a bulky trench coat, a black baseball hat, and had a noticeably chubby face. This person, who he hoped was Outkastic, motioned him closer.

“You Break The Circle?” the man said in a voice so muffled, he could barely tell what he was saying. Logan was completely confused. He could hear the man speak, but his mouth didn’t move. It took him a moment to realize it wasn’t his real face. This person had what looked from a distance like a human face, but up close, he could tell it was some sort of rubber or plastic. He also noticed the person had a CAM in a different Circle from his own, but to his dismay, his CAM wasn’t vibrating or beeping.

“Yes. My friends call me BreakTheCircle22. Are you Outkastic?” Logan responded in a deeper voice than usual, trying to sound as confident and mature as he could.

“Give me your CAM. Put it in here.” The person took out a black, shiny bag and slid it over Logan's hand and CAM. He had read about these. Faraday bags. They would be able to block any signals from his CAM. This person was not taking any chances.

“Alright, kid. Now we can talk. You better not be wasting my time. This thing is going to cost you a grand. Are you going to be able to pay that?” The person snarled.

“It’s not a problem.” Logan reached into his jacket pocket with his uncovered hand and pulled out 10 Copper plated gift cards, each worth $100. They were generic, could be used anywhere, but completely untraceable.

“Where did you get these? They better not be stolen.” The person said as he slowly reached into his pocket.

“I’m pretty good at mining cryptocurrencies. Don’t worry, I’ve got more than enough to pay for this. All legal. You don’t have to worry.” Logan said, keeping a close eye on the man's hand. Although he hoped for the best, there was still a genuine possibility this was a scam or even the Police, but it was worth the risk.

Logan gave him the gift cards, which Outkastic put into his jacket. Outkastic took one last look around and then pulled out a small plastic and metal device and quickly passed it to him. Logan took a quick glance, but then immediately pocketed it as well.

“So, how does this CAM-Cracker work?” Logan asked quietly, worried somebody would overhear them.

“You plug the cable into any computer. Then, you take your CAM and put the adapter over it. You will then have the keys to the kingdom. You can change your Circle, read all the activity its tracked, diagnostic crap and all you ever wanted to know about your Circle. You can also do a full shutdown, but I’m telling you now, never leave your house with it shutoff. If you get into the range of any Sodicks cameras, it will pick up that you are there, but your CAM is not. They will immediately send the Sodicks after you.”

“So your CAM is in a different Circle than mine, but its not beeping. Is your CAM currently shutdown?” Logan said with astonishment.

“Yeah, kid, I shut it off when I got into the alley. I will turn it back on after…”

“Hey, you two! What are you doing?” Came a loud voice behind Logan. They hadn’t noticed two Sodicks had entered the alley. With astonishing speed, Outkastic ripped the Faraday bag off and started to run away from them. Logan looked at the Police, then at Outkastic sprinting away. Not knowing what else to do, he ran as well.

“Stop! Police!” The two Sodicks yelled. He could hear the sound of splashing water as they ran after them through puddles. Logan looked back, just briefly, but when he faced forward again, Outkastic had vanished into thin air. Not knowing where he went, he turned down a short passage and quickly hid behind some smelly garbage bins, hoping the Sodicks hadn’t seen him. He could feel his heart beating through his chest as he hunkered down behind the big container.

“Alright, you. Come on out. We know where you are.” One of them said, sounding like he was very close to him. “Look, we know you are right behind the garbage bins. You are behind the one with the orange lettering that says 0112. Don’t make me come over there. This is for your safety and mine.”

Logan looked up and saw the orange lettering. There was no point in staying hidden. He stood up slowly and looked at the two cops who were chasing him.

“Alright, kid, don’t move. Let me check your name.” He said, pushing a few buttons on a keypad. His CAM lit up, indicating it was being accessed. “Logan, is it? Who was that you were speaking to?”

“I..I don’t know. I just happened to be going down this alley, and this guy was there. He…scared me. Then when you shouted…I wasn’t sure what was going on. So, I just ran. I thought you were going to rob me or something.”

“Rob you? Do we look like robbers to you? I don’t know what your story is. Get away from these protestors. All they do is spread viruses. It’s not safe. I’d give you a ticket, but I didn’t get the other guy. So, you caught a lucky break. We’re going to take you home. Start walking that way.” One cop stayed far in front of him and the other far behind him as he walked down the alley. Once out, they directed him into the back of a Police van. When the door closed, it gave a familiar hiss of being air sealed. When he left, the inside would get automatically sprayed down to make sure nothing was passed to any future occupants.

As soon as he thought they weren’t looking, he carefully checked to make sure the CAM-Cracker was still there. He thanked the lucky stars his purchase hadn’t fallen out during his bungled escape attempt. He had come too far.

#

“Of all the stupid things. This tops it!” Cindy said while taking the chicken out of the package and almost slamming it on the cutting board.

“Honey, this is a good thing. Why don’t you see this? If I play my cards right, maybe Bradley will promote me to Senior Accountant. That will make a big difference to our family.”

“Really, John? All you do is complain about what an asshole Bradley is. He always takes credit for what you do, never promotes you, and somehow you thought it was a good idea to invite him and his wife for dinner? Some days, I just don’t get you.”

“Hey, Cindy. I know you were going to make this chicken. But any chance we can have steak? I thought you bought some?”

“Yes, John, yes, I did. It still has to go through two days in the isolation fridge. So, thank goodness we can’t waste good steak on Bradley, and…what’s his wife’s name?”

“I think he said Chloe,” John mumbled, staring down at the kitchen floor.

Cindy shook her head. She cut the chicken in half, took some of the vegetables she had prepared earlier, and put them into the two matching pans. Cindy took the two pans and placed each container into the two separate sections of the oven.

Amelia came down the stairs with a loud staccato of footsteps. “Mommy, mommy, mommy. He got back to me!”

“Who got back to you, dear?” Cindy said while sighing quietly.

“You know who! Chad got back to me. We chatted a few times, but he always seemed to…I don’t know..ignore me. But I told him I would do anything for him, just like Girly Gabrielle said, and he wants to meet! We have a date tonight! Isn’t that just so great! I was starting to give up hope!”

Cindy cocked her head to the side. “Are you…” and then hesitated. This argument had happened too many times already. She had enough to deal with because of this dinner tonight. “Sure, Amelia. Just be careful.”

“Oh, mom, you are just too protective. He is perfect. I’m sure it will be amazing! There are just so many losers in my Circle. I thought I was going to have to change Circles, just to find somebody.”

“Amelia, you were thinking of changing Circles? And leave your family?” She said in amazement.

Amelia did not hear her mother's comment as she ran back upstairs, two steps at a time. She checked her watch and figured she had about three hours to get ready. It would be close. When she got upstairs, she immediately took all her clothes off and threw them into the chute in her bedroom that led to the basement. Jumping into the shower, she was sure to first wash, then apply the disinfecting gel and then put on some perfume that smelled of Lilacs. She wanted to make sure she would smell like a flower, not like the cleaner. Taking a look in her closet, she picked out a beautiful floral dress. It was still in the sealed bag from the cleaner, so it was hard to tell how it would look, but she was sure it would look great. After getting her hair ready, she scanned the label on the clothes and then tore into the package. Following the same procedure for her underwear, socks, shoes, she was ready to go.

“OK, begin a clean scan.” She said to the computer terminal.

“Beginning checklist. Body cleansing complete. Clothing audit complete. Temperature check complete. Validating health check for three hours. Enjoy your outing.” The computer said in the deep British accent Amelia had picked for it.

Excitedly, she took the card from the machine and ran down the stairs. On the way, she called her ride. Within a few minutes, the driverless taxi arrived, and the door automatically opened as she approached the door. It seemed like this car must have recently dropped off a passenger because it still had a strong disinfectant smell in the seating area. She really hoped it wouldn’t stick to her cute dress. She knew she looked good and she didn’t want anything to ruin this night.

After almost twenty minutes, she arrived at the restaurant. She could barely contain herself. This was a lovely place. Clearly, Chad was trying to impress her. She pulled on the copper door handles, walked in, and spoke to the Maître D through the speaker embedded in the plexiglass shield.

“Bonjour Madame. Reservation?”

“Yes, Chad, booth 36.”

“Wonderful. Ah, yes, just follow the green line.”

A green line shined through the floor, directing her to a booth. As she got closer, she could see that it was near the window, with a beautiful view of the outside. She was getting more excited every minute. She opened the door to the booth and was immediately awestruck. He was even more handsome in person than she could imagine.

“Hey, you must be Amelia. Nice to meet you.” He said and passed her his card. On it was his health verification, temperature check, and validation of his cleanliness protocol. It was rated a 4.9 star. She was embarrassed a little but handed him her card. Unfortunately, she was only able to make a 3.8 and hoped he wouldn’t hold it against her. Just before she sat down, she casually clicked a button that quietly inflated some pads under her skirt. It would raise her up a little bit when she sat down, hopefully hiding how short she really was.

“Chad. I’m so glad we could finally meet up. I really think you are fantastic. As I said, I would do anything for you. Anything to make you happy.” She said eagerly.

“OK. Sure. Umm…that is really nice for you to say. Hey, why don’t you tell me more about yourself? What do you do? What does your family do?” He said, playing with the copper cutlery on the table.

“No, I want to hear about you! I’m sure you are much more exciting than me. Tell me all about yourself!” She put her face into her hands and placed her elbows on the table. Girly Gabrielle said this was how you made boys think you were interested in them, even if you weren’t. But all she could think about was his eyes. They were this beautiful dark brown, and she felt like she could lose herself in them.

“Well, there isn’t that much to say. I’m in second-year pre-med, studying infectious diseases. I find it fascinating. I really hope that one day, I will be the one. The one who finds the cure,” he waved his hand across the table “to all of this.”

“Wow, Chad! That would be amazing. Imagine. Just imagine if that happened. We would be so happy together.” She made sure to say words like happy and together in the same sentence. Reinforcing those terms in his mind. She was so sure this was the one. She could not stop looking into his eyes. They were just so deep and penetrating.

“I have to say, I do think the researchers are not trying hard enough. We were so close to getting this all figured out three years ago, but they had to stop testing on people after all those unexpected deaths. Come on. You have to break a few eggs to make an omelet. You can see that, right?” Chad said, squinting his eyes as he waited for an answer.

“Oh yes, Chad. You are completely right. I agree with you.” She said, widening her smile.

“Good, good. It’s something I keep thinking about as I get through these classes. These teachers, sometimes, I think…” Chad abruptly stopped mid-sentence. He looked, first at her wrist, then at her face again. She could see the look on his face but didn’t understand what was going on.

“Hey, Amelia. Look. You seem really nice. Let’s do this in a few weeks. I actually have a test I have to get ready for. But seriously, let’s do this again.”

In an instant, Chad was up, opened the booth, and rushed out. Amelia sat there, stunned. She was actually still smiling, not because she was happy, but because she had trained herself to always smile to make a date happy. What just happened? She did everything right. She followed everything Girly Gabrielle said. Slowly the smile faded from her face. When she put her arms on the table, she finally got it. Her CAM, which displayed her temperature had gone up by 1 degree. It had an arrow pointing a sharp upward trend.

“Are…you...kidding me?” She said, staring at her watch like a misbehaving child. It was one degree. She wasn’t sick. She knew that.

“Good evening. Can I start you both with a…” the server arrived and spoke through the mesh separating the floor from the booth. “Sorry, are you waiting for somebody? Would you like something to drink while you wait?”

Amelia looked down sheepishly. “No. I’m actually just leaving. Thank you. You have a great evening.” She said as she got up and started the walk out of the restaurant alone.

#

The Police van pulled up in front of his house with Logan. One of the Sodicks got out of the vehicle and walked towards the house. He pressed the doorbell that was halfway up the walkway. After a short time, Logan’s father came to the door.

“Sir, please go to channel 4110 on your CAM.”

Logan watched as his father fiddled with his CAM. He could tell they were talking to each other over their CAM, but he couldn’t make out what they were saying from this distance. After a few minutes of conversation, the Sodick returned to his van. The back door opened with a quiet whir.

“Alright, kid. Remember, you caught a lucky break today. I better not catch you hanging out with those protestors again. Now go home and stay home.”

“Yes, officer. Won’t happen again.” Logan said, trying to sound as sincere as he could. He walked towards the house and could see his parents both standing in the doorway, looking furious.

“Logan, you get inside right this minute.” His mother said. “What is going on. The Police said you were with some protestors? I thought you were going to the park with Jimmy?”

“Mom, I wasn’t with any protestors. I just happened to be near them when these Social Distancing Police took me in! I wasn’t doing anything wrong, I swear!”

John took Logan by the arm. “Listen here. You are grounded. Go to your room. We are going to talk about this later. Logan, how could you do this to me on such an important night?”

“Really, Dad, I’m grounded? So, I can’t leave the house? That is really different from any other day.” Logan said as he walked up the stairs shaking his head.

#

The doorbell rang

“Hey, Cindy, they are here,” John said, straightening his tie one last time. He pushed the button that opened the guest's door. Bradley and his wife walked into the guest area. The house had rooms for the people who lived there and a second area, separated by a sheet of glass to ensure there was no contact or sharing of air.

“John! Great to see you! You have such a beautiful place. Hey, are those JLY-12 speakers to hear us? I just picked up some Boca Subsonic speakers. They rock. So sensitive, I can even tell if my guests fart if you know what I mean!“ He laughed out loud, even though nobody else laughed with him. “Hey, this is my wife, Chloe. “ he said, motioning to the woman who was following closely behind him.

John was genuinely surprised. Although they had worked virtually together for almost six years, this was the first time he had seen Bradley or his wife in person. He saw his very familiar face that was perfectly chiseled with high cheekbones and a sharp chin. What shocked him was his belly jutted out like a ski slope, his arms were flabby, and his back looked like it was severely arched. Clearly, he had paid a small fortune in plastic surgery on his face but, he hadn’t bothered to improve himself anywhere else.

Chloe was similar that her face looked many times younger than her body. She started to move towards the glass, but Bradley put his arm in the way. “Hey John, you got a drink for me? What you got, man?”

“Hey, Bradley. Really glad you and Chloe could make it tonight. Sure, just check the cabinet. Only the best for you.” He said, motioning towards a black cabinet in the corner.

As usual, he had a selection of some white wine, red wine, spirits, and some nicer Bourbons for special occasions. Bradley took one of the glasses, took one look at the Bourbon, opened the top, and poured out an almost full glass of whiskey. John guessed it was probably $30 of Bourbon, just in that glass, and he ground his teeth just thinking about it.

“Nice stuff, man, thanks. Hey, I wanted to talk to you about the Anderson account. We still need them to pay up.” Bradley said as he sat down in one of the dining chairs.

The next half hour was spent with Bradley talking about the Anderson account. They talked about how “Save Us Medical Supplies” where they both worked was “saving the world” and various electronics that Bradley already owned or wanted to buy.

There was a quiet ding from the oven that was spread across both areas.

“Oh, look. Dinner is ready. Shall we eat?” Cindy said as she rushed from her chair to the oven. Pressing a button, the oven door opened on both sides of the glass. Chloe, who had barely spoken, got up and took their half of the dinner out of the oven. Both Cindy and Chloe shared an awkward smile as they took the food and scooped it out onto the dinner plates.

As soon as the food was served, John stood up. “A toast!”

Bradley stopped mid-bite, looked up, and put his fork down. Taking his never-ending glass of Bourbon, he raised it along with everyone else. Each of them came closer to the glass wall separating the two rooms and held their drinks up. They each tapped their beverages against the glass, creating some quiet dings that echoed in the small rooms.

“Welcome, Bradley and Chloe, to our home. May you live as long as you like and have all you…” At that moment, Bradley gave a belch that made everyone turn his way.

“Oh, man. Sorry about that. It just slipped out. Thanks, man, for having us over. Let’s eat, I’m starving!”

John stood there, holding his glass awkwardly in the air. One by one, each person sat down and started to eat. John eventually put his glass down and began to pick at his food. After dinner, Bradley helped himself to more of the Bourbon. After about an hour, he poured the last drop and knocked it back in one fell swoop.

“Hey John, look at the time. We are going to look at a new recliner tomorrow, so I think we should be leaving. Look, it’s been great.” Bradley put his hand on the glass, and John matched it, almost like a high five. After some quick goodbyes, Bradley and Chloe walked out the door. John could hear the familiar whine of a self-driving car as it pulled up and took his guests away.

Cindy took one look at John. “Remind me to never have them over again.” She hit a button, which activated the disinfectant system for the guest area. First, the oxygen level was dropped, then the disinfectant spray was flooded in, then it was all sucked and replaced with clean air, ready for the next guest. She would clean up the food and plates tomorrow when it was safe.

#

As soon as Logan heard the guests arrive, he felt it was safe enough to try out the CAM-Cracker, and his parents wouldn’t barge into his room. He really hoped this all worth it. After connecting it to his laptop, he attached the adapter to his CAM, which caused a few lights on the base to come to life. This activated some software on the computer, which opened up to a screen that appeared to bring up diagnostic information. He saw his name, address, and Circle color code, none of which surprised him. There were quite a few menus full of settings he could change and values he could read. Even though he had spent all this time researching online, for something that was such a big part of everyone’s life, he was surprised how hard it was to learn what all these settings and values meant. Many people had tried to reverse engineer them. The lists people posted seem to get out of date as soon as they were published. The most common belief was that the software would change itself a few times a week, making it impossible to truly understand everything a CAM did.

REC-Deg was currently set to 9387, but he had no idea what would happen if he changed it. GPS-Flow was 91%, MAC-Mode was currently High, CYAN was at 98.99%, and so on. He now had full access to his CAM but didn’t really feel any wiser.

An hour of poking through random screens, he found one called Circle-Grd. It had a long list of numbers in groups of three. Some of them were relatively stable, while others were changing quite a bit. It was mesmerizing to watch, and he stared at them for some time, trying to figure out what they could mean. He had seen something similar on one of the first screens. Now, where was it? Flipping back to it, he found the three numbers and wrote them down and returned to the Circle-Grd data. Eventually, he matched them with his digits on the list. Logan also noticed two more with very similar numbers to his.

Logan had a thought. Picking up his laptop, he started to walk with his CAM towards one end of the room and then the other. As Logan moved around, the numbers changed very slightly. He then lifted it to the ceiling and then to the floor, and the third number changed. It seemed the first two numbers were his co-ordinates, and the third was his elevation. Now the question was, what were all the other numbers? Could the two similar numbers be his parents? He did some rough math, and it seemed to be a very possible explanation. Could this be a list and location of everyone in his Circle? Everybody knew it used proximity sensors to detect people in your Circle, so why would they need to track everyone at once?

A wailing alarm from his CAM startled him. Unfortunately, he had heard this noise many times before. Disconnecting the cradle, he looked at the screen.

Virus alert in your Circle

Isolate immediately

Details to follow

He knew what this meant. At least two months of not leaving the house or seeing anybody. For Logan, it didn’t change much, but he knew his parents would freak out. As if on cue:

“Logan, come down here right now,” he heard from downstairs. Logan hid the CAM-Cracker under his bed and went downstairs to where his parents were. It looked like the guests who were here earlier were already gone. Clearly, not a very long dinner.

“Logan, how do you feel? Do you feel hot, any coughing?” his mother said, feeling his forehead.

“Mom, I’m OK. I feel fine. You don’t need to worry.” He said, swatting his mother's hand away.

“Well, I guess Amelia’s date will be cut short. I expect she should be home soon. She will not be happy.” John said as he continued to clean up the kitchen area. “We can then talk about what the next few months will be like. We will have to do a bit of planning, but it’s for all the right reasons. Right, Logan?”

“Sure, dad. Whatever you say. I’m going to head back up to my room.” Logan wanted to see if he could learn more from his CAM, now that he was in lockdown. Maybe see what had changed. He headed back upstairs and took the CAM-Cracker back out and plugged in. At the top left, there was a blinking message.

Virus fatality rate: 100% (Hypervirus)

Cyan Protocol Active – 14% Complete

“Hypervirus, that is not good,” Logan mumbled to himself. What was the Cyan Protocol? He had never heard the term before. He remembered seeing a screen about his Cyan being around 99%, but he wasn’t sure what that meant. Looking around for clues, he found himself back on the Circle-Grd screen.

This time, there were gaps in the numbers. There were blocks, about two to four, where the numbers were blank. As he watched, occasionally, a set of numbers would disappear. What was going on? His first thought was, could the Hypervirus be killing them that quickly? It did not seem possible. This did not feel right. Not at all. He backed up through the menus.

Cyan Protocol Active – 19% Complete

He had a very uneasy feeling about this. Looking around, he found the area he was looking for.

Shutdown CAM

Hesitating for a moment, he clicked on the button. Almost immediately, quite a few of the statuses and numbers turned off. In the corner, he could now see.

CAM Disconnected

He was terrified. If there was a Hypervirus around, it might be the worst time to be without a CAM. Then he thought of his parents. Leaving the CAM-Cracker on the table, he opened his door and ran downstairs.

“Mom, dad, you have to listen to me. It’s a Hypervirus. Or at least it says it is, but something is not right. Come upstairs with me right now, I want to turn off your CAMs.”

“Slow down, son. How do you know it’s a Hypervirus? My CAM just says to isolate, where are you getting this from?” John said, continuing to clean up.

“Dad, there isn’t any time. You need to come with me. Something is not right.” Logan said, pulling on his father’s arm.

“Honey,” Cindy said quietly. “Maybe we should listen to him. Logan, tell us. What do you know? Where did you find this out? What is upstairs?” She said, getting up from the table and walking towards them.

“Mom, there is no time. Please, I beg you…please just come with me.” Logan said, pleading with her.

At that moment, Amelia walked in the front door.

“I can’t believe that jerk!. Chad just walked out on me!” She said, tossing her shoes into the chute, hearing them bang against the metal sides on the way to the basement. They would get disinfected and then be ready to wear again tomorrow.

She closed the front door and walked into the kitchen. As she stepped inside, there was a quiet, hissing sound. John, Cindy, and Amelia all looked down at their CAM and realized the noise came from there. Amelia fell to the floor with a loud thump.

“Amelia what…” was the last words Cindy said before she fell to the ground as well. John was in shock, but only for a moment before he similarly collapsed, shattering several plates and glasses on the way down. All three convulsed for a moment, and before Logan could register what was going on, they all stopped moving.

“Mom…Dad…” he said quietly, not sure what to do. He was trying to figure out what just happened. He walked over to his mother and gently nudged her, hoping she was OK, and this was just a dream. He lifted her hand and looked carefully at her CAM. He could see what looked like a bruise, right near the edge of the band. There was a small amount of clear liquid that looked like it had come from underneath her CAM. There was an odd smell, almost like almonds, but more bitter. She was clearly not OK. Her arm was completely limp and had no life.

Logan paced back and forth in the living room, trying to figure out what to do. Although he could scarcely believe it, the only conclusion was that the CAMs had killed his family. Logan thought about what Outkastic said if he were to leave the house with his CAM shut off. The cameras would detect the CAM was not active, and the Sodicks would find him. Who knows what would happen next.

Then it really hit him. He probably wasn't safe here either. He had to do something. Taking out his phone, he took a deep breath and turned on the video camera.

#

"This is Jen Devine. Tonight on Circle Streaming News. I'm afraid what I am going to show you next is very disturbing. The following contains subject matter that may not be suitable for all viewers. But my team and I felt this was important and needed to be aired to my audience. I have come in possession of a video through an anonymous source. What you are about to see will shock you."

The news cut to a shot of Logan's face. It had a blinking "Live" at the bottom to indicate this was live-streamed at some point.

"My name is Logan…and…I can't believe I'm saying this, but my family has been murdered." He took the camera and panned around to show his parents first and then his sister, face down on the floor. "They were killed…by their CAM. I don't know how or why. But it has something to do with Hyperviruses. My CAM told me there was a Hypervirus, and the next thing I know….they were all dead." He was now crying and unable to hold back his emotions. You could then see him walk up the stairs, tears pouring down his face.

"The only reason I'm still alive is this." He pointed the camera at the CAM-Cracker. "I was able to turn off my CAM using this device. There is something in the CAM that killed them. I think it killed others as well. We seem to all be connected somehow. Maybe everyone in my Circle. I'm not sure. People were disappearing. Something about a Cyan Protocol."

In the video, you could see Logan place his camera in some sort of mount, facing the laptop screen. He put the CAM-Cracker adapter onto his CAM.

"You can see," pointing at the screen, "right here, I've turned it off. I'm pretty sure it's the only reason I'm still alive."

Logan stopped for a moment, and you could see something had his attention. He slowly got up and walked over to the window. On the video, you could see the color vanish from his face, and a look of shock come over him. Very faintly, there was a voice in the background, which the news had filled in with sub-titles.

This is the Social Distance Police. Open up. We want to make sure everyone is OK. Open the door, or we will be forced to break it down. This is for your safety and mine.

At this point, Logan backed away from the window and sat down slowly. A message popped up onto the computer screen and blinked a few times.

Manual proximity override. CAM Reconnected

Logan looked down at the screen. You could see the shock on his face, and he reaches down, trying to tear the CAM from his wrist, but instead, he falls headfirst onto the table, eyes wide open in terror. The camera perfectly positioned to watch the life drain from him.

The scene cut back to Jen, whose voice was audibly cracking. "I know what you saw was very disturbing. My team and I could barely believe it ourselves. But what you are about to see convinced us this was not some sort of inappropriate prank."

The video continued, but it was clear some time had passed. Logan's eyes were rolled back, and a trail of drool had pooled beneath him. His bedroom door opened in the background, and two Social Distance Police walked in slowly. The first one into the room spoke. "Hey Frank, the kid is in here. It looks like he has one of those CAM-Crackers. Explains how we couldn't find him through the Grid. We should bring this…hey, one sec."

The officer picks up the phone and stares deep into the camera. His eyes widened. "Oh, crap…Frank, I think he…crap, crap, crap…". The video tumbles through the air as the phone is thrown to the floor. The last visible frame is that of the heel of a boot coming down hard onto the camera.

The scene cut back to the anchor. "I'm afraid the video stops there. Based on his badge number, we were able to identify the officer in the video as Sgt. Bill Ketchum of the Social Distance Police. We are still trying to identify the second officer."

Just then, Jen looked down as her CAM gave a loud, wailing noise.

"I can't believe this. I've been told I need to isolate. My Circle is infected."


Submitted: November 17, 2020

© Copyright 2021 Randar. All rights reserved.

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Jessica Jameson

Clear, concise, terrifying possibility that this is the future that we might have

Sat, July 17th, 2021 3:36am

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