My Life in Your Hands
The moment, Nicolas stepped into the apartment, he saw the white orb on the kitchen table.
His heart started pounding and he froze with the hand on the door handle. The appearance of the orb wasn’t unexpected, but he had wondered, when it would show up. He checked the apartment for any sign of breaking and entering - none. As was the case everywhere where the orb had showed up. Then he slipped his bag to the floor and sighed. He collapsed into an armchair next to door and sat down staring at the orb.
It wasn’t big - perhaps 5 inches in diameter. No reflections from the surface. Pure white. Perfectly round. And a complete mystery...
First a few orbs had appeared a month roughly 2 years ago. Then a few a week. And now, in average 5.000 - 10.000 reports of orb findings came in a day, the findings increasing exponentially. At present 53 mil. orb findings had been reported - and those were just the official findings. A lot of “receivers” - the official word now - probably kept their orbs a secret. Latest projections suggested, that everyone on the globe would have their own orb in less than 6 months.
It was the same story everywhere: People came home from holiday, work - and suddenly it had appeared in their home. The “donors” - also the official word now, even though nobody knew, who they were - seemed to prefer the kitchen table to place the orb for some reason - or another central location in the home. It had always been delivered out of sight - no orb appearing in a flash of light or carried by a green glowing tentacled alien. No manual either, but the way it worked was obvious to everyone now. At first, the sightings had been rejected as mass hysteria by the authorities, but as the orbs had begin appearing in prison cells and in maternity wards just after the delivery, there was no denying that the orbs were real.
Apparently they were extremely solid. A number of tests had been run, where scientist had tried to cut in the orbs, sprayed acid on them, bombed them, even - to no avail. Not even a scratch. After the experiments, the orb would just lie there like an enigmatic reverse functioning crystal ball.
He had a theory of his own about the appearance of the orbs connected to the way society was run these days. Want a job? Give away access to all your health records, bank transfers, garbage records etc. Want to lease a car - by far the cheapest option these day - with a discount? Inform about your the addresses of friends and family, mental health, bank records etc. Just this day, he believed that he had been asked 20 twenty times about information about himself. He had made a point of denying it every time - and unfortunately all these denials went instantly public making him suspicious. It was now proven and public, that he was a secretive person and how many questions he wouldn’t answer compared to the average man. Maybe the orb was just a new way of getting information out of everyone - a trick by one of the digital nations - like MicroScope - that played on your curiosity. Noone liked mysteries nowaways - you were accustomed to instantly find an answer to your question. The orb was an unsolveable mystery, which had to be solved and hence you couldn’t help yourself from touching it....
Lauren would be coming over in a few hours. What now? He didn’t want this...not now...he would like to consider things for a while before showing the orb to her. They had been dating for a few months and were now getting to the stage, where they were revealing personal information to each other. He had planned what to reveal of himself, when to reveal it and - very important - how to reveal. He had in his mind considered which lies, that were necessary and couldn’t be checked.
His thoughts drifted back to the orb. He knew from the officials guidelines, that direct contact between the skin and orb was needed for a transfer. He walked pass the kitchen, grabbed a towel and swept it around his hands. Carefully he approached the orb, which has just lying there completely still. He carefully put his hands around the orb with the towel separating the hands and the marble like surface of the orb. He didn’t feel any heat or cold coming from the orb through the towel - it has apparently the same temperature as his hand. Slowly, he lifted it and.....
....it slipped - or did it seem to wrist itself out of his hand? - bumped to the floor and jumped up towards his leg. The surface of the orb touched his skin for only a fraction of a second...
....the world disappeared and he was drowned in pictures, sounds, smells and feelings:
.....holding his grandmothers hand, nine years old, while walking through his grandparents wineyard outside Sisimiut..
....admiring the delicate stone structures of the house walls in Windermere during a diving trip
.....getting lost in a cornfield, five years old, screaming for his father...
.....trying his mothers car after breaking the digital lock (piece of cake)..he had nearly crashed a pharmacy on the 144th floor of the Clarke building...
......the pain and endless fear, when he was pulled from his mothers womb...how had he been able to recover from that?
He found himself sprawled out on the floor. He must have passed out. The orb had rolled over in a corner of the kitchen. The memories had already started to fade away - the way of the brain to cope with the complete recall of an entire life. He had read in the news, that the “Recollection” could be a hard experience, but normally the “receivers” would get their bearings after a couple of hours. In a sense, yes, he thought. He would definitely remember this for the rest of his life.
He remembered - completely clearly - now - a trial a month ago, that he had attended. The defendant, an identity thief, had brought his orb along to the court with the excuse, that he used it to refresh his memories. After all, it wasn’t considered a dangerous object. It was quite light - intuitively you would expect it to be heavy, considering it was packed with the memories of an entire lifetime. During the trial, the defendant had requested that the judge put her hand on his orb. “If you are to judge me fairly”, the defendant had said, “It is only just, that you take my entire life into consideration. There are some of facts there, that you should know”. He put the orb in front of the judge. “The ball is in your court now, man”, he had said with a vague smile. Cheeky bastard. The persecutor had protested, but the judge had turned down the protest and had accepted the request. The judge had retired to her office with a nervous assistent trailing after her carrying the orb with gloves.
Next day, she had appeared again in court, visibly shaken. The press had turned up in numbers to witness this the first use of an orb as a possibly evidence in court. The judge had not, as many speculated, acquitted the defendant. On the contrary, she was now sure of his guilt, but had only reluctantly and with tears in her eyes judged him the minimum required punishment. The defendant had seemed satisfied.
He remembered reports of a shortlived bizarre gambling trend, where the winner had the right to touch the looser’s orb - clearly to get leverage on him or her. But it hadn’t worked..when touching the orb and gaining another persons memories, you might know their deepest secrets and fears...but apparently you also couldn’t help feeling an overwhelming amount of sympathy for them. Most winners didn’t take advantage of their knowledge and those who did were met with two challenges: Soon nobody wanted to gamble with them - and nobody, which took part in the gambling were trusted them with any crucial information...what if they lost their next game..?
Half an time until Laurel would be here. She was always punctual - he liked that regularity about her. What to do now? He had been content with not telling her everything about his past. He used to be ashamed about it, but......why, exactly?
He sat down and retraced the memories. For now, he had almost perfect recall ability, but that would fade away in less than an hour, he had heard. Some of the memories, he had suppressed, but recalling them now, he was feeling quite forgiving to himself and they didn’t feel as embarrassing as previously . Actually he was now surprised of the way, that he had turned out.
There would soon come a time, where all people would theoretically have an orb. And she would begin to wonder, why his orb hadn´t shown up. What about her orb? Was it yet to show up? Or had she hidden it?
“What is a man but the sum of his memories?”, he had heard in an antique computer game, he had played as a kid. He hadn’t felt quite right about that quote and later, it had dawned on him: What about choice? Some of his actions had indicated a future and narrow path, where the next choices would be certain and the future predestined.
But he hadn’t always taken the obvious outcome. He had had low grades in school, but he managed through sheer hard work to make his way into university and was now a respected junior partner in the company. His father has beaten him and he had beaten smaller kids in school - that’s the information he received from his father about treating others and he had acted accordingly. But he had stopped. He hadn’t beaten anyone since the age of 13, although his father had beaten him until he ran away, 15 years old. With all the information, the society valued so much, no one had been able to deduct, that he was molested at home.
He hadn’t never laid a hand on Laurel in spite of vague images forming in his mind about beating her, when he was angry at her. He had not made his peace with the images, but instead a truce, acknowledging that they would follow him for a long time.
He honestly didn’t know, if Laurel deserved to know everything about him. But he knew now, what choice it was decent to let her take. Even though it would mean, that the relationship would end. If she touched his orb, there was no going back to the way things were before...
The door opened and Laurel stepped in. She loved to wear 18th century clothes and was wearing a farmer girls outfit today with a long dress and stocking. She had brown hair curled up above a pair of dreamy green eyes, that was a mystery to him. A mystery he actually liked and didn’t feel a need to solve. For him, it was the mystery, that was attractive - not the solution.
“What bothers thee, Mylord?”, she said with a big smile. He picked up the orb through the towel and showed it. She froze, mouth open.
He couldn’t speak. He couldn’t move. He knew the right thing to do, but he kept on clinging to the orb. Instead she moved and put her arm into her shoulder bag. She pulled up a round object veiled in a woven cloth. She paused for a second and then - with a brisk movement - she uncovered her orb. She nervously placed it on the table - more like dropped it - and rolled it over to his end of the table. Halfway across the table he let his orb fall to the table and it started rolling towards her.
And they both took the right choice.