Place Your Bets

By Eric Farrell

Gertrude Zirgens combs through the racing numbers with fellow server chaperone John O’Malley.

Old Trudy and John are stationed in Server Room AB, all the way up on the twenty-eighth floor of a god-awful windowless collocation skyscraper. They’re engaged in a friendly wager over one of the subjects in the simulator they’re monitoring.

This new bet is proposed by Trudy. It concerns one Anson Alizadeh, a bulbous-headed fridge tech of perplexing ethnicity. In particular the Anson Alizadeh of Instance Code 10360002. That stamp indicates this server room’s in its ten millionth simulation, each instance branching from the Farm’s proprietary machine learning algorithm. This Anson Alizadeh is as accurate as can be predicted thanks to the constant input acquired by the "Farm." Officially known as the Human Transcription Project, the "Farm" gets a steady stream of data to feed to its algorithms through a series of groundbreaking and law-challenging social media and cellular acquisitions. The actual earthly Anson Alizadeh is reflected in total likeness within the simulator due to, bless his heart, all the RFID-imbedded tech he interfaces with on a daily basis. Tiny fragments of his life are aggregated and input into a growing algorithm creating an avatar as dynamic as he is.

As far as how the world outside of this heinous windowless skyscraper goes, John and Trudy are grateful for the distraction their job provides them. Their jobs are cast in a moral ambiguity given the total lack of an opt-in agreement set in place by the Human Transcription Project. The algorithm is so smart and complex that it instinctively mines data out of any and all interactive elements of the real world, non-consenting citizens included.

“Alright, asshole. Here’s a good one. Let’s wager on this Anson’s bed skills. Will he get to home base tonight?”

“Pssht,” John says, smirking. “Are you digesting this data, ‘Trude? Look at the stats! He’s a total loser! There’s no way he’ll make it past first base, statistically.”

Trudy bets against it, before realizing she’s forgotten to tell her co-worker about her newest gizmo.

“Hey, John,” Trudy snidely begins, “I want to show you this new widget I programmed. I’m thinking about showing it to our superiors…”

Trudy shows John the monitor she requisitioned from the fledging marketing department. On it, she’s displayed a picture-perfect visual manifestation of the feed, through the perspective of a single subject.

A stunned O’Malley stares at the screen, staring through subject Anson Alizadeh’s simulated point of view. Trudy speeds the vid up, burning through time, jerking poor Anson 10360002 Alizadeh around by the collar. O’Malley is all the while gasping at this unbelievable simulacrum Trudy has coded, this visual manifestation of the data the Farm so-far merely streams as ones and zeroes. Anson’s racing forward on screen, the details of his life a blur.

Until finally it’s a Friday evening. The algorithm’s onboard analytics show Anson’s rising heartbeat.

All bets are locked in. Anson’s holding hands within a heartbreakingly beautiful woman.

Well will you? Will you even let him kiss you, Trudy wonders solemnly, as they watch the events of Anson’s evening rendezvous play out in 1.5x speed.

Never, O’Malley thinks to himself, that sly smile shining, knowing that statistically this particular Alizadeh No. 10360002 would never, ever get with this woman in this world.

Anson cries under his covers later that night.

After Trudy sees O’Malley saunter out of the office, she stays behind. She stares at the screen, through this avatar’s digital eyes. The view shimmers with tears before collapsing into total darkness.