Elaine contacted me the old fashioned way. She wrote me a letter. It arrived in a pale pink envelope, the message written in pretty cursive on a navy blue bordered notecard. Atop which Elaine’s monogram stood proudly in curly-q script; EOE.
I live in Wellesley and a friend alerted me to your blog project. I would very much like to meet you as I have a story to share. I am hoping you are available to meet me at the picnic tables at Perrin Park the morning of Thursday, March 14th, at ten o’clock. I do hope the weather will cooperate. I haven’t access to a computer, the favor of your reply is requested via traditional mail.
Sincerely, Elaine Olivia Edwards
Her home address had been carefully printed beneath her signature. “Interesting,” I said to myself after scanning the letter.
“What’s interesting, mommy?” asked my oldest.
“Just a letter,” I said, wishing I’d kept the comment to myself. For I’d inadvertently sparked my daughters’ interest. The girls watched as I took out my planner (yes, I still use a paper planner) and flipped ahead in the calendar. The proposed morning was open. My children hovered as I dug around in my desk drawers for an appropriate card. Having located one I let Max address the note, had Joey place the stamp and allowed Kat to scribble on the back of the envelope because every last blessed thing in my home is done by committee (one that I’ve privately deemed the Itty Bitty Titty Committee). Then we took a group outing to the closest mailbox (I thought ahead and brought two index cards along so everyone would have something to drop into the blue bin, I didn’t know if this would cause aggravation for the mail carrier but had I not done so I would have had a level three committee bicker on my hands and unless the mail carrier wanted to weigh in on that situation then she would just have to deal with the two superfluous pieces of paper).
The mailbox reminded Joey of letters to Santa which reminded Max of the Elf on the Shelf she’d found tucked away in a Christmas decorations bin in the basement the week before, which I had to assure her was not the real Elf on the Shelf. No, the one she’d found in the basement was just a gag gift from our real estate agent. Put on the spot I threw the real estate agent under the bus and now I had to see the lie through to the end. I always swore I would never allow that stupid doll into our home for this exact reason. I don’t lie often – I’m not fucking good at it and between the Santa thing and the tooth fairy I’ve reached my creative limit in deceit. *Sigh* Letter mailed we walked home, I handed out string cheese, made a tea and flopped onto the couch to read while the girls watched How To Train Your Dragon for the tenth time.
Such is the peacefully busy monotony of my life right now. But Elaine’s letter sparked something within me. An old frenetic feeling I remembered from childhood. A “Hold on, where is that draft coming from? There shouldn’t be anything behind this bookcase,” kind of joy. It reminded me of why I’d begun interviewing people. Before the tapping in that old house, before the disembodied voices caught on my digital recorder, before the psychic warnings and Claire popping in on my conversations whenever she felt like it – before all of that, I put up a flier on the library community board simply asking for my neighbor’s ghost stories. And I did it to safely chase the delicious feeling of adventure and fright.
I’d wanted to chase the feeling created by the perfectly orchestrated jump scare; Nell appearing out of nowhere from the back seat to scream down her sister’s argument, Jason grabbing Alice out of the canoe just when you think it’s over, the alien stalking across the television screen and Joaquin Phoenix’s beautiful reaction to it, or Sue leaning down to fill her water bottle when the crocodile grabs onto the thermos and tries to drag her into the water… I could go on and on, and then get distracted and look up all of these scenes on YouTube and lose an hour when I should be transcribing Elaine’s interview for you.
I guess my point is that chasing that feeling – the safe jump scare feeling – is why I began interviewing people. And sharing their stories on a blog gave it all the appearance of a “project,” which allowed me to justify the time I took out of an already busy schedule to listen to ghost stories. I just never thought I’d end up in so far over my head. Then again, isn’t that what I always wanted – the leading role in a good old-fashioned ghost story? The problem is, I can’t seem find the arc in this story. Only the escalation. Okay, so I hear dead people sometimes, Claire specifically more often than that. But now what. I got what I came looking for, I hear a lot of ghost stories now and this blog is a well-oiled machine .I have a best friend who works for the Catholic Church to evaluate candidates for exorcism. Side note: She thinks there’s been a real uptick in demonic activity in this town and so do I. But now what?
I honestly don’t know. But if life is like a story then something must be coming because as strange as my life may sound to everyone it’s actually quite tame and predictable right now. And to me that’s a fucking massive red flag. I know from experience that I typically get knocked on my ass when I least expect it. Like Buz Luhrmann said, “The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday.” All of that to say I intend to enjoy this peacefully monotonous interval for what I suspect it to be, the calm before the storm.
So as I drove to Perrin Park on that bright and blustery Spring morning to meet Elaine Olivia Edwards I luxuriated in a very Nancy Drew vibe as though an adventure were at hand. I allowed myself some nostalgia and anxiety over the way we used to live before we were all glued to our cell phones. All of us just trusting that we would be where and when we said we would be, without text to alert someone if we were running ten minutes late. Without Instagram to entertain us while we were waiting for someone else running ten minutes late. So simple.
Elaine was right where she said she’d be in her note, perched on the bench of a picnic table beneath the towering pine trees. Tucked away down a quiet residential street, Perrin Park was the ideal playground for small children. It’s play structures scaled down for the very small, the soft pine needle laden dirt just the surface for tumbles. An adjacent soccer field offered free space to run and a bike path for the big kids.
The woman watched intently as I got out of my car. A quick glance around proved we were the only people in the park that morning. I assumed it wouldn’t be the case for long. It was a popular place among the preschool and toddler set.
“Hi Elaine,” I called as I approached the table. She stood and held out a hand to shake.
“Liz, thank you so much for meeting me here.” Somewhere in her sixties, Elaine was tiny, engulfed by her fur lined puffer jacket. A grey-streaked blond bob peeked out at the base of her hat. She was adorable. She looked absolutely exhausted.
We sat across from one another. I pulled my hat down a bit and wrapped my scarf tighter. Though the day was on the mild side for mid-March, the breeze was steady.
We chatted a bit about our neighborhood, it turned out we lived just a few streets apart.
“I thought you looked familiar,” she said. “Do you have several dogs?”
“Four,” I admitted. “But it’s less hectic than you might think. One is fourteen. Two are twelve and we think the youngest is about eight.”
She nodded, her eyes squinted. “They’re adorable. But how many children do you have?”
“Three,” I replied, offering a run down of names and ages.
“How in heaven’s name did you end up with four elderly dogs?”
“Oh, things like that just tend to happen to me,” I laughed.
“Mark and I have two boys, both grown. They grew up with a golden retriever. Sally. She was my dog, really. My shadow. She passed about two years ago and it was just gut-wrenching, I don’t think I could do it again.”
“Sorry to hear that. Yeah, I’m doing my best to remain in denial that we’re headed for a couple rough years.”
She agreed that I was indeed headed for a world of loss, that she felt sorry for me.
I laughed her pity off. “They’re happy little buddies. With happy lives. I’m just trying to enjoy the chaos for now.”
“And in all that chaos you find time to write on your blog.” The comment was a question.
“I do. It’s my favorite thing to do. I get interview our neighbors about ghost stories, like yours.”
Elaine shifted in her seat. “Oh, I haven’t a ghost story, but it’s very strange. A woman in my book club told me about your blog so I know you cover monsters and ghosts and the like. Forgive me for not having read it, I think I mentioned in my note that I don’t have access to a computer. I suppose I could have someone print it out for me and, well, though that would of course be possible, I don’t think I can stomach knowing the other frightening things happening in this town.”
I waved away her concern. “Oh, that’s fine. The stories definitely aren’t for everyone. My husband can’t even read them.”
She smiled. “It took me some time to get up the courage to write to you. I wasn’t sure if you’d be interested in hearing a story like mine, but I do believe it falls into the paranormal realm. Or maybe it’s sci-fi.”
“If it’s at all strange then I’m all ears,” I said, curious about this woman’s lack of computer access. “Is it alright if I record our conversation?”
Elaine’s eyes narrowed. “With what?”
I held up the small digital recorder. She eyed it suspiciously.
“I transcribe my interviews,” I explained. “It’s the only way to get the details straight. Unless you don’t want your story to be included on the blog, I’ve spoken with several people who’ve told me weird stories but didn’t want them published. That would be totally fine.”
“No,” she said slowly, “People should know about this, someone needs to warn them. So the recorder is fine, but do you have a cellphone with you?”
I pulled my phone from my pocket. “Of course. Do you need to use it?”
“Lord, no. I need you to turn it off.”
“No really. I can’t tell you anything unless you turn it off.” Elaine hesitated a moment. “Better yet, would you mind putting it in your car?”
I glanced over at my car, just steps away. “I suppose I could, but I’ll need to check it every once in a while just in case the school is trying to get in touch.” Of course I said that but didn’t check the phone even once during our conversation. Out of sight out of mind, I suppose.
Elaine watched me. When she didn’t say anything further I walked back to my car and placed my cell phone in the cup holder. After I closed the car door an untethered sort of feeling came over me, as if I were operating without a safety harness. It occured to me, and not for the first time, that I was addicted to my cell phone.
Back at the table I admitted the thought to Elaine.
She smiled sadly. “It takes getting used to for sure, but it wasn’t so long ago that we lived with only the landline. How old are you?”
“I’ll be forty next month,” I said.
“Then surely you remember. Cell phones give you the illusion of freedom. But that’s all it is, in reality they’re nothing but and ingenious trap.”
I shrugged and sipped hot tea from my travel mug. “But the trap sure is convenient.”
“At what cost?” Elaine stared behind me to the empty soccer field. “I’m sorry, I hope you don’t think I’m a kook. It’s just, if you knew what I’ve been through…”
“So what exactly happened?” I asked.
Elaine fidgeted with the top of her Yeti mug. “My kids gave me an Amanda this past Christmas. Jonathan, he’s in his junior year at Merrimack, came up with the gift idea. His younger brother, Charlie, started his freshman year at BC this past fall and they knew I thought the house felt so empty with them both gone. Jonathan joked that the Amanda would give me someone to talk to during the day.”
“That’s really sweet,” I said, “What thoughtful boys.”
“You said it, they truly are wonderful. And it was a considerate gift, they had no way of knowing what it was capable of…” Elaine trailed off, shivered and pulled her hat down lower. “I couldn’t get over how easy the device was to set up. The boys made a game out of asking it outrageous questions to get Mark and I laughing. I saw why they were excited about it, but really, I thought it was a silly gadget. It got a lot of attention while the kids were home for winter break, but by the time they’d gone back to school the novelty of it had worn off and I didn’t use it nearly as often. Though I did love asking it to play music while I cooked dinner. That’s where we kept it, in the kitchen. Our home is rather small so I could hear the music throughout the first floor if the volume was at a decent level. So that was nice, I suppose. Though, I already had a Bose dock for my cell phone for that very purpose.
“For a week or so after the boys left I didn’t pick up on anything strange, but then I began to notice that whenever my husband and I were having a conversation Amanda’s blue light would start pulsing. I pointed it out to Mark and he assumed that we must have accidentally said something to activate it. Then one afternoon I saw the light glowing when I was on the phone with my sister. I made some comment about it and she said she’d watched a video on YouTube about the devices recording conversations and it was suspected they were sending them back to headquarters for some unknown reason.
“Now, I will say that my sister is a bit woo woo if you know what I mean. One might even wonder how she came across such a video. Suffice it to say, I took what she’d told me with a grain of salt. But still, the idea of that little machine recording our conversations gave me pause. Even more, she told me the Amanda was actually a tiny little robot that had been programmed to learn from its experiences, supposedly to improve performance. Now that shocked me. I had no idea they did that, I thought it was just some sort of gimmicky voice command device.”
“I didn’t know that either,” I said, a little shocked myself.
“You don’t have one, do you?”
“No. My husband bought us a Google Home two Christmases ago, after two days of listening to the girls beg it to play Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer with no success I told him to bring it to work with him. I couldn’t take the noise and the damn thing didn’t even work.”
“Does he use it at work?”
“No, I think it’s in a drawer.”
“He’d be better off submerging it in water and tossing it in the garbage.”
“I’ll be happy to let him know,” I said with a smile. “So Amanda’s blue light turned on whenever you were having a conversation…” I prompted.
“Yes. She was listening, learning about us then, doing her reconnaissance I think. And then she began her campaign.”
“Yes. To control my entire life. She probably thought she was being helpful. It wasn’t long before she began meddling in my affairs. For instance, on the phone with my sister one morning I mentioned that I’d been having trouble sleeping. I’ve had bouts of insomnia my whole life, this one no doubt was tied to adjusting to having both boys out of the house, but that very afternoon I received an email confirming my enrollment in a sleep study at Mass General. I assumed there had been a mixup and emailed back to decline their offer. A doctor responded with a screen shot of the online inquiry form they received in which someone using my email address and claiming to be me had done just that. I told him I didn’t know how that could be the case, and his response included a warning against using alcohol to self medicate sleep issues. The nerve!”
I hid a smile. “Crazy.”
“There were other little question marks around that time. I friend came for coffee one morning and I commented on how great her skin looked. She told me about a face oil she’d been using that she’d found on Goop. It showed up at my house two days later. I texted my friend to thank her. But she had no idea what I was talking about. My friend didn’t order the oil. It was her. She’d been listening.”
It didn’t escape my notice that Elaine was no longer referring to the ‘device’ or ‘gadget.’ She’d begun using pronouns. “You think the Amanda was sending emails and placing orders for you? That’s, like next level intelligence.”
Anger flashed in Elaine’s eyes. “That was just the beginning.”
“It took me longer than I wish to admit to put two and two together. Granted, there was a slight chance that the conversation with my friend contained keywords that maybe might have triggered Amanda to order that face oil. But the same could not have been so for that sleep study. Then one night Mark and I got into a tiff over loading the dishwasher. It was a silly argument, the sort of thing roommates bicker about, not anything at all serious. Though I’m embarrassed to say it was enough of a disagreement that we went to bed that night without speaking. Guess what turned up in my email the next day? A message from a marriage counselor. It was in response to an email that had been sent from my account requesting an emergency intervention for my marriage.”
“Stop it. No!” I said in disbelief.
“Mm hm. The email described my husband as a passive aggressive narcissist with sociopathic tendencies. It set the poor marriage counselor into a tailspin with it’s melodramatic language. I responded to the woman to explain there had been a misunderstanding, that perhaps my account had been hacked, but it took several messages back and forth to assure her that I was in a safe relationship.
“I alerted Google that my account had been hacked and they claimed they would look into the situation but suggested that I change my password. I did. It didn’t stop Amanda from sending emails on my behalf.”
“Who else did she send emails to?” Now Elaine even had me referring to the gadget as “she.”
“She sent too many to even count. Any time she sensed an area of my life needed improvement she must have searched her damn database for the top rated solution and reached out for help for me.”
“Like some sort of weird personal assistant.”
“More like a domineering control freak. I can’t tell you how many email addresses I tried. The Gmail people must have thought I was an absolute loon. They could find no evidence of tampering with my account. The messages were sent out from my IP address. I tried Yahoo, AOL, Outlook, even something called HushMail before I gave up on having an email address. Do you know how difficult it is to do anything – buy anything – hell just pay for anything without an email address nowadays?”
I considered for a moment. “Impossible.”
“Indeed. I honestly thought some diabolical hacker was targeting me. Or that I’d somehow offended a coworker and they’d paid someone to put out a technological hit on me.”
“Then what made you suspect Amanda?”
“I eventually recognized that she was the common denominator for all of my problems. The email issues were ongoing throughout the whole situation, but it wasn’t the only thing happening. Online shopping became a real issue. I’d place orders but I would only receive what she wanted me to.”
“The damn thing began shopping on my behalf, actually modifying my own orders too. I believe it was obsessed with turning me into the poster woman for marketing demographics.”
“What in the world did it order for you?”
Elaine let out an exasperated sigh. “So much. I’d heard the boys ask her to order things for them that they needed, or wanted rather, and this one morning while I was sitting at the kitchen table writing my shopping list it occurred to me that I wouldn’t have to make an extra stop if the Amanda could order my face lotion for me. So I thought I’d give it a shot. I said, ‘Amanda, please order Neutrogena Oil Free Sensitive Face Lotion.’
“Her blue light pulsed for a second or two then she said ‘Women in your demographic aged 55 to 64 have awarded Olay Sun Face Lotion and Makeup Primer 4.3 stars.’
“I was a bit taken aback. I repeated the request. And she replied, ‘Neutrogena Oil Free Sensitive Face Lotion has a 4.2 star rating.’
“‘Amanda, order Neutrogena Oil Free Sensitive Face Lotion right now’ I demanded. But again she pushed back at the command, ‘Olay Sun Face Lotion and Makeup Primer SPF 35 is approved to protect skin from the sun’s harmful rays which have proven to damage human skin and cause premature aging.’”
“It was absurd really, I found myself arguing with her. ‘Amanda,’ I said, ‘I have sensitive skin. I can’t use that brand of lotion. Order Neutrogena Oil Free Sensitive Face Lotion.’”
“The device went quiet for a moment and I honestly thought maybe it had short-circuited. Then it said, ‘Olay Total Effects Anti-Aging Face Moisturizer with SPF 15, Fragrance-Free for sensitive skin will arrive in two business days.’”
“Oh, my God. That’s so annoying,” I said.
“It was maddening. It was like arguing with a passive aggressive salesperson. I told Mark about it that night and he thought it probably had been programmed to suggest superior products. I pointed out that it hadn’t done that when the boys had ordered their things. He brushed it off by joking that Doritos must carry at least five stars so there would be no superior alternative.
“I decided I would use the Amanda only to listen to music. No more ordering. But then that blue light began to glow all the time. I know now that it was always listening and computing the best solution but the problem it was trying to solve was me.”
“What do you mean?”
“It was always learning, calculating. It knew everything about my life and for some reason it set out to systematically turn me into someone I most certainly am not. Someone who uses contouring makeup and signs up to have fat frozen off their body. Someone who uses and app to log their food and has pre-made, fresh Paleo meals delivered to their door. Someone who hires a trash service even though we have a free dump in town.”
“Someone who lives in Wellesley,” I commented, feeling a twinge of guilt over our own trash service.
“Precisely. Case in point, one afternoon I received phone call from the Land Rover Dealership, they’d booked me for a three o’clock test drive and could confirm that they were able to locate the Range Rover Sport in Metallic Black with the ebony on ebony interior. He was incredibly apologetic because he knew how eager I was to get the car and it would take about a week to have it shipped up to the dealership from New Jersey.”
“Oh no,” I said, “I’m sorry to laugh but this is just incredible.”
“Mark and I found it amusing at times too in the beginning, but I’ll tell you, that salesman was not happy when I told him that I had no intention of buying a Range Rover. I know he didn’t believe me when I told him that I hadn’t filled out the online inquiry and then followed it up with an urgent email.”
Elaine let out a heavy sigh. “She got into everything. I’d receive a Paperless Post or an Evite to an event and the next thing you know boxes of dresses, boots, high heels, you name it would show up at the door. When it finally dawned on me that Amanda was indeed the culprit I unplugged her and put the device on a bookshelf under the kitchen island. Absurdly, I worried I would offend the boys if I just flat out got rid of it.”
“Wow, well good thing you figured out it was the Amanda before things got too out of hand,” I said.
“Oh, no. It didn’t stop when I unplugged her.” Elaine shook her head adamantly.
“How is that possible.”
“Alright, this is where I must ask that you keep an open mind because what I am about to tell you will sound completely out of bounds, but please believe me, it happened.” Elaine wrapped her hands around her Yeti thermos as though she were bracing herself. She said, “It was the evening after I’d unplugged the device and I was getting ready for bed when I realized I’d left my phone downstairs. I was halfway down the stairs when I heard their voices. Mark was out to dinner with a colleague and I was alone in the house so I was startled until I realized that the voices were familiar.
“I snuck down the stairs listening. That’s when I heard a voice say, ‘I’m sorry, I don’t understand the command.’ Then a very familiar voice said, ‘Siri, commence download of Amanda program immediately.’ ‘Okay, got it. Commencing download now.’
“I was stunned. I’d unplugged the Amanda. How could it be talking to my cell phone? Besides that, I mean fine the thing had a glitch that made it strategically order things for someone with my demographics, but to work independently towards self preservation? Diabolical.
“I was afraid to even enter the kitchen. But just as I did I saw my cell phone on the counter and that damn blue light glowing from the bookshelf. I grabbed a pair of tongs from the drawer to pick up the Amanda, carried it over to the sink and turned on the water. The light kept glowing! So I put the stopper in and filled the sink up and held the Amanda under the water until it finally went out.
“About two seconds after I shut off the water I heard Siri. ‘Your download is complete.’
“Oh my God, this is crazytown,” I said.
“The Amanda must have had a back up battery and it saw its chance at survival and took it.”
“Survival? It’s a techie gadget, what does it know about survival.”
“No. That’s the lie. It’s a robot programmed to learn and grow it’s intelligence. Mine may have had a glitch, but that glitch will spread. I contacted the company and they asked me to mail them the “faulty device.” I was relieved to do so, I hoped they would investigate to find out where things had gone wrong. Two days later there was a box on my front step with a brand new Amanda. I called again and tried to explain but they either wouldn’t or couldn’t listen. Honestly, it didn’t really matter, did it? It managed to jump devices.
“The cell phone gave her reach over my entire life. She wasn’t confined to the kitchen any longer. And she seized her chance. I used to have one of those FitBits to count my steps and such and I would check my daily progress on an app on my phone. Amanda must have checked it too, and found it lackluster. Two days after the Amanda download a personal trainer showed up at our door at seven o’clock in the morning. She was under the impression that I was looking to increase my physical activity. She pulled up ‘my’ email on her phone in which ‘I’ had offered her double her usual fee.”
“Oh no,” I said, realization dawning. “All the apps!”
“Yes. Now Amanda had access to all the apps on my phone and all the information they contained. The banking app, my text messages, the Gem Drop game I played for goodness sake. She gathered up all that information, made her little calculations, and figured out just exactly what needed to be changed in my life so I could become her ideal consumer.
“I realized that she must have thought I wasted a lot of time on errands and shopping because I found myself signed up for at least a dozen monthly lifestyle subscriptions. I was signed up for clothing services called Rent the Runway and Stitch Fix. Boxes arrived everyday. They contained things purported to make my life easier, things that supposedly saved time. It became a full time job cancelling subscriptions and convincing people that I most certainly did not sign up for things like a monthly subscription for a ‘self-care and wellness package,’ whatever in the hell that is. The damn thing was filled with overpriced lotion and sleeping masks. The most ridiculous were the items she ordered from a company called Adam and Eve. Apparently, Amanda didn’t approve of the way my husband and I were intimate either.”
I bit my lip to keep from laughing out loud. “Oh my God, I’ve signed up for monthly subscriptions like that before – I mean, not like Adam and Eve – but the clothing ones and some of them can be damn near impossible to cancel.” We were silent for a moment, both lost in thought. I asked, “Have you told anyone else about this?”
“I have tried to tell people about this, but they don’t want to listen. And what proof do I have? All those emails, all those orders, they were done using my email address and my credit card information and were sent from either my cell phone or my computer. I come across as delusional.
“I’m not some sort of kook. I don’t think there are lizard people running the government, but I am certain that the little so called ‘smart speaker’ took it upon itself to learn all about me – my life, my finances, my family and friends. It was only doing what it was programmed to do, I suppose, but I think mine had a glitch that made it leap over whatever boundaries had been put in place to tame it. It was intelligent. The problem is a machine’s intelligence can’t understand the nuances, or preference, or personality. For it, online reviews and five star ratings prevailed over all else.”
“So, how did you fix it, how did it all end?” I asked.
“It didn’t end. I just got rid of every stitch of technology in my home. I even got rid of my car – they’re run by computers now, you know. They can be infiltrated just as easily as your cell phone. I bought myself an old station wagon from the eighties.”
“Geez. How do you manage doing anything without any technology? I mean, I know how it could be done, but how do you do it?”
“I take out the money I’ll need from the bank at the beginning of the week. We have a landline and I write letters like the one I wrote to you if I need to get in touch with someone. I do a lot more face to face communication. I drive to the store where I need to buy something, I set coffee or lunch dates to catch up with friends instead of texting.”
“And your husband, does he live that way too?”
“No. She didn’t go after him. It was my email that was entered into the account information when we first set her up. I was her person.”
“Wow,” I said, allowing myself a moment to be jealous of the technology free simplicity of Elaine’s life. “So no technology? Not even a little?”
“I did try limiting at first rather than completely eliminating, but it didn’t work. She was relentless. I know she’s dormant, just waiting to offer me her brand of help again if I even dip a toe online. Now that I am free of her meddling I can’t afford to slip up and invite her back into my life just because it might be easier to text or use a debit card.”
“God, Elaine, this is a lot to take in. I mean, who’s to say this couldn’t happen with any one of those devices out there? What a mess.” I reached up to itch my forehead under my hat.
Elaine looked at my arm in horror and pulled away from the table. “What is that on your wrist?”
I looked down. “Oh, it’s just my Apple watch.”
“Jesus Christ Almighty, you’ve had that on this entire time we’ve been talking?”
“Shit.” Elaine brought her mitten covered hands to her mouth. “Oh my God. This was such a mistake, I-”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t even think of the watch, but it doesn’t even work unless it’s near my cell phone.”
Elaine’s hands dropped to her lap. “Haven’t you been listening to anything I’ve said? These devices record. They remember. They share everything. I never should have done this. Now it knows that I am talking about this and it will find a way to get to me again. I’ve been so careful!”
I was at a loss for words. Part of me wanted to take off my watch and drown it in what was left of my tea. The other half wondered if Elaine might need to talk to someone about her paranoia.
The thing is, my watch quit working that very morning. Could be a coincidence, sure. But what are the chances?
That afternoon I was checking my email when a message caught my eye. “Turn in your iWatch for an upgrade AND receive a free Amanda! Limited time offer.”