Tap tap tap. Sara’s head jerked up from her plate. She looked at her father with questioning eyes. He smiled, and again softly tapped the table with his thumb three times, tap tap tap.
Sara giggled and tapped her plate twice in reply a little too hard with her fork. Her mother blinked, momentarily turning the nightly news report off her lenses to give her daughter a stern look, but was soon back in a trance, and from all outward appearances staring at nothing.
Sara and her father did not watch the news. He told her it was for serious grownups like her mother and she shouldn’t bother with it. Sara asked if she wouldn’t get in trouble with the Pinnacle. He chuckled and said that the Pinnacle didn’t monitor something as trivial as who was watching the nightly new report. He said Sara would be just fine, and she believed him.
Sara chewed on a green bean and stole a glance at her father. He winked, pretended to yawn, and stretched his lanky arms out to his sides as far as they would go.
It was their nightly dinner ritual – three taps meant, “I love you,” two taps meant, “how much,” and the outstretched arms meant, “this much.” It was their secret code. Open displays of affection, even between family members, was frowned upon, although not quite a Not Allowed. Not yet.
Maybe it was the countless adjustments, or maybe the memory was just too painful, but Sara had forgotten the code. She had almost forgotten what her father looked like when he laughed.
Sara quickly plastered a large smile on her face for the benefit of whoever was watching. She took the bottle from her mother’s hand, gave it a quick shake and turned back to the sink. She refilled her dinner glass and opened the bottle, then mimed shaking a pill into the palm of her hand and throwing it in her mouth. She took a long swallow of the water before turning back around, glass in hand.
Her mother was still standing there, but she had stopped rocking. Her arms were stretched out to her sides and back as far as they would reach.
Sara dropped the glass, water exploding over the floor. Something pulled at her memory and a sudden strong wave of emotion made her stomach hurt and she didn’t know why.
The shattered glass seemed to pull her mother out of the trance. The lights had gone from her eyes and her arms came down to rest at her sides. She watched the saucer-like kitchen bot pop out of the baseboard, beeping indignantly while it dried the floor and hunted for every shard of glass.
“What were we talking about dear?”
Whoever was on weather duty had gone a little overboard, Sara thought to herself, pulling her jacket tighter as she walked across the dark street towards the house. Fear gnawed at her belly as she raised her hand to knock on the pewter door that looked no different from her own.
“I wouldn’t do that,” a voice came from behind the tall hedge to the left of the house, “unless you want to explain to your neighbors why you’re waking them up at such an un-supreme hour.” Ro walked out from behind the hedge with a smirk on her face.
Sara scrambled to get off the front porch before she triggered the automatic doorbell. “Are you insane? Why did you ask me to meet you here? What-“
“Just follow me and try to keep your mouth shut,” Ro interrupted, “think you can do that?”
Sara huffed, but followed Ro back around the hedge and through narrow alleys, sometimes running, sometimes walking, and sometimes back the way they came. They had just paused behind a small park bench when Sara poked Ro and asked in a whispered scream just what she thought she was doing leading her around in the middle of the night just to crouch behind a park bench and freeze. Ro rolled her eyes.
“You know about the cranial implant, right?”
Sara’s puzzled face confirmed that she did not know.
Ro sighed. “You seriously think the Pinnacle isn’t keeping super close tabs on all its citizens? Influencing the way we vote? What we buy? How we decide what jobs we want?” She took a deep breath and stared at Sara. “They even decide when we die.”
“Now I know you’re insane. The implants are a gift. They extend life, not end it.” She shrugged. “Unless you’re like me, with glitching issues, then you’re supreme. They say soon we’ll be able to live forever.”
Ro shook her head. “That’s what they want you to think. You’ve been adjusted ten too many times,” she jammed her hand in her pocket and shoved a small, purple pebble shaped object in front of Sara’s eyes. “Unless you have one of these, they can hear everything you say, see everything you see, even read your brainwaves.”
“That’s illegal,” Sara protested, “what about the Privacy Protection Act of-“
“That act is to placate the plebs, nothing more,” Ro snapped, “and I can prove everything I have told you.” Her face was all sharp angles in the shadows, her eyes glowing. “The question is now, will you follow me? Are you ready to join the Revolution?”