MONTAG SHORT FICTION #002

MONTAG publishes curious short fiction, exploring our strange future and what it will feel like when we get there. The stories are outré and atypical; they're also closer to our today than you think.


I'm sorry that my toaster won't stop calling you.

I used to know the phone numbers of everyone I cared to know, before everyone had a hundred-person worldwide network of semi-acquaintances. Then like everyone else I outsourced all my personal information to the smartphone, and later my RFID chip, so that when I walked into the house, they would tell all the other devices, hey! Human alert! Warm up my pipe and slippers!

I enjoyed the predictive smart home tech reading the electromagnetic waves coming out of my body so that even if I didn’t have the phone or the chip, the lights would turn on for me. If I got hungry enough to even think about ordering a pizza, my kitchen would simply ask me to confirm my credit info. It always ordered just what I craved. And then as the technology got better at reading biological data, information was stored in my body again. A neural network connected to the chip helps locate the phone numbers of my friends in my brain and sends them to the chip that transmits to all my devices.

I’ll admit that the biohacking I did when you left was irresponsible, I tried to burn you out of my neural network with drugs and alcohol, and messed with some subroutines that I had no business trying to reprogram sober, let alone heartbroken. I was sick of all my smart picture frames knowing what date I was thinking about and showing me pictures of us.

With the toaster, I know exactly the memory I got caught up in. I was thinking about making you brunch, which is also why I had to blacklist bacon and eggs from my shopping algorithm - they just kept ordering themselves every time I triggered this memory and I couldn't stop triggering it when I looked at the toaster. They wouldn't keep, and there's no way I could eat that much bacon and eggs alone.

A lot of people get stuck in pleasure loops of salt, fat, and sugar, and never leave their houses so the shopping algorithm gradually adds cholesterol medication or insulin to their shopping lists. Some people don't mess with their home algorithms and think they want what they want. My home with my chip and my phone know me better than I know myself.

But I’m trying to take more control of my life now. After manually restricting meat and dairy from my list, I couldn't bring myself to give up bread. So the toaster stayed connected in this terrible feedback loop where I think about eating some toast, then try not to think about brunch with you, which inevitably backfires, and the poor little toaster tries to be helpful, so it logs on the network and tries to call you because it thinks we're still having breakfast together.

The stupid toaster doesn't know about loss, it doesn’t know about us. It doesn’t know how to stop itself from reaching out because it knows what I want, and no matter how many times I try to delete the number from my brain somehow it’s still in there.

I can usually stop it before the dial tone so you wouldn't know, but sometimes I forget and it squeaks a ring out, so I’m sorry about that. That's why my toaster won't stop calling you.

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