It was my thirty-third birthday, and I spent the afternoon in the electronics store looking for something to make me feel young again. Had I known it would be my last birthday, I might have gone to the movies instead.
The latest video game systems tempted me for a moment, but ever since they had gone three-dimensional, all they did was make me dizzy. The movies they still stocked were sparse, to say the least. I also didn’t have a 4K Blu Ray player, nor the particular desire to buy Taxi Driver for the fourth time in under twenty years. A new phone felt less like a treat and more of a self-destructive folly, especially with the near-certainty that some new, larger, earth-shattering phone would be announced the instant I relented to an upgrade.
It truly seemed like my venture would prove ultimately fruitless, until one voice rose above the other trinkets and demanded my attention.
I looked up from a display of noise-cancelling headphones. No one was there, not even the usually pushy store clerks.
“Yes. You’re fat and I’m talking to you.”
I approached the source of the voice. Attached to an array of security tethers, smart watches of every size, shape, and color blinked their lights at me.
One model in the middle of all the Fitbits and Apple Watches pulsated with a red glow distinct from the others. It sported a light brown leather band, and a dark metal chassis. In severe block lettering below the display unit, the word “Aeolus” stared at me.
“What are you? Mute?”
The Aeolus Watch blinked with the cadence of the disembodied voice. “I didn’t know these things could talk…” If you asked me who I was talking to in that moment, I couldn’t honestly answer.
“Okay. So, you’re fat, at least sort of mute, and stupid. Maybe I’m not so much for you.”
I poked at the watch. A quick shot of static electricity raced up my arm. “I’m not fat.”
“No, of course not. You’re just bulbously-boned. My mistake. You’re probably looking to go buy an extra refrigerator for your increased snack collection.”
I grimaced at the device and turned to walk towards the store entrance.
“I can make you feel better. I can make you feel stronger. I can make you feel younger.”
I turned back and stared at the watch intently. I hoped no one was watching my interaction with it. I hoped no one thought I was crazy.
I bought the Aeolus, and even splurged for the extended warranty plan.
I opened the box carefully and placed the Aeolus watch over my left wrist. Its crimson light glowed brighter than it ever had while on display in the store.
“Oh, so you’re right-handed… How ordinary…”
I was about to protest the damned thing’s heckling, but the watchband tightened around my wrist automatically, squeezing me like a blood pressure cuff. The watch face clicked and I felt a sharp pain throughout my arm.
“Okay. Now, let’s get to walking…”
I still wanted to read the owner’s manual to figure this thing out a little more clearly. I reached into the box, only to find there was nothing beyond the watch I had already retrieved. No owner’s manual, no literature of any kind, and no charging cord. Before I could contemplate that mystery, my arm began swinging wildly back and forth without any input from me.
“I said that it’s time to walk. Now WALK.”
I moved with my arm, out of my dining room, out the front door and onto the sidewalk and beyond.
Hours passed and my knees began to feel weak. “How long have I walked?” I asked.
“You’ve made it fifteen miles, although you could have gone faster… Or, for that matter, had any speed to your feet at all.”
I looked down to my wrist, but somehow the watch had disappeared. In its place, a gnarled, blistering welt had been etched in the place where the watch once was. I looked at the trail behind me, thinking the watch must have come undone and fell somewhere along the way. No such luck. I wondered if that extended warranty covered dropping the item…
“No such luck, chunky. I’m right where I need to be.”
The voice was now coming from the terrible knot of flesh. It glowed just as red as the watch had before.
“Now get to walking. You’re far from done!”
My arm began jerking back and forth again. It took all of my efforts to keep my legs in place. I pulled out my cell phone and—being careful not to sync my new watch via bluetooth—I did a quick Google search for problems other people might be having with the Aeolus watch.
The watch started to laugh ever-so quietly when nothing came up on the screen. The snicker erupted into a full blown guffaw after a quick search of the electronic store’s website seemed to indicate there was no such thing as an Aeolus watch.
“No use looking. I’m one of a kind. Well, now we’re one of a kind.”
“No…” I moaned. “There’s got to be some kind of rational explanation…”
A jogger approached me on the right side. He looked concerned that I was talking to some kind of wound on my wrist. “You okay, pal?” he asked.
“There can be no witnesses.” The words came out of my mouth, but I could feel them coming out of the watch as well. Our words were one now.
With a rapid snap, my arm leapt forward and slammed into the jogger’s chest. He went down without protest, and with even fewer breath sounds. I could only hope that the watch counted the gesture as steps towards my daily goal.
“Now get to stepping!”
I was already on the move. At this rate, I’d be fit in no time.