Predicted Life

Predicted Life - a short story by Robert Burton Robinson on TicklyTales.com

There’s no need to consult your horoscope or go to a gypsy fortune teller anymore. There’s an app for that. (2,395 words)
~~~
It was 2:15 a.m., and Chase and Brad, both nineteen, were restocking groceries on Aisle 11. Working the graveyard shift had its advantages: no customers and plenty of time to shoot the bull—as long as it didn’t affect their work.

“I called Jennifer last night,” Chad said.

“Dude, you finally manned up.”

“I asked her out to dinner tomorrow night.”

Dinner? No, man, you should be taking her to that new slasher film.”

“Why?”

“Duh. Because she’ll snuggle up all close to you when she gets scared, and you’ll be in the dark, so…” He flashed a mischievous grin.

Chase shook his head. “No, I’m not looking for anything like that. It’s a first date.”

Brad attempted a British accent. “Hmm, so you prefer a serious conversation over tea and crumpets.”

“More like steak and baked potatoes. But why are you trying to make it sound so boring?”

“Because it will be boring, dude.”

“No, it won’t,” Chase said. “But I am having second thoughts.”

“Why?”

“I checked the paper this morning, and my horoscope said: A romance may not go as you’d hoped. So—”

“You’re still reading horoscopes? I thought you gave that up.”

“Well, I did…for a while, but then I couldn’t stand not knowing what might happen.”

“You believe that crap?”

Chase shrugged. “It’s something I picked up from my grandmother when I was a kid while she was living with us.” He stared into space. “We used to love reading our horoscopes together every morning. It was fun. I’m not completely convinced that they’re real, but Grandma was. Anyway, why take a chance?”

“Okay, man…I know I’m gonna regret telling you about this, but since you’re into that stuff anyway, you might as well come on into the twenty-first century.”

“What do you mean?”

“There’s an app for that. I saw it the other day when I was looking for a new game on my phone. It’s called Predicted Life, or something like that.”

“Okay, thanks. I’ll check it out.”

“I’m sure it’s lame, just like the horoscopes.”

**********

At 8:30 a.m., Chase pulled into the trailer park. His little two-bedroom mobile home was a 1971 model, but it was clean and it was his—or at least it would be when he finished paying off the note in ten years.

As usual, he was tired, but not sleepy. Chase hated working a job that forced him to get his sleep during the day, but the money was good for a guy right out of high school. He planned to go to college eventually, but right now he was proud of being self-sufficient.

He went in, poured a big bowl of cereal, and sat down to eat. Then he remembered the app that Brad had told him about: Predicted Life. Was there even such an app? Brad was probably just messing with him.

To his surprise, it was in the app store. He downloaded it. The startup page was a picture of a gypsy fortune teller looking into her crystal ball.

It didn’t take long for Chase to realize that the basic version of the app was simply a collection of links to the horoscope pages of various online newspapers. He already had most of those links. According to the message that kept popping up, the true predictive capabilities of the app could be unlocked by purchasing the fifty-dollar add-on.

Fifty-dollar add-on? Outrageous. No way.

Five minutes later, he bought the add-on and set it up, answering dozens of personal questions.

The app popped up an Advice notification: You’ll need firm connections to avoid a costly mistake.

What the heck did that mean? Chad didn’t have any connections, firm or otherwise. If this was the kind of advice the app was gonna be giving him, he’d probably just wasted fifty bucks.

He took a shower and went to bed.

At eleven-fifteen, his eyes popped open. What was his problem? He usually slept soundly until his alarm went off at four. He had told Jennifer he’d pick her up at six o’clock. He needed his rest.

You’ll need firm connections to avoid a costly mistake.

Chad realized he’d been dreaming about that sentence. But he still didn’t understand what it meant. Firm connections. Then he remembered that Tuesday he had replaced the leaky water line to his toilet.

He hopped out of bed, ran into the bathroom to check the water line, and found a puddle of water on the floor. If the line continued to leak, water would eventually seep between the seams of the linoleum and begin to rot the wooden floor underneath it.

He got a pair of pliers from a kitchen drawer and tightened the connector at the toilet as well as the one at the wall. He wiped up the water with a paper towel.

Done. He had avoided a costly mistake thanks to the Predicted Life app. The warning was more specific than anything he ever got from a horoscope. Yes, it took him a while to interpret the message, but it had paid off. Maybe the app was worth the fifty dollars.

Chase went into his bedroom, sat on the bed, and picked up his phone from the nightstand. He opened the app and brought up the Event page. Earlier, he had input detailed information about his date with Jennifer, which was now less than seven hours away.

Predictions regarding specific events were rated either GOOD or BAD, and came with a disclaimer: If you or someone else connected with the event do something uncharacteristic between now and the event, the prediction might change.

The app gave a prediction rating of GOOD for his date with Jennifer, but that didn’t inspire much confidence, given the disclaimer.

**********

Chad and Jennifer walked up the steps to her front porch. She was a college freshman, still living at home with her mom.

She smiled. “I had a good time tonight.”

“Me too.”

“The only thing that kind of bugged me was—”

His phone buzzed and he took it out to check it.

“That.” She pointed to his phone. “All those notifications. You must have gotten twenty of them during dinner. I never said anything about it, but why couldn’t you have just put your phone on silent or ignored it? I guess I wasn’t interesting enough to hold your attention.”

He looked up. “What? No, of course you were. You are.”

“Then why is your phone in your hand right now?”

“I’m sorry, but this message is really important. It’s telling me that it would be safer to take the long way home tonight.”

It’s telling you?”

Chad told her about the Predicted Life app.

“So, you’re letting a phone app tell you how to live your life.”

“Not…really.”

“You know, I really like you, Chad. You’re nice and you’re smart and funny.”

“Thanks.”

“But I want a man who’s not afraid to take chances—because you never get anywhere in life if you don’t push the boundaries.”

“Sounds like you’ve thought about this a lot,” he said.

“My dad’s a loser, okay? I love him, but…he never would push himself. He wouldn’t go to college because he was afraid he wasn’t smart enough. And he wouldn’t quit his dead-end job and try to find something better. He should have been doing everything he could to take care of us. But he wouldn’t, and that’s why mom finally divorced him.”

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay. That was ten years ago. But I just can’t be with a man like that—somebody who’s afraid to try new things. Sometimes you’ve got to be a little…reckless, if that’s what it takes.”

“Sure, I get what you’re saying.”

She stepped closer. “When I was thinking about how our date would go tonight and I pictured us here on this porch, I figured you’d be trying to kiss me—not playing with your phone. Are you so afraid to live your life that you need some silly phone app to tell you what to do?”

She was right. Absolutely right. Chad lived so deliberately, so cautiously—always worrying that one wrong decision could destroy his life. So afraid of everything, in fact, that he didn’t have much of a life.

But right now, as he looked at Jennifer standing there—pretty, intelligent, energetic, full of life—all he wanted to do was take her in his arms and kiss her hard and wet on the lips—something he’d never actually done with any girl—because he’d always been afraid to! He wanted to hold her tight against his body for a long, long time. So long that her mother would have to come out and pry him off of her. Okay, that was a little over the top.

He held up his phone and then threw it across the yard, not caring where it landed. He stepped in quickly and wrapped his arms around her.

She offered no resistance.

Without giving himself time to dwell on the fact that he was in unchartered waters, he plunged ahead and kissed her soft, warm lips. His senses went into overdrive.

For a split-second, he wondered if she was about to push him away and slap his face. But she didn’t. She seemed to be enjoying it, although he had zero experience in gauging such things.

After a few moments, he paused to check her reaction.

She smiled. “Why are you stopping?”

He went back for more.

After several long, deep kisses, he said, “I think I saw your mom peek through the window.”

She giggled. “Yeah, I probably should go in now.”

“Can I call you tomorrow?”

“You’d better.”

He went down the porch steps and turned back. “And don’t worry. I’m done with the horoscopes and the phone app.”

She smiled. “I’m glad to hear it.”

“And I am NOT taking the long way home like that app told me to do. I’m gonna be reckless, like you said.”

“Good! But…please drive safely.”

He laughed. “I will.”

**********

Jennifer was telling her mom about her date with Chad when she heard sirens. “Do hear that?”

“Sounds like they’re on the freeway.”

“Chad took the freeway home. I hope that app wasn’t right.” She ran outside to the porch.

Her mom followed her.

Jennifer said, “What if that’s Chad? What if he got into a wreck because of me?”

“It couldn’t be him. He left ten minutes ago.”

“Yeah, but wouldn’t it take a few minutes for the police and the ambulance to come?” Jennifer took out her phone.

“Yeah, that’s good. Just call him.”

Jennifer remembered that he’d thrown his phone away. She put her phone back in her pocket.

“Why aren’t you calling him?”

“Because he won’t answer.”

“Why not?”

“I need to go out there.”

“No, honey—”

“I’m going, Mom!”

“Okay, but I’m driving.”

**********

As they approached the crash site, Jennifer’s mom pulled to the side of the freeway. It appeared that a white car had plowed into the back of a large red pickup.

“I think that’s his car,” Jennifer said, “and look at the front. It’s all smashed in.”

Jennifer jumped out of the car ran toward the scene.

“Wait, I’m coming.” Her mom followed her.

When they got close, a cop motioned for them to stay back.

Her mom said, “You should try calling him, honey, really. You don’t even know for sure if that’s his car.”

Jennifer didn’t want to go into the long story of why Chad threw his phone into away. Besides, maybe he had found it and picked it up after she’d gone into the house. “Okay, I’ll try.” She took out her phone and called his number.

Her mom said, “Is that a phone ringing?”

“Yes! His phone must be in that…smashed-up car! Oh, Mom.”

They ran up to the cop.

He held up his hand. “You need to stay back.”

“What happened to the man in the white car?” Jennifer asked. “Is he okay?”

The cop said, “They took him away in an ambulance. That’s all I can tell you.”

Jennifer turned to her mom. “We’ve got to go to the emergency room.”

**********

They drove to the emergency room and Jennifer ran inside while her mom parked the car. She went up to the desk. “The guy they just brought in here from the car wreck—can you tell me anything about his condition?”

“Are you a family member?”

“No, but—”

“Then we’re not allowed to give you any information. I’m sorry.”

Jennifer walked out.

Her mom was on the way in. “Is he okay?”

“They won’t tell me anything because I’m not a family member.”

Jennifer’s phone rang. The call was from Chad’s number.

Chad?”

“Hey, Jennifer, I wanted to let you know that I just bought a new phone so you could call me—you know, if you ever wanted to.”

“I thought you were dead.”

“Because I hadn’t called you yet? Come on, it’s been less than an hour since I left your house.”

“No, I thought you’d been in a car accident. You have no idea what I’ve been through. Me and Mom. We were so worried about you.”

Chad sounded confused. “Well, I’m sorry.”

“It’s not your fault. I’ll explain it later.” Jennifer could only imagine that somebody had spotted Chad’s phone in her yard or on the road, picked it up, and then crashed his car. “Where are you?”

“The Verizon Store. But don’t worry, I’m not putting that app on this phone, and I won’t be reading any more horoscopes.”

“Good.”

“So, you want to go to a movie tomorrow night?”

“I don’t think so.”

Chad sounded deflated. “Oh. Okay.”

“What would you think about coming to my house to play video games? We could start early, say around two.”

“Sounds great.”

**********

The next day, Chad was reading about the man who had the wreck on the freeway. He had suffered major injuries, but was expected to make a full recovery. The man told the police that a few minutes before the accident he’d found a phone in the road and picked it up. He had crashed into the back of the pickup truck because he was preoccupied with an unusual phone app.

Something called Predicted Life.

THE END

Copyright © 2017 Robert Burton Robinson

Sign up for email notifications about new stories
and get a free ebook of my novella, DREAM TUNNEL

Questions or comments? Email me.

Follow Tickly Tales:
Share this page:

Comments are closed.