2013 Writing Contest: Future World: How Would You Like to Pay For That?
Third Place Creative Writing
Lydia strode into the shopping mall, excitement racing through her entire body. While normally she didn't do much shopping, today was a special day. Today marked the first time she would use her Chip. She ran her finger over the back of her left hand; the smooth skin showed no signs of the thin metal chip implanted underneath. The procedure at the clinic on her 18th birthday hadn't hurt her at all. One simple needle prick later, all of her personal information, including bank accounts, driver's license, social security number, was conveniently planted just under her skin.
As her steps carried her further into the mall, Lydia's mind wandered to the origins of the Chip. Just a few short years before Lydia's shopping trip, Edison Graham had shocked the entire world with his invention: the Chip. Graham had created a technological masterpiece; a thin chip made of flexible metal that could be embedded under the skin and scanned as a new type of payment. The Chip could store all of the information that a person would need in their everyday life. His Chip would be made available to all citizens over the age of 18. Critics had mocked Graham to his face, stating that he was living ahead of his time; an idea like his could never work. All of that changed with the first model of the Chip.
Now, the Chip was running its rampant race across the United States, even spreading its influence overseas. Around every turn, signs of the Chip were evident. Gas stations, grocery stores, and malls all installed Chip-accommodating scanning stations. Work places were outfitted with special time clocks allowing wages to automatically transfer to employee Chips when they clocked out. Hospitals could access all of a patient's health records with one scan. Holders of Chips reaped immense economic benefits including higher interest rates on bank accounts, discounts on products when using the Chip, and transport stations guaranteeing the automatic arrival of any scanned goods.
Lydia entered the mall's Verizon Wireless store, her eyes quickly locating the nearest transport station. A wide smile crossed her face as she took in the benefit of never having to wait in a checkout line again. Her fingers moved swiftly across the touch screen showing the numerous phone models available in the store. She knew exactly what she wanted; the brand new Edison Ultron with a built-in Chip scanner. She tapped the screen excitedly, selecting the phone that would allow her to purchase anything, anywhere. In a flash of light, the sleek phone materialized on the smooth bottom of the transport station.
"How would you like to pay for that?" A friendly female voice droned from the transporter.
Lydia rolled her eyes, but excitement still rose up in her. "Chip, please," she answered the machine. A metal scanner popped out of the side of the transport station. Lydia quickly placed her hand underneath the scanner's red light, watching with fascination as the light illuminated the metal under her skin.
The machine emitted a soft beep. The voice returned. "Your Chip has saved you sixty dollars on your purchase today. Thank you for your business!" Lydia practically ran out of the store, racing off to see what else the Chip could do for her. However, the Chip wasn't helpful to everyone.
In a small grocery on the opposite side of town, 18-year-old Chase sped around the aisle, sprinting for the candy section. There they were; the chocolates he needed for Ava's gift. He didn't know why his sister wanted name brand Godiva chocolate, but he was not going to let her down on her birthday. Just as his hand reached for the last bag on the shelf, the chocolate vanished in a flash of light. Yet another case when a Chip and transport machine took what he needed right before his eyes.
"Darn it," Chase mumbled under his breath as he waited for the shelf to restock. "Stupid Chip." He reached for one of the new bags when they appeared, noting the price on the electronic panel, which had almost doubled in the few seconds he had waited for a new bag. He sighed and took a bag off the shelf. His little sister was worth it. He slowly made his way to the front of the store.
The owner, Simon, smiled as Chase approached. He called out in his rough voice, “I see that it's Miss Ava's birthday again. And how would you like to pay for that, Chase? "Chase gave a short laugh. "You know me, Simon. Card." He handed the small rectangle of plastic to the friendly old man.
"Good." Simon bagged the chocolate and returned the card to Chase. "I still don't trust those Chips. It gives me the willies to know that Mr. Graham has access to all those people's records."
"It makes no difference to me. You know I can't afford one. It's just wrong that anyone with a Chip can take what they want from the rest of us while we make up for the cost."
"I'm not trying to make you angry, Chase, but you may end up having to get one of those fancy Chips. You got to be able to stay alive somehow."
Chase sighed. "I know. I just hope that day doesn't come for a very long time. Bye, Simon." With that he left the store, his thoughts dark. Edison Graham's invention may have boosted the economy of the upper class, but it unintentionally devastated the lower class. Over the past few years the middle class had completely disappeared, leaving only the rich, those able to afford Chips, and the poor, who were steadily running out of money and goods.
On his way home, Chased passed an advertisement of the Chip, shaking his head as he walked by. In bold words the poster read, "PAVING THE WAY FOR A RICH FUTURE.