The Unfoned [a flash-fiction short I wrote when cellphones were really taking over]

[more LOST FICTION by John Shirley]

“Caitlin, have you seen my UniFone?”

“What? I’m so very Nuh-no on that!” Caitlin was staring into her own Uni-Fone’s digital mirror, so she could use her fingernail recharger to transfer illumination charge to her eyemakeup. She touched her right eye with the nail and the eyeliner began to softly glow. “You see this new eye-lume? It’s ‘peacock’ purple.”

Rindy wasn’t listening. She was staring around in desperation, looking for her UniFone. Having searched twice on and under the synth-form table growing seamlessly from the floor of the MacPopeye’s BK (with its Super Sushi Kiosk, “Sub-Genuine low-mercury fish!”), five times through her hip-pouch, and around the surrounding floor, much to the irritation of other diners, most of whom were on their own UniFones, playing games, talking, websurfing, buying something or—like Caitlin—using the digital mirror to primp, a note of panic crept into Rindy’s voice as she said, “I think I mighta left my U-Fone in at the Nico-Splash counter over on Island Thirty-three!”

“Then you’re so very sku-rewed, Rindy! By now some Uni-grab’s using it! Now keep your voice down I don’t want people to hear!”

“Caitlin, call my Mom! Tell her to come I lost my U Fone and to come and pick me up!”

“I can’t, my dad put my U Fone on number-restriction, this week—he says it’s something called ‘being grounded.’”

“Then call your Dad and ask him to call my Mom!”

“I can’t—My dad’s in virtual therapy all day. He thinks he’s in Fiji or someplace and he’ll get really mad if I interrupt him. I gotta go, here comes the floater—last one tonight!”

“Then pay for my trip on the floater!”

“I can’t, my U Fone’s set on moneyfix only for certain things for me because I paid for Sponny’s Penile-fringe and Daddy got all ‘very nuh-no on that!’ I gotta go, the floater’s here, bye!”


But Caitlin was gone and Rindy was alone, without her UniFone. She should have insisted on getting a UniFone implant in the palm of her hand, with the new flexible screen material, you couldn’t lose that, but it was an expensive operation and Mom, all alone since Dad threw his Fone away and went External—and starved to death—couldn’t afford it. Rindy approached some people but they backed away from her, because the law said you had to have ID to use a UniFone and Rindy’s ID was her Fone—also her internet access, her communication with family, her money account. So now she was trying to get them to break the law, they said, and that was associated with digital terrorism…

She lingered in the mall for two days, trying to find a way to use a Fone, hoping her mom would trace her, sleeping behind a dumpster as she waited, but at last the ID cops located her, and when they called her mom, her mom said no, I got a communication that my daughter is on a trip somewhere, and I’m mad at her and the call came in just ten minutes ago, a text message, so this person the cops had was an imposter and Mom refused to come to the phone screen and wouldn’t talk to her–she suspected mom knew damn well what’d happened.

They’d never been close. Still, she tried to tell the ID cops that her mom was being fooled by someone trying to keep  mom from turning off the stolen U-Fone but they wouldn’t listen and they deported her as an un-Foned alien, and she finally got work, paying only room-and-board, Category Un-Foned, in an artificial island off the coast of Taiwan, in an outsource factory…making U-Fones.


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