Its icon—little gold star on fuzzy cerulean ground—looks hasty, cut-rate, like that of some bullshit game that offers brief graying of mind.
She’s been told to give consent to location services. If she doesn’t, then the sheeny lavender box which appears when she touches her thumb to the screen will just tremble and fade every once in a while. Simple, broken thing, it will seem. Little rounded mirror that is having trouble producing her image.
If she does place her thumb to ‘OK’—and she does—a crisp black dot will eventually rise to the light of the lavender frame. Diameter: slim. Perhaps one centimeter. Wherever it happens to be in the box, it will structure the space on all sides. It will look firm and weighted, a thing that might need to be touched—and she tries but is not rewarded with any sign that she has become in this an agent, that she can now instigate some pleasing flow of results.
That’s right, she hears from a person she knows. That’s how it works.
The person doesn’t appear to hope to use his knowledge in this case to gain some higher standing with her. Rather he seems embarrassed almost.
She doesn’t ask anything else.
A new dot, smaller, appears in the lavender box. It’s not far from the first. And then further down the possible line that would pass from the center of the first through the center of the next: a third, yet smaller.
She never catches the application in the act of placing these dots. The dots are just there, like sores in the morning.
And then they are gone.
The process starts over again. Three dots, incrementally smaller. The first one always in a different place. The next ones forming a line that might point anywhere.
Like the hand of a clock, she thinks.
Or a path—if you think of the traveler getting further and further away.
Does anything else happen?
Is she not getting it?
Has she done something wrong?
Can the application think? Has it somehow evaluated her, found her unready, unfit?
The person she knows who has it—the application—won’t look at her anymore.
Hi, she says in a corridor—because she is pissed off.
This sets off fakery. She hates it but thinks that she hates him more. And so she enjoys his being forced to smile, to say stupid things.
It seems to her that there has been a rhythm to the placement of dots. It seems that way because now the rhythm is broken.
Two dots have come to the lavender ground, not far from a corner. She waits for the third.
She starts to believe the application has failed, become unresponsive.
Should she redownload?
She weighs that option against deletion, staring at the frame. And just then, in a simple, human way, it produces human words.
She’s been given a place. And there at the bottom: a time.
She runs through questions.
How does the application work? Who is behind its working? Will she be safe? Has this been some elaborate ruse—to isolate and expose her?
The questions make sense as she thinks of them. So it interests her—the fact that she is not really asking them now.
6:27 PM. Wednesday the 8th.
Out of habit, she transfers this to her calendar. As soon as she looks at it, though, it looks wrong. She taps it, deletes it.
She knows where the place has to be because she knows the streets. But she doesn’t know the exact place: an alley meeting Locust Street, east side, between 2nd and 3rd.
She could go there and scout it—see the place in advance. This too seems wrong to her, though.
She feels she can wait. She feels she can play by the rules—if rules are what she is sensing.
The alley crosses another alley and comes to an end on Center Street.
She sees—what can she see?
Faraway traffic on Center Street, blurring the narrow gap between the buldings at the alley’s end.
Cut of gray sky, with particular weather.
She can feel the weather. She can hear vehicles passing behind her.
She opens her mouth.
As she thinks about checking the time, something catches her eye. It’s too small to be named. Movement on pavement. Maybe a wrapper scrap, stuck but fluttering.
Maybe not. But she sees it. And somehow in concert with it: this high bird. Whitish.
Dipping in flight to the railing of the highest fire escape. Lifting. Dropping again. It’s trying to rip something off. Something is knotted to the railing—how can she see this? Something is tied—like a rag—and the bird is lifting and dropping again to rip at the thing with its mouth. She thinks she can feel it—the pull, the give of the rag as it snaps from the little hooked beak.
She looks for the person who has it—the application. Her non-friend. He works on the 9th floor.
Not to talk; she knows they can’t talk.
Just to see him. To see if it looks like they’ve been aligned in some possible way.
A person who’s friends with the non-friend tells her he’s missing.
What do you mean missing? she asks.
Missing. We don’t know where he is.
She checks the application.
She goes to work, she goes home.
The application is a secret known to her and kept from her at the same time.
She goes out for lunch. She sits on a bench in the shade in order to see the phone’s screen.
There are dots. Some number.
To her they are beautiful. She feels them, drags her thumb from one to the next on the lavender ground.
She remembers the hour at the mouth of the alley as real in a towering way. She remembers mute rhythm, enormous coincidence just at the edge of manifestation.
The application has weight.
It’s the heft of the phone in her hand.
She grips it. She checks the application.
Scott Garson is the author of IS THAT YOU, JOHN WAYNE?—a collection of stories—and AMERICAN GYMNOPEDIES, a book of microfictions. His fiction has won awards from Playboy, The Mary Roberts Rinehart Foundation and Dzanc Books, and he has work in or coming from Kenyon Review, American Short Fiction, Hobart, Conjunctions, New York Tyrant and others. He edits Wigleaf.