“A majority of the will was written out to you. He obviously liked you more.” I said.
Kaitlin, my cousin, twisted her hair in her hands and bit her lip, “And you’re not jealous?”
“Of course not,” I tried to keep my smile bright despite the searing pain that shot out from the chip in my neck, “I’d never be jealous.”
“Certain?” she asked.
I gritted my teeth; the shock had worn out by now, but I knew it’d happen again when I spoke, “Nope. Not jealous at all.” I flinched at the chip’s jolt.
She laughed, “Well, if something ever happened to me, you’d get a hundred percent of it!”
I nodded, fully aware of that.
A horn was blown as a train stopped in the subway. “Oh! That’s me! Well, I guess I’ll see you tonight, Jacob!” She hugged me and ran to catch her train. My arms were still out when she pulled away. I sighed. I don’t understand people, much less the ever ecstatic Kailtin Johansen.
My train pulled up a moment later, its sliding glass doors opening and letting out a flood of depressed New Yorkers much like myself. After the wave cleared, I trudged onto the tram and wrapped my hand around a hanging handle. I massaged my neck; it had been a while since I lied so blatantly like that. Normally when I lie, I’ve planned out what I’m going to say, so I can decrease my chances of getting shocked by my Truth Chip. This time was purely thrown together.
I flinched at the sound of a child suddenly bursting into tears. A woman who I presumed was his mother scolded him in what I could only guess was Korean. He probably lied about the candy he held in his hand.
The car shook as it came to its first stop, and the door opened with a hiss. I watched as the child, Marten, sniffed and held his mother’s hand as they left. I grimaced. Sometimes, I couldn’t believe the government’s decision to implant the FTD15 IC - or Truth Chip - in every US citizen. You can’t ignore the results, though. Ever since the Truth Chip strategy was implemented, crime rates have dropped with the disappearance of identity theft, tax fraud, and many other crimes. People I know who have been to jail tell me that trials are miserable, and they almost always end up with an awful twitch in their neck for a few days afterwards. Fortunately for me, my life has always been filled with lies, so I’ve built up some form of resistance to the Truth Chip’s effects. I suppose it’s beneficial to have resistance; my entire plan could go wrong if I didn’t.
My feet traced a well-worn path in my apartment that evening. I was having second thoughts about my plan. My curtains billowed as the ac turned on, and the room was filled with a sudden chill. I threw them aside, unlocked the window, and pushed it open. The stars were shrouded by brown clouds that loomed over the restless city; no matter the time of day, New York will be New York. I stared down at the street and watched. Everywhere I looked there were people. I could see couples kissing goodbye under the streetlights and late-night performers packing up their bags and counting their change. I wondered how many times their chips had shocked them today. Once? Five times? Not at all? How would my count after tonight compare to theirs? Suddenly, my phone buzzed. I looked down at it. Someone had sent me a message, and it read:
“Yo dude, you here yet?” It was from my friend, Liam.
With one final glance down at the streets, I closed the window and texted him back, “On my way. Meet you there.”
“...Hurry up…We’re gonna miss our window.”
I pocketed my phone, grabbed my bag, and dashed down the stairs of the old apartment complex. It’s strange to think that this dusty old place used to be new in 2030, but I digress. The front door squeaked as I forced it open. I almost stopped when I looked ahead. New York looked different when seen from down below. Beggars sat on the sides of the streets, pleading for spare change. I heard drivers honking and cursing at each other. Shaking my head, I crossed the street anywhere I could find, making sure to glance over my shoulder at the police officer before I crossed.
The security guard posted outside of the garage tipped his hat at me and said, “Late night get-to-together, Mr. Swinson?”
“You could say that,” I responded.
“Ah, well, hope you have a great time!” I tried to ignore his hand that shot up to his neck when he said that.
I pushed past him and found my car, a small Sedan painted black. The engine sputtered as I turned the key. I cursed. Now was not the time for my old hand-me-down car to stall. Eventually, I got it to roar to life and sped out of the garage. I sat hunched over the wheel, a blank look on my face. Left, right, right again, straight, left: I had this route memorized. Soon enough, I pulled into the parking lot at a club. I looked over to my left; I could see Kaitlin’s silver Prius and Liam’s black Jeep. After a buzz from my phone, I stopped the car.
It was another message from Liam, “That you that just pulled in?”
“Yup. You in position?”
He sent me a thumbs up emoji, and I pocketed my phone.
I opened the car door, stepped out, and strided towards the club door. Before entering, I massaged my neck and took a deep breath. Tonight will change everything.
The club doors slid open, and the first thing my ears heard was the skull-pounding thrum of the bass. I looked to the bar where Kaitlin was waving at me. A faux smile plastered on my face, I walked over to her.
“Hey, Jacob!” she yelled over the music.
I sat down and set my bag in front of me, eyeing the people around me, “Hey.”
She laughed her giddy laugh, “Lighten up a bit! You look so tense!” she took a sip of her drink, “How was your day?”
I took a deep breath, “It was good,” the chip in my neck twinged, but I resisted. I swallowed down bile rising in my throat, “What about you?”
“It was great!” she smiled with her pearly teeth, then gasped, “Oh my gosh, you wouldn’t believe what happened today though!”
“I’d love to hear,” I nearly winced at the pain in my neck.
Kaitlin leaned forward and started rambling, “Okay. So, today - after the subway - Liam and I were walking through town when…”
I zoned off after a while, adding in bits of commentary here and there and covering up the cramps in my neck elsewhere. Kaitlin had to believe I meant her no harm if she was to trust me enough to fall into my trap tonight. I have to work hard for her trust; she’s probably already wary of me since she got almost 95% of my grandfather’s life earnings, while I got practically nothing. But I wasn’t jealous of her. My hand shot up to my neck, and Kaitlin looked at me.
“All good there, J?”
I cleared my throat and placed my hand back on the bar, “Of course. I’m fine,” the Truth Chip jolted me again, but I covered it up better this time. If I wanted to keep up this facade, I would need to be more covert about my chip. “Please, continue.”
Kaitlin looked uncertainly at me before continuing her story, “Okay…anyways, we…”
After suffering through her tall tales, my phone buzzed again. Another message from Liam lit up my screen, “Hurry up, Jacob! Our window is getting narrower!”
“Who was that?” Kaitlin asked, curiosity filling her tone.
I checked the time; Liam was right, our window was narrowing. I grabbed my bag, “Do you mind if we take this outside, Kaitlin? The bass is killing my ears,” my neck cramped again. Was it worse this time? It almost brought a tear to my eye.
“Yeah, of course!” she turned around and paid for our drinks, then she and I walked out of the club.
Kaitlin leaned against the wall and started talking again. I tried to ignore her, but I couldn’t. Her voice kept invading my thoughts like a bright light in the middle of a black room. I grimaced; I was getting tired of this little game. I just wanted the deed done and over with.
Ignoring her questions, I dragged her to the side of the building. When I passed a shadowy man, I handed him my bag and waited for him to nod. He nodded. Good. Liam was ready. Kaitlin was kicking and screaming now, and she managed to land a punch on my neck, in the exact spot where my chip was. I reeled back and let her stumble to the ground. I grasped my neck, waiting for the shocks to subside. They didn’t.
As I pressed my hand against my neck, Kaitlin stood and lunged herself at me, but Liam stopped her. He wrapped her hands in rope and stuck a gag in her mouth. Her eyes were round as the moon, and her body shook with fear.
Liam handed me a handgun. I said nothing as I prepared it. Kaitlin was yelling something at me through her gag, and when I looked up, I saw that tears were spilling from her eyes. I looked away; I couldn’t stop now. I wouldn’t stop now.
“Hurry, Jacob,” Liam said, “It’s almost midnight.”
I took a deep breath and stepped closer to Kaitlin. With a shaky hand, I raised the gun to her temple. She screamed, her facial features all drowned in terror. Her terror was nothing compared to how I felt though. My whole body was shaking, and the cramps in my neck still hadn’t lessened.
It’s okay, Jacob, just pull the trigger. The chip jolted me even harder. My finger tightened around the trigger, and all I had to do was pull. That’s all I had to do. I took a deep breath, and I closed my finger. There were two things that rang in my ear: the bang from the gun and Kaitlin’s scream.
I cried out and fell to the ground, my hands clasped around my neck. My vision danced with spots, and I heard someone screaming. Screaming.
I awoke sitting up in a cold, metal chair. In front of me stood a man dressed in an extravagant suit and a police officer. I recognized the suited man as the hypnotist who worked down the street from my apartment. The hypnotist had his back turned to me and was talking to the officer. What happened? I panicked, my breath coming in short puffs and my heart racing. Had I spilled the truth? Did it even happen? Is this a dream? Will I spend the rest of my life in jail? My body shook, and my hair was slick with sweat.
“So, you see, officer, Mr. Swinson is completely innocent,” the hypnotist turned to me with a wicked grin, “Enjoy your newfound income, Mr. Swinson. After all, the Truth Chips don’t lie.”