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BIG DATA, little girls

Copyright Cameron Gallant, 2015

This story is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual people and events is strictly coincidental.

 

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BIG DATA, little girls

 

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BIG DATA, little girls

 

I’m lying on my back in the dark room. A black-haired girl keeps telling me to stop talking to myself. I’m not crazy.

I avoid the other girls whenever I can. The black mascara and bubblegum pink lipstick they wear makes them look strangely subhuman. I probably look the same way, but these girls are different—ominous reminders of my bleak future. Whoever the girls were, they were changed: their wills broken, their names erased, their pride and freedom replaced with subservience and omnipresent fear.

I focus my vision on the only girl in the room who is not wearing makeup. She looks pretty, her features like my sister’s. My eyes begin to tear thinking about my family.

“What’s your name?” I ask the girl who looks like my sister, but the black-haired girl interrupts.

“My name’s Abigail.” I know it is a lie because that’s the name our masters assigned her. Each of us was assigned a new name upon arrival.

No!” My voice is mingled with defiance and frustration. Even though I wasn’t talking to her, I feel compelled to answer. “It’s not.”

Abigail bites her lip, as if expecting a pain serum to be released from the microchip under her skin. She hesitates, but turns away.

A couple moments later, the girl who looks like my sister says softly, “I’m Flora.” She looks down shyly and brushes her brown hair from her face.

Jasmine is my assigned name, but I hate it even though it’s a flower name.

“Hi Flora,” I murmur. “I’m Lily.”

***

Days pass and I realize I need to think about my family. I dream because I can’t live in the present. I try to stay strong, but I’ve been taken advantage of too many times.

Let me forget, I pray, holding my SpectroBio Laser for comfort. I realize the irony. My masters presented me with the SpectroBio Laser because every girl is required to scan her customers. The lasers ensure every girl continues to meet her weekly quotas. Only scanned customers count, Master Stephanie had said.

“The lasers use infrared spectrometry and computer modeling to make sure customers don’t have diseases they’ll pass to you. You girls mean too much to me to lose to disease.” Stephanie’s obliquely affectionate voice echoes in my brain.

How can I forget? I am irritated, but I keep holding the device. It seems to be the only thing on my side. It warns me so I won’t get diseases that will kill me. And I don’t want to die. I want to go home.

***

“It doesn’t make sense.” I sit with Flora on the hotel floor. “How come my family can’t find me? The police? The FBI?” I can hear the desperation in my voice, the brokenness.

Flora shrugs, without replying. Several more days have passed, and I can feel my sanity dwindling.

We live in a surveillance society: closed-circuit televisions on every corner, security drones flying over city skylines searching for pimps, cell carriers monitoring and recording calls, using precise multilateration to track the population’s movements. What about the copious amount of security data gathered daily—the Big Data? What about data mining and profiling?

With our society’s technological infrastructure, things don’t add up. What makes it so difficult to find the little girls?

“Can you think of anything?” I ask Flora.

“Maybe the police are so busy catching people because of the insight Big Data provides. Maybe we just need to wait our turn.”

Something still makes me uneasy.

A hand has just rested on my shoulder. “Are you alright?” Abigail asks, sounding concerned. I can tell that she thinks I’m crazy.

“Fine,” I mumble.

“It’ll be okay.” Abigail is trying to be consoling. “Someone’s got to find us. I’ve been here since they were still taking girls with black hair. Then came the Blondes, and then all you Brown Hairs. I can actually feel the time building up. Rescue must be getting close, shouldn’t it?”

Something Abigail just said strikes me as odd. Since they were still taking girls with black hair. I realize if Abigail’s observations are correct, that means our masters are targeting girls with specific looks. Our masters aren’t rogue pimps, they’re professional criminals using statistics to choose girls with the most demanded looks.

The pieces to the puzzle are slowly coming together.

***

I wake the following morning feeling nauseous. The light hurts my eyes. Numbly, I try to recall what happened yesterday.

I was so busy thinking about what Abigail had said, I hadn’t paid attention to the other events of the day. I feel confused. Did I ever use my SpectroBio Laser? Fear pricks at my sore body. I don’t remember.

“Flora?” I call out. My voice cracks. She comes over to me, her features analogous to my sister’s. “Will I be okay?” I’m happy to see that Flora still looks perfectly healthy, her face clean of mascara and lipstick.

Somehow, Abigail interrupts. She has developed an uncanny knack for following me. “I’m Abigail,” she says.

“I know.”

“So stop saying Flora…” She pauses, studying me. “What happened to you?”

I feel my face flushing as I realize I must not have used my laser. Instead of admitting, I say, “Will they be able to microchip an antibiotic for me?” Microchips have been used by my captors to release both sedatives and neuropathic agents. Surely they could be used to cure my aching bones and foggy head, if not my broken heart.

Abigail is shaking her head. “Hide.” She tells me. “If you’re seen, you’ll be punished or… or sold.”

***

Stephanie slaps me across the face. Hiding from her was like hiding from a person who cheats in Hide-and-Seek. “There’s no way you’ll draw business looking like this! You’ve put me in a very tough position.”

I do not speak.

“I won’t bring you to a hospital. And I don’t have anything I can do for your aseptic meningitis. So do I keep you?”

Still, I say nothing.

Stephanie seems to make up her mind. She is calling somebody via her RFID implant.

“I need a buyer,” she says.

I begin to feel lightheaded as Stephanie talks. I focus my eyes on the door and envision it opening. Flora comes in, moving stealthily. She motions for me to follow. Together, we leave the room, navigate the hotel’s long hallways, and race down the stairs. Outside, the sun is shining and I see a police station, beckoning like an embassy in enemy territory. We run toward it, cars, gates and other obstructions having no effect on us—nothing impeding our way.

“Flora!” I cry. “We’ve made it!”

***

A noise jolts me back to my surroundings. It is the sound of a door closing.

“Stop talking to nobody!” Stephanie snaps. I realize I haven’t moved from where Stephanie made me sit.

Nobody. I know Flora isn’t real. She is my imaginary friend in a place where I have none—she’s like a sister. That’s why Abigail thought I was crazy. But Flora was my beacon of hope—somebody my captors could never hurt or steal.

A police officer, dressed in full uniform, has come into the room. I’m taken aback. Why isn’t Stephanie running away?

“‘Afternoon, Franklin,” Stephanie says coolly. “Here she is. Astonishingly beautiful when she’s feeling better.” She twirls my hair between her fingers. “Thirty thousand.”

“Preposterous! No more than ten thousand!” I realize they are talking about a price. The officer is not my savior, he’s the buyer!

I try to understand the situation. Abigail implied that our captors were targeting specific girls. But how would the pimps know when to strike? How can they avoid detection by cameras, multilateration, and drones?

Something Stephanie says tells me the truth.

She’s chortling. “We do all the dirty work and Big Brother gets a piece of the pie. What a life.”

“What a life.” The man agrees.

Pimps aren’t circumventing society’s surveillance; they’re embracing it, avoiding prosecution by lining the pockets of authorities! In exchange, they get obscurity and perhaps even Big Data! Suddenly it all makes sense. Pimps are using society’s public surveillance to prey on the public. They’re in friendly with public officials around the nation, some of which are likely traffickers themselves. Surveillance, in all its glory, with all its security, is serving the enemy.

“Say hello to your new father!” Stephanie beams at me. Apparently, she has gotten a good price.

I cannot move or speak.

The officer walks to the door, signaling for me to follow, and flirts with me. Or is he winking…perhaps hinting at a joke just between us—letting me in on a secret? Could the man be a double agent, actually rescuing me from my traffickers? Is he buying me out of slavery, or buying me into hell?

Stephanie hits me across the back.

“Get out of here,” she says.

“Come on, girl,” The man has a toothy mischievous grin. “Let’s go.”


BIG DATA, little girls

Topic: Surveillance Society Time: Futuristic Word Count: 1495 This story participated in Future Problem Solving Program International's 2014 International Conference. SAMPLE (257 words out of 1496 words) I’m lying on my back in the dark room. A black-haired girl keeps telling me to stop talking to myself. I’m not crazy. I avoid the other girls whenever I can. The black mascara and bubblegum pink lipstick they wear makes them look strangely subhuman. I probably look the same way, but these girls are different—ominous reminders of my bleak future. Whoever the girls were, they were changed: their wills broken, their names erased, their pride and freedom replaced with subservience and omnipresent fear. I focus my vision on the only girl in the room who is not wearing makeup. She looks pretty, her features like my sister’s. My eyes begin to tear thinking about my family. “What’s your name?” I ask the girl who looks like my sister, but the black-haired girl interrupts. “My name’s Abigail.” I know it is a lie because that’s the name our masters assigned her. Each of us was assigned a new name upon arrival. “No!” My voice is mingled with defiance and frustration. Even though I wasn’t talking to her, I feel compelled to answer. “It’s not.” Abigail bites her lip, as if expecting a pain serum to be released from the microchip under her skin. She hesitates, but turns away. A couple moments later, the girl who looks like my sister says softly, “I’m Flora.” She looks down shyly and brushes her brown hair from her face. Jasmine is my assigned name, but I hate it even though it’s a flower name. “Hi Flora,” I murmur. “I’m Lily.”

  • Author: Cameron Gallant
  • Published: 2016-09-05 23:35:08
  • Words: 1535
BIG DATA, little girls BIG DATA, little girls