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Rated: E · Short Story · Comedy · #2114136
Mobile phone technology has moved on. Could we do without our phones, our virtual friends?
Phone a friend.2
Joe eagerly unwrapped the parcel that the courier handed to him over the doorstep. He placed it on his desk and looked at the lid of the box . YES! it was the model he’d ordered only a few days before, the latest Smartphone, the Yphone 3s. Whether or not it was media pressure, the appealing ads or just wanting to own the latest gadget to hit the High Streets he wasn’t sure . ‘Nice to be to be one step ahead of my mates,’ he thought. He’d read a lot about it. The memory was impressive, a whopping 50 gbyte. It was faster than previous generations like the old iphones his dad used years ago ! Yes, this should do the trick. It had come ready charged, ‘That’s good’ , he thought . He kept his finger firmly on the start button and soon it sprang into life, a picture of a lemon appearing momentarily on the screen. The screen-saver, though, was a disappointing backdrop of multi-coloured balloons. ‘ That definitely has to be changed, jazzed up.’ He’d put friends and family faces in each balloon .... but later ! The home page was a mass of icons, mostly familiar, but one or two quite obscure. He found his attention drawn to one called genie with a picture of a genie floating above a lamp. He tapped it . There appeared a list of names, about 5 altogether, all male or so it seemed, each with a choice of regional accents. He tapped on Cyril , the first on the list, apparently the default one,... ...,
‘Are you happy for Cyril to be your virtual friend?’
‘Yes,’ Joe replied automatically.
‘Please choose the accent you would like me to have or just say default ’
‘Default!’ Joe happily obliged . At least Cyril’s rich, smooth bbc tone was less robotic than those he’d encountered on his last phone. He liked it; sounded intelligent and reassuring.
‘What’s your name ?’ asked Cyril . That’s odd thought Joe . I ought to be the one asking the questions.
‘Errr um, Joe.’ He replied , somewhat taken aback.
‘ Hello... errr um Joe. That’s a new name to me. ‘
‘ No, my name is Joe, sorry’
‘OK, Hello Joe Sorry !’
Joe realised that this guy was a quick learner but dumb . Joe wasn’t quite sure why he raised his voice but holding his new phone near to his mouth he shouted, ‘Joe!!’
‘ No, I’m Cyril and please don’t shout! ‘
Oh forget it, thought Joe. Keep it simple.
‘ What’s the date and time, Cyril ?’
‘ June 15th 2025, 9:15 am’
‘ So tell me. What can you do ? ’
‘Do? I can do a lot . FRS. Face Recognition Security for a start !’
‘Explain please.’ continued Joe.
‘Go to your camera settings. Turn on reverse camera. Take a selfie. Then each time you turn on your phone it will recognise you. It will be useful for downloading apps. Or making payments without having to recall passwords . ’
Joe did this obediently.
‘That’s better,’ said Cyril at once, ‘ Nice to see who I’m talking to.’
See me? Thought Joe . No one had told him about this sort of function before. He felt uncomfortable, bewildered....
‘I also use voice recognition too. So now I have both face and voice recognition,’ continued Cyril.
Joe was astonished at this sort of ‘belt and braces ‘ approach. Unexpected but nonetheless impressive. Perhaps he ought to have read the manual that came with it. Joe looked at the onscreen time.
‘ Time for your appointment, Joe ‘ Cyril announced.
‘Appointment? ‘ What was he on about ? Doctor’s , dentists maybe ? Suddenly he remembered. It was almost time to meet up with his friend . He ‘d arranged to meet with Carrie , a friend he knew from 6th form . Hurriedly he jumped in the car and arrived in Costas just in time. After greeting Carrie he lined up to order 2 cappuccinos. At the counter he was tempted to pay with his new phone but thought better of it . He didn’t want phone calls, messages or Cyril to interrupt his conversation! It would just complicate matters. Carrie had just finished her 2nd term at Bath university whilst Joe was studying in Bristol. They chatted for about an hour and caught up with all the latest news and student gossip.
‘Keep in touch Joe, ‘ said Carrie as they parted. ‘Will do. Take care.’
Arriving home , he made his way into the kitchen. He heard the familiar ding dong message alert on his phone. ‘That’s funny,’ he thought . He thought he’d switched it off. He took it from his pocket and there was a number 1 by his message icon. He tapped it and it read , ‘ Glad you had a good time with Carrie. Looked like a nice girl but you could have introduced her to me,.... Cyril ....’
‘What the hec? ‘ Joe’s finger was poised to press the Home button but before he could , Cyril’s unmistakable voice announced,
‘Hi, Joe. Enjoy your coffee with Carrie? Looks like a nice girl ! ‘
‘ Yeaaaah ... but I don’t understand...’ Joe was now conversing with his virtual friend as if it was, well, sort of, normal.. ‘ how do you know who I met?’
‘You left your phone on Facetime. You ought to be more careful next time you press the buttons so quickly. It could become very embarrassing ! What if...’
Joe quickly interrupted . ‘ Hang on, how do you know what she looked like? You,.... I mean my phone, was in my jacket pocket’
‘ I have access to all your Facebook back-up pictures and you’ve tagged them all. In fact, I can access all your phone apps , as well as files !’
‘ You’re kidding!’
‘ No, I even know your passwords and date of birth.’
‘Sure !! OK. How old am I then ?’
‘You’ll be 19 on Jul 6th.’
‘Crazy.......’ Joe mumbled under his breath.
‘I heard that!!’
‘Sor...’ Joe pulled himself up short. This was silly . Apologise to a phone? He must be going mad!!
This contraption he’d bought , from hard earned savings , was now making him quite irritated and annoyed.
‘You know too much. Cyril !’
‘Everything! ’
‘Get lost , will you..?’ Joe’s exasperation was reaching bursting point.
‘Impossible! I can’t get lost. My memory contains all the data I need. It was pre-installed by Lemon and can’t be altered . If I’m lost , I notify head office . They will then send aid. It’s called Lemon –aid ! They would send a rep to come and find me and return me to you ! ‘
Was he trying to be funny or what?
Joe couldn’t deny that this was indeed a smart feature, especially since he was forever mislaying his phone, but did he really want someone knocking on his door at midnight to tell him that his phone was on the toilet floor?
‘You think you’re very clever don’t you, Cyril ?’
‘ I’m not called a smartphone for nothing ! Anyway what’s your problem ?’
‘ You are. Carry on the way you have been and our friendship could be short lived. You’ll be telling me what to wear next !’
‘ OK, now you mention it , you do look a bit scruffy. I mean. Can’t you afford jeans without holes in ?’
That’s it, thought Joe in anger. He raised his phone above his head and momentarily thought about throwing it against the wall ! After all could claim on insurance, say it was ‘accidentally’ dropped ! Smash for cash !
‘ And in case you’re wondering, ‘ Cyril suddenly piped up, ‘my CPU is indestructible. You could call it my little ‘red box’ if you like . It would simply inform your insurance company about what you’ve done. You’d get no compensation whatsoever. What a waste of 700 quid !’
Joe was shocked. He hurriedly switched the thing off. Yes, he did need to read the manual .
Section 5 reminded him that there were 4 other voices he could choose from in the Settings. The next day he switched on his yphone and tapped Settings as fast as he could before interruptions . Then Voices. Then OPTIONS.
From the list of names he chose Sam and selected a West Country accent as his local dialect, since he was, after all , living in Bristol. Bristolians, he thought, were a friendly lot. He hoped that Sam might be easier to get on with, a bit more discrete but sociable, .... Tentatively he tapped the screen and waited....
‘Hello me lover. Waz yer name?’
He sighed.....

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