New fiction: 'Penny For Your Thoughts'

A sketch on the terrifying possibilities of surveillance technology


The young man emerged from his communist block apartment building onto a street teeming with cars, trucks, scooters, rickshaws, and people - a vast sea of people. Even after a year of living in the city, he was still overwhelmed by its scale and indifference. Towers of concrete and glass loomed over him, dull knives stabbing impotently at a filthy corrupted sky, which looked down with disdain. Most of the people wore masks as a flimsy shield against the smog, which was particularly heavy today. All the chemicals and particles made his eyes sting, and his breath drag in his chest. After arriving at the station, he performed the shift handoff with the previous driver. Before he set out on his first route, he made sure to pull his uniform cap down tightly onto his head, as he had been instructed in the training sessions. 

The cap didn’t look any different than before, except if you looked closely at the band, you could see that it was slightly thicker now. That there must be where they put the battery and the sensors, he thought to himself. He knew what these things were, but not how they worked - much of this technology, like the train he was responsible for driving, were a mystery to him. This hadn’t stopped him from learning to operate it, since he was a quick study - his parents had known from a very young age that he was bright and needed some education, though in their provincial poverty they had little idea of how to pay for it. Therefore he was grateful for his technical training, though meager, and a job that allowed him to send home some money, though not much.