Prompts: You go for a walk in fresh snow. Suddenly you realise you’re not leaving any footprints.
No one noticed the screens, they were the very essence of life in Nova Londres. The city knew you, cared for you, provided for your every need. It was a great gift, it really was, thought Marril as she shuffled by the chemist’s screen at the corner of Abbey Rd. “Time to refill your prescription Citizen M22736,” said the genderless, ageless face on the screen, “Please approve for immediate delivery.” Marrill tapped the underside of her wrist where the chip was embedded, approving delivery. How very nice that she would not find herself without her appetite suppressant medication at this time of year. How very comforting.
Marril continued toward home. As she passed the cleaners, their screen showed a soothing scene of white linen flapping from a line in a green field. Lovely. Marril had never seen a field but the screen assured her it was a clean and lovely place. The screen changed and another face smiled and said, “Citizen M22736, your grey suit has been altered and is ready for pick up inside. Congratulations on trimming two sizes!” Marril nodded to herself and went inside. She tapped on her chip, paid and left with the smaller suit. How nice.
The gymnasium screen had been very attentive that year, kindly reminding her of her weight gain each time she passed. In fact, it had been attentively reporting a steady gain for a few years but last Spring, when the mercantile denied her a new suit to fit, she knew she had to make a change. Citizens were discouraged from varying from the approved sizes. Target BMI was set to prevent the people from unduly impacting the environment and it must be met. How thoughtful.
So she’d joined the gym, went once a day on her way to work. The screens told her her calories were dropping, her arteries were healthy, her impact was reducing. She was given free credit for a second visit a day. She was an asset, a lesser burden on the country’s resources. She was appreciated. How satisfying.
Marril entered the grocers and filled her basket. She planned a fine meal of proteins and vegetable products. The screen in the produce section asked her to confirm that she was preparing a meal for two. She tapped her chip to confirm. Her shopping was appropriate for two, it agreed. “What a nice salad that will be,” said the smiling face. Yes, it will be. Marril also thought a nice pudding seemed like the excellent end to the meal. The screen above the sweets section reminded her that her current, approved, BMI would be difficult to maintain if she chose the pudding. Marril replaced in on the shelf. So good to be looked after.
Of course, thought Marill, as she hung her rather meager grocery bag over her shoulder, she’d felt a little insubstantial of late, a little invisible. But the screen at the pub gave her a thumbs up. “You’ve added two friends to your contacts recently, Citizen M22736. Congratulations. You look good and you feel good. People notice.” It was true. She’d met two women at the gym. Pansy and Ishu were both at the target BMI. They encouraged her, they were good roll models. They were friends. How wonderful.
Marril arrived at home and shed her coat. Her reflection in the window, against the now-dark sky outside, was insubstantial. Her flat was small, but not as small now that she herself had grown smaller. She was lucky to have this room to call her own. At 7:00 Caleb requested access, she tapped her chip to approve. Caleb, Citizen C88912, was a friend. Maybe more than a friend. Marril wasn’t certain. She liked him but she had rather preferred Talek, from work. However, the screen by her bed had kindly reminded her that Talek had not been following advice at the market and had even frequented an unlicensed restaurant in the East End, without a screen. Marril thought he was sort of exciting, but he was a risk to attaining her BMI, her minimal impact.
Caleb helped her prepare the meal they shared. He was very very close to ideal BMI. He told her it was nice to meet someone equally efficient, equally minimal. When Caleb had left, the screen on her door agreed that it was nice. The screen reminded her how much nicer it would be to reach ultimate minimal impact by sharing her room. Marill smiled. It must indeed be nice.
Fall rolled into winter, Marril noted that she was chillier now that she was less impactful. In November the city-wide screens announced a new reduction in ideal BMI. Marril sighed and signed up for lunch-time sessions at the gym. She saw Pansy and Ishu once, they were very close to attaining the new goals. She did not see them again. How sad.
Marill saw Talek once, crossing Finchley Rd. He waved and smiled. Marill waved and though that Talek looked somehow substantial, like he meant something. She thought that seemed nice but the crosswalk screen flashed Talek’s number, T110902, in red and his BMI. Marill’s eyes widened; that had been her number in June. It seemed a very long time ago and she wondered if she had also felt substantial in June.
Mid-way through February it snowed. This was a treat and Marill was delighted. When it snowed the city was calmed under the white weight of the powder. Half of the city disappeared leaving only the smiling faces from the screens and narrow shadows, people maybe, cutting trails through the snow. Marill passed the market and the screen flashed to a face, beaming with eyes filled with pride and joy, “Congratulations Citizen M22736, you have reached the new target BMI. Please give yourself a pat on the back for your minimal impact.”
“Yes, I think I will,” said Marill to the screen. She reached back to give herself a pat and regarded the street behind. The snow sparkled smooth in an unbroken blanket reflecting the lights from the screens on the market, the crosswalk, the cleaner, the pub. Marill had left no footsteps in the snow.