13 Mar 2018 – Persona

Scott Summers365 Stories, Science Fiction


Photo from Storyblocks!

> To Create Your Online Profile: Blink Twice

The white text sat in the center of a black screen, the cursor at the end blinking patiently as it waited for an input.  Shannon glanced around the screen.  She moved her head left, then right.  The text followed, always centered precisely in the center of the screen relative to her position.  The camera behind the glass display had already scanned her retina, and the AI was smart enough to adjust for the parallax shift.  Shannon knew enough to know what was going on.

But still.  It was odd, new, cutting edge.  She’d expect nothing less from a company that billed itself as the final word in online profiling.  They registered you, not the text version of you, and stored everything about you on their servers as a record of your public self.

Shannon blinked once, twice.

The screen flashed white, then faded to a softer, creamy shade.

“Excellent,” the screen said.  “Thank you for joining OneProfile, the last profile service you’ll ever need!  Please answer the following questions honestly and in your own words.  The OneProfile database is searchable by a wide array of services and job providers, and your answers may be used to evaluate your candidacy for employment or participation for some future date.”

Shannon licked her lips.  This was why the service was so hot right now.  You gave one interview — for anything — and you never had to give another one again.  Jobs, dating life, social profile.  Whatever it was.  OneProfile captured the information, and anyone who wanted to know more about you could refer to the service before they evening contacted you.

Of course, there were liars.  Rumor was that OneProfile had developed a lie detection software that was beyond cutting edge.  Given how much the service relied on the honesty of its user base to tell itself to would-be investors, Shannon didn’t doubt the hearsay.

“What is your name?” the screen asked as the interview began.

“Shannon Michelle Corley,” Shannon said.

“Hello, Shannon.  I’m Natia, the OneProfile personal assistant.  You’ll hear my voice for the remainder of this session.  Afterward, if you may select additional voices to present your information to potential employers, as well as other users.  Do you understand?”

Shannon nodded.

“Great!  Let’s continue.  First, we’ll cover your basic employment history, interview profile, and details about your accomplishments.  When you’re ready, blink twice.”

Shannon blinked once, twice.

The interview was straightforward at the beginning.  Natia led her through a series of questions about her work skills, her education, and her past experience.  She answered each question naturally, intuitively, and tried to keep her face as pleasant as possible.

She was being recorded, after all.

“The interview is complete!” Natia chirped when she finished.  The screen flashed white, then faded to black.  “Should we continue with your dating profile?”

Shannon shrugged.  “Sure.”

She completed a full dozen interviews during the first session.  Then, after lunch, she completed a half-dozen more.  In late afternoon, Natia requested that Shannon use the clinic’s wardrobe to model outfits which liked.  The AI modded the clothing onto a digital sculpture of Shannon based on bodyweight scans.  Lastly, Shannon applied makeup and followed Natia’s onscreen instructions.  She made faces at the screen and held them until Natia released her.

Then it was done. 

“Basic profiles complete,” Natia said.  “Would you like to participate in OneProfile Experiences?  This new program allows the world to see your truest self by—”

Shannon blinked once, twice, before the AI finished speaking.  Why not?  She’d done everything else today anyway.

Shannon said goodbye to Natia and left the clinic.  It was a surreal experience, she thought, getting her life out there on the web.  Of the countless social profiles she’d created in the past, though, she’d never been more thorough.


Shannon woke to a crash against her apartment door.  She was up and out of bed in a heartbeat, hurrying toward the noise.  Had someone fallen in the hall?  Was someone injured or dying?

She unlatched the door and looked out.  A woman just a little older than her had collapsed onto the floor.  Shannon sprinted toward her and turned her onto her back.  She wasn’t breathing.

Shannon tried to feel for a pulse, but she wasn’t sure she’d done it right.

“Just wait here,” she said to the unconscious woman on the floor.  Then she was on her feet, scrambling back into her apartment to get her phone.  She tapped the screen, dialed emergency services, and explained the situation.

She set the call to speakerphone while the AI operator walked her through all the steps:  checking for a pulse, inspecting the body for any signs of trauma, and, finally, CPR.

Shannon placed two hands on the woman’s chest and started to apply pressure when the woman’s hand hooked around her wrist.

“That’s enough,” the woman coughed.  “That’s enough.”

Shannon sat back.  Beside her, the AI voice on the other line squealed and recalibrated itself through a series of click and a wave of static.

“Scenario complete,” the phone said, in a voice Shannon recognized.



“What is this?” Shannon asked.

“The first of your OneProfile Experiences!” the phone told her.  “Where we capture your truest and most authentic self by exposing you to unfamiliar scenarios to see how you react.”

“By staging the death of a woman outside my apartment?”

“This is the first of twenty-four experiences that will be added to your profile.  Do we have your permission to continue?  Before you decide, you should know that you currently have five job offers and twenty-six potential romantic partners based on your actions during this experiment.”

“Huh,” Shannon said.

“If we have your permission to continue, blink twice,” the phone said.

Shannon looked at the woman on the floor and glanced down the hall.  Maybe putting herself on display like this was truly the way to a better life.

There was only one way to find out.

Shannon blinked once, twice.