The Perfect Match39 min read

The Perfect Match39 min read

Originally published in Lightspeed, 2012.
Collected in The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories, 2016, Saga Press.

Sai woke to the rousing first movement of Vivaldi’s violin concerto in C minor, “Il Sospetto.”

He lay still for a minute, letting the music wash over him like a gentle Pacific breeze. The room brightened as the blinds gradually opened to the sunlight. Tilly had woken him right at the end of a light sleep cycle, the optimal time. He felt great: refreshed, optimistic, ready to jump out of bed.

Which is what he did next. “Tilly, that’s an inspired choice for a wake-up song.”

“Of course.” Tilly spoke from the camera/speaker in the nightstand. “Who knows your tastes and moods better than I?” The voice, though electronic, was affectionate and playful.

Sai went into the shower.

“Remember to wear the new shoes today.” Tilly now spoke to him from the camera/speaker in the ceiling.

“Why?”

“You have a date after work.”

“Oh, the new girl. Shoot, what’s her name? I know you told me—”

“I’ll bring you up to speed after work. I’m sure you’ll like her. The compatibility index is very high. I think you’ll be in love for at least six months.”

Sai looked forward to the date. Tilly had also introduced him to his last girlfriend, and that relationship had been wonderful. The break up afterwards was awful, of course, but it helped that Tilly had guided him through it. He felt that he had matured emotionally and, after a month on his own, was ready start a new relationship.

But first he still had to get through the work day. “What do you recommend for breakfast this morning?”

“You are scheduled to attend the kickoff meeting for the Davis case at eleven, which means you’ll get a lunch paid for by the firm. I suggest you go light on the breakfast, maybe just a banana.”

Sai was excited. All the paralegals at Chapman Singh Stevens & Rios lived for client lunches made by the firm’s own executive chef. “Do I have time to make my own coffee?”

“You do. Traffic is light this morning. But I suggest you go to this new smoothie place along the way instead—I can get you a coupon code.”

“But I really want coffee.”

“Trust me, you’ll love the smoothie.”

Sai smiled as he turned off the shower. “Okay, Tilly. You always know best.”


Although it was another pleasant and sunny morning in Las Aldamas, California—68 degrees Fahrenheit—Sai’s neighbor Jenny was wearing a thick winter coat, ski goggles, and a long, dark scarf that covered her hair and the rest of her face.

“I thought I told you I didn’t want that thing installed,” she said as he stepped out of his apartment. Her voice was garbled through some kind of electronic filter. In response to his questioning look, she pointed to the camera over Sai’s door.

Talking to Jenny was like talking to one of his grandmother’s friends who refused to use Centillion email or get a ShareAll account because they were afraid of having “the computer” know “all their business”—except that as far as he could tell, Jenny was his age. She had grown up a digital native, but somehow had missed the ethos of sharing.

“Jenny, I’m not going to argue with you. I have a right to install anything I want over my door. And I want Tilly to keep an eye on my door when I’m away. Apartment 308 was just burglarized last week.”

“But your camera will record visitors to my place, too, because we share this hallway.”

“So?”

“I don’t want Tilly to have any of my social graph.”

Sai rolled his eyes. “What do you have to hide?”

“That’s not the point—”

“Yeah, yeah, civil liberties, freedom, privacy, blah blah blah …”

Sai was sick of arguing with people like Jenny. He had made the same point countless times: Centillion is not some big scary government. It’s a private company, whose motto happens to be “Make things better!” Just because you want to live in the dark ages doesn’t mean the rest of us shouldn’t enjoy the benefits of ubiquitous computing.

He dodged around her bulky frame to get to the stairs.

“Tilly doesn’t just tell you what you want!” Jenny shouted. “She tells you what to think. Do you even know what you really want anymore?”

Sai paused for a moment.

“Do you?” She pressed.

What a ridiculous question. Just the kind of pseudo-intellectual anti-technology rant that people like her mistake for profundity.

He kept on walking.

“Freak,” he muttered, expecting Tilly to chime in from his phone earpiece with some joke to cheer him up.

But Tilly said nothing.

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