Place Your Bets by Eric Farrell

Gertrude feels the boredom settling into her bones. She and John are all the way up on the twenty-eighth floor of a windowless collocation skyscraper in Manhattan, running routine server checks on the simdecks. The job calls for pouring over a ton of data and recording tiny flecks of information. It’s a lot like finding a needle in a haystack, and, at times, it can be soul sucking.

To keep things lively, Gertrude turns to John for a friendly wager.

“Alright, big shot,” she says, sassing her coworker. “Place your bets on this guy’s bed skills. Will he get to home base tonight?” 

She pulls up Anson Alizadeh, the guy in question, a bulbous-headed, fifth-generation New Yorker who lives in Instance Code 10360002.

Anson #10360002 is as accurate as can be predicted, thanks to the series of groundbreaking social media and cellular acquisitions the Farm has made through the years. All those sweet, sweet G’s: the 3G’s, 4G’s, 5G’s. All the data is fed into the Farm’s algorithm. Every click made, photo liked, impression felt, creates his likeness.

The RFID-imbedded tech he interfaces with daily further serves in creating his avatar.

The Farm models possible outcomes based on the live feed of data it receives. Both the macro models for economics as well as micro models for individual citizens are analyzed, scrutinized, and commoditized. The Farm can predict interactions Anson will likely have, and the expected ways he would respond, based on a lifetime of his data granted through the Farm’s shrewd business dealings. The plausible scenarios are modeled off Anson’s location, calendar, communication, and targeted inference. Just now, IRL, Anson’s on a dating app, confirming the details of an Italian dinner for later in the week.

Pfft,” John says, smirking. “Are you digesting this data, Trude? Look at the stats! This guy’s a total loser! Statistically there’s no way he makes it to first base!”

Trudy places her wager, betting the “over” for Anson’s success.

“Alright,” she says, “Let’s have some fun.”

They watch the screen, as Trudy fast-forwards through Anson’s point of view, burning through time. Anson #10360002 is jerked by the collar through the simulated future until he’s skipped to Friday evening. Date night.

The algorithm’s onboard analytics show Anson’s rising heartbeat. He’s holding hands with a beautiful woman, his palms clammy, his button-down shirt soaked at the small of his back. On first dates, his track record does not inspire confidence—in this instance, in the previous instance, in the previous thousands of instances, and indeed, even in real life.

But he doesn’t know about any of that. So far, he has a good feeling that he’s said the right things and asked the correct questions.

He’s full of short rib pappardelle, mid-range dollar pinot noir, orange blossom zeppoles, and the faint promise of a parting kiss goodnight.

Deep in her bones Trudy wonders, hopes, pleads to Anson’s date: Well, will you? Will you let him kiss you?

Anson walks home with his date, the two zigzagging through the High Line, the city around them pulsing with life, preserved forever in the quicksilver of the Farm’s archives.

He’ll never get a kiss,” O’Malley says, his face stretched in chronic melancholy. And it turns out he’s right, though somehow, winning the bet feels like no win at all.


Later that night, Anson #10360002 is crying under his covers.

John’s gone for the day. Now it’s just Trudy, staring through #10360002’s eyes.

The view shimmers with tears, and then blinks to total darkness. The avatar is asleep for the night, typical of Anson’s usual sleep patterns.

Trudy hits the save button, the file recorded as encrypted video.

As if right on cue, she gets a call. Anson Alizedeh’s number is flashing on her phone, ready to connect.

“So?” Anson asks, when she answers. There’s an edge to the man’s voice. Like he’s strung out on something, and every little thing is an irritation.

“You think it’s accurate, yeah? The date? You factored her data into it and all that?”

Trudy pauses, unable to make any promises.

But Anson is already wiring the money over. Trudy’s a thousand dollars richer.

“…it’s gonna happen, yeah?”

Trudy sighs quietly so the desperate man on the other end can’t hear her and hedges.

“Statistically, you can always count on the Farm,” she says. “Place your bets.”

Eric Farrell

Eric Farrell

Eric Farrell lives in Long Beach, California, where he works as a beer sales rep by day, and speculative fiction author by night. His writing credits stem from a career in journalism, where he reported for a host of local and metro newspapers in the greater Los Angeles area. He posts on Twitter @stygianspace and has recent fiction with Aphotic Realm, Haven Spec, and HyphenPunk.

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