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Wednesday, January 10, 2018


Fiction • “Quality of Life,” by Alexandra Renwick

Good afternoon, Mr. Jones. First let me thank you for coming peacefully when our field agents brought you in. I’m sure it was inconvenient to have been interrupted at dinner, and at such an elegant, expensive restaurant, too. A date, was it? Well, I’m certain our agents apologized to your lady friend on your behalf, but the issue of plummeting credit prognostication is of utmost importance to modern society, and we at the Bureau monitor this vital element within our population in the interest of public financial health. A wealthy country is a healthy country after all, Mr. Jones.

I assure you it wasn’t personal. You were simply remotely evaluated and deemed in need of immediate credit intervention and counseling. Our field agents are equipped with the latest in credit prediction technology. With the Credit Endangerment Act and other Credit Viability Legislation, all questions of privacy violation are moot. Soon every local governing body will host a branch of the Bureau, and every Bureau agent will carry a portable C.R.E.D.

Oh yes, Mr. Jones; despite what you may have read in the news, all Credit Rating Evaluation Device testing phases are complete. No, you haven’t heard much about the program, I’m sure; our government’s corporate underwriters wanted to be absolutely certain the portable C.R.E.D. was fully developed, accurate beyond ninety-nine point seven-eight percent in ninety-eight point three percent of cases ninety-six point nine percent of the time. You have to admit, Jones—that’s enough nines to satisfy even the most rigorous of today’s quality control pundits.

There, there. No need to get upset. I’m sure you do think your credit is excellent. I’m sure you do think you have nothing to worry about and, by extension, I’m sure you think we have nothing to worry about regarding yourself. Nobody’s accusing you of not being a conscientious, upstanding citizen. It’s your—and our—very dedication to this great nation which brings us together today. Allow me show you how the C.R.E.D. works.

Beg your pardon? Well yes… I suppose it does look a little like a ceramic doughnut. I’d never noticed. But make no mistake! That smooth frosted exterior hides the finest modern microtechnology, computer components too small to see with the naked eye, taking remote readings from up to twenty meters away. Data transmits wirelessly to centralized computers in orbiting satellites, and complex extrapolations are performed using your posture, the quality of your attire, your current activity, retinal patterns and heartbeat, even the tone of your voice, laughter, and breathing. All crucial factors are run against a background of previously collected data—about you, and others with your same socioeconomic characteristics, psychological makeup, and spending habits. We’ve been collecting data for decades, you know, all in the public interest.

So. I point the—no, I won’t start thinking of it as a doughnut—I point the C.R.E.D. your direction, using a general sweeping motion (it’s all in the wrist). And with no discernible delay, numbers appear on the small readout here and… Well look at that! Just bringing you into this office today has raised your future aggregate probable credit rating by three points. Three points!

Excellent work, Jones. Forewarned is forearmed, and that’s exactly what we’re all about. Remember we’re fighting a war; a war against an unlendable population. We all do our civic duty to ensure the long-term health and safety of this great nation by keeping ourselves and each other lendable. This country was built on revolving credit, and no responsible citizen should ever forget it.

Reliable? Of course it’s reliable! Associate degrees in Probability Calculation and Lendability Prediction are available from reputable colleges and universities coast to coast. I hold degrees in ProCal and L-Pred, myself! The ding to my future credit ratings from student loans was well worth it, I assure you. What better way to spend one’s credit potential than on the things which most improve one’s quality of life?

It’s that very quality of life we here at the Bureau endeavor to preserve—for ourselves, for our children. We’re simply the custodians of the future. We have a legacy to pass on, the legacy of unlimited future spending capacity, the inalienable right to leverage every penny our children may ever earn in advance, so they might pass to their children the glorious wealth and security only unbridled consumption can offer. Would you hobble them, Jones? Would you deny them the very comforts you yourself have come to expect and enjoy, all because of a few careless missteps, a lack of established credit or poor repayment habits or even, worst of all, limited credit availability?

…Please excuse me. I apologize. I’m a new father myself, so I tend to get passionate about such things. I keep a picture right here on my desk, see? Cute little guy. Three months old. I see him at least an hour every night. His mother and I are very proud, though she had to go work overseas shortly after his birth. I’m afraid my wife overextended her personal credit in her prenatal enthusiasm, though neither of us regret the expenditures; we don’t want our little boy to miss out on anything life in this country has to offer. The latest crib with every technological advance; the nursery microsensors regulating air temperature, humidity, and sterility; the hundreds of pre-programmed toys and books and all the clothing we bought… he’ll have the headstart he’ll need to begin building his own credit rating as soon as he’s able. He’ll thank us one day, when he passes these values on to his own children.

Yes, Mr. Jones, I sleep very well at night, knowing my descendants will have the absolute best future that borrowed money can buy.

Alexandra Renwick is a Canadian & US writer with stories in Ellery Queen’s & Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazines, Asimov’s, The Baltimore Review, and various Years Bests. She lives in downtown Ottawa’s historic Timberhouse, previous headquarters of the Canadian Legion War Services, the Canadian Forestry Association, The Regional Sommeliers Guild, and the Ottawa Handheld Photography Club. More at alexcrenwick.com or @AlexCRenwick.

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