As I write so much and so often about smartphones, it is probably no surprise to you, dear reader, that my newest novel, Love in the Time of Caller ID, incorporates smartphones as a plot device.
Jackie Paper creates Empty Spaces, a smartphone app that learns exactly how the user feels then plays a song to match that feeling. Users love it. He's going to be rich! Only, they don't know his secret. As Empty Spaces digs through the smartphone, culling for information on the person, trying to understand how they feel, it uses additional processing power -- to send a secret message into space.
His call is answered! Only, is it some alien? Or God?
You can get my novel from Amazon (only $2.99 on Kindle). Below is the opening:
Only lawyers still send actual mail. Jackie decided he hated both. He shoved the papers aside, ambled down the short hallway and bounded into his little boy’s bedroom.
“Don’t wake him!”
Jackie froze, briefly. His wife, Prudence, a room away, apparently could sense not only young Lonnie’s needs but all life-force swirling about him. Jackie couldn’t resist. He leaned in toward the little boy, listened for his jolly breath, enchanted by the soft pink chub of his legs. The child’s eyes opened. He smiled. Jackie lifted the boy high above his head and in a wide sweeping arc brought him down. Then again. Then a third time, so light he could almost fly. Lonnie giggled with the fullness of his entire little being.
“You woke him?”
Prudence entered. She had not quite mastered her stern voice.
“He was already awake.”
“Let me hold him.”
Jackie handed Lonnie to Prudence.
“That upsets his stomach.”
Prudence kissed the boy, rubbed her face with his, stroked his little round belly.
“My turn again.”
“He’s not a toy.”
Jackie held him close. Prudence paused a few moments before speaking.
“I start my new job Monday.”
“It’s going to be a big adjustment. For all of us.”
Jackie stared into Lonnie’s eyes, the boy giggling, spinning, dangling above his head.
“A lot more money.” She spoke matter-of-factly. “We can get a bigger place. A house. Hire you a better lawyer.”
Jackie chose not to hear, believing instead that he could stop time, at least for a time. The room itself acting like a black hole pulling him inside, his wife, his young son, the entire world, in fact, at least all its good parts, safe, perfect, frozen in time. His phone rang, a song began to play. Jackie stopped spinning, his body suddenly immobile, his brain in shock. The call. The song. Contact was made. Contact with aliens.
Aliens, at least a single alien, received Jackie’s call and responded as arranged, calling him back on the very phone number he blasted into space millions of times over. The phone beckoned, the song played louder still.
“What a long strange trip it’s been…”
The music inciting him, Lonnie bounced impatiently in his father’s arms. Jackie stared at his phone, unsure of what to do next. Pru’s phone began to play the same song, in time with Jackie’s. She stared back at Jackie, eyes wide, mouth agape. Pru reached out for her phone, blindly banging her knee sharply on the small table.
“No! I’ll get it.”
Through sheer will Jackie’s senses quickly mounted a re-boot. Jackie plunked Lonnie back in his crib. The boy looked sad.
Jackie’s dream, the guiding dream he had since he was a child, the original dream, the dream he nurtured since before marriage, before child, the very dream that caused him to toss away everything he had otherwise achieved, including both some fame and much fortune, literally, had now come true: Alien contact.
“Hello. Jackie Paper speaking.”
“Jackie Paper speaking. Earth.” He felt stupid.
Pru’s phone continued playing Jackie’s song. She frantically grabbed for it, determined.
“This is Prudence.”
The same silence that greeted Jackie, that greeted Pru, greeted millions more around the world. Everyone a user of Empty Spaces, Jackie’s phenomenally popular smartphone app, and everyone his unknowing beacon, their phones secretly programmed to send out a coded message, Jackie’s contact details, deep into space, hopeful that some alien world might hear, might respond.
They did. Contact was made! Across unfathomable distance, contact, only not to Jackie alone but to each of the millions of users of his app, their phones all playing the same song in unison, all throughout the world. All greeted now only with silence.
Jackie remained fixed in place, his stomach hollow, his eyes unblinking. He held out his phone at arm’s length, wondering, perhaps, if there was a problem with the device, a faulty connection. He waited another half-second, returned the phone to his ear, listened as best he could, hopeful.
Then his phone powered down, then Pru’s phone. Quickly, all the phones went silent, not just those millions with Jackie’s app. Within moments of the call, Jackie’s call, every single phone on the planet shut off for exactly forty eight seconds. Nothing would ever be the same again. At least, not for Jackie. The world believed otherwise, their lives continued rushing onward, just as before. His life was placed on hold.
From "Love in the Time of Caller ID".