Emma and Chloe were uploading their shopping lists as they waited for their turns at the doc in a box at the local grocery store. This particular store hadn’t been fully updated yet and they were watching the older women walking around the store with their self-scanner programs running. Every now and then a light would turn on and a harried looking clerk would hurry over to an aisle to help fix whatever problem the shopper had created.
“I don’t know why they still do their shopping this way,” Emma said, hearing an angry voice coming from one of the aisles. “It’s so much easier to have the auto’s do it.”
“My dad says some of them like walking through the store, that it’s the only exercise some of them get.” Chloe told her.
“Well, I’d believe that, at least. Just don’t know why they’re still insisting on using outdated tech. I mean, I’ll bet some of them still use Pinterest.”
“And Facebook,” Chloe tittered.
“They’re still teaching that in the Emerging Tech class my dad runs,” Emma said. “And did you hear, they’re making the classes mandatory now?”
“No,” Chloe gasped. “For who?”
“Anyone over fifty, though it’s offered for the over thirties.”
“Well, that makes sense then. Can your dad afford to take on so many students, though? I mean, I know you guys are already near the seventy percent.”
Emma sighed. “Well, to compensate for making them mandatory, they’re making them free, too.”
“Oh no,” Chloe said. “Oh, Emma, I’m so sorry. Has your mom found work yet?”
“Hasn’t been any point in looking, really. She wouldn’t make enough to pay the extra taxes. I think she’s gonna start to look soon, though.”
The people ahead of them came out of the booths and the girls went in, checked in with their phones and stepped on the scales. They answered the questions posed through the automated systems and presented their arms for the blood tests. At the end, they were released out into the lobby and given the option of ordering any prescriptions they were going to need.
Both girls were given the mandated birth control, Emma got more of the attention medication she’d been prescribed in kindergarten that she was required to take, though she didn’t need it and hadn’t for years. When it was Chloe’s turn, she ran into a problem.
“Shoot,” she said, frustrated. “I’m out of med creds.”
“What do you need?” Emma asked. “I can give you some of mine, I think.”
“Not for this,” Chloe said.
“Oh, no,” Emma said. “You’re out for that? Can’t you get more?”
“My grades aren’t high enough,” Chloe said, looking despondent. “And my parents aren’t important enough that me being sick would cause any disruptions in the city.”
“They can’t just let you get sick,” Emma said. “There’s laws against that.”
“Yeah, I can pick some more up in another week or so. I’ll just have to ration out what I’ve got until then.”
“How many have you got left?”
“Look, I’ll ask around, see if there’s anybody willing to trade for your dosage.”
“Emma, that’s illegal,” Chloe protested.
“Hey, I’ve got stuff people want, there are people out there who’ve been misdiagnosed with what you’ve got, we just have to find them.”
“You’ll get in trouble,” Chloe said, not wanting to put her friends bright future in danger for her worthless one. She didn’t think she’d make it must past high school, anyway. Without a job, med creds for adults were hard to qualify for and she’d be an expensive employee to have. The only real question was how she would go.
“My dad can get me out of it, if I get caught. He’s a professor and he teaches the emerging tech classes, they need him.”
Chloe sniffed slightly then took out her phone to check the important message she’d just gotten the alert for. “Oh, no,” she said, biting her lip. “Oh, Emma, I’m so sorry.”
“What?” Emma pulled out her own phone then sat down hard on one of the chairs in the pharmacy.
“How did you get the ‘h’?” Chloe asked?
“How does anybody get the ‘h’?” Emma snapped at her friend. “I can’t believe the test results went over the net before I saw them. They can’t do that, can they?”
“New law,” Chloe said. “STI’s are rampant and a lot of them are resistant. Tests that come up positive are required to be shared with a person’s social network immediately so that other members of that network can avoid contracting it from that person.”
“But it’s not my fault,” Emma said, her eyes welling up with tears. “I don’t even know who gave it to me.”
Chloe sat down next to her friend and held her. “I know, Emma. But look on the bright side, your case might be treatable.”
There are times when inspiration just strikes and this was one of them. I have to thank Sarah Hoyt for her blog post The Past is a Story for this story. Or maybe I should blame her? Either way, a gauntlet was thrown down and I tripped on it so I figured I’d give this a try. I hope people enjoy the story and use it to think about what direction we’re heading. As always, if you liked it, hit the tip jar at the top of the page and/or share it with your friends.