Alphabet Y.O.U. : Scary Stories – Short Horror Story

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“Have you heard of Y.O.U.? That was me!”

Joshua Belle, a junior employee at Chicago’s second largest ad firm, knew how to sell himself. It was ten years too late to play the Mad Men angle (and that really only worked if you looked like Jon Hamm) but that cute girl at the bar wouldn’t pass up an opportunity to talk with the inventor of the most exciting new product in tech. Of course, that wasn’t exactly who Josh was, but his pickup line wasn’t a lie either.

Alphabet Y.O.U. “Your Own Universe.” That part had been him. The client knew they wanted the product to be called “Alphabet You” but the acronym was Josh’s idea. He could see the campaign as soon as he thought of it: billboards, prime time ad buys, glossy brochures, all featuring a starry eyed child looking into a sample tube filled with swirling galaxies and nebulae. It encouraged not only a sense of discovery and childlike wonder but also, importantly, a sense of childlike innocence. According to the firm’s staff psychologist that was important for helping consumers move past their anxiety at sending their DNA to a giant tech company. User adoption would be through the roof.

Josh got his free test kit around the same time as everyone else and, like everyone else, played with his results for about two hours before forgetting about the whole thing. He had other matters on his mind anyway. Like asking the cute girl he had met at the bar one night to marry him.

But even if Josh wasn’t thinking about his results that doesn’t mean they were forgotten. Quite the opposite. They were copied, collated, churned through machine learning, then parcelled up into a number of useful products and services to be sold at a reasonable price point. And soon Josh would have reason to think of them again.

First it was his fiancee. She had downloaded an app which checks your genetic compatibility with everyone in your social network. Their kids would be at risk of sickle cell anemia but she had several friends of friends with whom she had a good chance of conceiving healthy, tall, geniuses. Wasn’t it good she learned this now before they had sick idiot kids together?

Next it was his job. His insurance premiums had gone up (genetic markers for heart disease risk) and it wasn’t worth paying more for an employee whose IQ had a theoretical limit of only 110.

Then finally it was the police. Being single, unemployed, and having several genetic markers for criminal behaviour risk, Josh was on their radar. He wasn’t in any trouble—that would be unconstitutional—but they let him know they were watching and that he had a legal responsibility to disclose his status to future landlords and employers.

Josh fought that last one in court, by the way, but it didn’t matter. It’s not discrimination if they have the data to back it up.

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