The Mansion that Cost $5 Million Forks

The year was 2083. By then, so much had changed, even the way people spoke. They dropped letters from words so apple was now ‘pple and carrot was now ‘arrot. And, of course, A.I. (formerly artificial intelligence) was now just “I”. It was simply “intelligence,” and anyone in sales who didn’t use “I” had no “I” at all. That’s what people said. But, not everyone. And, not when they were speaking in private.

Some salespeople enjoyed the actual experience of selling in little pop-up black markets, which people learned about through whispers. There you could see actual face-to-face buying and selling (or more accurately “bartering”). It was semi-legal.

His birth name was Elijah. But nowadays, he followed the trend and shortened his name to ‘Lijah. He dabbled a little in the black markets to keep himself sane. It was fun but there was always a risk. He was a cautious soul so he focused on making himself invisible: just part of the crowd.

Sometimes, at the black markets he felt scared. Sometimes, he felt free. It was at about this time that his behavior started to change so that, eventually, his taste for risk and reward dominated his life. He would either become rich or he’d end up in prison.

At first, there was nothing different about ‘Lijah that any authority would notice.

As a salesperson, he was expected to use the “I” for most of his text messages. It copied his emails and rewrote them. The “I” people proclaimed that it was much better than any human alive. They said it was safe and highly effective. It would never write something that was illegal or not correct to specifications. It was said that the sales results proved the point. Privately, ‘Lijah suspected the claims were … just claims. They were hard to disprove.

At this stage, ‘Lijah was subversive lite. He was a bit brave but not stupid. Even so, this was not an easy life for a salesperson. In 2083, all money was electronic cryptocurrency created by the world’s central bank. So, when you bought or sold anything, it was recorded. Using the “I”, when you sold ‘pples during a glut, your dividend was cut back the next month. If you sold ‘arrots when there was a shortage, your dividend rose. Simple. Controlled supply and demand. Government determined prices. It seemed to work.

Some people were fiercely anti-“I”. They refused to play along. They stressed the first letter of their personal name and they dared the system to do something … anything … to challenge them. These people were called “crazy brave.” Some of them disappeared, never to be seen again. Maybe, they escaped. Maybe they were caught. Maybe, they were just crazy.

Things really took a turn when an “I” customer complained. They said that ‘Lijah had sent him an email that was almost an exact copy of a message they had received from a carpet salesman the previous week. The customer challenged him: “Are you real or just an “I” algorithm?” It was a miracle that the text was not deleted before ‘Lijah opened it. The answer to the question was easy. ‘Lijah didn’t write it. The “I” did. He quickly wrote a note of apology (although it was not his fault) and smoothed things over.

Not everything was controlled. Along with the black markets, and the occasional non-“I” messages that people sent to each other, the government’s crypto currency was under pressure. New, informal currencies sprang up to help people escape the crypto. Denmark used the European version of “I” but in the capital, Copenhagen, people started using a particular brand of coffee cup as money. Of course, the coffee cup manufacturer put production into overdrive and raked in millions of cryptos. Anyway, carrying around a bag of coffee cups was hardly convenient, and the cops soon noticed. If they followed at a distance, the trail usually led directly to the latest popup black-market.

It was at this time that ‘Lijah’s father passed away. He had been ill for a long time and, in one way, it was a blessing. But the real blessing arrived when he received his inheritance. It was actually from his grandfather. When ‘Lijah’s father inherited it, he didn’t use it. So, now ‘Lijah had his grandfather’s creation in his hands. It was the MercurySays dictionary: the most valuable dictionary of all. Suddenly, ‘Lijah had something he could sell. Something, he didn’t want to sell through the “I”.

The special characteristic of MercurySays allowed the salesperson to write in their own style. All they had to do was to follow the guidelines that were specific to that customer.

At first, ‘Lijah messaged people offering them access to his database at no cost. That was neat. It started to get people interested. He used MercurySays to guide his replies. His excitement grew.

When customers’ messages started pouring in, he sensed he was now being watched. He didn’t know for sure. He set a price for using MercurySays and his customers started reaping greater profits, too.

‘Lijah was overly cautious but never a coward. He pushed on. The next problem was how to advertise more broadly.

He never once used “I” when he was communicating about MercurySays. That was too dangerous. And, anyways, it was clear that MercurySays was in direct competition with “I”. And, the “I” people would never let MercurySays to continue once they realized. Starting to feel both crazy and brave, ‘Lijah kept on going.

In his hometown, the black-market currency was forks. No-one knew why flatware was now currency. It just was. If you don’t ask, you don’t worry. So, “fork dollars” it was.

As the sales soared, ‘Lijah soon found he owned hundreds and then tens of thousands of forks. He had to rent a garage to store them all and then he rented two more.

Every morning he awoke thinking, it is a miracle I haven’t been found out. No-one has turned on me. No-one has run to the authorities. Throughout every day, he felt moments of adrenaline pumping, stress. But, it got worse with every success.

‘Lijah made sure his lifestyle did not change one jot. He bought exactly the same things from the supermarket with the crypto money he made from his few “I” sales. His focus was always to remain anonymous.

Trouble was, there were all those forks stacking up in his garages. They were worth about $5 million. And, his email system was straining under the growing traffic.

Eventually, ‘Lijah had enough crypto savings from his “I” sales for a brief holiday. He decided to indulge and de-stress by spending ten days in a beautiful Caribbean island. The sun, sand, and sea had a marvellous soothing effect. Then, about four days in, he started exploring the towns and villages. He overheard a conversation in a bar. There was some business service operating in the biggest town of that tiny independent country. They moved currency from place to place, so it was like an exchange but this one was different. When the exchange set up an office in Copenhagen, it took control of thousands of coffee cups, gave them a designated value and, in exchange, provided normal currency that could be used only on the island. That meant that some visitors to the island had vast amounts of the local currency. People heard the Danish language now and again in shops and in parks.

‘Lijah drove into town, found the exchange company, and explained his situation with the forks. The exchange had an office close by to ‘Lijah’s hometown. It was all pretty smooth.

A couple of days later, an exchange staff member handed over a very large check in the local currency. ‘Lijah immediately engaged a real estate agent and soon, he had bought a magnificent waterfront mansion. A local passport came with the purchase. He felt like a king. In fact, he was.

‘Lijah extended his holiday. It was around this time that he bought one of those space drones. They were popular in 2083. It was about the size and shape of a baseball. After a little technical work by the manufacturer, ‘Lijah’s space drone was launched into low orbit and released, with hundreds of others, from a commercial rocket. So, MercurySays was now available to anyone with an internet connection. He had escaped the “I” and so had his customers.

Elijah never used his shortened name again.

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