“Grandma, is it true what Momma said, that you were once the most beautiful woman in the world?”
“Yes, for a little while,” she replied, accepting a flower from the girl’s hand. “There was an app called Mirror². It constantly analyzed the billions of faces on the internet and one day it rated me the most beautiful woman on earth, for almost six minutes.”
“I sneezed, and it messed up my hair.” The wrinkled grandma softly chuckled as she arranged another flower among the others in her vase.
* * * * *
When physicists discovered High Amplitude Luminous Orbs surrounding the heads of all human beings, they wondered why some peoples’ HALOs were stronger than others’ and what caused their intensities to change over time. Using a visual filter, the phenomenon could be seen on a spectrum of intensities, from dim grey to bright gold. This allowed social scientists to establish links between HALO intensity and behavior. For instance, field studies found that visiting the elderly, giving to beggars, or attending religious services typically increased the intensity, while frequenting casinos, bars, or brothels (in the Las Vegas area) generally reduced it. After such findings, the brightness of one’s HALO came to be widely regarded as proof of a person’s moral goodness or iniquity.
HALO viewing devices began selling quickly to the concerned or the curious. Wedding engagements were broken, children got grounded, and the scrupulous checked their HALOs several times a day. Supermarket tabloids published celebrities’ before-and-after photos with captions like, “What did she do last night,” while other media had exposés on the darkness of conservative politicians and church leaders. Religious believers, particularly Christians, were statistically shown to have stronger HALOs, however the Supreme Court ruled (5 to 4) that it was not religious discrimination to consider HALO intensity in hiring since agnostics and atheists sometimes had bright HALOs as well. Finally, the Congress, with widespread support, moved to make it a crime “to scan or view others using HALO detecting devices without their consent, or to discriminate against anyone for refusing consent,” condemning such practices as an “invasion of privacy” and the cause of “baseless prejudices based upon unproven technology.” The president signed the bill into law in a closed-door ceremony.
* * * * *
Lisa knew that if she missed another payment the bank was going to foreclose on her and her daughters. She never had been to a pawn shop before, but she wasn’t feeling anxious at all. She smiled serenely at the owner and showed him the red mood ring on her hand, “How much will you give me for this mood ring?”
After a few moments of appraisal he answered flatly, “How much did you have in mind?”
“Based on what I paid for it, I’m thinking two thousand.”
“A lot of these things have been coming in lately. I really have more of them than I need. I’ll give you five hundred for it.”
That was less than Lisa wanted but her countenance was unaffected. “One thousand,” she countered.
“Six hundred,” he said, “and that’s as high as I’ll go.”
“That will be fine,” Lisa replied and removed her mood ring from her finger for the first time in years. Suddenly, a wall of emotions fell on her and she collapsed to her knees, crying.