Author: Alexander and Lynette Sofras
Genre: Dystopian Sci-Fi/Short Story
At six years old, Harrison Avery is already considered a prodigy and, in a world suspicious of intelligence, that places him in jeopardy. His parents live in fear of his extraordinary IQ being discovered—and will go to any lengths to hide it. But how do you disguise genius in a six year old when you are under constant surveillance?
Russell left early the following morning and everyone, including Harrison, seemed to heave a sigh of relief at his departure. It was obvious Harri had sensed the strain between the adults and had not enjoyed being the object of such close attention by everyone and having everything he said and did questioned. Later in the morning he went into his father's study for his physics lesson.
"Right then, son, let's see what we need to cover today, shall we?" Brandon said, logging into the program.
"I'd like to do something different today, Daddy," Harrison said in a polite little voice.
Brandon glanced from the loaded program to the child. "Oh yes? What did you have in mind?"
"A machine. I'd like to make a machine."
Brandon spun around in his chair, his full attention now on the boy. "Do you have any specific machine in mind?"
The child nodded, full of confidence and threw his father a disarming smile. "Yes. I've thought all about it. I want to make a machine to measure people."
Brandon ran swiftly through the various permutations of Harrison's words in his head, trying to second-guess what the boy had in mind. "What exactly is it you want to measure?" He enquired at length.
"I want to measure people's truth," Harrison said, making the words sound so simple and straightforward that Brandon laughed in spite of himself.
"And where did this idea come from?"
"From Uncle Russ."
"What?" Brandon caught his breath. "What does Uncle Russ have to do with it?"
Harrison wriggled his small frame into a more comfortable position on his chair so he could sit back, which he now did, his little legs sticking out in front of him on the seat. He placed his arms on the armrests although these were too high and therefore lent him a certain comical appearance, like any small child emulating an adult.
"Uncle Russ can't tell when I'm speaking the truth or telling a lie. He can't work out the difference and that means he doesn't ask the right questions. And the twins don't speak the truth and they hurt each other by telling lies. Telling lies makes people angry or sad. So I want to make a machine so that people can measure each other and see when they're telling the truth or telling lies. That way they won't have to be angry or hurt anymore."
"Oh my god," Brandon muttered under his breath. To Harrison he said, "How do you imagine this machine will work? I mean on what scientific basis?"
"It will measure body temperature on a precise level," Harrison promptly recited. "When people tell lies, their body temperature rises a tiny bit—I read about that on the Internet yesterday. My machine will be able to measure that change and also show you the right questions to ask so that the other person knows you can tell it's a lie. Look, I made a sketch of it." Harrison pulled the graphene tablet he used for his homework from his pocket and handed it to his father, then sat back in his chair and waited for his father's reaction.
Brandon had been holding his breath during the boy's answer and now released this in a ragged stream, through clenched teeth, as he stared at the design on the tablet. It was plain to see what Harrison had in mind. The machine seemed to start as a small device resembling a credit card and develop into something very much like a human eye. He articulated his next question with care. "And who, precisely, would you see benefiting from this amazing device, Harri?"
Harrison shrugged. "Everyone. Uncle Russ, the twins, you and Mummy. Everybody would find it helpful, wouldn't they?"
Brandon drummed light fingers on his keypad, his eyes contemplating the child while his brain made a succession of rapid calculations. At length he spoke.
"Everyone certainly would, Harrison. And it's commendable that you want to make such a machine to help mankind to live in harmony. But I think it's a bit too ambitious a project at the moment. Now, I also have an important call to make so why don't you run along to Mummy and tell her I'll reschedule our lesson after lunch?"
"Oh but..." Harrison began to protest, but soon thought the better of it, perhaps seeing a get-out clause from his teatime ordeal with the terrible twins. Instead he nodded, retrieving his tablet before shuffling down from his chair and out of the study.
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In the words of one reviewer on Amazon.com: “This story is science fiction, but it's so close to current reality that it may not be fiction for many more years. Moreover, it's not just a story about one possible technological future. It's the kind of science fiction that has something important to say about the present, the world we are living in now.”
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After a long career in teaching, Lynette was finally able to pursue her childhood dream of becoming an author in 2011, with the publication of her first novel 'The Apple Tree' which won first prize in Prism Book Group's (then Inspired Romance) inaugural writing contest. Since then she has gone on to publish seven other full length novels and three short stories. She writes mainly women’s fiction peppered with humor and suspense, but the short story ‘Surveillance’, which she co-wrote with her son, Alexander, took her away from her usual genres and into the realms of science fiction – a journey she found very exciting. You can find out more about all her stories and read excerpts at her website: https://lynettesofras.com.
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