The business took centre stage and waited for the rapturous applause to die down. Bailey Norton smiled his signature smile as the crowd quieted and the few that had stood up to clap or bow took their seats again.

The people who bowed had always made Bailey feel that little bit uncomfortable, for even though his two aides Vanessa and Marissa had told him they were doing it ironically, he knew of the small “Bow for Bailey” sects that had popped up all over the world.

The red and white Talkpoint logo popped up in the background and the crowd cheered. Talkpoint was used by over 2.26 billion people worldwide. It was a free app that allowed people to post their meals, their pets, their own faces, along with long strings of information about their day that they wanted other people to care about. And the various third party companies that Talkpoint sold the information to cared deeply. They may not have cared about the three page essay about a dead parent, dog, or sibling filled with thoughts for their “darling angle” that got hundreds of likes, but the algorithm quickly filtered through those garbage posts and to the important posts of people holding flashy shoe brands in bright primary colours and messy, sugar-laden frappuccinos. Now that was good information to have.

“Talkpoint has been a household name for many years,” began Bailey. “And you guys have enjoyed a free social media product so much that we’re looking into expanding into a line of products for the consumers of Talkpoint, and with that, I have the pleasure of announcing MagicMirror!”

The PowerPoint clicked onto a glossy, jet-black slate that everyone applauded, despite having little clue what it was or what it did. It was a primordial action, to clap the shiny thing.

According to the product developers, shiny and simple was good. Metal buffed to an extreme polish, crystal-clear glass, shiny bevelled plastic. It tapped into your caveman brain that it was fresh and new and disease-free, like the first Neanderthal finding a clean stream and hooting like a mandrill, calling the other Neanderthals who came out of the trees to this lake and seared the image of the river into their collective unconscious. Water that is clean and shiny is safe and good.

And now they were all in the auditorium, clapping at the shiny panel that was brought out onto the stage. A presentation video began above them, showing a happy family enjoying their MagicMirror.

“The MagicMirror is a gateway through which you can see loved ones, your friends and family, and anyone on your Buddy Column can call you. You can see them in crystal-clear high definition and the camera will even track you across the room!”

Bailey moved across the stage and the screen showed the camera following Bailey across the stage.

The applause continued as Bailey continued. “It’s likely that you’re wondering when these will be available. Well, if you picked up any computer from this range this year…”

The screen whistled through a list of computers.

“…then you’ve already got one!”

There was murmuring throughout the crowd. Scattered applause, but mostly confusion.

“Your webcam has been a MagicMirror for the past year already! In fact, we used your computer cam in order to develop face-tracking!”

The applause rose as hundreds of audience members appeared on the screen in their living rooms, bedrooms, and kitchens.

The audience cheered and clapped, an autonomic response on the most part, based on the research showing that babies spotting themselves in the mirror will often laugh, clap, and cheer at themselves.

A blue hue rose up underneath each picture, apart from three that grew rosy red hues.

“We’ve also been able to monitor criminal behaviour and online activities, and so we have the great pleasure of not just delivering value through TalkPoint—delivering great products for security and enjoyment—we are also able to track certain people who wish to take these great things away.”

The screen zoomed in on an acne-scarred 15-year-old boy.

“We have Jake Chalmers, an active bomb maker from Illinois. He’s 15.”

The screen zoomed in on a balding, obese man in a mustard-stained sweatshirt.

“We have Sidney Matthews, Oklahoma, who has a hard drive filled with child pornography.”

The camera zoomed in on a woman missing 16 teeth and most of the hair on her scalp.

“We have Trisha Hawker, who has been cooking meth on her kitchen stovetop and distributing it across her low-income neighbourhood.”

The audience were quiet, but a thin babble broke out across the front rows as people actively moved away from those recognised on the screen. The lobby doors burst open and ten police officers carrying SWAT shields raided the venue, grabbing people to the rapturous applause of the audience.

“Thank you for coming to our presentation!” Bailey yelled over the fracas, heading backstage as the audience whooped and cheered.

Backstage, he pulled off the taped microphone and shed his suit and tie as he headed to the backdoor and out into the night. He passed a man and woman sharing a cigarette as he crunched across the gravel pathway under the flickering streetlights.

The cab was waiting for him at the end of the road, with the door already open. He climbed onto the plush leather seats, clicked his fingers, and the cab sped away.

The rollout of MagicMirror was pretty instantaneous, with only a few people in the tech community who stripped their computer, found the MagicMirror lying behind like a giant cockroach behind a kitchen counter, and threw it in the garbage disposal. There were many, many more that would do an “unboxing” video of their own computer and shrieked in pleasure at having the brand new piece of technology that everyone wanted to get their hands on.

It was largely because of the three arrests that had taken place live during the unveiling. Only they weren’t arrests.

Just three actors who got in way over their heads.

But the plants were gone. Whilst the criminals weren’t real, the police weren’t real policemen, and the vans that the actors were bundled into weren’t real police vans, the guns held by the people waiting for them were.

Plants don’t really grow in deserts, but Trisha, Sidney, Jake, and three out-of-work male porn actors in police vests were all driven out there and buried just the same.

All in all, MagicMirror sold 17 million units across the US and 36 million internationally. There were a few minor glitches and errors with the product initially, with accidental arrests when the product mistakenly picked up suggestive-looking objects in the background. A man in Toronto was arrested when his fern in the background was picked up by MagicMirror as a cannabis plant and three FBI vans pulled up outside his house seven minutes later, and an elderly woman in Florida had a SWAT team break down her door as the flour she was cooking with registered as cocaine.

The solution to this was obvious: to pair MagicMirror with the local police force in your area so that your mistakes did not end up wasting massive resources. The upgrade was added to every MagicMirror automatically. You could opt out, but you would have to undergo a thorough investigation of your household, web habits, place of work, TalkPoint account, and all other social media you used. If you did not have any social media active, you were forced to install the upgrade. If you had posted any comment about any political figure, living or dead, then you were forced to install it. If you were found with drugs in your house, either illegal or legal, you were forced to install it. Coffee counted, as did chocolate, beer, paracetamol, aspirin. Anything.

It was at this same time when Bailey raised the funds for the surveillance statues, bronze statues of the three people who had been taken away, which were put up across the States. It was quite interesting, incidentally, that there was a backlash to this up until it was made public that the statues were going to be put up where the previous Confederate statues had been.

After that, it became taboo to discuss them. In fact, if you were against the idea of these statues, then you had to submit to Congress a suitable replacement, or face a penalty fine and a criminal record. After all, these were the first few enemies of the state taken down, and they weren’t worth memorialising over the people who had murdered slaves? The idea was simply absurd.

Several people tried to get the new statues overturned. They failed.

It wasn’t until next year that the new project was unveiled, and Bailey took to the stage once more to rapturous applause and celebration. People wept, held newborn babes up to him, and chanted his name.

Bailey Norton approached the microphone and wasted no time.

“Given the success of our newfound product offering, we want to offer you all something new but familiar. There were a few problems with the MagicMirror offering that were found by our community, and we’re all about innovation. And in order to address the battery issues, the size, and the affordability of the product, we’d like to announce something.”

Bailey grinned and pulled a small button-like object from his pocket.

“The MagicMirrorMicro is the next step in our communication technology. Just an inch in size, this button will monitor absolutely everything around you. And like the previous MagicMirror, we have already started using it!”

A steady murmur rose up in the crowd as a presentation slid by showcasing modern home furnishings that had Micros inside of them. Nothing was free from it.

“That’s right, folks! The surveillance statues? Micros for eyes! Laptops! Micros! Kettles! Micros! Fridges! Micros! Microwaves! Micros!”

The audience tittered at the final mention.

“For the safety of everyone, we’d also like to introduce our next product, integrated with the Mirror family, and designed with protection in mind. We’ve already equipped our policemen with it, having worked with them on integrating the Micro. Again, thank you for your cooperation.”

The audience clapped again, glad to be mentioned.

“Without further ado, we’d like to introduce you to the new Microgun!”

A squad of officers all dressed in black took to the stage. All had TalkPoint logos emblazoned on their sleeves and raised their weapons.

The bullets rang out, deafening the auditorium. People screamed as heads and bodies were splattered. Entire limbs flew through the air as the officers unloaded their entire magazines until they clicked.

Blood flew through the air, now a coppery red mist.

“WAIT!” Bailey yelled across the carnage and the din. “THE MICROS CONNECT TO THE MICROGUN.”

The audience mostly sobbed. Several people hugged their splattered partners, some completely torn apart by bullets.


The audience were mostly silent. There were sporadic cries and moans that stung the air.

“We’ve watched you, and we’ve seen everything you do! And everyone killed is a criminal! I have no pity for the enemies of this country! Thieves, delinquents, rapists, drug users! You should thank me!”

The men raised their weapons again as the remaining survivors huddled in their seats, afraid and confused.

“These bullets track the enemy. They connect to the Mirror recordings. For your obstruction of justice, I will be lobbying to have these Micros installed in every home across the entire globe. You will pay nothing to be saved, and we will even spare you for obstructing justice if you thank me.”

The guns clicked as the men reloaded.

One lone audience member began to clap through their shaking hands, tears still running down their face. One by one, others began. One woman was still holding the torn-off hand of her husband, which dropped to the carpeted floor as she began to clap.

Bailey Norton repeated his exit. Backstage. Suit and tie to the floor. Backdoor. Gravel path. Streetlights. Cab.

The doorbells were highly successful and were bankrolled by every corporation and government and endorsed by every influencer on the planet. In the later months, in cold December, 700,000 people died in the snow as they were denied access to their homes for failing to come home by five o’clock, failing to pay off their mortgage that had tripled in repayment costs overnight, or saying a swear word, mentioning a political name or a celebrity name, or simply because of an unfortunate glitch in the Micro systems. After all, it was a new piece of technology with teething problems.

All these homes were repossessed by the government and put back on the market, where they remain, uninhabited.

A black market developed with people selling old furniture with no Micro integration, but it was mostly done away with after a few years and all old furniture repurposed at no cost to the taxpayer.

A decade later, they had to dedicate a whole country to a mortuary because of the number of dead. After 70 percent of the population, it came for the government officials. It came for the influencers. It came for the celebrities. It came for everyone. Unless you were a Micro Techspert, you were likely to be sanctioned. After decimating so many countless lives, ruining everything from the job market to the economy to laws to basic human rights, it came for one last man.

Bailey Norton had been driving drunk as he parked his Maserati Ghibli in the garage of his mansion and headed towards his front door. He forgot to use the key. He rang the doorbell of his own house.

Even as he ran, he realised it was too late. The TalkTanks with the TalkPoint logo emblazoned on the top pulled up, and he was arrested.

As he was marched through the rows of prisoners between the hundreds of charnel houses used for processing criminals, Bailey didn’t complain or argue.

He laughed as the gun was pointed at his face and, in a split moment before the trigger was pulled, Bailey Norton looked up.

He looked almost relieved.