Future Tense

by Norah Deay


This story began as a prompt in a Writer’s Pen meeting; An app predicts minor events in your day with eerie accuracy.

Emma, young and eager to learn had one important role in Hawkins & Sons, Elite Estate Agency. She had  to transcribe the dictations of Mr. Hawkins, the CEO, handed down through his personal assistant, Ms. Carlyle. Carlyle, a woman as shrewd as she was insecure, eyed Emma with a mix of disdain and fear. She felt the young secretary’s efficiency and charm threatened her position in the hierarchy.

One morning, Carlyle approached Emma’s desk with a smile that never showed her teeth. “I found a new app that could help you with your dictations,” she said, her voice dripping with feigned enthusiasm. “It’s called ‘WordWizard’, and it’s beyond an ordinary spell check—it learns your habits and improves over time.”

Anything that helped with the mountain of dictation Emma faced every day had to be a good thing she thought so grateful, but naive, she downloaded the app immediately. It wasn’t long before she noticed something odd. The app did make corrections, but often the wrong ones, turning “Mr. Hawkins will meet with the board” into “Mr. Hawkins will mate with the bored.” Despite the added worry of fear she’d miss an error, Emma kept using the app, partly because Carlyle kept asking about it, and partly because of something else it seemed to do—predict small, seemingly trivial parts of her day.

At first, she thought she was imagining it. A prompt from the app saying, “Remember to bring an umbrella,” seemed silly on a bright, summer’s morning—until the clear sky unexpectedly opened up into a downpour. Then, “Be wary of the number nine,” popped up one day, and later, Emma almost choked on her muesli during her 9 am break. The coincidences began piling up, each more accurate than the last.

Seeing potential in the app’s unexpected feature, Emma decided to use it to her advantage. She needed to find a way to escape Carlyle’s undermining tactics without stepping on too many toes.

One afternoon, the app pinged with a new notification as she was prepping Mr. Hawkins’ coffee: “Today, the truth will spill.”

Emma carried the coffee into the boardroom, her hands steady but her mind racing. As she set the tray down, she jolted it slightly and splashed coffee onto the board table—not enough to cause a scene, but just enough to delay the meeting while she wiped it up.

While cleaning, she overheard Carlyle, her back to Emma, speaking hurriedly with Mr. Hawkins. “Emma’s work has been so riddled with errors lately, I’m concerned it’s affecting your judgment in these reports,”.

Emma straightened, her heart thumping loudly in her chest. It was now or never. She walked around the table to Carlyle, handed her a copy of the transcription, and said loud enough for Mr. Hawkins to hear, “I’ve noticed several inconsistencies in the dictation software I’ve been using. Maybe it’s causing more errors than corrections.”

Mr. Hawkins raised an eyebrow, looking from Carlyle to Emma. “Is this true, Ms Carlyle? Where did this app come from?”

Flustered, Carlyle admitted her role in recommending the app, trying to mask her real intention behind a concern for efficiency.

“I appreciate your initiative, Emma, for addressing the issue directly,” Mr. Hawkins said after a moment of contemplation. “Perhaps you should join our meetings to take the minutes, bypassing the need for dictation.”

Carlyle’s face paled, her plan backfiring spectacularly as Emma thanked her boss, her smile genuine. As Emma returned to her desk, her phone buzzed with another prediction, “A new beginning awaits you.” She grinned. Whether by fate or fluke, this glitchy app had just dictated a new chapter in her career—one where she was no longer at the mercy of Carlyle.

And as for the app, Emma decided to keep it around. After all, who knew what the next day might predict?

If you enjoyed this story you can read more from the Writer’s Pen group on this page