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The App

Dustin J. Davis is a dentist and officer in the US Army. His highly anticipated first novel is expected sometime in the next two decades.

***Warning: Story Content Mature and Disturbing Near-Future.***
It begins as an app. You download it after all your friends do it first and you pretend it's as cool as you think they think it is. The app asks for permission to use your camera (among other things) and you accept because at this point, fuck it all.
You open it and log in through Facebook (because who honestly wants another profile and password to remember). The app prompts you to take a five second video of whatever is directly in front of you. You record five seconds of your desk at work. Another on-screen prompt appears.
"Hey new user! Congrats on your first video! Now add something!"
You stare at the screen blankly, not understanding, but your friend--peeking over the cubicle wall--comes to the rescue.
"Just say anything, it can figure it out," Dillion says.
"Like what? What should I say?" you reply.
"Doesn't matter. Just tell it to add a rabbit or something to your desk."
"Ok. Put a rabbit on my desk?"
"Like this?" It replies.
The video you took of your workspace auto plays. It is the same, except now there is a white fluffy rabbit sitting on your desk. It looks perfectly real. As if it had been in the original video.
You laugh and are mildly impressed. Deep down you know you should probably be more impressed, but you don't really know enough about the technology to know how impressed you should be. You decide to be as impressed as everyone else seems to be. After all, it's just an app.
At lunch the next day, someone takes a video of you while you are talking and eating. Everyone looks at their phones and laughs. You ask to see, and chuckle when you see your head replaced with Abraham Lincoln's. It looks like a video of Lincoln saying what you said with your voice. While you are smiling, you feel mildly uneasy but you won't know why. Not yet.
A few weeks later it happens. The video circulates through the office in hushed tones and stifled laughs. The boss having sex with Kayla in his office. You laugh like the rest, but you feel mildly anxious and for the first time in a long time, moderately curious.
"Who did this?" you ask.
"I don't know, but isn't it hilarious?"
Demonstrating a zeal you rarely feel for your actual work, you find out who made it.
"Dillion, how did you do it?"
"It was surprisingly easy. I just pretended to have sex with a blow up doll while Michael was out of his office."
"You got naked in his office?"
"Fuck no, you kidding me? With Jake fucking videotaping me?"
"I don't understand."
"Have you even used the app? I fed it pictures from Michael's Facebook, all those horrible shirtless pictures from the company retreat in Cabo. And a few pictures from Kayla's Facebook, too."
"That's all it took? It filled in the rest?"
"Well I fed it a few videos from a certain website, if you know what I mean. Just to get all the... little... details in. But yeah, it spliced perfectly. Really only took me like ten minutes."
The next day a meeting is held and the app is banned. A few days after that and everyone in the office has downloaded it.
Several nights later when you're bored and mildly lonely you have an idea. In truth, it isn't the first time you've had the idea, just the first time you've let it out, acknowledged it. You hesitate. Try to distract yourself. You send a text to Jake. Ask if he wants to hang out. He doesn't reply.
What's the harm? You ask yourself.
You download a video from a certain website. You visit Kayla's Facebook page. You open the app.
A few minutes later you feel mildly guilty. But then Jake replies and you forget all about it.
You spend your evenings making videos. Mostly alone. Sometimes you invite the guys over and you make funny videos. Different from the ones you make alone. Dillion says that he spends all his nights making porn of the other women in the office. You laugh politely but look down at your phone. You don't want them to know. You're not like Dillion.
You arrive at work. Sit down at your desk. Check the news. The president's been assassinated.
You click to unlock mature content and watch the president's head get blown off. You check the comments to see if it's real but no one knows.
You open another news app. It says it's fake. You feel only mildly relieved. Everyone else in the office discovers the news seconds later. You don't react, because you already know it's fake. But you don't say anything either.
You watch your friends' reactions quietly.
The next day the app is taken off the stores. But they can't take it off the phones.
A video of you fucking a rabbit circulates around the office. You don't laugh--not even politely. Kayla throws up. You don't know how to feel about that. You wonder if she finds you disgusting now.
You report Dillion.
Dillion is fired.
You arrive at work, saying hi to Kayla on your way in. She smiles. You smile back. Michael calls you into his office.
"I fired Dillion because of the video he made of you."
"Thank you."
"Shut up. What is this?"
Michael turns his monitor around so you can see. It's security footage of you and Dillion in the stairwell. You are telling him to make a video of you fucking a rabbit. You tell him that it will be funny.
"That's fake."
"This isn't the fucking app. This is security footage." Michael nods at the security guard standing in the corner. You didn't see him before. You gather your things and leave. You don't say goodbye to Kayla.
"How did you do it, Dillion?" you ask him in the bar. He laughs. He doesn't know you're recording him.
"It was easy, took like ten minutes. I walked into the security office when the guard was out and input that video."
"I don't understand."
"Why don't you think for once in your life. You think the app is the only way to access this software? You think I'm running my website through the app? God, how dumb are you?"
"Not as dumb as you."
"I know you're recording me, dumbass. You think a recording taken on your phone is going to hold up in court? You think Michael is going to let you into his office to show him the video on your phone? I'm outta here, man. I have a celebrity porn site to run."
Later that night you start a video recording. You livestream it to Facebook. You lean your phone against the bathroom mirror, and make sure the camera can see you. You have a lot you want to say but you don't know how to say it. You shake for a few seconds. Then you put the gun in your mouth and pull the trigger and send your brains and blood all over the shower curtain.
The first person to see your video reports it.
One friend leaves a comment on the video. Their comment says: "Facebook buys the app today and already im seeing ths fake shit on here"
The video is removed.
The End
This story was first published on Friday, August 10th, 2018

Author Comments

What would happen if the creation of flawless CGI became both common place and accessible to all? This was the idea that prompted me to write this story. What will it be like when we can no longer trust the images displayed on our screens? This is a future we are quickly approaching, and yet, it's a future that has barely been examined in the science fiction medium. What will happen to the movie industry, or the sports industry? What would happen if the news media couldn't verify the authenticity of any video footage?

I feel that my story barely scratches the surface when considering the societal impacts of this possible innovation. Technology was supposed to save us and deliver us to a brighter future. And yet, in the last few years we've all been witness to the negative effects of social media: people isolated in feedback bubbles, spreading of fake news, and interference by foreign governments. How much worse could this be when we can't trust anything we see on our phones?

In my story, I wanted to introduce this technology as an app that quickly becomes ubiquitous. Phone apps have the unique ability to spread among us like a virus; the already-unstable main character of my story catches this virus, and is completely unprepared for its effects.

Any writers looking for a new idea for a short story or book, please feel free to take this concept and run with it.

- Dustin J Davis
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