“Everyone meets online these days,” Melanie said.
“I know, but this seems way more complicated than using Match or OK Cupid.” Lauren sipped her coffee and laughed at Melanie. She was always trying to set her up!
“Just try it- I know it seems a little scary, but it really isn’t. Actually, I have found my real matches here. I mean, you do not want to meet up with just anyone, do you?”
Nodding, Lauren avoided eye contact with Melanie.
“Besides, Melanie said, “You can just delete it, if you don’t pass the Portent. But I know you, and I know you will get in. You are one of us.”
“What do you mean?”
“Just download it- Numinous- look me up on there- I’m Melonius17. Then let’s talk about it next week.”
“I gotta go.” Melanie poured the rest of her coffee into a travel mug. Lauren watched her friend disappear down the block, then down the steps to the subway.
A chilly spring breeze rattled the branches. The patio was filling up with students and friends meeting for breakfast, and Lauren felt pressured to give up her spot. Her waiter kept looking at her. Was she going to order anything else? Yes, she decided. She would order an omelet and toast and another coffee. The waiter glared at her, but turned to bring the carafe and take her order.
Lauren typed in Numinous on the App Store. The search circle spun for minutes before landing on an app. She had to use the fingerprint pad and Eye-scan to download it. Was this the Portent Melanie was talking about? Probably not. She had to use Eye-scan for banking, and a lot of apps used the fingerprint scanner.
“Welcome to Numinous,” scrolled across the screen. Lauren read the instructions to allow the video to open and to use headphones.
Her omelet arrived, but she wasn’t hungry anymore. The waiter sighed and brought her a takeaway container and her check. Lauren thought it might be better to do this at home anyway.
At home, she still was required to use headphones for the Portent. Lauren lived alone with her cat, Simone. The cat darted from the room the moment Lauren tapped on Numinous.
Settling into a turquoise velveteen chair, Lauren watched her screen come to life with voices and a swirl of faces on the screen. She felt dizzy until finally the face on the screen was her own, but it wasn’t a mirror or the selfie mode on the camera. Her own voice spoke to her through her mouth on the screen, but she was not talking.
“Welcome to the Portent,” Screen Lauren said, “the Portent analyzes your responses to some questions before connecting you through to Numinous. I will first begin to ask you to explain any supernatural or strange occurrences, mental powers, or attention to the occult at any point in your life. But first, do you have any questions?”
Lauren brought a hand up to her cheek and squished it gently to see if Screen Lauren would reflect back to her.
When Screen Lauren’s face remained unchanged she said, “It is normal to wonder why we use your own visage. This is a reflection of your subconscious, however you have complete control over how you respond. Think of it as your dream self.”
How did Melanie? Lauren thought.
“You are allowed to invite people into Numinous if you are sure they will pass this Portent. Melanie was sure about you, even though you have not known each other that long. The more you connect on Numinous, the clearer it becomes who may enjoy our services.”
“I noticed,” Screen Lauren continued, “that you have the power to make people understand your needs without telling them. It’s the opposite of mind-reading. You have a strong will, and other people respond to you.”
“Telepathy,” Lauren muttered. She thought of the times through childhood, how she had wished for gifts to be under her bed when she woke up. She felt if she bent her mind in a certain way, her mom would hear her. It worked once. One morning, there was a wrapped gift under her bed. It wasn’t her birthday or any gift-giving holiday. Her mom had bought her the coveted Cabbage Patch doll, which was sold out at every store. She also remembered in high school, junior year, she could control how her teachers graded her work or left her alone when she was not in the mood for class.
“This is a powerful magic you have Lauren. You know this. You may encounter some problems meeting your matches on Numinous. Some people will be able to compete against your will with their own. Some will fear you. You may use this application, but training on mind control will be very important.”
“OK,” Lauren said.
“Unfortunately, the staff at Numinous has not completed the training modules for our consumers at this time. Hopefully you will find an apprenticeship with another member who can help you learn. I have clicked your first seeking preference for meeting others. As you begin to design your profile, other seeking preferences will come to you. Try not to go too fast.”
Simone knocked a glass of water off the counter, startling Lauren. “Oh sorry, Kitty. I will feed you.”
“Do you wish to continue?” Screen Lauren said.
This question repeated itself in Lauren’s head. She dumped too much food in Simone’s dish. She stared at her phone on the chair.
“Tap ‘continue’ on the screen to complete your enrollment.”
“You may withdraw your enrollment at any time.” Lauren’s own voice no longer spoke to her. The voices began to mash together again, the faces swirled on her phone screen. It was someone else - something else.
Alex’s text popped up on her screen.
I WILL BE OVER IN 20 MINUTES.
She couldn’t get Alex to leave her alone. He just did not take a hint.
“The Portent will expire in 30 seconds.”
Lauren took a deep breath and tapped ‘Continue.’
© Samantha Lazar
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