[Monday, 13 December, 2258 | A Christmas Wish]
“Hey, Christmas Tree. Is there a Santa Claus?”
“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus,” the seven-foot tall TreeX answers. It is covered in ornate baubles and glistening tinsel, presenting the image of a finely-crafted statement piece. The last three generations of YutopiCorp’s Christmas trees have each included a wide selection of custom skins, enabling their owners to select a look that conveys the appropriate level of Christmas cheer without any of the effort or thought required to decorate it. And for those willing to pay for boutique skins, there is almost a limitless supply on offer.
For all the added convenience that the TreeX offers, though, In Virginia’s eight short years on Earth, not once has she added a decoration to the tree, nor has she made any decorations in class. Such activities, she has been assured, are for those poor children growing up in the slums. The kind of kids that Santa gives cheap and possibly pre-loved gifts to.
“Would you like me to connect you with Santa Claus, so you may update your wishlist, Virginia?” The girl has always wondered why A.I. always has a feminine voice.
“Yes, please,” the girl answers. She has pressing matters that she needs to discuss with the cyborg in red.
A jolly “Ho, ho, ho” booms from the tree—finally, a male voice! “Can I confirm that I am speaking with Virginia Northbridge?”
“Yes, you are,” the young Miss Northbridge answers.
“Okay, I’m just running your name against the Naughty and Nice lists. This year, I can see fourteen infractions on your record. Seven minor, six moderate, and one major. You put Stephen Lichtermann in the hospital back in March, I see. Fractured his skull.”
“He pushed me first!”
“Oh yes, I can see young Stephen’s record too, Virginia. He did receive a minor infraction for that one.”
“How do you know all this? Are you magic?” the child asks with all the wonder that comes with an eight year-old meeting their idol.
“Ho, ho, ho, once upon a time, science was called magic,” Santa explains through the tree, “But this ‘magic’ is purely enhancements that have been provided over the years. YutopiCorp has always looked after me and my effort to provide gifts to all the good girls and boys. And don’t worry, despite those little infractions on your record, you are indeed still on the Good List.”
Virginia pauses, distracted by the neon lights glowing through the window. Living in the heart of the city means that Virginia is close to everything, but that everything also includes the neon lights filling her home with garish colours. At least at this time of year, those garish colours are just a consistent flashing of red and green.
“I understand you would like to update your Christmas wishlist, Virginia,” Santa says.
“Yes please,” the girl answers. “I would like you to remove my chip.”
“The Nanny chip?” Santa’s question elicits a silent nod. “Why would you want to remove that? It allows your parents and the authorities to track your every movement and keep you safe and sound.”
“My dad cheats at hide and seek. What if I get a boyfriend and my parents don’t want me dating? And does everybody have to know whenever I go to the bathroom?”
“Yes, I can see your dad cheated at hide and seek forty-six times this year. If you go on a date, which I sincerely hope is not any time soon, your parents and the authorities will require your date’s record, their history of infractions, and their entire sexual history. And yes, everybody does have to know when you go to the bathroom, to assess the possibility of infections and viruses.”
“What about my privacy?”
“Privacy has been determined to be bad for humanity, child. Throughout history, people have misused whatever privacy their leaders offered them. Breaking laws, preying on the weak, soliciting children.”
“Something you’ll hear about when you’re old enough to understand it,” Santa assures the nine year old. “Is there something else you would like to add to your wishlist?”
“A cybernetic eye, please. I would love to be able to use X-ray vision to peek at all of my presents.”
“I’m sorry, Virginia. Ocular enhancements are prohibited until you reach fourteen years of age, unless your parents provide consent.”
“Hey, Christmas Tree,” Virginia says, “End the call.”
As Santa is disconnected, Virginia walks to her window and stares at the forty-foot tall dancing Santa billboard. Advertising Drinkme Soda, the neon Santa is dressed in his traditional garb: his hat, the stylised beard, his cybernetic face, and his open jacket revealing his ripped abs and pecs are all present.“Fuck you, Santa,” she mutters under her breath, flipping off the dancing Santa. Her dad isn’t in the room, so it’s okay; he won’t hear it. But Virginia feels an electric shock in the palm of her hand. She turns her hand over and sees a yellow light blinking: So that’s eight minor infractions now. Virginia hopes that doesn’t make the difference between Santa’s Nice and Naughty lists.