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*future perfect: a verb form or construction used to describe an event that is expected or planned to happen before a time of reference in the future.

FP1: In Which Harold 263840771 Will Have Found Love

We are but open books. Our pages, torn and scattered, all too soon forever lost.

From future perfect by W.H. Hopwood​

It was a slow day at The Company. It often has been lately. Ever since the Great and Final Merger (GFM), things have basically taken care of themselves. Harold 263840771 learned long ago to take full advantage of days like this. He opened Listr and prepared to compile a new TO DO list. It soon became clear, however, that there wasn’t much left outstanding for Harold to do. His Aeron Ultima+MAX froze in rigid stillness, his eyes fixed intently on his UXHD180 monitor, his ten fingers poised over the keyframe, ready and willing to lay the groundwork for future success. Which is all to say, it was certainly somewhat shocking when Harold suddenly digirote out in all caps: FALL IN LOVE.

Harold stared at the words in silent disbelief. Did his brain really just direct his fingers to hit those twelve particular frames (caps lock and two space bars included) or was this strange message merely the result of some random reflex action? It was intriguing to be sure. The longer he lingered over the Listr note, however, the more import the moment took on. Harold’s love life, or rather the lack there of, was the elephant in the room. An appropriate life partner was the missing last piece to the virtual jigsaw puzzle that was Harold’s existence. It was time to complete the picture. It was a task, in fact, that was long overdue.

“Damn straight,” Harold muttered. “It’s high time this cowboy found his lady love. Maybe even get hitched.” Laughing off the idea of a marriage proposal for now, Harold scheduled a two-week reminder. Fourteen days, he reasoned, should be time enough to have had at least a candidate or two in place.

“Now,” Harold told himself, “I need to find someone to fall in love with.” Thankfully, Harold knew someone who he knew could help.

Stanley 038795011 had been in love literally dozens of times since he and Harold first met at The Original Company Holiday Party two years previous (before GFM). Stanley was probably the only real friend Harold had. Not a hang-out-after-work-and-go-bowling kind of friend exactly, but definitely a share-a-lunch-table-in-the-cafetorium type friend. Harold was glad to see Stanley alone in the cafetorium on this most important occasion.

“Stanley,” Harold said with exaggerated enthusiasm. “Mind if I join you?”

“Why no! By all means…” Stanley shot back, sensing instinctively that he should match Harold’s energy. “To what do I owe this honor?”

Harold was happy to get right to the point. He had no time for the tedious ritual of daily small talk to which so many seemed devoted. “I need to find someone to fall in love with. Preferably within the next two weeks.”

“I see,” said Stanley in all seriousness. “Well, you’ve come to the right person. I’m your man. First we need to gather data and align characteristics that describe your perfect woman. I do assume that this is a woman you seek.”

“Yes, yes. Of, of course…a, a woman.” Harold stammered in part because frankly he hadn’t even considered any of the other options Stanley was suggesting.

“You are in luck, my friend. I have recently developed an app that can pinpoint exactly who and how and, more importantly, where to find the lifemate of your dreams. I have been beta testing it myself for some time now; but I certainly welcome the opportunity for fresh data. I will need just 15 minutes of your time to develop a candidate profile. When would you like to start?”

“I’m ready any time,” Harold said excitedly.

“Sadly, I have to return to my desk in twelve minutes,” Stanley replied glancing at his lifewatch,” otherwise I’d say let’s do it now. How about we meet at Ye Olde Tavern Bowl after work and take care of this matter today?

“Great,” Harold nodded. “Ye Olde Tavern Bowl, after work. Certainly. Sounds like an exceptional plan. Well, that’s that then.” Harold reached out, shook Stanley’s hand, and wandered off in what can only be described as a mental fog. There were so many conflicting thoughts and confounding questions bouncing around his skull he could barely manage to control his basic motor functions. The anticipation he felt was so great that Harold could not help but check his lifewatch every few minutes all afternoon long. On several occasions he grew suspicious that time was actually folding in on itself and possibly beginning to reverse. He took this as a sign he should refresh his basic understanding of quantum mechanics and the time/space continuum which fortunately allowed the rest of the day pass much more rapidly and by the time Harold looked up from his monitor again he saw that it was indeed, after work.

It was Lawn Bowl Tuesday at Ye Olde Tavern Bowl and most all of the young Company associates of all four (or was it now five?) genders were dressed in classic whites and forming teams.

“Looks fun, doesn’t it?” Stanley said looking out over the artificially sun-drenched fauxlawn. “But we have work to do, my lovesick friend.”

“Yes, yes, of course,” Harold agreed, pulling up a chair across from Stanley’s VituaPC mobile workstation.

“Is that the new VPC?” Harold asked. “I haven’t actually seen one before.”

“You simply must order one,” Stanley said without looking up. “It is the most powerful virtual mobile workstation ever developed. I couldn’t live without it. Now. First things first. You are no doubt curious why I didn’t just give you my app and let you input your data yourself.”

“It did cross my mind, yes,” Harold nodded.

“Well, here’s the thing,” Stanley said, finally catching Harold’s gaze directly. “I haven’t done much QC on this thing at all. You are frankly the first trial case other than myself. Though I must say my own results have been nothing short of spectacular. That said, my UX is rather rudimentary and my immediate fear is that erroneous data entry on the users part could seriously impede the output. I just want to ensure all the evidence is empirical, if you catch my drift.”

“Of course,” Harold said yet again, continuing to nod back and forth as Stanley talked like a bobblehead doll.

“And besides all that,” Stanley continued while pulling what looked like some kind of digital stethoscope from his backpack, “there is the matter of the input device.”

“What is that thing?” Harold asked.

“I’m toying with calling it the loveometer but I’ll probably leave that whole area to the branding folks.” Stanley leaned forward to attach monitor strips just below Harold temporal lobes. “Here,” he said, handing Harold the third strip. “Slip this under your shirt directly over your heart.”

“Over my heart?”

“Yes,” Stanley laughed. “It really isn’t completely necessary but I think it’s a nice touch, don’t you? The point of all this is that the loveometer does not require you to think at all. You don’t have to read anything. You don’t have to physically process anything. And that’s what makes it so powerful. You can’t lie yourself or simply imagine you know the truth. All you can do is listen and leave the rest to your instincts and the loveometer. Now. Put in these earbuds and close your eyes. Forget everything, Harold, and listen.”

Harold had no idea what would happen next; but had he guessed for a year or more he would not have been prepared to hear the two big bold A Major chords that followed or Reg Presley of The Troggs wailing Wild Thing!

It was a shock to the system to be sure; but before he could adjust to this stimulus the music changed and Lionel Richie was crooning quietly in his ear: Hello. Is it you I’m looking for? Then, immediately thereafter Harold was dancing cheek to cheek with Ella Fitzgerald. On and on the songs flooded into his subconcious. His mind was awash with sound, color and meaning. From When a Man Loves a Woman Harold tripped to The First Time Ever I Saw Her Face. Then Cherish was the word he used to describe and just as surely as My Baby Just Cares for Me, The Way You Look Tonight, lead Harold to The Power of Love. 

So many melodies, so many emotions… but Harold could see something was missing. He had no actual memories he associated with any of this music. That realization filled him with dread. As each new song was introduced he grew more and more impatient to the point of being physically repulsed. He thought he might soon throw up. By the time Brian Wilson’s high falsetto started to sweetly to swoon God only knows what I be without you, he could take no more. He violently tore at the earbuds, threw open his eyes, and blurted: “I’m not sure this is for me at all!”

“I’m sorry,” the server who was at that very moment placing a blueberry pomegranate wheat ale in front of Harold replied. “Your friend told me that’s what you would want. Is there something else I can get you?”

“What? Sorry… Oh? No. This is fine. Where… Where did he go?”

“I’m not sure,” the server said. “He was here. Wow, you are really into music aren’t you? What are you listening to?” The server, who Harold was just beginning to realize was quite young and quite blond and very attractive, picked up his earbud off the table and held it to her ear. “Oh, my god! I love this song. No wonder you were a million miles away. Wait? It’s changing? Oh, this one is great too. You have excellent taste in music.” She handed the earbud back to Harold. “Funny…”

“Funny?” Harold repeated.

“Don’t take this the wrong way. But… You don’t look like the romantic type. What’s your name?”

“Harold,” Harold said shyly. “Harold 263840771.”

“I don’t need your number, Harold” The server laughed. “We’re not getting married. Not yet anyway. I’m Paige”

“No, ha!” Harold blushed. “Of course. Not yet. Ha. Nice to meet you, Paige.”

“I don’t know that I’ve seen you here before, Harold. Are you just visiting?”

“No. I…” Harold wasn’t quite sure how to explain himself but he knew he didn’t want to admit the truth. “I work for The Company. Ah, my friend and I were thinking about taking up bowling.”

“Oh you should. We play every Wednesday. Rock and Bowl Wednesdays. Have you heard of it? You’d like it. Great music.”

“Oh, yes? That sounds…pretty awesome.” It was the first time in Harold’s whole life that he had uttered the phrase “pretty awesome” and he was not entirely sure why he had done so just now.

“What are you, doing?” Stanley burst into the conversation in full panic mode. “The data! You’ve ruined the data! Why did you stop?”

“I’m sorry,” Paige said stepping back from the table. “Did I do something wrong? I just brought over your order.”

“No, no,” Harold told her. “Not at all.” Then he attempted to stand and therefore ripped both monitor strips from the sides of his skull. “It’s no problem. Think nothing of it. Every thing is fine. I was just…testing a new app for my friend. It’s…all good.”

“Ok,” said Paige. “Well, nice to meet you… Don’t forget about Rock and Bowl Wednesdays.”

“No. Yes…” Harold nodded. “Wouldn’t miss it. For sure. Sounds…awesome.” After that Harold stood about shifting his stance and smiling unconvincingly while Stanley fretted over his data, and Paige looked puzzled, then laughed sweetly, and finally moved off to check on another table.

“Harold” Stanley said slowly lifting his head from his workstation. “This is quite remarkable. Don’t ask me how or why but data does not lie. It is very clear. Right here. She’s the one!”

“I know, Stanley, I know” Harold laughed and a shit-eating grin grew across his whole face. Then suddenly he remembered something that shook him from his reverie: “Damn! Stanley. Do you know how to bowl?”