Who'd have thought that these letters would be piling up so quickly? It's not surprising, I'm 77, prime dying time. Old friends and colleagues are passing weekly. My time don't feel so far off neither. As a young man, I'd have never of thought that I'd have to spend so much of my twilight years reliving days gone by, not like this anyways. I could have never have predicted this. No one did. Except for Beving. He saw it all. As Beving says 'Vision be to us all.' Like we have a choice anymore.
Empathy Incorporated. The name still makes me laugh. I can remember a time before it was the most influential company in the world. I just can't seem to recall the precise moment it became so. Now, EI is everything. Everywhere. In all of us. Vision be to us all.
The Three Things phenomenon, or 3T, as it was known colloquially, swept through a population yearning for connection. Decades of devices had fooled us into thinking we were more connected than ever before and betrayed the fact that we were suffering an epidemic of isolation. Beving changed all that. Vision be to us all.
Hell, I thought 3T was going to be a flash in the pan. I signed up out of curiosity, like most others and I still remember the day I received my first red envelope. It changed me, back when I could be bothered to be changed by them. Too late for that now. Now, these red envelopes were, at best, a dance down memory lane. At their worst, they are a cruel reminder that I hurt a lot of people with the little things I have done along the way. Vision be to us all.
Red envelopes contain 'Three Things' that the deceased remembers about you. No context. Just three images of their strongest memories of you. Opt-in and when you die your memories are sorted for distribution, then sent on to others who have opted in. At this point, naturally, most of humanity has opted in, no one wants to miss out. Making Empathy Incorporated the wealthiest company in the world. Vision be to us all… via EI of course.
I stopped opening all the reds a while ago. I'm selective now. It's too much; otherwise, 3 memories from the dead, is a lot, especially if all of your friends are dying. Vision be to us all? Nah. I'd given myself selective blindness.
My latest red envelope was challenging to ignore. It's was from Sylvana Goldmund. She was my first love. 57 years ago. I was saddened by the news of her passing. After all of these years, she still remembered me. I shouldn't be surprised. I can close my eyes and remember her too. I look at the pile of red envelopes on my kitchen bench and feel a tinge of guilt, but I really can't bring myself to care about what Tony Billings from accounting remembered about me. That's not to say they were meaningless. Some of my most surprising Red Envelopes have come from people I barely remembered. In some respects, those are the most transformative. Little things you could change about yourself moving forward. The memories were not the greatest hits, they didn't just show you the best and worst. You saw the moments that this person remembered most about you. The memories that stuck. Something small you did that changed someone's day or made it worse. Empathy Incorporated. Vision be… right?
I slide my finger inside the envelope and force it along the top neatly ripping the envelope open. I reach in and pull the three pictures. I'd learned long ago to open the envelopes face down and reveal the photos one by one. In order. Seeing everything all at once could be quite overwhelming.
One. It's me, smiling at Sylvana the moment after I told her I liked her. We are in Coburg park, and I can see the shitty brown car I used to own in the background. That was where we first kissed. I look… nervous, relieved and happy. She doesn't remember the kiss. She remembers this. I smile to myself.
I flip the second photo. She's in bed, in her apartment. Covers pulled high with a cup of hot tea held in both hands. To her left is a letter I'd written to her just after I'd moved for University. It was covered in simple drawings and cartoons. She was smiling and crying. Somehow, she must have known, right then, that I was never coming back.
I flip the third photo. It's a busy image. I find myself in it. I don't recognise the place instantly. Some shitty diner, someplace on the Hume Highway. I'm sitting inside, half-eaten burger in front of me, staring into the middle distance. She's looking from a car window at the petrol pump. Her husband and kid are in the foreground, returning from inside, arms laden with road trip supplies. Me in the background, oblivious to everything. She's looking past her family at me, with the happiest look on her face. When was this? It would have had to have been no more than 20 years ago. WHEN WAS THIS? Why didn't she say hello? I look at her family happily walking back to the car and answer my own question. Vision be to us all.