DISHR 2078

Crystal Stems, Part I

Sound Sculpture Preset: “Synthwave 1974.”
Number of Notes (1–16): “3.”
Note 1: “C4.” Note 2: “G4.” Note 3: “E4.”
Waveform: “Saw Tooth.”
Detune: “7 O’clock.”
Low pass filter: “On.”
Sustain: “Medium.”
Reverb: “Small Hall.”

An InnerHome C-quence22 door chime floated through Aracelle Freer and Karl Mercer’s white-walled, spare three-bedroom townhouse on a far-western block of Jane Street in the Lower High Line district of Manhattan, New York City. At the sound, Aracelle looked up from the kitchen sink, and Karl rose from a couch in the adjacent, sunken open living area.

Eighteen months earlier in 2078, Aracelle and Karl met on a New York City Metropolitan Transit Authority downtown Q Train, hurtling underneath the technopolis of 28 million flapjack-stacked residents. Entering car 3699, second from the front, heading home through a typical Friday evening underground salmon-and-sardine-spawning midnight crush hour, Karl and Aracelle both angled to sit in a rare, just-vacated open seat, and bumped into each other.

Karl relented. “No, you, please. You’ve got your hands full with, what…” he noticed her carrying a covered object, and made out outlines of bars in the cloth. “Is that a cage under that curtain?”

“Yes.”

“Bird?”

“Nope. Frog,” she said.

“Oh, what a shock,” deadpanned Karl.

“Yeah, yeah. I know. ‘Frogs everywhere.’” Aracelle scare-quote countered, and waved her hand around as the train lurched forward.

Approximately three-dozen frogs hopped lazily around the car floor, their ceaseless croaking and constant movements unheeded by commuters whose gazes remained fixed around 12 inches in front of their right eyes, on infolayers in their corneal overlays, lost in dreams of dinner and solvency.

A large, lizard-like creature lounged on across a corner seat, under the car’s rear emergency brake pull, its head resting comfortably on the thigh of a porcine man too distracted to notice.

“Well,” Karl said, “they do say ‘Frogs are the new rats.’ ”

“That’s not fair!” she objected. “They’re so good to us… And lizardsaurs like that one ate all the rats for us.”

“Yeah, but to City Health Inspection drones, they are the new rats. I’m shutting my kitchen down every time one of those things gets through our doorfields.”

“You work in a restaurant?”

“Chef, yes,” said Karl. He was tired, yearning for a pillow after checking in on his restaurant on the heels of a disastrous date, and also humble, so his description was a deliberate downplay of his actual role as Executive Chef for Rage Restaurant, the city’s original and most venerable stem-cell cuisine restaurant.

“Nice. Where?” she looked at him direct for the first time.

Rage,” Karl trailed off, weary.

“I love that place!” she smiled. “I had the Steak Warrior Frites a few months ago. Maybe you cooked it for me?”

“Probably not. I’m owner and Executive Chef, so I don’t spend too much time there.”

“Wow. Culinary royalty, then,” she laughed.

“Yeah right. It’s not like I started the place.”

“But it’s yours now, yes?”

“Sure. I’m only there a few hours a day, though — you know, just to make sure the dishes are getting washed right.”

“That sounds like a Dishr profile come to life. Almost like a dishdigger line.”

“Ha, ha,” Karl quipped. “Yeah, no. I’m the furthest thing from a dishdigger you’ll ever meet.”


Dishr, the latest dating service offered by the world’s largest self-broadcast network, OpenLife, and the most trusted service of government romance officials when it came to intimacy applications, was the first artificial matchmaking intelligence that connected people based on how they load their dishwashers or sinkside drying racks.

Swiss physicist Dr. Tineesass Federer, in Ticino, Italy on a springtime 2077 break from his sub-atomic particle smashing job at the Even Larger Hadron Collider, inadvertently dreamed up Dishr in the company’s lakeside employee-perk vacation house, while watching his wife Claudia load the dishwasher after dinner on their second night. Her balletic motions and spatial creativity turned him on, and he found himself pulled to Claudia as if in a tractor beam.

“Votre lave-vaisselle approfondit mon amour pour vous,” he said. He approached her from behind, and placed his hands over hers as she washed the glass dish in which she had baked that night’s mastodonte bourguignon. They pre-rinsed the corporate housing’s vintage Corningware together, hand-on-hand, and placed it upright into the dishwasher in perfect alignment with the other used vaisselle.

Claudia turned, and they both wiped their hands dry on her apron-front. “Je vois notre amour dans notre vaisselle sale, Tin-Tin,” she said, and then in accented English. “Forty eight years of dinnerware tells quite a story.” Dr. Federer embraced her and buried his lips into her hair, just above her forehead.

After Claudia retired upstairs, Tineesass sat on the porch reflecting on their shared love of precise dirty dish rack configurations. As his corneal screen played back inflection points and milestones in their 4-decade relationship, he crafted a love letter in the form of a flowery gibberish PHP algorithm. His code, based on an old Big Bang prediction model first proposed by 20th century University of Chicago astrophysicist Dr. Telly Kibblewaiter, calculated a “dishmate score” for two inputs, based on a few simple yes/no answers to questions about dish cleaning. For normalization purposes, Federer used Claudia’s and his answers as the model for achieving a dishmate score of 100%.

echo (“To my dear dishmate Claudia”);
function dish_mate($score) {
$default = “lonely”
$love = false
$inputX1 = $plateConfig
$inputX2 = $cupConfig
$inputX3 = $flatwareConfig
fetchArray ($inputY);
$score = sin (
$inputX, $inputY
);
if( $score=’1'{
$love = true;
return -> lifetime;
}else{
return $default;
}
}
echo (“Yours forever, <br> Tin-Tin”);
END;

Though he knew he was writing gibberish, to heighten the code’s authentic look, Dr. Federer passed his note through the coding auto-correction engine on the Collider’s worldwide programmers Virtual Private Network.

In the whirlwind of his relaxed vacation romantic fancy, however, he forgot that all scientific work created on any part of the Collider network was subject to automatic peer review. On-call “high-relevance-match” scientists in the Collider’s constellation of commercial and academic partners stood ready to review all work generated up and down the company’s R&D chain.

In the case of Dr Federer’s love note, ten minutes after upload, the jocular code snippet ended up in the inbox of Professor Helmut Kitschkrakker at the Munich Institute for Astrophysical Romance. He reproduced Dr. Federer’s experiment on himself and his wife Martafauna, and the code returned a dishmate score for them of 94%. Satisfied of the code’s validity (since he, like Dr. Federer, found himself turned on, for years, by how Martafauna loaded a dishwasher), Prof Kitschkrakker sent it off into the Collider’s global scientist matrix for mass testing.

As dishmate score after dishmate score returned unprecedented levels of accuracy among subjects, Federer’s love code went viral. Within 72 hours, the entire Even Larger Collider network of scientists had tested the dishwashing compatibility algorithm on their respective relationships. A few broken hearts (and broken plates) resulted, but those relationships were doomed to fail, and the 264 break-ups and overnight divorces of company employees and spouses over dishmate scores were looked at as more successful proof of the algorithm’s validity.

Two weeks later, Dr. Federer remained on vacation and unaware of his code’s growing impact as it propagated out into the Collider’s commercial partner networks. Across the ocean in Long Islandia, Janica Peanut, the Executive Vice President of Squirrel Relations at OpenLife, the largest social media platform on Earth and largest commercial investor in the Collider, decided to use the code to prove major incompatibility with her husband, Peter, in a 48-hour divorce court.

“Peter Peanut,” Family Court Judge Tipica Gruntler addressed him at the close of arguments. “I see in your dishmate score report how poorly you handle even the most resilient dinnerware. This brazen callousness is a fractal — a crystal window — into how you have managed your most precious marital assets through the years. Therefore, this court sides with Janica Peanut…”

In the settlement, Judge Gruntler awarded Janica custody of all the wedding china, and restricted Peter to disposable dinnerware and cutlery for two years.

OpenLife EVP Peanut also realized that since Federer’s code was created over the Collider’s OpenLife cloud, OpenLife owned the code outright. In a deft C-suite maneuver, within a day, she assigned two marketing directors, Macon Fax and Terry Clough, to a secret project to figure out a product based on the dishmate algorithm. Fax and Clough each ran the algorithm on their respective relationships, and realized they had been meant for each other. Within 72 hours they were divorced, and had moved in together.

Since the Directors found their love in the code, they saw an opportunity to create a matchmaking service with unparalleled accuracy.

“Dating is huge,” said Macon.

“Ah Yes!” agreed Terry. “Marriages come and go, but dating’s forever.”

“So, an app!”

“Yes, an app! You’re my dish, my bacon Macon!”

“No, you’re my dish, my berry Terry!”

They stopped laughing in a moment of pure synchronized inspiration.

“Dishr!” they shouted out in wide-eyed unison.


OpenLife fleshed out the Dishr app that July in a “Summer Sizzler” coding boot-camp, which also produced Dishr’s corollary service, Baggr, which matched prospective lovers based on grocery bag packing styles.

In September 2077, six months after Dr. Federer coded his casual love-doodle, OpenLife launched the Dishr dating service on its global self-broadcasting platform of 12.5 billion users. Its algorithm proved so accurate that the U.S. Citizen Identity Office allowed prospective couples to use Dishmate scores to fast-track “next-level” physical partnership applications as required by the U.S. Trusted Intimacy Control Act (USTICA) of 2022.

Dishr members’s avatars were not headshots, but rather “dishies” — portraits of their dishwashers or dish racks at full capacity. “Awesome-sauce dishie!” was many a first exchange. The big downside to the service was a lack of authentication that allowed “dishdiggers” with doctored, stolen, or fake dishies to promulgate throughout the matches. These all-too-numerous, wily users lied — either about owning a dishwasher or their rack loading techniques — in the hopes they could “fork up” a lonely mark for a free dinner.


“You don’t seem like a dishdigger,” Aracelle offered. “Dishr’s a crock, anyway. I just load my dishes so they all get clean. By hand. No two loads ever look the same. End of story.”

“Me, too,” Karl intoned, playing cool though excited, since he found a kindred dishwashing spirit. Coincidence is the universe expressing intention, right? he thought to himself. Keep talking.

Karl looked back down at Aracelle’s cage. “I‘m not all just about inspecting dinnerware at Rage. I also go there to make sure there aren’t too many frogs in the place.”

“Ha, yeah, of course,” Aracelle said. “Well, this one here’s special. This is Jessie.”

She lifted the cage’s curtain to reveal a slick, purple, knobby-skinned frog with yellow eyes sitting on a bed of shredded Napa cabbage. The train slowed to a crawl, and the lead car #3842’s lights turned off. As the train stopped, #3842’s lights flipped back on, and second-to-the-front car #3699’s blinked off, leaving Karl and Aracelle in slinky darkness.

New York City hadn’t bought new subway cars or upgraded the system for decades, having lost all its transportation funding for 120 years to the city of Chicago over a friendly bet between mayors on the 2022 World Series that spiraled out of control.

The cars comprising the Q train carrying Karl and Aracelle were R32/A models, part of a fleet delivered to the City in 1964, forced to remain in operation into foreseeable eternity due to the former mayor’s lost wager. Though a state-of-the-art ride to The 1964 World’s Fair, the trains’ 20th century technology provided no on-board battery backup for electrical systems. So, 100 years on from the model’s inaugural voyage, R32/A cabin lights still blinked on and off as a car’s power shoe passed over gaps in the electrified third rail below.

Karl was about to say how he found it funny the trains still had “one shoe in the 20th century,” but he stopped as Jessie-the-frog’s skin began to sparkle and strobe in the stopped car’s darkness. Pulsing, rotating, flashing lights emanated from Jessie’s warts and knobs, and the entire car took on the ambience of a turn of the millennium silent rave.

A few passengers glanced around through the throng to try to find the source. Most kept a gaze fixed on their corneal overlay broadcasts, a semi-vacant stare most often pointed 5 to 10 degrees to stage-left, since most content fed to the overlays ended up in the right eye. The occasional slight rightward stare would indicate a left-handed person who flipped their overlay’s “preferred eye” option.

The train silence brought the floor frogs croaking to the foreground. Most riders paid no heed to the amphibian din, having switched their cochlear aural overrides to “cancel frogs” upon leaving their house in the morning. Karl had forgotten to flip on his filter as he left Rage for the night (he needed it off to listen for frogs in the kitchen), but the swirling carnival synchronization of the frog mating calls with Jessie’s lights compelled him to leave his frog filter off. He blinked into his overlay to respond “No” when the system asked “Frog filter on? [Yes] [No]” in response to the increased volume of frog sounds in the car coming into his ears.

“Ha! Disco frog. I’ve never seen one light up more than one color at a time,” said Karl, leaning down towards the cage, continuing to grasp the handrail above. “Hey, Jessie,” he said. Then to Aracelle, “He’s handsome.”

“Actually she’s a she,” Aracelle said, then, “a 100% she, though. Not genderneered. No fluidity.”

“Oh,” Karl looked down at the pulsing frog. “That’s a rarity these days…”

Jessie locked eyes with Karl, and the train lurched forward as a precursor to accelerate. Car #3699’s lights snapped back on, and Jessie’s light show ceased. The frog let out a low long croak, “Braaap!,” and flicked her tongue out about 18 inches, beyond the cage’s bars, slapping Karl’s cheek and sticking fast.

“You got an AmphibiSlip?” he asked. “Mine’s in a pocket I can’t reach right now.”

“Of course, of course,” Aracelle said.

With one hand, in one motion, she removed an AmphibiSlip24™ silicone micro-sheet from her coat pocket, and wrapped it around her left hand index and middle fingers. He could read the company’s ubiquitous tag line “No Stick To Flick!” in bold block letters on the sheet. With a gentle swipe across Karl’s cheek, the frog’s tongue released and flicked back into its mouth. Aracelle closed the cage’s curtain.

“Sorry, my fault,” she said. “Jessie gets nervous easy. I haven’t had time to isolate a stem sequence to reduce her stress, because I’ve been retro-coding her tongue length, stickiness, and flick refresh, as well as her cross-spectrum multi-intensity bioluminescence — which you just saw. She’s not perfect yet.”

“Wait, you–”

“Her tongue’s not supposed to stick to human skin like that — and she’s not supposed to strobe like a disco ball until she’s completed an assigned task or enjoys music being played around her. But she hears other frog croaks as a form of music, and they’re a constant, so I don’t blame her. I’ll figure it out.”

“What the… I mean–”

“Oh, hah. Yeah, I should explain. Jessie’s my thesis… I argue in a month. I’m headed back to the lab now.”

“So you make frogs?“

“Yeah,” Aracelle said, then clarified. “Except, well, I code frogs. Retrocode them, actually. Sometimes I make them from scratch, but my work is almost ninety percent in retrocoding. I’m a Master’s student in Extensible Biology at the New School. Since The Final Buzzer, we need to give all the frogs something else to do, you know? We got a grant from OpenLife to develop a line of party frogs.”

“So Jessie’s not for dinner, then?“

“No way!” she laughed. “And don’t get any ideas!”

“You can’t cook Final Buzzer frogs — or any of those animals — because the Genica modding made them so bitter,“ Karl explained.

“I know,” Aracelle jumped in. “Totally intentional. They one hundred percent couldn’t be tasty. They needed to stick around to do their jobs without harassment from up the food chain.”

“I know the feeling,” Karl smiled.

Aracelle continued without missing a beat. “The engineers were so smart. They put the bitterness sequence inside the photosynthetic telomere chain, so any attempt to make them taste better would result in frogs that wouldn’t be able to live off sunlight, but also wouldn’t know they could eat anything other than mosquitoes to live.”

“Hasn’t stopped some of my chef friends from trying, though.”

“Really? They like rat, too?” she quipped. “Who would even order that?”

“Well, Genica frogs are still illegal to serve. And good luck finding a supplier of real frogs. But yeah, you’ll never find frog on my menu. No offense, but if I never saw another one again, I wouldn’t care.”

“No offense taken,” Aracelle laughed. “But I can’t speak for Jessie here.”

Like almost everyone else on Earth, Karl had lost almost all emotional connection to the billions of frogs and reptiles introduced into the planet’s ecosystem over the past 15 years. Developed and deployed in the 2050s to eradicate all bloodsucking insects (a joint effort by the U.S. government and the global biocryptoengineering firm Genica), the modded creatures continued to roam free after succeeding in their mission, harmless to humans, long past their utility, against the law to hunt or eat, engineered to be impervious to predators, and unable to die unless run over, stepped on, or clubbed.

Frogs hopped and crawled everywhere, and by the late 2070s, an “amphibisquish” underfoot was as common a feeling as a window air conditioner drip on the head while walking New York City Streets. So, Karl’s feeling his romantic guard crashing down in the context of frogs surprised him. You don’t fall in love on the subway, he thought, especially with a frog person. But


to be continued…