Melden’s Ma determined to read up on the Exists algorithm, curiosity piqued. The short topicals on WikiPop were next to useless. Most of it she could’ve guessed herself. It wasn’t long before she had to wade into WikiProper, where she was not surprised to find that social rank algorithms were arcane things in decidedly arcane territory. She was out of her depth. Ranked Nets had barely came up in her line of work even before she’d had the baby and had to gap. And Advanced Network Theory… who on earth retained that kind of stuff from Higher Ed? But she wasn’t completely stupid – she’d at least come to understand that Exists were velocitized… which meant that it had something to do with the rate at which you got Likes and made Likes. Or something like that.
She’d brought it up, as ‘in-passing’-ly as she could, with Melden’s Pa. He was on the floor, surveying a very old-fashioned train set, his son somewhere on the periphery of it, making Choo Choo sounds.
You want to what?
I’m saying maybe I should be the one to post things to Melden’s node. I have a lot more time anyhow. I can keep things up to–
Are you saying I don’t do a good job?
No, no, no. I just… I just think it would be nice to… I dunno, I just think it’ll be fun to work on like a creative piece about his vacation this summer. Y’know, fun to read and interactive.
Christ, said Melden’s Pa. Is this about the whole Exists thing?
On the defensive, she’d wanted to know what if it was.
If it was, Melden’s Pa replied, it was stupid… and he wanted nothing more to do with it.
Which made her tell him fine, and just to de-auth his ‘vices from Melden’s Soshio then, if that’s how he felt. She would gladly take over with the updates.
Can’t, he’d said, sounding a wee bit triumphant. We’re on a family auth plan. I post to my own node too, you know. You’re not the only ones around here with nodes.
She’d had to concede a lack of logistical foresight on this point and left it alone. Left the room too; let Melden quiz his Pa with ‘what were they fighting about’.
We’re not fighting, the boy was told.
Is it because I don’t exist, the boy asked.
And she was right back in the room and knelt in the middle of the Circle Line with his small face in her hands.
You’re frightening him.
I want to know where he learned to say that. Melden: don’t ever say you don’t exist. Why would you say such a thing?
Everyone at kinder says it.
His Ma and Pa looked at each other.
Melden, it’s not a nice thing to say. There are people who… who can’t ex– .
Melden’s Ma caught herself.
There’s people with terrible problems and terrible people chasing after them, because they don’t have Exists. But they’re grown-ups. It doesn’t matter for children. Do you understand?
Melden shrugged, studying them through old-fashioned, children’s lenses that he didn’t truly need. His little bowtie was crooked. His little waistcoat had a wee ketchup stain.
You’re different, his Ma thought, right then. You’re very, very different, aren’t you?
You’re special, his dad said, ruffling his hair.
Melden blinked at them and then determined that the encounter was over and went back to his kneeling shuffle, guiding a tiny replica twenCen tube train round the little plastic tracks.