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Scheduled: A short story

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APRIL 09, 2022

The events and names in this story are all fictitious.

The girl wakes up on the first day of every month with fear and anticipation. On the nightstand beside her is her phone; when she turns it on, it does not display the usual home screen but instead the big white word SCHEDULED on a black background. Tapping on the word brings her to a calendar where she will schedule the next month of her life down to the hour. 

The girl is in college, so she takes out the piece of paper where she had written the month’s agenda for all of her classes. It is on paper because her internet access is blocked until she finishes her schedule; this is to prevent collaboration with peers online in order to make the schedule as personal as possible. On another piece of paper is where she has recorded major plans with her friends, which they had decided during the previous month. Physical contact and communication with others are also prohibited until she finishes her schedule. 

Once every single day of the month is carefully planned out, the girl submits the calendar and her phone returns to its original home screen. Her message notifications are filled with friends asking for copies of her calendar to match with theirs. The comparison will lead to no real actions; once a schedule is set, it cannot be changed. 

She exchanges calendars with her friends. They would always try to meet once every day, but this time, class and club event changes forced her to deviate from the original plan. She had to place potential get-togethers in her available slots around her classes, desired homework times and club meetings.

This is what she feared the most. She and her friends could make plans all they wanted and write them down for later, but class and club schedules were not released until 11 p.m. on the only website that functioned after all other WiFi was turned off. She had until 11:59 p.m. to record all of the information she needed before the website shut off too. Those schedules were always subject to change it was a way to keep students on their toes and prevent mundaneness as no month was ever the same as the last. 

Hence her strategy was to write “meet with so and so” in any free time she had in her schedule, hoping her friends had done the same in the free slots for theirs. Sometimes the odds were in their favor.

This month, the random chance strategy did not go so well. She would be meeting with one or two friends once a week, some twice a week. Her best friend faced a schedule change as well, and they only had a free overlap once in the entire month.  

In the hours she had scheduled a meetup that wasn’t reciprocated by anyone, the girl would have no choice but to spend that time alone. It was a lot of hours alone, reflecting on the society she lived in, the rules of SCHEDULED.

It was a crime, punishable by prison time, for someone to go against their schedule. Every hour that wasn’t followed equated a year behind bars. Life was supervised and enforced by a special task force called the HourTrack, whose agents (known as Trackers) were stationed in various places, monitoring the comings and goings of passersby and finding potential lawbreakers. Most Trackers were placed in social spots and residential neighborhoods, and all Trackers were equipped with a Scanner device. The Scanner sweeped the electronic devices that everyone was required to carry at all times and would reveal their schedules to the Tracker, who would then determine if one’s presence in a certain area at a certain time was suspicious. 

It was a crime, punishable by prison time, for someone to go against their schedule.

This was especially effective at catching couples hiding together in their homes late at night because they weren’t able to match their schedules as often as they’d hoped. 

The president of the nation of Aybie is facing his monthly dose of crisis. He doesn’t have to worry as much about his schedule not matching with his aides in government because everyone plans around his agenda. But the same cannot be said for the neighboring country of Beecee. 

Last month, the Aybie president finally met with the Beecee president after months of zero matching schedules. They were lucky to get four hours together. They talked about their international agendas, made proposals to one another and shared their predicted free slots for the next month so they could meet again. The random chance strategy couldn’t be used too extensively, or else failed meeting times would be wasted (the president would have to pretend to call Beecee the entire time, knowing they won’t pick up). Therefore, they had to devote just enough hours and days that would make a chance meeting probable but not sacrifice too much since unsuccessful meetings could have been used for other things. 

Unfortunately, things fell through. The Aybie president had planned exactly on the hours they had agreed upon, sacrificing some of his own agenda items, only to find that none of it matched with the Beecee president. He was furious. Was Beecee purposefully wasting his time? This was a lack of respect! How dare they!

At first, the Aybie president was angry, even more so when other nations’ leaders weren’t able to meet with him at the agreed upon time. Eventually, the president became tired at being angry all of the time. International relationships deteriorated until virtually all direct contact was lost, except for the news. He always dedicated some hours of the day to the news. It was the only way to know what was going on.

As time passed, each nation became more isolated as it grew weary of wasting time on international affairs. The schedule was a selfish concept; prioritize your own preferences, meet with others as a convenience. Isolationism was the norm while globalization was impossible. Nations developed on their own and sought inspiration through the daily news. Religion and culture were diverse, though most referenced an all-knowing entity who decided if chance was in your favor this month. 

Isolationism created a proud nation called Ceedy, whose development was far faster and more advanced than its neighbors. Based on the news, Ceedy had a great self-supporting economy, well-trained military and education system that actually “worked” except no one knew the details. It was a sneaky country that published the bare minimum about itself so as not to be suspicious in the world news but still able to read about the updates of all of the other nations. 

Information, Ceedy realized, was key. Off of the books, it had a secret intelligence ring with agents gathering data on the schedules of countries all across the world. Analyzing that data helped Ceedy make predictions on next month’s moves and react accordingly.

It also helped them conduct war.

The little country of Di’Ee had few defenses planned for the sudden Ceedy invasion. The news reported troops gathering on the border, strategically timed near the beginning of the month after everyone had already submitted their schedules. Di’Ee wasn’t concerned at first. 

But the troops didn’t stop coming. The people of Di’Ee became increasingly invested in Ceedy news, feeling more and more like sitting ducks. 

Around midmonth, Ceedy launched its bombers and tanks into Di’Ee with almost no retaliation — because retaliation wasn’t in the Di’Ee schedule. The Ceedy army easily defeated Di’Ee’s 24-hour defense team, which every country has in case of emergencies like this. But a defense team is nothing compared to a full army. 

And so, for the next weeks, Di’Ee sat through the relatively smooth annexation of parts of its territory. By the end of the month, there wasn’t enough of the country left for it to stage a successful counterattack, so Di’Ee surrendered.

The 24-hour defense team is one example of how professions evolved under SCHEDULED rules. Workers specialize in one job and schedule at least eight hours of their day to that job. One particular day for a policeman, for instance, would have him working from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on just parking duty. Another policeman will take the eight-hour shift after him. This is to ensure that, if something were to happen, there are designated personnel who are scheduled to handle it. 

If the parking duty policeman catches someone speeding, stealing or engaging in other illegal activity during his parking duty shift, however, he cannot apprehend them. It is not in his schedule to do so.

At the end of the month, breaths of relief from college students to presidents are heard across the world. They have made it through these four to five weeks, learning to mind their own business and prioritize their own well-being at the expense of others. SCHEDULED wants you to be selfish, to stand strong by your own plans rather than succumb to spontaneous peer pressure. SCHEDULED wants to mold each human into a true “individual”.

SCHEDULED makes life easy. Balanced.


Contact Felicia Mo at [email protected]

APRIL 10, 2022

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