But it had been such a lovely party up until that point. Really.
Nobody realized what had happened, at least at first. Maybe they all heard something breaking and assumed someone had just dropped a wine glass. Then one by one the room grew quieter. And then they all stared at her.
And she stared at the floor, at that pile of broken glass. Except it was shrapnel, and very familiar to anyone who saw it.
The unbroken version of that same metal wrapped around her date’s wrist. Around everyone’s wrist. He grasped his own band, stunned.
“Why did you do that?” Richard asked.
Tiny red dots circled her now-bare wrist. They dripped.
“Did you hear me? Why did you do that?”
Because she didn’t want it anymore. The tracking turned every second into a metric. She’d forgotten how it had felt before. And now she wanted to know. Plenty of people had lived without the band at one point. Some people had gone their whole lives without knowing their total steps and swallows and blinks and curse words and orgasms. And the world had continued without its brand names holding these numbers.
“I don’t know.” She said. “It was just a choice.”
The pile was not exclusively metal. It lay in a little red puddle, not wine but probably blood. She saw what looked like skin. But wasn’t. It moved. What was it? Something slithered out of the metal and began flopping back and forth. Tiny and finger-shaped. She realized what it looked like—an earthworm.
More of them pushed past the broken metal. They tried to reach into the air, but stumbled and fell onto each other. Each of them tried again. And again.
Her stomach twisted, but at least that disgust wasn’t being recorded.
She wondered if anyone else saw this. Everyone was staring at her, but probably out of judgment, not horror at what was squirming on the floor.
The party hosts had a child, and that child had been sitting in the corner when she and Richard had arrived. He was less than 10, or at least he looked that young. She’d stared at him and he hadn’t moved, or even looked up, instead flitting his thumbs over the keyboard of a tiny box in his hands. And he wore that metal band too.
The hosts (she didn’t remember their names- they were Richard’s friends) had explained that they bought it for his birthday, and they seemed very excited about this. Much more than their child, even.
Now, that child stared at her along with everyone else. Questions abounded, but the room’s acoustics made voices blend together in a vague buzz where only every third or fifth word was clear.
In a few minutes- maybe even a few seconds- she could get out. The room’s attentions would shift. Richard would turn to talk to someone else. And when he turned back, she could be gone.
The worm shapes struggled for freedom. They had lived a comfortable existence buried in her wrist. Now the future was cold and they would probably get swept up and dropped into the trash. She hoped that would happen soon.
Then sudden, loud beeping pierced ears, amplified, and swallowed all other sounds. Every metal band started flashing red. People clutched their wrists as if being burned. Some twisted their mouths and glared at her fiercely. They were closing in. There were maybe a few seconds left, and the door was unlocked.