A whisper spreads through classrooms and hallways of schools around the world.
“Did you see?”
“Could she be?”
“Where did she go?”
“Why did she run?”
Within a week, the impromptu mall video had racked up over 40 million views. National press caught the fever and played snippets of the video. CNN called in experts to try to identify the girl and also understand the science behind that entrancing voice. Facebook latched on to this story and claimed their engineers had discovered who she was using facial recognition technology, with 98.73456% certainty, but that they could not reveal her name. A clever ploy to convince users that they cared about privacy.
A few imposters claimed to be her. They dyed their hair that shade of blonde and wore the same outfit to more strongly make their case. But whenever these fraudsters were asked to sing, they would open their mouths and a voice that pales in comparison screeched out. Sure, some were even county fair talent show good, but nothing like the sound that shook millions of humans.
The fervor climaxed after the second week and by the third week, the number of views dropped off and the buzz around this songstress subsided. The news turned to the horrors of the drought that afflicted a third of the United States. Hundreds of Americans, mostly elderly and poor, had died of dehydration as a heat wave spiked to 112 degrees.
But at 7pm on a Tuesday, as evening ennui set in, the video dropped like a well-coordinated bomb, sending shrapnel to slice through all vectors of human attention. News reported on it. Social media networks flooded it. Text messages flashed it. Millions of humans raced to be the first of their social circles to claim discovery of Cyndi. To be the gatekeeper of this secret, the ultimate tastemaker.
* * *
Ava felt the vibration implanted next to her hip. When she read the headline, she squealed and kicked off her Swarovski-crystal encrusted Keds and bellyflopped onto the couch, readying her full body to be immersed in what awaits her. A nervous glee tingles in her.
“What if she fails?”
“What if she got fat?”
Ava began concocting her clever response as she clicks play. Her phone sends the video to her holocube.
“Come ON.” She screams during the 3.2 seconds that it takes for the video to load.
With the hands of a conductor, Ava grabs the corners of the 'cube and pulls it to double its size.
Everything is black.
Ava taps the controls to see if its playing. Two seconds in, the unmistakable voice begins in a middle alto and runs up the scale, reaching a high soprano. The glass windows quake in Ava's room.
“SOOO COOL!” The water in her glass swells with the sound.
Ava's eyes widen as she absorbs it all. She's entranced. Through the blackness, a single, well-manicured finger with a bedazzled nail slices the screen from the top to the bottom. Two feminine hands reach into the middle and rip open the screen. Standing behind it is Cyndi, who begins to sing.
“Out of the Darkness, you found me,
“Into the light, you ground me.”
Ava's eyes widen, her nostrils flair, her heart rate increases and she can feel the blood booming through her veins.
A sun swirls behind Cyndi, blinding Ava momentarily. As the camera angle pans up, Cyndi runs along a beach, huffing to herself about some lost love. She waves her friends away as they encourage her to come swimming with them. As she sings, she walks along the shore, throwing pebbles into the ocean.
Ava's eyes race around the the screen, noting all the details. A puka shell necklace. The name brand on Cyndi's denim jorts. The color of the sunglasses. The flavor of Fanta Cyndi sips. Ava's eyes are drawn to each, as if they have a higher resolution and some sort of sparkle to them.
Waldo, the video streaming service, tracks Ava's eyes. Each time her eyes meet a product, the streaming service gets a fraction of a penny in advertising revenue.
Tone Def Recordings and Waldo are testing out video customization. Waldo has access to the demographics of its viewers. There are a dozen different versions of Cyndi's first video, each with slight alterations to best fit the different audiences. For teen girls under 18, Cyndi wears a comfy sweatshirt and short-shorts. For women over 35, a Lane Bryant turtleneck obscures her figure. For all men, she bounces down the beach in a bikini. The products in the video also change for each audience. For teen boys, she chugs an energy drink. For women over 35, she drinks a yogurt drink. By the end of the video, Ava's attention is worth eight cents to Waldo and new brand loyalty for each of the companies.
Within three hours, 4.8 million humans have viewed this video and their attention has brought $384,712.37 worth of ad revenue, split between Waldo and Tone Def Recordings.
The video ends as Cyndi emerges from the ocean, flipping her luxurious blonde locks like a mermaid.
Ava forwards the video on to her friends, claiming discovery.
“I FOUND HERRR!!!” Ava can feel part of her worth now tied to Cyndi. She feels like she must prune her investment so it keeps bringing appreciation from the other girls.
“Wow, she's great! Thanks 4 finding hurrrrr Ava.” The first of many compliments pours in.
“Ava honey, what are you doing up there?” The voice of her father bounces up the stairwell. “You know you have your big creationism exam tomorrow.” He pokes his head into the room. “I can help you go over your Genesis timeline, honey.”
“I'M FINE! EW! GET OUT! UGH!” Ava bursts in small fits.
The stairwell door closes and Ava counts the silent seconds, until she's pleased that she's free from interruption.
“This is sooooooooo me!” Ava thinks to herself as she rewatches the video. She practices Cyndi's emerging-from-the-water hair flip. She zooms in to see how easily her sweatshirt falls off her shoulder.
“Mirror! On the wall.” The holocube reflects the light like a mirror. She stretches the right collar of her own sweatshirt until the hole is as wide as Cyndi's. She practices her step-bounce in front of this holomirror until the sweatshirt slides seamlessly from her shoulder.
“Almost. Almost as good. Tomorrow, all the kids will see.”