This week, our writers draw inspiration from the simple phrase "one percent". Scroll to enjoy a diverse collection of writings surrounding the prompt.
By: Luce Cada
“I can’t remember the last time we went on a trip like this!” Mom exclaims. I’m only half listening as I scroll through my Instagram feed, seeing how all my friends are traveling to Malibu or San Francisco this summer while I’m traveling to Arizona.
Toasty, boring Arizona.
The chatter of my siblings is drowned out as I stick my AirPods in my ears, nodding my head to the familiar pop tunes. I have no idea how long I’ve been stuck in this car and I have no idea how much longer I will be. I might as well keep scrolling.
My brother asks me something and I fake listen and keep nodding, clicking through stories and double-clicking on posts. I could be in Malibu with Opal right now but instead, I’m on my way to the middle of nowhere. I’m glad I brought all my batteries and Wi-Fi sources and whatnot. Other than eating food, there won’t be much to do.
Fourscore and seven years later we’re at the camping site. I barely move from the car as Dad and Tom pitch the tent. When I do finally look up, I see nothing but orange for miles around.
“Alisha, help your dad with the tent,” Mom calls out from the trunk of the car. I sigh and put my phone away, moving over to hold down the lines as Dad nails the stakes into the hard, orange ground.
I hop inside the tent, texting Opal with the playful shrieks of Tom and Kay cutting through the silence. “I wish you were here,” Opal texts me. I sigh and text her back with the same intention.
The sun dips low into the sky and I’m forced out of the tent by Kay, who wants to play a game. I put on some music and play a couple rounds of tag with them before sitting down and scrolling again.
I stop at a picture of an art piece, examining it carefully before double-clicking and scrolling past it. I wonder when was the last time I painted something, or what I even painted. If I pick up a brush again, would I still know how to paint?
Now I’ve consumed myself with cheerleading and the jocks on the football team. That Alisha is put away for good. It’s more fun to be a cheerleader, anyway.
“It’s time to eat!” Dad says cheerfully, passing around paper plates. I lay mine on my lap and keep on scrolling.
A moment later, I hear Mom say, “Alisha, come get your food.”
“One last minute!”
“No, it’ll get cold!” I look up and I see her looking sternly at me. I sigh and hold out my plate, taking the freshly barbecued beef from the large plastic plate.
I munch down on my food, soft music playing from Dad’s phone and the sky finally darkening. Once I finish, I pick up my phone again and check on how my friends are doing. Having another party without me, I assume.
I lay down on the blanket that Dad set out for us and raise my phone up for me to keep watching my show. Everyone is either asleep or having sleepovers by now, so it’s pointless to try and text someone.
“Why don’t you come stargaze with us? Don’t your eyes hurt?” Kay says to me, but I don’t put my phone down. “The stars are pretty.”
“I thought you loved stargazing,” she says plainly before lying back down and looking up. On the other hand, I’m still looking up since Opal texted me again. Now she really is at a party and I’m not there with her.
It’s nearly midnight when the screen starts dimming, and I look around for the luggage with all our stuff including my battery. It’s still in the back of the car, and I’m not in the mood to get it.
My siblings are squealing next to me and I close my eyes, squeezing the sleep away. I just wanted to stay in LA this summer. Not go here.
I’m in the middle of a text when I see the 1% on the top right of my phone. I groan and madly type the response, clicking send just as the screen darkens.
“Seriously,” I mutter as I put my phone down and prepare to sit up. But I don’t get the chance to, because what I see before me is something I’ve never seen before.
Billions of stars soar above me and I’m taken back to when I was in elementary and middle school and was obsessed with astronomy. We’d go to planetariums every weekend and I’d constantly look up the next Super Moon or eclipse. Before I wanted to be a model or whatever, I wanted to work at NASA. I completely forgot about that dream, but the North Star brings me back to the center of my heart.
A shooting star catches my eye and I hold my breath, feeling the rush of joy I would get every time I looked at the moon. Now, my world has just gotten a hundred times bigger and brighter.
“I thought you’d never put your phone down,” Dad says before pointing out the Milky Way, the constellations, the nebulas that can’t be seen in the city. I don’t remember the last time I was able to see stars like this.
Now I’m glad that the screen shut off.
“It was at its last percent.”
Does that ring a Bell?
By: jasmine Li
Memory Hard Drive Upload: 2% finished.
The sky was darkening, waves crashing against the shore. There were children racing, screaming in the background, their parents hurriedly shepherding them into the closest indoor space with cover. They seemed afraid, to an extent. I wasn’t bothered. I don’t think it really hit me, at that time, that a storm was coming. I just stood there, quiet as a mouse, looking curiously up at the sky, every inch of it covered by gray storm clouds. Crash. Children screamed as lightning flashed in the corner of my eye.
I heard a young man behind me shout, “Hey, what are you doing still standing out here? There’s lightning, take cover!” So, I walked carefully back into the building.
Memory Hard Drive Upload: 29% finished.
“So, how was your trip? Anything interesting happen?”
“Really?” I nodded, “So you don’t count getting caught in a lightning storm interesting.”
“Not particularly, no.”
“Okay, well, your sister’s coming over in a short while, so I guess, continue knitting whatever the heck you’re knitting and try to think of something more interesting to say,” he looked defensive as I glared at him, “Or not! Just a suggestion.”
Memory Hard Drive Upload: 41% finished.
I grabbed the piece of pie she dangled in front of my face, “Sure. Thanks.”
“Don’t mention it. So, did you think about what I asked you last time?”
“Teddy seemed to think you were going to ask me about my trip. I would’ve preferred that.”
“I know, but this is important as well.” I grumbled in response. “Come on, you know as well as I do your memories are failing you. You don’t remember your neighbors’ names, you don’t remember the smell of your favorite food, you don’t remember that summer camp you and I went to every year when we were kids, and you don’t even recall that restaurant we always eat at even though I just reminded you of the name and your favorite dish. Isn’t this why you went on your trip? Clear your head, find a solution. You’ve been working this problem for your entire life, coming home from your monotonous job every day to just think. There’s no way to remember past one hundred years. People have tried and failed, and you’re failing to find a solution, too. You’re just too stubborn to even consider the easiest one.”
Memory Hard Drive Upload, 67% finished.
“Your sister still bothering you about that hard drive?”
“It’s my sister, Teddy, of course she’s still bothering me about that.”
“You haven’t got long left, and uploading your memories takes time that you won’t have if you keep waiting. She just doesn’t want you to disappear.”
“I’m going to disappear either way.”
“No, of course not. Your memories will melt once you hit a hundred years no matter what happens, that’s just the way it is in this universe we live in. You’ll be a blank slate. Ready for another mind to be implanted, another brain, another personality. She, and I of course, will at least get the comfort of knowing that you did exist, that you lived your life, a life we were a part of, because it’s all there, safe and secure.”
“She only has a couple years until she hits a hundred, too. It’s just two years, what’s the big deal? It’s not like there’ll be anyone in ten or fifty years who’ll care about this hard drive of a random person who spent their life wasting away in a corporate office when there are millions of people who live glitzy lives and have memories much more interesting to inspect.”
“It’s not for them. It’s for us. Just… just think about it, okay?”
Memory Hard Drive Upload, 84% finished.
“Have you thought about it more?”
“I guess it couldn’t hurt.”
Memory Hard Drive Upload, 99% finished.
Only one percent left. Just that one percent.
I lived my life, trying to solve this one problem. I wanted to know how to live, to remember past the one hundred year mark that every adult drilled into me when I was a child. Sweetheart, everyone is wiped clean at one hundred. Nothing you can do about it. Just live your life to the fullest you can, okay?
I tried to find out how our minds work. I performed experiment after experiment, trial after trial on people like me, people willing to give it a try. Every single one of them failed. I guess some tests are just designed to endure. I had never understood the desire to upload every memory, every experience onto a hard drive, a small, boring, gray rectangle, but then again, I never had to live without the constant presence of my sister, and of Teddy, no matter how much he loves to annoy me.
Maybe this experiment, created long before I even began to exist, was designed to endure, but maybe that isn’t such a bad thing after all. Maybe this hard drive idea isn’t as horrible as I thought it seemed. I lived, I solved problems, and I loved, and maybe it’ll bring me comfort to know that the people I love get to keep my pessimistic self around. And maybe that’s enough.
I took a deep breath in.
Memory Hard Drive Upload, 100% finished.
By: Austina Xu
How do we define a moment? A brief instance in time? Like how the moment right before your tears flow, your vision becomes crystal clear. Moments. Like how the moment before you fall asleep, the world is suddenly an echo chamber. Moments. Like how the moment your phone’s at one percent seems to suddenly feel like an hour. It’s funny. How these moments exist when we least expect. They are forever moments. Sometimes, I’d like to even test how long these moments can last. Is it possible for me to add one last video to my watch later playlist? To capture one last picture?
Capture. How do we capture a moment? In a palely lit blue rectangle amongst thousands, arms swaying, bodies colliding, all until the moment your finger makes contact with that red button. We then tuck our moments into a box for later, where they will lay neglected, collecting dust as their corners are worn dull by time.
Time. I doubt there will be a time again when I can make out those fingerprints. Yet I had tried so hard to wrap time up and fold its delicate edges over and over and over and over. So hard to gather time up in a bundle and wrap myself again and again and inhale what was left of yesterday and last year. So I wouldn’t have to worry about moments ending. So that the thought that pausing the record button was simply a dog eared page of a single moment I would dwell back on, even if I knew its edges would remain untouched for ages. So that the thought of if that remaining red sliver at the top of my screen disappeared I would have at least been left with something.
I suppose it's for the better. How dull it would be, anyways, to always be left counting: three, two, o