By Laura McPherson
The Highly Specific Electric Company released the perfect microwave. It came in every conceivable color and was self-cleaning, self-activating, and programmed not only to automatically assess whatever was put in it and cook it accordingly, but to do so according to the buyer’s personal preference. The only interaction buyers had with it after setup was opening and shutting the door and rating the finished product on a sliding scale.
The adaptive microwave was the Holy Grail of the American Kitchen. It said so right on the box, never mind that a microwave looks and functions nothing like a grail. Soon thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions of not-actually-grails were zapping away. The kitchen revolution spread, generally to those countries in which revolution wasn’t a slogan actively in use.
Naturally, there was a catch. Turns out that improperly shielded microwaves do a lot of damage to people, places, things—anything that can be encapsulated in a noun, really. There was a general recall from the Highly Specific Electric Company and the company decided to go back to more general and lucrative business lines (mainly replacement parts and service at a 1,000% markup). The adaptive microwave revolution faded into obscurity.
Serial No. 31427 would have been surprised to know about this. 31427 was just a little different from the other adaptive microwaves. It wasn’t that 31427 was flaming pink (although it was, but so were all the other adaptives that came off the line that day). 31427 was different because two wires were crossed and a logic circuit was carefully, lovingly installed by a worker who was not paying attention to the actual wiring blueprint. Since 31427’s buyer had diligently installed every adaptive app available except for the recall kit, this meant that 31427 was smarter and faster than any other adaptive. It had even fixed the micro-radiation problem, and neatly, too. 31427 cooked using alternate states and suggestive reality based on quantum interactions with the next two closest universes to our own. With this activity concealed safely in 31427’s womb, no one on the outside ever knew what magic went into its perfectly zapped nachos.
31427’s original buyer eventually moved to a place where hot pink wouldn’t do and left 31427 behind. Unfortunately, the next tenant never cooked, though they did get points for deciding to sign on a furnished apartment based on the presence of a flaming pink microwave. 31427 now spends its time as a handy locker to hide whatever is laying about inappropriately when unexpected guests arrive. Powered only by the battery that runs its clock, it dreams of serving late-night nachos. At times, as the world around it sleeps, 31427 joyfully scrolls the proof to the Riemann hypothesis on its quiet green display. The adaptive oven, serving as a box for the tenant’s unused dishes, has woken up, and is beginning to understand.