The first time I saw him, I felt an indescribable pain in my stomach. Now I know that it was the feeling of my entire world crashing down, the feeling of true love.
The Matchmaking Algorithm for Romantic Relationships and Intimacy (MARRI) had been matching people for over one hundred years. There were legends of ancient people choosing their own partners, but few people believed in the such tales. The official line was that families or local governments made matches in ancient times, and that these inefficient and limited systems led to many problems. MARRI was able to make the best matches across the entire global population. Humanity’s trust in MARRI was so complete that any attempt to form a relationship outside of its direction was a crime punishable by imprisonment. And yet, when I saw him, the threat of punishment seemed a small price to pay.
The strange thing is that he felt it too. Our eyes met across the large lecture hall where the university’s annual symposium for agricultural scientists was taking place. It was at the start of the first lecture of the day. I sat down, in my agony, and waited whilst the speaker gave her presentation. As I struggled to focus on the speaker, I felt movement beside me, and there he was. He sat down right next to me. He took my hand.
Before that day I had never questioned the use of MARRI. It had been at least partly responsible for this golden age that we were experiencing. A period of human flourishing the likes of which mankind had never seen before. In the moment, my actions did not feel like a rejection of MARRI, but an acceptance of something far greater. As we sat there, hands clasped together, hundreds of thoughts rushed through my mind. I wondered whether there was a protocol for this sort of thing. Perhaps we could declare our connection to the Institute. I was only a few months away from my Matching Ceremony where I would be introduced to the man that MARRI had chosen for me. There was a chance that the man sat beside me was that man. There was also a chance that he was not, and that possibility was the most frightening thing that had ever entered by mind.
When the lecture was finished, we got up with the rest of the audience and filtered out of hall. Our hands still firmly fixed together, we found a quiet corner on the grounds of the science campus. We sat and spoke for hours. Though hushed, his voice felt like music in my ears. Every revelation about his past, his personality, his lifestyle was a treasure. I asked questions excavating him more deeply. He did the same, and by the time evening came I felt known in a way I had never felt in my life.
“They’ll separate us,” he said. “And they’ll put us in prison.”
“We’ll have to leave,” I said. “There are stories of places for people like us.”
We shared a look. We both knew that the stories were most likely fairytales. Fairytales of the old kind, meant to warn you about the dangers at the edges of your reality. Neither of us cared though. We had passed the point of no return. Our only choice was to walk together, hand in hand, into an unknown future.