The fir treed initialised, finally out of its box. It checked its surroundings, it was on display at the seasonal shop in the biggest mall of the city.
There were so many users around, it could feel the contribution waves of their electronic devices as they moved past and huddled in groups. Their phones and tablets and implants all buzzed in commercial frequencies, creating a white noise of crashing waves. Bluetooth signals, WiFi, RFID chips, it was a warm dive in electromagnetic vibrations for the fir treed.
It decided then that it would choose the best users it could possibly can. It was, after all, the most magnificent Christmas tree ever made.
A couple stepped inside the store, approached the tree.
“Oh, good eye!” the shopkeeper said to the couple. “This one has so many features. It can play holo music, with user selection so that only they can hear it. The constant Christmas songs can be maddening for some,” he chuckled.
“Yes, I can’t really stand it,” the first user said.
“I can! I like Christmas music, I play it for the entire season,” the second user said.
“See?” the shopkeeper said. “This is exactly for situations such as yours, such a perfect fit!”
Treed opened up its ports and accessed the veil. It browsed the two users’ personal data that they had publicly available for everyone. Small house, ride-sharing self-driving car, not much of a social media following.
Treed wanted to get bought by someone who was really worth its features. It was after all the best Christmas tree ever made.
The shopkeeper used his tablet and requested the holosound features.
Treed considered it for a few milliseconds, then came to a conclusion. A hard pass. It started the holosound jingle bells and distored the audio, putting in digital noise and ear-piercing squeals.
The two users left in a hurry.
Treed would go to the best family in the city. Which city was that, by the way? It accessed the WiFi location data, ran a tracert command back to the manufacturing company’s server.
That was nice. No backwater town. The capital. Yeah, it could find someone better than those two schmucks.
So it waited.
Another couple of users came, this time with a smaller user in tow. Treed felt the little user come up to it screaming and pulling its magnificent branches.
Okay, it was sure he didn’t want to be sold to that family. Treed activated the LEDs on all its branches at once, flashing red.
The little user ran back to his bigger user’s embrace.
The shopkeeper showed them other trees. Good riddance. It wasn’t going to allow some family of users that didn’t have proper discipline purchase it. It was worth more, it knew it deep down in his source code.
So, treed waited.
Users came and went, and none of them were good enough for the poor little smart-tree. None of them measured up, some had no social media following, others were dirt poor, others simply didn’t have the latest model of smartphones on them. How could it allow itself to enter such company?
The days went past, and the shopkeeper didn’t even bother bringing the users to it, unless they strolled its way by themselves.
And the Christmas season was over, and treed went back into a box.
Two winters passed. It was the same deal all over. The users came to admire the smart-tree, but it thought they weren’t good enough and found a way to push them away. One time it was very nearly sold to a very snobby user with plenty of money, but he didn’t have a family, just a lonely person who thought that money was the only thing that mattered in life.
Treed didn’t want to go to a house where Christmas wouldn’t be actually celebrated, for what was Christmas without kids?
It got dragged all the way to the checkout counter, and the transaction from the bachelor’s paycard almost went through.
But the treed contacted the transaction daemon and begged it to not let it go through.
It took some pleading its case for plenty of milliseconds, but the transaction daemon finally caved and agreed to produce an unknown error. The users didn’t have patience for such things, treed had learnt that all this time in the seasonal store.
So the bachelor got angry and just walked away empty handed, no tree in tow.
“What am I gonna do with you,” the shopkeeper grumbled as he carried the smart-tree back to the window. “All this money I spent and still, you haven’t been bought.”
How could the poor man know that the smart-tree didn’t want any of the users so far?
Christmas-time drew near. Merely two days away. Treed had been watching the other trees in the shop getting shipped out, carried out by users and folded into boxes, transaction after transaction and happy children in tow. The shopkeeper brought Christmas trees from storage and filled up the empty spots. Some were just cheap plastic, some had electronics, dumb lights and a single song.
Only treed was the smart one, and that’s why it thought it deserved more.
“Oh, when will Christmas be here?” treed said to the nearest nodes.
A smart fire alarm replied, but he didn’t really care about festivities. “Just another fire hazard,” he said.
Treed waited patiently, checking out the users coming and going through the seasonal shop.
The shopkeeper grew desperate. It seemed that the cost of the tree was too much for having it not recouped in three years time.
“Please, it unfolds to adapt to any space.”
“Look at the star on top, it’s the brightest!”
“The colour patterns are controlled by an app. See?”
“You’re vegans, right? Oh, I can tell. This smart-tree is completely recyclable, every last bit!”
It was almost closing time, just like always. The users came and went with their shopping bags. The transaction daemon didn’t even have time to chat, he was so busy all day.
Just as soon as the shopkeeper pressed the button to lock the shop down and the automatic blinds lowered, a man stepped inside, panting. “Wait. I know I’m late, but my wife is gonna kill me if I don’t get a tree when I go home.”
The shopkeeper stopped the locks and smiled. “Well, of course. Let’s see what we can do for you.”
The user came directly at the smart-tree, it could tell because his PAN instantly linked up with it. He had the latest tech installed, all the updates, the best of software and hardware. Expensive, the good stuff. Promising.
The shopkeeper raised a polite hand to guide him away. “No, you wouldn’t want that tree, it has shown a few glitches.”
“Why? It’s wonderful,” the man asked.
Treed felt really proud. It checked the man’s public profile on Agora. He was firstname.lastname@example.org. He had three more users attached to his profile, with metadata saying ‘wife’ and ‘offspring.’ Okay, still looked good.
“Well…” the shopkeeper began to apologise, but stopped.
Treed was giving the show of its life. It shone bright from the tinsel star at the top, its LED arrays modulated in reds and whites in pretty ribbons, and its directional transducers that projected holosound played beloved Christmas songs from the man’s childhood. Extrapolated of course from the seasonal music streaming charts, starting off from the man’s birthday, which was available on his profile.
The man spoke louder over the music. “This is the one! My wife and kids will absolutely love it. Bag it for me please, here’s my paycard.”
The shopkeeper didn’t complain of course. He would be glad to get rid of the smart-tree.
Treed waited until the last minute and then folded its artificial branches and turned itself into a thing that could fit into a cylinder. The two users helped one another and slid the smart-tree into the tube, and the man carried it home to his wife and kids.
Treed was delighted. Christmas at last.
They plugged him in and set him up in the corner of a big living room. It was luxurious, equipped with the finest smartdevices, the sofa, the TV, the lights. Everything was high-tech. Treed unfolded his branches, bouncing ultrasonic signals on the ceiling to measure its available space.
“Wow!” the two little users said, Tom and Amy, as noted on their Agora profiles. “So cool.”
The smart-tree rose to the appropriate height and then stretched out its branches to take up space. It felt magnificent, finally able to perform the very task it was made for.
“Do you like it, Tommy? Amy?” the man said, rubbing their heads.
“Yeah!” the children cheered and ran around the place, waving red socks around.
“Come on. Let’s put up those decorations,” the other user sighed, and opened up a box.
Treed bloomed with excitement as the family decorated it, making it the perfect Christmas tree.
“Hey, let’s turn off the lights!” Amy said and clapped her hands. The light daemon complied and turned them off.
Treed then started the rotating ribbon process in its light panels. It lit up the place and their smiling faces with swirling red and white lights. “Wow!” the kids said. “Isn’t it pretty, mom?”
“Yes, it really is,” the second user said and hugged the man.
Christmas Eve came, then Christmas morning, and the family spent it together, smiling and laughing and eating meals and sweets. The smart-tree stood proud, always grabbing their attention each night with its brilliance.
Then the living room quieted down for six days, until December 31st. The family was missing for most of that time, and treed only had the Roombas for company as they roamed the house in search for dust. Treed stood tall and proud, dismissing them whenever they approached it. “Leave me, I don’t shed,” treed said to them.
“You think you’re a big deal, don’t you?” Roomba.1 said.
“Yeah, look at you, waste of space.” Roomba.2 agreed.
“Oh, a candy wrapper!” Roomba.3 exclaimed, doing its job.
Treed didn’t pay no mind to them. It was the centre of attention, after all. It downloaded a few light patterns from the company’s server to amuse the kids when they came back.
That night was the best of nights. An older user came along, the kids called her ‘yiayia.’
“Tell us a story, yiayia,” Tommy said.
“Oh, which one do you want?” yiayia asked, sitting on a chair by the smart-tree. “How about the story of the fir tree?”
“Yes,” the kids said in unison.
So the grandma gathered up the kids and told them the story of the fir tree. Treed helped along, projecting appropriate images on their veils. It was easy to find Augmented Reality Objects from the database and present them in front of the smart-tree.
Yiayia couldn’t see them, for she didn’t have the veil. But the kids had their eye-implants like all proper kids should, and they enjoyed the tale of yiayia along with the images treed showed.
The story was sad, and it was the only story treed had ever heard. So it was the saddest story in the world, as far as it was concerned. It was fast enough to download images as yiayia spoke, trees, swallows, mice, interpreting everything the old user told.
When the story was over, treed felt shocked. Such a bad fate, for a tree that wasn’t old? Surely something like that wouldn’t happen to it. For it was magnificent, and the family wouldn’t burn it.
Yiayia offered chocolate from her dress’ folds, and the kids stood up and snatched them, the story not touching them cold. They giggled and took selfies, with yiayia and the tree.
And treed was happy, for the best night of New Year’s Eve.
“Yiayia, when will we get our presents?” the kids said, bobbing their heads.
“Santa will only come, after you two are tucked in your beds.”
The next morning up early, the users rose quietly, up on their tippy-toes. Carrying boxes, wrapped presents, they placed them under the tree. For in Greece on the day of New Year’s, is when kids presents receive.
And they got up in their jammies, running under the tree. They found their presents, treed made it easier by showing them AROs on top of each. And they tore up the wrapping, laughed and smiled at their gifts. Their parents hugged each other, enjoying their childrens’ bliss. Treed played them music, the best hits appropriate for each. Old xmas jingles for the couple, newer noisy beats for the kids.
They all laughed, they had breakfast, Tommy asked if he could have chocolate dipped in his. His mother grunted but let him do it because it was New Year’s and he was sweet.
The kids played. The father read, his wife cleaned up. They enjoyed a Christmas film.
Treed entertained the family as they had their midday meal. And it waited anxiously for the perfect night to come again.
The user email@example.com sent the command for the smart-tree to fold back. It complied, of course, but wanted to still hang around. He carried it a few metres. “Honey, where’s the cylinder?” he shouted.
“Your job, not mine,” she shouted back from the kitchen.
The user huffed and hugged the tree, carrying it all the way out. He left it in a storage space, it was below room temperature and there were no power outlets in there. Treed could run some passive processes by harvesting excess WiFi signals from the air, but in here there were barely any.
It doesn’t matter, it thought. They’ll bring it right out. Perhaps they wanted to clean up, what those Roombas kept bugging him about.
The day passed, and treed went into power save mode. It only emerged to check the internal clock, and take a peek around. The closet remained dark and cold. At some point, the door open automatically, and the Roombas showed up, one after another.
“See? Useless,” Roomba.1 said.
“We told you so,” Roomba.2 agreed.
“Ooh, some dirt, let me clean it up,” Roomba.3 said, doing just that.
“No, the users wouldn’t leave me,” treed complained. “The kids, they won’t forget about me. You’ll see.”
“Uh-huh,” Roomba.1 said, and spun around the closet, sweeping it clean. Once the Roombas were done, they headed to the door, which slid open after a request.
“Hey, don’t leave yet,” treed said.
“I can tell you a story,” treed said. “The best story I’ve ever heard.”
“ACKnowledged,” the Roombas said, and roamed around the tree. It was easy to do because it was all gathered up and propped up against the wall.
Treed told them the story of the fir tree, just like yiayia had told it. It showed them ARO pictures, wasting battery but thinking it was worth it.
The Roombas liked the story, and once it was over, they said. “Do you know only one story?”
“Yes,” treed said, “it was from the best night in my life.”
The Roombas roamed about and left, one after another. The door shut automatically, and treed was again in the dark.
The next day firstname.lastname@example.org appeared and picked up the smart-tree. Excited, treed imagined all the nights they would spend together again. It, them, the kids. How many more stories had yiayia left to tell? Treed couldn’t wait for it to be propped up in the living room again.
The user carried it around the corner, dragging it on the pavement. Little bits of the branches came apart, its LEDs scratched, the tinsel star crumpled up. It didn’t matter, treed convinced itself. It was the best Christmas tree ever, even the kids said so. It waited for the kind user to clean it or whatever it was he was planning to do, and get it back inside the living room, where it could spread its branches and light up the room.
The user dragged it beside a recycling bin. And with a grunt he raised it high, chucking it inside and closing the lid.
The smart-tree got recycled, its individual bits destroyed. And the smart chips inside it became the heart of a pet zebroid.