26th October


One day, remembering with fondness a holiday spent in the Highlands, I opened the folder on my computer which contained the photographs of that happy week. I was scrolling through them when I came across three blank spaces where three images ought to have been. I checked the numerical sequence and there was no mistaking that those photographs were missing. I could recall from their position in the sequence the scenes they depicted, and I knew I had not deleted them. When I accessed my remote data archive, I found them gone from it as well.

I contacted my internet provider for an explanation. The automated reply I received by email was completely irrelevant. I finally made telephone contact with somebody at the company, whose answers were confused, possibly even evasive. She said she would get someone to call me back.

Ten minutes later the phone rang.

‘Hi,’ said a man’s voice. ‘My name is Bob. How can I help you?’

‘You tell me, Bob,’ I said.

‘I represent SCOPE,’ Bob said, ‘one of the world’s leading security support and maintenance providers. I understand you have a data-erosion issue.’

‘A what?’

‘Data which you recorded and stored with your internet provider has eroded.’

‘Not eroded,’ I said. ‘Photographs have been erased. What does this have to do with you, Bob, whoever you are?’

‘Your issue has been reported to SCOPE as the eroded data may, could, will or did present a potential breach of national security,’ Bob said.

‘How could that possibly be?’ I demanded. ‘These were just holiday snaps.’

‘I am reviewing the data now,’ Bob said. A few seconds later he spoke again. ‘The GPS location, date and time references confirm that a security breach occurred when the data was recorded. You are denied further access.’

‘A beach, a mountain and a wee white cottage,’ I said. ‘Which one of those is a threat to national security?’

‘I am not at liberty to disclose further information unless you are an accredited and approved stakeholder,’ Bob said. ‘Goodbye.’

The line went dead. I realised that I had been mistaken. Bob was not a man, but an automated message. And my data had indeed eroded.

Reader: James Robertson
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
Guitar: Sorren Maclean
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