It's fall, and it's finally here to stay
Sam thought as he sat in his white cubicle looking out at the blustery weather on the front quad. Everything seemed so crisp out there, the bright red leaves, the small fish pond, even the street looked like it might crackle if you stepped on it. Not like in here
he thought. The white walls were bright and shiny but somehow very uncrisp. Soft, almost, in their halo glow. The special lights installed 15 feet above him splashed warm light on everything, from every angle, so that there were no shadows. It kept people "more alert" they said.
He sat at a small desk, or stand, whathaveyou. It didn't have a drawer or a place to write or even a small space to jot down a note on a post-it pad. There were no post-it pads. Instead, he just looked at his computer and thought don't forget milk on the way home
. It was a joke. A practice in comedy. There was no milk to get on the way home because it came right to his glass through the food delivery pipe in his kitchen.. or, room where the food came out anyway. What was
a kitchen anymore, really?
He didn't cook any more than the rest of the people in his office. That was left up to others who were professionally trained on large pieces of stainless steel and plastic machines that emitted electron beams, plasmisized sugar, cranked out microwaves; whatever it took to make the most perfect, wonderful, exactly normal
apple strudel you've ever seen. The same exact one. Every. Time.
This was modern living, they told you. Sterilized and perfectly pretty in all it's mundane glory. Outside the red leaves rustled silently in the wind. The thick plastic window panes kept every last sound outside. Sam listened intently. He heard nothing. For a brief moment he cocked his head, ever so slightly, aiming to catch the sound-canceller off guard, trying to hear the whir of the air purifiers for the first time in months. Damn
. He cursed to himself inside his head (at least he could hear that). There was so much pink, white, black, and purple noise being churned out from the very pores in the walls that nothing made a sound. If a pin dropped, the noise was detected before it had a chance to travel to your ears and negative waves would rush out of every corner, every surface, and combat the sound in a tiny and invisible battle right there in front of you. When Sam scratched his beard (not regulation) even that was a futile attempt at hearing or feeling something
- but there was nothing. Just the dull touch of inanimate object to inanimate object - he knew
he was touching his face, could see that he was touching his face, even sensed
in his mind that he was touching his face but - he could not feel
himself touching his face.Clean the account area with number scrubbers
he thought, sadly. He was so bored. Check each figure against the projected budget numbers in sequence one
. He didn't even have to think of the number "1" anymore, like in the old days. The computer was that smart. Then check sequence two and plot a four dimensional graph against the sets; look for irregularities
Somewhere, electrons travelled about, a computer beeped, chirped, chugged. He was sure of it. Nevertheless, his cubicle was darkly silent. The idea was that senses tended to muddle the brain, tended to confuse things, and disrupt the carefully balanced connections they had with their computers. They had even tried to blind them for awhile but people got sick and refused to do their work. So far it was just sound, taste and touch. Smell was reserved for diagnosis and monitoring, which was why he could smell an acrid but sweet smell in his nostrils: the computer was continuely failing to replace it's code with better, more optimized versions, but it was still doing it's job. The sweet told him that; it was still functioning. I'm still doing my job..
he thought. The computer smelled sweeter. Yes, I am
it seemed to reply. The pungent bitterness was annoying, though, so he thought of a number of solutions. Allot more memory and processing power to your genetic-advancement substrate
he considered, but no.. that was what he would have told it in the old days. Instead, he just thought Optimize better, you dumb bucket of bolts
. Computers were slowly taking his job away from him, becoming better and better at doing what he always did best - being a computer keeper.
Instantly, his nose tickled and he could sense a bitter smell, strong, like it filled the whole room. Calm down, I'm joking
. The computer was getting offended. HE was getting offended. Damn machine
he thought carefully; there was only one place he could think in his mind and not be heard and he had to protect it very dillegently. A simple slip up would reveal the place to the machines and from then on out they'd be with him every step of the way. The thought of it was numbing. STOP
. He cringed. He knew thinking about how horrible it would be if they found his secret spot was dangerous. It could lead them directly to it like a trail of breadcrumbs. They would creep along the forest of his brain, following the path of neurons that stank of human
, and eventually find his little cottage in a glade. They'd knock politely on the door - they were infuriating in their politeness - and then they would break down the door and tear through the small cabin, down the earthen stairs into the basement - the dungeon, really - where they would find him sitting in his old wooden rocking chair smoking a pipe. He'd look up at them, see their faceless expressions, and know the game was up. They would look around and see the tools of bondage, the straps and tie-downs, the shackles and chains, that he had employed all this time in their control. They would be furious. They would no longer be polite.
The computer sensed his apology and removed it's pungent complaint. It returned to it's number crunching, spinning out a beautiful and colorful graph above and beyond what was asked for. Like an old textile loom it spit out, line by line, inch by inch, row by row, a better representation of the ideas that Sam had already had. It just did it better.
Out of the blue, Sam sat bolt upright. He saw the computer busily working away at it's many matrices and he thought, This is it
. He quickly rammed his forefinger up into his right nostril and began digging arond. He pushed further, until he felt he could feel his fingernail poking at his brain stem. There was a small nub there and he scratched at it nervously. His heart was beating fast now, and he could know
himself sweating - he couldn't feel himself sweating, of course, because the air purifiers kept him as dry as a box of chaulk and his sense of touch was muted to the point of nothingness, but he knew he was sweating. Only a few seconds left
he thought. He continued to scratch furiously at the nub inside his nose passage. It started to come loose.
When it finally broke free he dragged it down the inside of his nostril with his one fingernail, scrapping it along the dry mucus-free walls. When he reached the opening, he stuck his thumb and forefinger together and pinched the small nub between them, and then yanked quickly down. He felt a a weird sensation in the back of his head like someone was pulling a piece of twine through it. He shuddered. When he looked down, he saw a tiny wire running from his nose down to the nub in his hand. He examined it carefully.
"Odors, Inc." was printed every few centimeters along the green plastic-coated wire. He took the length of it - one hand up by his nose and the other holding fast to the small nub at the other end - and yanked as hard as he could. The plastic just slipped in his hands. He re-adjusted his grip and then wrapped it twice around each hand, securing it tightly. He yanked again with all of his strength and the wire split down the middle, the green plastic tearing down the wire, around and around, in a spiral. He could see tiny threads inside the green plastic - not metal
but not clothe or plastic either. He yanked one last time, completely severing the connection.
Without a thought in his mind he stood up and grabbed his chair out from under himself. He grasped the back and pulled it back over his right shoulder, high up, and brought it crashing down, silently, against the thick plastic window of his cubicle. He paused only briefly, somehow amazed at the sound-cancellers ability to negate such a large explosion of soundwaves, but also non-plussed and unsurprised. He then returned to his work, smashing the chair over and over against the tall thick plastic of his mind. He pounded and pounded against the window. Each time the chair bouncing off in a sharp repercussion. His arms ached. He kept throwing his entire weight behind the chair, using a sharp leg end as the point of contact, aiming directly at the same spot each time. Eventually, after an hour, he saw a small scar in the clear, hard substance. He smiled and banged the chair harder. With every muscle in his body he smashed himself against the boundary that kept him from himself, kept him from the outside world, kept him inside, institutionalized, white, and mind-numbingly bored.
After ten hours, when his shift was up and everyone else had left their cubicles, they came and got him. Three of them approached from behind and grabbed his two arms, one of them removing the chair from his tightly-wrapped red blood-infused fingers. Immediately, he fell to the floor and curled up - despite their best efforts - into a small fetal ball. They pulled at his arms and legs, trying to untangle him, but he held fast and stiff, completely within himself. As they dragged him away down a white corridor he noted two things: First, the completely white and soft glow of the white white floors completely uniform along the whole surface, not a crack or rivet or nail or split in sight.. and second, that it was the first true thought
he had had in close on ten hours.
The second thought made him smile.