“Civilization was created by few, built by many, and given to most,” my father told me from his deathbed. “It was given to my generation, and we destroyed it, now it’s time for you to create a new one.” “I’ll do it” I said half-assed before he closed his eyes and passed away. It took me months […]
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“Civilization was created by few, built by many, and given to most,” my father told me from his deathbed. “It was given to my generation, and we destroyed it, now it’s time for you to create a new one.”
“I’ll do it” I said half-assed before he closed his eyes and passed away. It took me months to revisit that moment in time when I sat next to my dad in his deathbed at the hospital. I had tried to block it out; just like almost everything that comes my way in this shitty city during my walk to work. Like that overfilled trash can, or the hobos who ask for food, money, drugs, or alcohol, or attention, or just anything that you can give them. Scums of the earth. I’m a scum of the earth too, as I kick that trash can on my way to the office. The leg of my pants get stained. It was a start to just another god damn miserable day.
I go to the men’s room and try to wipe it out with a soaked paper towel. Now there’s a seemingly obvious wet spot on my gray pants. I get even angrier as I walk out.
Because I’ve been in a bad mood, work was especially dreadful. My interactions with people were quick and dry, my motivation was low, and my morale was tainted. I hated everything about work; I hated everything about this city. I hated my life and I hated myself. Back in my apartment, I look at the mirror before I head to bed. I brush my teeth just to feel a bit more human. What disgrace I see in the mirror before me. I had ungroomed beard stubble and there were bags underneath my bloodshot eyes. I couldn’t comprehend how on earth women found me attractive, but they did. And because I hate myself, I hate them for not despising me. It’s like the analogy of a puppy in a pet store; you’re standing there thinking it’s so cute, but it’s miserable and it wants out or it wants to bite your face off.
In the limbo of the next day; I stand outside my apartment balcony in the morning and look at the sunrise as it slowly creeps up and starts to blind me. The concrete jungle sprawls before my eyes, and it just sickens me even more. Everything sickens me about this place. My dad, in his delusional Alzheimer filled last days, wanted me to create a new civilization. I promised him I would. I spat the mouthwash on the flower pot and headed inside. I had gotten up, dressed up, and now planned to show up to work. I looked at the hoards of sheep-like people before me, who looked just like me, dressed just like me, and behaved just like me. Anger and frustration in their faces; just like in mine. We were all zombies who lived and thrived in this concrete city.
“Start a new civilization” said my dad. I spat my gum on the gray sidewalk and disappeared in the force and momentum of the moving crowd.
If there was one thing I had, it was time. Had? Already discussed. Needed? Not necessarily. I knew what he said, I knew what had to be done, but in the tangled rubber band ball of a “plan” in my mind, nothing discernible could be found. When one doesn’t have a plan, what else is left but time?
I step on the metro.
See this peon’s face in front of me. See his slack jaw and hear his loose tongue, in your mind. See him hitting on women at bars and then getting belligerent at them for not sleeping with him. See the role model in front of you.
I turn on my phone.
Look out the window. Watch a few skyscrapers claw their way past the train (relativity?) before the deadly blackness of the tunnel consumes its prey. Look out. Always look out.
I look at the time.
The commute was little over 45 minutes long. I’m lucky, by relative standards. I’m a lucky bastard. I’m lucky I hate women. Attention begets violence, begets loneliness, begets death and nothing but death. Possibly debt on the way. Am I in debt? The groggy morning mindset finally hits me full in the face after another restless night of sleep and I realize once again who I’m working for. Beside my useless education, Talk Corp–a combination social media/phone/talk buddy corporation. Who knew it took so many peons to run a company that helps people… well, talk? What kind of world do we live in where people can’t just talk anymore? I hate it. I hated it then and I hate it now. The flashbacks start to show up and I block them out once more…
Talk Corp Incorporated, the megacity of the social media scene. The unofficial monopoly of smartphones and smartphone bills. (Because of course the government won’t lay a finger on what keeps its citizens in check.) And of course, the inventor of the talk buddy. What Amazon started and failed to fulfill, Talk Corp raised the ante on and won. Government statistics state that approximately 47% of all citizens owned a talk buddy. They popped up in Japan, but were a bit one-dimensional and only a niche market for the lonely 20-30’s business-nothing wanker. Then came the soccer moms: How do I deal with my passive aggressive husband who doesn’t pay attention to me except when I’m cooking and stealing his children’s attention? Honest questions. Honest answers. At least, that’s what the company strived to provide. I stretch my mind and remember a Kurt Vonnegut book about it but block that out, too. Too much history before a day of psycho-suicide isn’t good for the lungs. I haven’t decided whether I’ve started smoking, quit, or started again yet.
I… do not own a talk buddy. And it shows. If there’s one thing I haven’t lost, it’s my attitude.
And the one resource I do have, I notice, is slowly slipping away as well. The train arrives at my company’s stop. A city in and of itself. But this time, a faux-eutopia rather than a dystopia. The kind where the murders happen hidden in the minds of the victims behind closed office doors and livelihoods are ruined over typos in thousand-page reports on labor law influences in the married couple’s talk buddy relationship. Let’s talk together! I almost say, “I wish I could talk to my father one last time…” but block that out before it enters my prefrontal cortex, too.
I step off the train.
Time. Time for another miserable day. And another. And another. Time time time. Time to drain, decay, and segue. Do I have time on my hands?
Time to think of a fucking plan, you idiot. Argh. I fall irritated with myself. Perfect mood as I step into my cubicle and start the daily routine.
Over the weekend I received three hundred thirty-three emails, separated into three folders: one for all company-wide emails, one for emails sent directly to me, and one for anything highlighted important. I marked the first folder read without opening a single email, I skimmed through the second folder, opening up every one with a subject that applies to my current project, and opened all of the remaining four “important” emails; three of which were from a coworker who thinks I like him. In total, I only had eight emails to actually read
I finished the last email, ironically from my boss, to her knocking on my cubicle wall.
“I’m going to need you to finish debugging the automated content review code by the end of today,”
No good morning. No how are you doing. No, “Mondays, am I right”. No nothing. But I shouldn’t expect anything. She’s a real cunt. A real cunt that didn’t know shit about code or programming but still got a job managing an engineering department How did she get it? The fuck if I know. The coworker who thinks I like him heard that she was just waiting for someone to say the wrong thing so she could file a discrimination suit…and there were plenty of ways she could take offense.
“Do you think she tans to make herself blacker than she already is,” a coworker joked.
“Do you think she converted to Judaism to increase her chances of being discriminated against? I mean, Muslim discrimination is so early 2000s; bigotry against Judaism is back en vogue.”
“Do you think…”
“No, she didn’t cut off her own leg,” I answered before he could finish his ridiculous, and possible, assertion that our Jewish African American boss cut off her own leg to increase the likelihood of her being able to twist a word or phrase in a way that could be perceived as discriminatory. I can imagine her presenting this quarter’s budget, and her boss saying, “Why do we need an extra engineer, they cost an arm and a leg,” and boom, she has his job, or wins a multimillion dollar suit and becomes an activist for the missing leg community.
“Yes I will have it done by today,” I responded in monotone to prevent her from being offended by inflection or cadence or rhythm.
She turned and gimped away without a word, and I dreamt, as always, of her losing the other leg in a freak shoe fitting accident.
“God, I don’t ask for much, but please, please, please, take her other leg—I’ll go to church everyday,” I whispered at the ceiling.
I stopped daydreaming about her maiming once I remembered how screwed I was.
I fucked-off most of last week, going down rabbit holes on Wikipedia, covering nearly every current major conspiracy: holocaust denialism and 9/11 conspiracies, flat earth and the Illuminati, lizard overlords and chemtrails, the military industrial complex and medical industrial complex. I don’t think I believe in them, but I find the psychology of conspiracists interesting, and the raging of their creators and adherents hilarious.
When I got sick of reading about the cabal of people likely controlling the entire world, I imagined that my computer was the central hub for the nation’s nuclear arsenal. Every time I typed out a city or country’s name, my imagination flattened it via Peacekeepers, Minuteman I and II’s, I even borrowed the Soviet’s Tsar Bomba. Time flies when you’re daydreaming about dropping nukes on every population center on the planet. And now I’m fucked.
There’s no way I’ll finish the debugging by today…not without some performance enhancing drugs.
Kratom? Coke? Adderall? Hipster spliffs? Coffee?
All of the above.
Elijah dissolved three teaspoons of Kratom powder in his water bottle and chugged it, went to the bathroom and did a line off the closed lid of the toilet seat, and got a tripple espresso from the automated machine in the breakroom. She was ready to debug the automated content review code.
First off, let’s talk about what working in the computer engineering department of a megalithic social media company is like. Imagine the library of Alexandria, in the palm of your hand. Then imagine that bit in the palm of your hand on a chip, and millions of those chips embedded in a server that is for all we know in a nuke-proof bunker under the company’s headquarters. This comprises the code library accessible by Elijah to get his job done. In a sense, he was a very powerful person; a flick of the wrist, a click of the mouse, and the GPS tracker in Talk Buddy turns into a fart joke machine. In fact, he had never before realized the catastrophe he could bring down on the company just by modifying a few key lines of code in the company code library. At least, that is, if he could get past all the security mechanisms on the servers and computers, redundant, foolproof security mechanisms, protecting the company’s second most valuable asset.
It’s first most valuable asset?: It’s customers. The lonely and downtrodden in need of “connection”. Like broken dolls being sewn together. An extra body part here, a spare appendage there; all perfect. Normal.
Elijah shooed the thought of risking his job to bring catastrophic downfall to his company’s servers from his head and logged into the company’s code library. He navigated to the workspace dedicated for the automated content review. Explaining what the project about is a little complicated. In simple terms, it was a filter. The sadistic part? It filtered both input and output. If the user requested something from a Talk Buddy that was above the rating of the user, the Talk Buddy would filter it and present something of lesser adulthood. It filtered both the user’s input and the Talk Buddy’s output. Censorship, in short. There’s no bothering asking how the largest social media platform on Earth got away with such rampant infringement of Freedom of the Press; those were just the times. But people bought Talk Buddies. People with money, sometimes people without money (and greedy predatory loan-lending banks). Everyone needed someone to talk to those days. Never mind how in vogue the technology was.
Then there was the applicability of the automated content review (ACR) system to the social media apps the company owned. Chatbots, automated moderation, scanning user content for illegal or unwanton activity, suspicious even. That was just the tip of the iceberg. With a little twist, the company could delete the word “kitten” from all user interaction in the blink of an eye. ACR, folks. The most cutting edge technology in keeping narrow-minded, trigger-happy, overly-sensitive, overly-belligerent, overly-needy citizens from shooting themselves in the foot.
The kratom started to kick in and Elijah started to nod off. Work became a half-dream and inspiration started to arrive in waves of fire and warmth. Not quite bliss, the opioid did its job well. Syntax errors began to go away which Elijah was barely aware of, it just came naturally. What was that? What idiot wrote that method that way? Why wasn’t this algorithm optimized yet when it was already commented the shit out of? In all honesty, Elijah’s job wasn’t hard–he had the skills. Motivation and energy, no. But drugs took care of that part. And well.
Time flew. Elijah was barely aware of it. Half his mind was daydreaming about women he had dated and slept with before he began loathing them for not loathing him so much that he decided to stop. He had been out of control. He played the scene. He probably knew the name of half the respectable women in the city by now. He could recall each lady’s face visually in his mind, run his imaginary fingers over their skin and through their hair. The bliss. He almost missed it, until a syntax error in the code would bring him back to the current world. He never understood women. Maybe that’s what made him so good at exploiting them. He had yet to find someone who made him feel like the prey. Flip the tables, so to speak. But that was about to change very soon.
Please post in PWFUT’s comments section if you plan to add to the story so we don’t overlap! Edits are also available at https://drive.google.com/open?id=1IUgcHttuPZ7gohii0zFlJyRCNb4_OV3fyYmd1cjVDRg. Please feel free to add ideas.