art by Lynne Jamneck
They asked what my number was. I said, ď475-74-5646.Ē It was then arranged that I be put and stay situated in one of the rooms on the 48th floor; which is really the high end of things but there was nothing I could do to change their mind set on accommodating me in a comfortable room. So there I sat in my prison, complimented with modern day conveniences; from day in to out to next dayís in and out and again many more times still.
Linda is the label, the tag of a lady who does lift the sliding portion of my door and pass through it papers which need be processed. It is not chance I know her name. She is a regular story that speaks itself through the hidden speakers in my room, in all the other rooms as well, I would think. Linda is very fast and moves quickly through the steps of her purpose. She lifts the hatch, pulls up and thus creates a window of opportunity, but opportunity falls to reality as the inked sheets show themselves, and the window is slammed shut without delay; almost in a panic reaction. She has never uttered a word to me. I believe they believe I am insane.
As a child, I was determined, by the people who knew me best, to be a nuisance. Erase that, it isnít clear. Those closest me when I was young believed me be an unforgiving burden. How this relates to my present condition is very clear. My history is eventful, however I have analyzed my every move many times within my head and fear that if I bring back to mind the turbulence, I will fall ill. Perhaps later, on a day of uncommonly less to worry of, I will be the storyteller and you my audience.
I awoke this morning to the sound of muffled tapping. That is ordinary. It is the sound of metal keys slammed, hit, leaving imprints on the papers that need be processed in rooms adjacent mine. Iíve learned to appreciate the noise as a melody. The song is always playing. If it stops, I feel awkward.
I awoke this morning with mine ear pressed tightly against the wall. I assume, experience forces me, that the corrosive finish left pressure marks all about the area it met with. I was not hurt, was only left with the throbbing sensation common in instances when the blood build up is allowed movement after having been arrested for some time. The only explanation for waking in such a position, as far as I can tell, is a subconscious longing for more muffled tapping.
My conscious longing was for the drug caffeine. I groggily massaged my ear and stumbled to the cabinet where I found, as I expected and hoped to find, my precious coffee grounds. Do not jump to the conclusion I am old fashioned. I do have caffeine in its more recent tablet and even liquid forms; but in the morning, I appreciate and make use of the traditional method of intake.
You ought to know what corporation I work for. Hijuri Ltd. Itís a massive business. It has many branches. One of them, the English one, the one that hired me, is named ĎCobblestone Software inc.í and in small print directly beneath, Ďa division of Hijuri Ltd.í. Our logo makes me sick. I hate to say Ďourí; it implies I had something to do with it. I had nothing to do with it. It may have been good. It might be good to our customers. I understand how that would work. The customer gets the package that contains the software they ordered. The logo is on the package. The logo is good news. My case is different. In my case, the logo is printed on every paper that needs be processed. The logo means repetitious work. The logo is a disk made of cobblestones.
With urgency. With the speed common of someone who has random stimulants running loose in their blood. With broken words I will describe where I live. Box. Square, equal. Four white walls synchronized with white ceiling and floor. No glass panes. No reflections except in dreams. Chair. Desk. Computer with typewriter keyboard. Metal clock. Metal clock hands. Numbers written in gaslight font. Tick tick. No tock. Youíll wait forever for the tock; feel like youíre tipsy and need the tock to set you upright again. Door with brass knob. Door is white like walls, ceiling, and floor. Knob comes out of nowhere, totally unexpected, shows itself from out of the overwhelming whiteness. Florescent lights out of my control, they do as they please, prevent me from sleeping at times. This is my room.
In my room I am confined. I will always be confined in my room. I have done a great deal of thinking, thus. Suppose I am the subject of an experiment. The muffled taps I hear from rooms adjacent mine may only be recorded sounds; not prisoners like myself. I first developed this hypothesis when my coded knocking on the walls yielded no answer from the other side. This perplexed me a great deal. Surely, if there were someone on the other side, they would politely knock back a coded Ďhelloí.
Something does present itself to me now. Background will give you base. The metal clock hands say 10:00 A.M. when the papers are pushed through the door; if Linda is on schedule and she has no substitute. I push them back out the other way around 2:00 P.M. Something does present itself to me now. Say I donít work the papers and donít push them back. Or, say I push them back without having been worked. What would they do?
Why must this day continue forever?
Four twenty finally left me.
It may surprise you, it surprises me, no papers came today. It is the first time anything of this sort has happened. Do you realize what weight that statement has? How many in and out days have past since I revealed to them my number, do you know? Trillions, I would think. That this occurrence occurs now is very unnerving. I donít know where you are. You might be snug in bed, or in your reading chair, or in school; but I am here, in dangers way, in the room I was put in. So that as things begin to unfold, you only read about what happens, while I am in a different situation. A situation in which I must experience the occurrences first hand, despite the good chance I may very much want to break free and vanish before anything the least bit distasteful happens to me. I, of course, am writing in the moment. Anything could transpire in minutes to come. As of yet, everything is as it ever was, save the failure of paper delivery.
I think Linda has died. You see, its been hours, I think, since last I wrote, and still no papers have come. This is their way, I think, their response to my pondering about what would happen if I didnít return the papers; or returned them without having been processed. It is baffling to try finding sense out of how they came across my ponderings. Perhaps the hidden cameras have been reading what Iíve been writing. Perhaps theyíre reading what Iím writing now. This is, I think, a more realistic assumption than that my uppers can read my mind. And, putting myself in their shoes, I find they came up with a rational solution. They know I wonder about the consequences of failing to work papers, so they prevent me from finding out by ceasing to give me the papers. They want me to get frustrated and go mad. Off the wall mad, hysterical. But I will not sink to that low. Do you read me cameras? I am at peace, content. I am, in a way, free. Free of the burden of work. The hidden speakers promote static now, as if in response, whether in confirmation or not, to what Iíve written. Oh, hush.
Linda has not died. I saw her. I saw her. She was walking along. I felt strange, knowing that she was on the other side of my door every day for many years, but seeing her for the first time only today. For her shoulder length brown hair, she wears a brown skirt and blouse. Sheís young and pretty. No, she did not, after all these years of hiding, walk into my box to see me. It was an uncommon event that led me to see her. It was chance even, that I saw her. It is not such that I am a stalker, although...she only happened to be walking down the corridor which I happened to be hiding in a corner adjacent to. I had heard her high heels coming and hid myself promptly. Yes, I had escaped my box. But not the big box, mind you. Thank whomever, she had high heels. If it were no so, we surely would have met face to face, having been walking opposite directions. There is no telling what she may have done. Slowly, the echoes of her feet subsided. I peeked round the edge of my protecting wall to see her turn to the left and disappear. Before going further, I must justify my escape. Believe me when I tell you I am a hard worker. I donít mean to run away from work. Indeed, I, escaping, was running away from a lack of work. Please, donít side with the mad scientists that have, until recently, controlled my every move. It is insanity, you must agree, to expect a common man to remain indefinitely in one room with nothing to preoccupy himself with. I admit, I was going mad, like they wanted. I could feel the disease tighten itself like a noose around my thinker. Everything that I was forced to perceive as reality in order to keep living in a right mind, was cracking at the edges like dry bread dough. I could feel everything, even on the molecular levels, begin to deteriorate. It was unbearable. If you are human, and have those compassionate feelings that the word implies, you must feel I was justified in escaping my home.
I am proud! Time has slowed. Now I can empty my brain to you. Now I can catch up on my writing. It gives me great pleasure to retell with what obsession in perfection I slipped out of my room. It had been some near two days since the no paper incident; and nothing changed. Still, the speakers droning their monotonous static like always, you know. And the florescent lights flickering at some funny frequency like they were shivering in spite of their burning warmth.
I sat, while static speakers played and shivering lights held my eyes, with my head sort of cocked to one side like a bird will do when perplexed or just joking ha ha. I took a shot of caffeine to see things more clearly.
Then experienced the normal effects, the shaking and what have you. And when I found myself on the other side of the transformation, I discovered the speakers were telling me the answers with astonishing clarity. I know exactly what they said because they branded their message in my brain. It was: ĎHello 475-74-5646. We are the hidden speakers in your room. It is good of you to listen to us. We will show you the way.í It went on for near two hours I would guess, all very intense the entire span of time; and me feeling like I had undergone blood transfusion after it was all over. The lights blinked at me with elderly confirmation that what I had been told was true. I nodded, gratified, relieved that I would soon be free, as the speakers had prophesized. I didnít waste my time with the door knob trap; that would be foolery. Instead, I, as the speakers had instructed me, unscrewed the air vent with my nails and crawled inside. Looking back, itís hard to believe I had never seen the vent before. It really is strange I had never seen it before; there arenít many hiding places in my room. What about the speakers then? The cameras? I donít know. Know nothing.
My breathing was exceptional; am convinced I could have completed the entire trek inside the air vent with little more than twenty ounces of nitrogen/oxygen mix, having rationed the gas so sparingly in spite of its abundance. I recall crawling, like a child, on all fours, distributing weight evenly to all ends of limbs inside the claustrophobic metal snake. I recall also, and should, it having happened quite recently, within the last hour perhaps, the status of my heart. Still in the snake, I was experiencing symptoms commonly associated with adrenaline overdose. And the heart beating vigorously, like some tortured animal wandering in agony in a feverish nightmare. All the while, the branded message of the speakers repeating itself in my brain, sputtering rhythmically like a diseased cough. I refer to the air vent as a snake, but it really was more of a nurseís needle, metal, straight, see? Straight so long I lost myself in its vantage point; the only thing keeping me somewhat oriented being gravity. It was odd to see a light of growing intensity at its end. There must have been an opening, I reason. I fancied it the light at the end of the tunnel and crawled in its direction with the caution of a prisoner in coma who is on a journey to find the reality they once knew. I soon realized the relationship of the light to the static of the speakers in my head. Both grew more intense as I inched forward, grimacing from nerve oriented pain more noticeably now. And at the point precisely when the light was blinding, was surrounding me in its pure whiteness so that the metal needle disappeared and I was crawling through an endless sea of white, when both my eardrums were near bursting in response to the corrosive sputtering static that scratched mercilessly at the delicate mechanics of my ear; at that precise point...I fell out. I heard Lindaís high heels only seconds later.
05/05 & 1/4
I am fascinated by how much can take place in a quarter of a day. Last I wrote, I clung to the wall, with the fading echoes of Lindaís shoes competing with the branded message of the speakers for space in my thinker. The high heel echoes were more good looking to think about.
Yes, I was clinging to the wall. But my plight is different now. My plight is much different. After I was thoroughly convinced that the high heel sounds I heard were coming solely from within my head, and Linda had long since disappeared, my paralysis gave way to movement, and I took the unparalleled risk of stepping out into the center of a long open corridor. To my relief I was alone. Moreover, there was a total absence of the minute sounds that have a habit of representing a nearing threat to solitude.
I walked down the corridor calmly, lost. I had about as much chance of finding the exit (if there was one), as ending up inside my 48th floor room, my home I had so carefully escaped. Damn the bastards who were undoubtedly spying on me from behind the lenses! I was deeply involved in discovering what their logic was in apparently doing nothing but watching my attempt at escape. All this I was conducting in my head while walking down the corridor, trying my most hard not to look suspicious, funny that. All things considered, you could say that, as far as my facial features were concerned, I was attempting to be one of them. So that if one of them (I at this point believed them all be against me) turned the corner and observed my figure nearing, I might walk by casually exchanging acknowledging nods with the other; the other never suspecting me of being some escaped convict. I now confess this pretense was ridiculous, but, at the time, it did seem most necessary.
The good fortune of having only two options in direction could not last, I knew. Rather soon, multiple intersections confronted me. I stopped, looking quite melancholy, having walked aimlessly for some time with no sign of exit, and faced, in random, the numerous paths I could explore. All at once my motherís voice in my brain recited the wisdom she had forced me to memorize in regard to directions. With the recollection of my mother, I was attacked by all the other horrible scenes of my childhood. My legs lost their strength, I fell to the sterile floor, hugged my knees, and cooed for mercy.
I do recall an occasion when I was still in single digits. The white was falling. The temp. was cold. There was a drizzle, it being early and most people asleep. I stood, waiting for a transport to take me to the learning establishment. The sun sleeping like the most people, it was dark where the streetlights stopped. My place of waiting was alongside the main road. There was also a back road though, pushing itself into residence. It was on this road, the back one, a small transport approached me slowly. The lights and motor made me aware of its advance; I spun to face it. Most individuals would put the situation into context. Most individuals would feel indifferently about the situation; they would assume the nearing vehicle was occupied by someone on their way to the main road on their way to work, an ordinary routine. I, contrarily, was paranoid. I was a paranoid android whose fears were real. Like today, think?
I do recall an occasion. The trees went wishy wishy and the crowd of persons were gob gabbing ferociously over a penalty call by the referee. It was a call against home team and I was on visitor, a poor place to be in the spectatorís eye. Funny how, in an eyeís blink, all who were on my team had fingers pointing in my direction, unanimously implying that I be the kicker to take the penalty shot, that I be the target of the home spectators if I were to get a goal off a free kick that was the result of a ref call they thought faulty. Not funny, really. I was about to do what everyone expected me to do: miss. The last second I changed my mind, scored, bottom left corner, bullet. It was gorgeous, I was proud. Stardom lasted a few seconds, time enough for everyone to gasp, and before any of them had exhaled, I was running for my life. It is not a comfortable environment to be running away from those who want to kill you; like if you trip, youíre done.
I think it was my cooing that helped it stop. I awoke much like you do after horrid dreaming, somewhat disoriented. There were all the corridors again, they hadnít left me, I hadnít been dreaming. This time I had no caffeine to electrocute my nerves, particularly the nerve near my cerebrum which tends to fall asleep more than the others, I suspect. Being in a sleepy state was advantageous, I felt, still feel. How so? So how because time did slip more readily into goneness and I reasoned that if my random travels were to eventually come to an end, the end would come sooner if I were in the state I was in, a drugged drowsy one.
05/05 & 1/4 & 1/same
Good news being that intersection is back way back. I spun, slowed, and continued confidently in the direction I faced. Happy tunes do play in ears. Face harbors grin.
Am aware of irrepressible desire to formulate rhyme such as this:::
dilly dally downtown fob
rackety biswick squik
zirlum peader pot
Mine hypothesis--> roots of desire are secondary symptoms of brain dysfunction, result of prolonged confinement and elusive purpose. None to worry, be okay, nay?!
Better news being that swing doors dance on horizon. These be not leading into cubicle, contrarily outside yes? Outside yes?! Feeling hot I do, I crawl breathing heavily in direction of merrily dancing doors who call to me say ĎI think heís going to make it! What think you? I do!í Pessimistic say synonymous with mirage in desert, sun beating down within walls, me panting like dog. I inch forward calling feebly Ďstand still door! You bounce about too energetically!í and I continue, tick, tick, no tock.
It be nearer, not mirage I proclaim, triumphant. Nearer still! Thank God above my hand now does rest on cold metal of real swing door frame, oh nirvana! I lean, push forward in want to open, with desperation of frantic panic, and
and my eyes do open; into them fluorescent light does flicker.
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