Note: This is the second installment for what I think is a short story or something… Not quite sure what it is. Previous post: Seeker: Compos Mentis?
I’m not sure which trigger ignited the sparks that lead to the explosion. Maybe it’s the weather. I heard on Good Morning World that for most, the change in spells and the after the holidays time causes the dysphoric Black Bile affliction. Or maybe it’s the recurring nightmare I’ve been having, where I’m being chased by vampires. Or maybe it’s of all these things: Weather, Black Bile, Vampires.
All I remember was my heart and my mind were in a race, which can go faster than my motions in real time. And he was there, louder and angrier than ever before.
“Well of-course. You were feeding me elixirs all night.”
“That’s because you wouldn’t stop talking.”
“It’s what I do best hon. You wouldn’t clip a bird’s wings, or lock him up in a cage when flying is the best thing he can do? Or would you?”
It was 8:00am and Paramour was already dressed and trying to ignore the pace I was going at. I was rambling something with conviction, and she casually agreed. I felt her kissing my cheek, as I lay on the sleep levitator with my eyes closed, head hot with thoughts. I then heard the front door open and closed. I wanted to tell her not to leave me alone with him. But I didn’t want her to worry. I told myself to suck it up.
He was rummaging through all of the possible outcomes. Like a monkey, he swung on each thought, “First, you’d be relieved from your position and replaced. After a month or so of no work, Paramour will leave you for Alex, the Information Scientist. LOL!. You’d have to move out, but where to? You’d probably end up like the homeless woman you see everyday at the teleport. Hair all in a mess like it never ever saw a comb. Dirty with duck tape wrapping around your infected leg. And yes, you’d scream, dance, and do whatever for a sip. You know she’s probably around your age. LMAO, destitution really sucks. Eventually, you’d lose it and assault a pedestrian. Then finally, you’d be banished. Now if you listen to me, things won’t have to go this far, don’t pass go, don’t collect $200 won’t even have to apply to you ever again.”
Knowing what his solution was, I decided to wave the analyst, “Hello, hello…,” and then my sonic Bluetooth chip lost the signal. I waved again, nothing. And again, until finally the analyst waved me back.
“Hello, Nicodemus?” Here is where everything becomes a blur. All I remember is my head overheating. And the door rang, and I was letting in five Robo-commandos.
I offered them coffee, and waved, “Do you like micro-organic eggs, scrambled micro-eggs?” They were indifferent. But really, was it me, him, or the elixir that was offering Robo-commandos coffee, waving if they liked micro scrambled eggs?
“What does it matter now who offered them coffee? That future is dead.”
Getting down to the lobby area, the building’s super was waving with five more Robo-commandos. I wasn’t embarrassed then. No, in a strange way I was excited, but I wasn’t sure what I was excited about.
We were getting close to the door, and I was trying not to trigger my flight simulation program, where I run up the block as fast as Neo from the Matrix. So, I created a simple pop-up code in my mainframe, a cute funny distraction that waved, “I feel like one of our luminary deities needing protection from the Web-Paps with their web-cam eyes waiting to take ‘The Picture’.” One of the Robo-commandos however, read my mind and overrode the code I was using to distract them. He demanded that we wait in the lobby for the airbus’s arrival.
“Ha, like anyone ever outran a Robo-commando, at least not all 10 of them in a hail storm.”
On the airbus, I was incredibly chatty with the Robo-Emergency Action Figures (R-EAF). I was hoping to overload their inboxes with instant messages. I’ve never been that chatty even in a chat room with close friends.
“That’s because you could have never thought that up by yourself. Using your tabs as an evasion tacit, to open up chat windows instead of going into a sleep mode that you thought could stop them…ROFL. Don’t fret I’m not going to tell. We’ve went through this before.”
“And did that really help? Like we could stop their advanced cookies from tracking those thought waves, as they run a diagnostic on my cerebral cortex.”
Even with all the pop-ups, they read those thought waves and they made their assessment, and gave no reply to my invitation for coffee that day. At some point one of them asked if I had anyone they should contact. I sonic waved Paramour of course. She was in high court when I interrupted with my inappropriate euphoria. She panicked as I laughed nonsensically.
Once I arrived at the Panopticon, I waited for my preliminary interview. Robo-takers (RTs) did the interview. RTs never make eye-contact. The first RT ran a diagnostic on my mainframe. Questions, that I rudely re-routed to the RT’s inbox. Useless. I was becoming more anxious, looking for ways to escape.
Once the preliminary interview was over, I was whisked away to my second, where I was asked the same questions again. I gave them shit for the obvious lack of communication between their servers. I was becoming less charming and entertaining, and more irritable and a nuisance. I kept pushing their buttons while the RT scanned my body for any irregularities. They wanted to make sure I was healthy enough for the experiments that the Scientists were to perform. They discovered that my heart rate was unusually high. I joked that my unusual heart rate was due to probing overload. They asked if I used any accelerant RAM. “Never, only elixirs. Accels would completely overload my mainframe, and I’d crash,” I giggled. It was becoming difficult to sit still and to hold back the laughter.
They took my Earth shoes and gave me their socks with traction at the base. Then, they escorted me to the day room where the others were. The Panopticon was exactly what you’d think a Panopticon to be: with us, there were RTs locked inside the circular space of the Panopticon, and even though the watch tower wasn’t high above in the clouds, the eye was still capable of seeing everything. Somewhat like the eye of Sauron from Lord of the Rings.
I was introduced to the head RT on shift. His face was emotionless and cold. I timidly walked into the day room where everyone was watching the news. There was a woman waving loudly in a thick Brooklyn accent, “I’m not going to stand this sort of treatment anymore. For 20 years they’ve been probing me. I know the Governor, wait until he hears about this.” Then this kid, who couldn’t be more than 18 yells back, “Shut up already!”
“All these probing, and experiments. For 20 years… I refuse this non-sense.”
“Well then go, no one wants to hear about it. Damn, yo!”
“Do you want an apple?” A guy with a huge scar across his face waved me. I didn’t dare look him in the eye when I waved no. “Hahaha, that’s because you were afraid. And he was completely harmless.”
Even though internally I was leaping out of my skin, I maintained all of the impulsive neurons signaling that I should start singing a song, like the one my mother sang everyday, “Oh what a friend we have in Jesus.” The giggling was insatiable, the worst to subdue. But I was still in control. I wasn’t going to give up. I remember the old woman at the CCRC. I started to giggle a little. I took a deep breath and mumbled. “I’m not going to give up on my mainframe.”
“Maybe your mainframe will give up on you. What then? My solution is your best bet.”
“Just shut-up, alright.”
Knowing was terrifying. Knowing that anything can happen to me in the Panopticon. I had to get out and before sleep mode sets in. My head was throbbing badly. Like the walls of my skull were closing in on my brain. I waved to the nurse, “How long are they going to keep me?”
“If you do exactly what we say and take your control supplements, you will be out of here in no time.” I got the feeling that it was a hologram I was speaking to not a real nurse.
In the Panopticon you’re allowed 15 minutes on a regular payphone. I called the analyst, “You have to get me out of here. I don’t belong here, my mainframe is salvageable, but if I stay here it will die.”
“Nicodemus, do you remember our agreement. Do you remember the contract you signed? Well do you?”
“I do, I do, but this isn’t the time for contracts and who waved what. I can’t stay here.”
“I’ll see what I can do, but I’m not hopeful. The things the R-EAF discovered on your mainframe were disturbing.”
I heard my entire title being waved, “Nicodemus of South America,” I turned, and it was the head RT.
“You have a visitor,” and he escorted me to the visitor room that was covered with spy-ware. It was Paramour. We embraced. She looked like she was about to break down. I held her firmly.
“Are you ok?”
“Yes, I just need to get out of here.”
“I spoke to the analyst… She doesn’t think they will let you go. The things on your mainframe makes it less likely. Do you remember what you waved?”
“No. I lost all the footage for some weird reason. It’s there but as soon as I try accessing those scenes, my memory starts skipping or freezes up.”
“Your mainframe is getting worse.”
“I know,” I snapped, and then quickly held her hand apologizing. She started to cry.
“Para, please don’t… Not here… I’m sorry you have to see me like this.”
3 thoughts on “Panopticon”
It’s quite different from the first part, like the narrator has moved further away from normality, deeper into their own world. There can be this dislocation from the human in some forms of madness, everyone becomes a robot or a puppet. There’s some really brilliant touches in the writing and it reminds me of Philip K Dick and his explorations of strange futures contained in distortions of the present, which is definitely a good thing. And like his work it is impossible to say if this sci-fi or psychology. Fascinatingly complex and swirly in the mind.
Thanks Paul. A friend had also recommended that I read Neuromancer by William Gibson. I will check out Philip K. Dick as well.
i’ve gotta second paul on the PKD thing – his combination of the mundand and the surreal really brings home a lot of the elements that are usually more jarring in SF-type work. what’s great about this piece is that it’s got a solid momentum and none of the more technical aspects throw the reader out of the narrative and the greater concern for Paramour. plus, “What does it matter now who offered them coffee? That future is dead.” is a great line in any context.
You have a real gift for gripping yet well-written prose.