You wake up.
How long have you been asleep?
You look at the clock…10 minutes; A good night’s rest. You usually only sleep 5 minutes, so this is a big improvement. Your doctor told you to start getting more sleep. He gave you steps to help you improve your sleep. You followed them. They worked. 10 minutes is good, but you probably shouldn’t sleep more than that.
You remove the SleepFast device from your head and place it back on it’s stand at the side of your bed. It looks almost like a pedestal. It stands so tall that from your bed you have to look up. You only look down at it once you’re out of bed.
Your feet hit the floor. A light races from one edge of the black baseboard to the other side, turning the baseboards white, lighting the carpet beneath your feet. A voice greets you:
“Hello! Good morning! The sun might not show his face today, and it is going to rain, but don’t despair! Tomorrow looks to be sunny with a high of seventy degrees! Wednesday is always rain day! It is necessary for the beauty of the planet!”
The cheeriness of the male voice was a little too much for this time in the morning. It always was. It had a way of getting under your skin. The cheery voice was supposed to make you happy and keep you in a good mood. But it almost had the opposite effect.
* * * *
The morning commute to work is dreadful. It must be taking 5 minutes. There was a jam somewhere. Traffic got backed up for miles. You left for work a minute earlier than usual to compensate for any delays. You hope you don’t get there late. Again. And get reamed by your boss. Again.
Luckily, you reached work just in time. The doorway scans the chip in your wrist and you’re officially on the clock. In the system. The elevator wasn’t working, so you had to take the Escastairs. Up 3 floors. Could this day start off any worse? You think to yourself. You know your coworkers are thinking the same thing. Everybody has this look of dissatisfaction as they walk up the moving stairs that inconveniently wind their way around the facility with little exit points for different floors. You get off on the third and head down another moving walkway.
You reach your department. You walk into the cube matrix and take the transport to your cube. It’s in upper-middle-northeast corner. There are one hundred cubes in this matrix. You are one out of a hundred. You strap into your floating chair with the rounded bottom and back. It’s comfortable. More comfortable than it has any right to be. You guess they had to make something comfortable. You spin the chair around and look at your wrap-around desk. It comes out from the wall in a never ending loop. Everywhere you look there is desk. It sickens you. You look down. The floor is about five feet down. It would be dangerous if the gravity was turned on in here. Luckily, the gravity was only turned on for the desk to keep all papers and tools from floating away. You laugh. “Luckily”.
You decide to get to work and manipulate the chair over to the edge of the desk. It doesn’t matter where. Your arms, having been free floating all this time, latch down onto the desk like they’re being suctioned. It’s a feeling you never get used to. It’s probably not good for your arms. But they never really think about what’s good for you. They only think about what’s good for them. The bastards. Best not to think too loud. They might hear you.
You start on your paper work. Sometimes you get to thinking this job is designed so that you never get your work done and you always get more and more every day. It sucks the life out of you. It sucks the life out of everyone. Everyone is lifeless. Everyone is dead. What are we even doing here anymore? On Earth, you mean. You wonder what the point of life is now that humanity’s soul and vibrance is gone. It’s a miracle you even had a thought like that. Maybe that’s hope enough. But you doubt it.
That voice that greets you in the morning every time your feet touch the carpet starts to make more sense. It’s a last resort to try and keep some kind of life alive. Even if it is artificial. Could artificial life be more living than real life? You need to stop thinking. This is getting too deep and serious. You need to focus on your work. Maybe if you work hard enough and fast enough you can get through the whole stack of papers and have less tomorrow. Or is that just how they want you to feel?
Dammit. You have no idea what’s them and what’s you anymore. They’ve screwed with you so much that it’s fogging your mind. All the stuff they’ve done is atrocious. They made a device that allows 10 minutes of sleep to do as much good for your body as 8 hours used to do. Then they extended the work day by 6 hours. Then they made transportation go exponentially faster so you can get anywhere in a fraction of the time it used to take. Then they extended the work day another hour. How much time was there in a day anymore? How much was spent at work? What do people do in their free time?
You stop yourself. You’re doing it again. Just get to work. It’s not like the faster or harder you work, the more you’ll be rewarded, but at least you can get your mind off of things. That’s all you want at this point. You just want to stop thinking. It feels like a curse. You envy the people who have fully accepted their robotness. Which brings up a good question. Why haven’t they just replaced everyone with robots?
You pick up the first paper on your pile. At first you just stare at the words. You stare through the words, into the white space between the black letters. You stop thinking altogether. You get into a sort of trance and it fills you with peace. A bright flash hits your eyes and you snap out of it. You notice an arm retract into the ceiling. It was one of those robots that scans your life systems. If it thinks you might be dead it comes down and scans you to make sure. Great. Even a robot thinks you’re dead. You look at the page again. This time you actually read it:
Name: Ben Fit
(All names and surnames were shortened to one syllable to save time).
Occupation: Construction worker
Claim: Jen Goop stole one of his spoons. He wants one million dollars in compensation.
Is this a joke? You don’t even have to debate yourself on this one. You write on the line at the bottom:
Rule in favor of the defendant.
One suit down, about one thousand to go. Why do people even bother anymore? You guess you shouldn’t complain. If people didn’t file ridiculous lawsuits against each other you’d be out of a job. Sometimes you regret going to law school, but there are worse jobs than being a Judgery. Although most of the time you feel like law school was completely unnecessary. Most people with half a brain could determine 90% of the suits that come across your desk.
You read the next one:
Name: Ron Yunk
Claim: Dan Hup ruled unjustly. Wants one million dollars in compensation.
What the hell? You think. That’s your name. Why is this file on your desk? It’s clearly a conflict of interest. It’s against the law to judge yourself. This file should have been sent somewhere else. You try to remember the procedure for something like this.
“Call boss,” you say. The cube goes dark and a square pops up in thin air with your boss on it.
“Yes, Dan?” she says.
“I got a suit against myself by mistake. What do I do with it?”
“That’s a breach of the law. I’m sending someone to arrest you. Just sit tight.” The screen goes blank, then collapses on itself. Your cube turns red.
“What the hell?!” you scream.
You try to jump, but you’re still strapped to your chair, so you just kind of spin around until you’re upside down. You unbuckle yourself and start floating toward the door at the ceiling. Suddenly, gravity kicks in and you are pulled to the floor like an elevator with a snapped cable. It hurts. It hurts a lot. You try to figure out a way to get to the door. You can reach the desk. You climb onto it. From there you can reach the door in the ceiling. You open it and climb out.
What now? You can’t just take the transport down. You’ll have to scale down the outside of the cube matrix. It’s not going to be easy. No time to waste. You run down the hallway and to the edge of the cube matrix. You’ll have to break through the wall. They’re coming. You can hear them. Luckily, everybody’s very cheap about buildings. You punch the wall repeatedly and it tears and breaks fairly easily. You rip a hole big enough to fit through and look down.
The outside is smooth. Not much, if anything, to grab onto. You might just have to slide. You climb out, hanging by your fingers, then turn around and let go. Your butt touches the side as you slide down the length of a football field. You start wondering if this was a bad idea. Once you get to the last cube, you grab onto the protrusion of its wall and stop yourself. It hurts your fingers. You let yourself calm down a bit, then let go. You fall to the ground. The pain sensors in your brain go off, but you ignore them.
You run. There are guards coming toward you. All the guards. You’ve never fought. Never been trained to fight. First your first attempt here, you don’t do too bad. The guards level you within about 30 seconds and beat you into submission. It hurts. They cuff you.
* * * *
You wake up in a room. You don’t know when you went unconscious or how long you’ve been out. You’re not sure you even remember what all happened. Your boss sits in front of you. You’re sitting at a table in a bland room. It dulls the senses.
“I didn’t do anything,” you say. The boss doesn’t respond. “It’s just a mistake. The wrong file got put in my stack.” The boss kind of leans back.
“Then why did you run?” your boss asks you condescendingly. You don’t respond. “It’s standard procedure to make an arrest in this situation. Then it gets resolved. Then you go free. There’s nothing to get excited about.”
“You can say that again,” you say, to the confusion of your boss.
“Unfortunately, I have no choice but to fire you.”
“I also have to send you to jail.”
“That I didn’t.” You don’t know why it hadn’t crossed your mind, but it makes sense and you don’t fight it.
“You will spend thirty days in jail. Upon release they will assign you another job utilizing your skillset.”
That is the end of it. The guards haul you off. You travel to the prison. You wonder if it will actually be so bad. You hadn’t been to prison before. It couldn’t be any worse than work. Maybe it would be better.
You reach the prison and see a giant cube of a building. When you enter, you start to get a sense of dread. You are quickly filed along and get into put into your section. You’re in prison attire and you aren’t entirely sure how everything happened so quickly or where the clothes came from. Within five minutes of arriving, you are brought to the door of your cell. It opens and you go in.
It’s a damn cube. It doesn’t look much different from your work cube. Same desk. Same chair. You have the undesirable task of building parts for machinery.
You look down. There’s a bed on the floor.
You work for hours. Hours upon hours. The walls turn black. It must be time for sleep. You float down to the bed and get situated. You see a SleepFast sitting there beside you. Not tonight. Tonight you’ll enjoy a nice long sleep. After thirty seconds of shut-eye, a robot arm comes down and scans you. You cover your eyes with your hand. A cheery voice says:
“Hey, buddy! Please use the SleepFast! It gives you all the sleep you need in a fraction of the time!”
You groan and shut your eyes again, hoping the robot will go away. It’s the same damn voice that greeted you in the morning.
“Hey, buddy! Hate to be a stickler, but I’m gonna have to ask you to use the SleepFast! It gives you all the sleep you need in a fraction of the time!”
The voice seemed a little menacing in that last sentence. Was it threatening you? You ignore it again, hoping it will leave you the hell alone.
“Hey, pal! Sorry to bother you, but I’m gonna need you to use the SleepFast! It gives you all the sleep you need in a fraction of the time!”
He was definitely threatening you that time. You ignore it again just to see what happens. The robot shines a blinding light in your face.
“Look alive, buddy! I hate to do this, but you really need to use the SleepFast! It gives you all the sleep you need in a fraction of the time!”
Or what? You think. Maybe it would just keep annoying you.
“Hey! I just got a great idea! How about I play some soothing music to help you sleep! If you use the SleepFast, it gives you all the sleep you need in a fraction of the time!”
The most horrendously happy song starts playing. Bubbling its way into your brain. Fine. It wins. You grab the helmet and strap in, then turn over to sleep. The music stops. The light fades. The robot ascends. At least the future got prison right.