I dreamt this about a month ago and thought it’d be the perfect #Fridayflash – have a nice weekend, folks:)
The crowd of workers gathered to listen to his genius mind, to catch a glimpse of his cherished face. Small at first, then the factory parking lot left no space to breathe, so many people by piles of rocks under the long ramp. Rain lashed from the sky, the sheets of metal rusting with an iron smell, dirt puddles now mud. Why would he visit each factory? I wondered, when a hand fell on my shoulder.
“Long time, Marla.” Tobias smiled at me, checking over my shoulder to see if anyone heard. “Never fancied seeing you here.” Behind him, his wife and two children; before me, what my life could have been. I nodded to Carey, she waved back, staying away.
“I’m curious, is all.” My shaky voice shamed me, showed how vulnerable I’d become with the passing of time.
“Aren’t we all? Just to see what he’s become.” Tobias checked Carey, his watch, anywhere but me. “Think Rick will show up?” Like anyone cared if the drop-out found his way back from California.
“Have I ever let you down?” Rick leaned close to me from behind, a breath of menthol cigarettes and Vodka, both prohibited by the new laws controlling us. “I promised a million years ago, so I came.” He showed us the thick padding of the bullet-proof vest under his trenchcoat. “Came prepared if we’re found out, though.”
We. As if I was still part of their group, even after I deserted it to join Callum; as if the past was behind us and didn’t taint the future.
Second year of college, a long way to go before our Doctorates in Engineering and Technology diplomas, when Callum admitted after a night of debauchery: “It’s always been you, Marla. Since kindergarten.” Tobias was sleeping in our room, and my feet rested on Callum’s lap. “You need to know the others don’t matter, because they’re not you.”
That switch in my heart, I regretted it the next day, as Tobias yelled: “You fame whore, once he’s fried your brain cells with his experiments, he’ll throw you to the curb like the others!” Which was pretty much what our other friends thought, too.
Not Carey, though. As I trudged my stuff down the driveway, she smiled and said: “Don’t worry, Marl. I’ll make sure he’s okay.” Did she ever. They got married the next year and moved far away from Callum and me, even though by then, I had wanted to vanish from his sight, too.
Callum invented it, the device small enough to be slid up through the nose to render computers a waste and the human body a machine, keeping all communications silent, through our minds only. Saving us so much time, turning us into better citizens who couldn’t hide anything.
After being his guinea pig that one time, I never again approved of having my mind meddled with, didn’t like the intrusion, the hopelessness. Neither did Tobias, Rick or Carey, and once I made my choice clear, Callum left me for good, but by then, the government had already set him on a mission to rectify the working class. Buried under so much money and power, he forgot about us—me most of all, I’m sure.
Not many knew what would happen after the mandatory surgery, the government leaving little choice on the matter. For our own good, to work more efficiently, to be more proactive against daily threats from enemy countries. But their minds were tampered with, their most personal thoughts, their every wish spammed for hours, with a humming that never went away.
I knew and the population didn’t, so I fled from the city, hid in the abandoned suburbs, found ways to pretend I’d had it done when I got caught, by reading people’s faces and watching their body language closely. Because outcasts were also known as fugitives.
“Here he is, the man of the decade,” Rick whispered as Callum strutted down the factory ramp twenty feet above the crowd. And this unnerving silence I’d never grown accustomed to, the air febrile with thoughts I refused to adhere to. Partly to blame, I should’ve stopped him all those years ago, while he had still listened to the words coming out of my mouth.
Callum77, the name by which he was known, this computer genius who always used the same code, the same user name, with everything he ever touched. Nothing secret, everything out in the open, except what truly lay in his heart. The world knew and embraced him for it: no feelings just thoughts.
Through his mind, the man I once loved spoke to everyone but me, and one look at Tobias, Carey and Rick assured me: we had to stop him and the government. We had to rebel.