Posts Tagged ‘dystopia’

“I don’t get it.” Garrick said aloud as he shrugged. He considered responding to the post with “Tl;dr”, but that didn’t really convey his confusion. “WTF?” also came to mind, as did “lolwut” and “O_o”. In the end, however, he went with a simple “huh?” He pressed “enter” and sat back, waiting for the response.

Denyse boggled on her end of the screen. She had put forth a well detailed argument, complete with citations and examples (and links, even, dammit!) only to have it all negated with a four – character reply. God, how she longed, longed, to be able to reach through the computer screen and grab people by the throat and shake them exactly the way you’re never supposed to shake a baby. She was at a loss. She let loose a torrent of thought on the screen, possessed.

“The English language is made up of these things called ‘words’,” Denyse typed. “These ‘words’ stand for, are the place-holders for, these things called ‘ideas’. ‘Ideas’ are the the things that are traded back and forth between sentient creatures in a process called ‘conversation’. One ‘idea’ leads to another one, and so forth and so on, until a thing called ‘understanding’ is achieved. I could tell you, for example, that water is wet. You might reply that beer is also wet. This might lead us into a thing called a ‘discussion’ on the differences and similarities between beer and water. What is not allowed, however, is this bullshit about one person responding ‘huh?’ to something that was so clearly laid out as what I wrote to you. Are you saying that I lost you somewhere? Where did that happen? What does ‘huh?’ mean? What is ‘huh?’ a response to? You are, ostensibly, a functional adult. Use words.” Enter.

Now, Garrick was hurt. A little bit. Denyse and her big brain. Her big words. Her logic, that he was never allowed to argue with. The one big word that occurred to him at times like these was ’emasculating’. If she provoked an emotional response out of him, however, it would mean that she had won. He pursed his lips. Popped his knuckles. Concentrated.

“What I meant by, ‘huh?’,” Garrick haltingly began, “was that I don’t understand why you think that it would be such a bad thing for people to have their health and well being monitored for them, for their own good. What’s wrong with a restaurant suggesting a lighter option for a customer, if the waiters can tell at a glance on a screen that this person’s heading towards type II diabetes, for example?” It had taken Garrick quite a while to type that out. He’d had to make constant references back to Denyse’s original post, just to make sure he wasn’t about to mis-quote or mis-understand her. Denyse was known to be quick witted; however, the speed of her reply still jarred. As though she had been watching over Garrick’s shoulder as he typed, she thundered back.

“Have you ever heard of the concept of ‘agency’?” Denyse asked. “Does the thought of ‘personal responsibility’ ring a bell? Why should the body politic, be it collectivist, statist, or capitalist, have any say in the affairs of the citizenry, especially when it comes to such personal issues as health? Have all notions of privacy been thrown away? Has -”

The screen went blank. Garrick looked over his shoulder. His boss looked on, shaking his head ruefully. “Another failure,” he sighed, shutting the ‘Denyse’ program down.

Garrick nodded. “We’ll get it, eventually. Just a little bit more tweaking. The last ‘Denyse’ was a little too much of a sycophant; this one … well, you can see the problems. A bit more ‘tough love’ than we really need.”

“Right,” the boss agreed. “We need to dial it in. Come up with a personality that most people will accept, that won’t rub people the wrong way. This app is gonna go on everything, after all. Can’t have it going around spouting off about stuff over everybody’s head.”

 

words © Christopher Ward. All rights reserved.

This is sort of a “sideways” story, a tangent from Allosaurus. You don’t really have to read any of that to get anything out of this, if you don’t want to, or if you already read enough about Fran and Palmetto Bug Man. Just a thought that I had from listening to Laurie Anderson this afternoon.

“Who told the 80’s they could come back, anyway?” Morgan sighed, in between bites of his sandwich. “Popped collar polos, Ray Bans, bright ass colors … and this music you kids listen to these days!” He took a long pull from his extra large size soda. “Not one original guitar riff! Not one! Jesus Christ, I liked Vampire Weekend a lot better when they were called Peter Gabriel -”

“Sir,” the young woman behind the deli counter started, ” you sound a little bit … agitated.” “Sir” and “agitated” were said as though they were questions. The young woman continued. ” I’m going to have to ask you to calm yourself down a little bit, mmk?”

“Don’t take that tone with me!” Morgan blurted. “Who are you, my wife? ‘Calm down’, she says-”

“It’s just that we’re showing some elevated signals here on your blood pressure and anxiety levels.” The young woman pressed a few buttons on a console in front of her. “Plus, it looks like you lied to me earlier. You had a regular cola just the other day.” She extended a hand to him. “You’ll I have to give me that one back and accept a diet lemon/lime or water.”

“Oh, really?” Morgan sneered. “No unsweetened ice tea?”

“Hmm. Nope. You’d be over your caffeine limit for the day.”

“You. Have got. To be. Kidding.” But, the young woman was resolute, and Morgan couldn’t afford another interaction with the Powers That Be. He gave the young woman back the cup with a sigh. “Lemon/lime,” he muttered, a broken man.

It was during his last tango with the Powers That Be that he’d been put on a modified potassium diet. A bit moody and restless, they’d said. More bananas, they’d ordered. Morgan hated bananas – yellow, mushy, obscene. Who knew what horrors they’d introduce him to next time? Gluten – free? Morgan grew up on his mom’s baked spaghetti. Not happening.

Just then, Morgan’s pedometer broke in. “Look, I don’t wanna start anything,” the pedometer said in a pleasant, slightly matronly tone, “but you’ve got another 4,000 steps to go before six p.m. this evening. Now would be a good time to start walking in place, don’t you think? I mean …” The pedometer trailed off, the audio version of a rather passive/aggressive shrug. Morgan rolled his eyes and began to march about in place.

The screen above the counter displayed the news of the day. Morgan glanced up to read as he continued his lunch – gulp, step, gulp, chew, step, step, step.  Gulp, step, gulp, chew, step, step, step. Bombings over here. Shootings at this school or other. Building collapses. Weirdos in spandex making a mess of things in Saint Pete. Gulp, step, gulp, chew, step, step, step. He looked around the deli. The other customers seemed to be engaged in the same shuffling dance, with eyes on TV screens or smart phones or tablets. The same matronly voice from the pedometers exhorting the dancers. From the tablets. From the TVs. A safe, soothing, comforting voice.

words (except “O Superman”, which is linked from youtube and is by Laurie Anderson) © Christopher Ward. All rights reserved.