“You’re out of milk.”
“Yes I know, thank you fridge.”
I stared at the ceiling and watched the Angler Fish glitch as it repeatedly ate the goldfish. The light on its forehead bobbed as the fish’s teeth caught their prey. The rest of the ocean swam around my room yet these two were locked in a perpetual death and rebirth. There are only 28,000 species of fish on Earth and yet only these two species always glitch. That’s what you get for buying from a cheap data pool.
The milkman knocked on the door.
“You’re out of milk.”
“Yes, I know.”
I took the milk and returned to bed. A pixelated Great White shark with the aspect ratio of a potbellied pig moved through my head. Pathetic programming.
I closed my eyes to forget about it.
I thought “Fuck, I must buy the premium package” as Coca Cola’s latest advert played on my eyelids. I could see a windswept desert far into the distance. The more I focused on the horizon, the closer the Coca Cola bottle became, until it filled up my field of view, dripping wet, over the contours of a glass bottle in the shape of a beautiful woman. I usually opened my eyes before that point. I didn’t want the adverts tricking me. But when my eyes opened I was always thirsty.
As the car drove me to work I thought about creativity. How the earth’s perfect algorithm produced so many creatures, so many possibilities, yet - so many mistakes. I looked at the legions of poor people littering the street, wearing 20th century clothes and haircuts that weren’t geometrically appropriate for their face. I never understood the randomness of these people. A purposeless swarm - roaming the street in a haze. Doesn’t anyone have a job anymore? I caught myself smirking in the black mirror of the windscreen. Then I frowned when I remembered that there was no one listening.
Work was predictably dull. Simon showed the team the marketing forecast for the year on a three dimensional graph that seemed to dominate the room more than usual. I closed my eyes momentarily, opening them before the desert revealed the mirage of the Coke bottle.
“Well if only we could all be so lazy. Any bright ideas in your creative time?” Simon was looking right at me with one eye, whilst flicking through spreadsheets with the other.
I drank some water.
“Well, actually I-“
Simon cut me off as if dismissing a notification.
“Yes darling, dinner at Riviera, with Aiko, B-T-W I’ll be A-F-K 21:00 to 23:00. Must go. X-X-X”
Simon’s assistant intercepted “Reports?”
“Yes, run the reports on the best strategy”
I cleared my throat and asserted my body language. Everybody was absorbed in different worlds. Some prompted their internal hard drives to schedule breakfast or record their thoughts. One of the younger employees swiped their finger below the table on some kind of game. I was the only one that ever seemed to notice.
I stood up. “Hello!”
They all rose in unison as the beeping on their internal clocks signalled the end of the meeting. It was then that I realised Simon had already left.
I stood with my hands on the table and stared into the distance as the room emptied. I was trying to remember if there was a time when we actually talked at these meetings, rather than managing our life tasks, updating the Operating systems on our houses, filing our taxes, or watching porn. Everything except the task at hand.
I looked around the room at the various floating marketing reports. The computer system had already determined all possible permutations for the keyword “donut” and presented an elaborate strategy with logo, mascot, slogan, colour scheme, and target audience; already peer reviewed and voted on by millions of “connected” people across the planet.
I looked at all the data and frowned. The campaign looked like every other marketing strategy I’d ever seen at the company. A combination of “best fits”. The tyranny of the majority painting every idea with the same hues, shapes and trends. I pined for the nostalgia of magic. When fresh ideas had the ability to move emotions. Now there were no fresh ideas, just a remix of a remix, and a population with the attention span of a goldfish.
On the way home my car congratulated me on reaching 10,000 followers. I told my car where it could stuff those followers. It didn’t get the joke. I could have at least had bought a car with a sense of humour.
Twenty eight minutes and forty three seconds later the car broke down on a bridge. I panicked. Suddenly I had no means of communication and no way to look anything up. I felt cold sweat drip down my face when I realised that I had no idea how to get home. I was utterly lost, suddenly I had no frame of reference, no means of understanding the world. I got out of the car.
I muttered “Call Mum” but she didn’t answer. It was then that I realised the entire system was down, not just my car, but my internal systems too. Like crying dogs or nervous babies, the city wailed. A city of infants without the collective breast of its Mother.
It calmed me knowing I was not alone. I began to breathe and realised that I had never truly seen the city before, its glittering hugeness made vulnerable at the flip of a switch.
As I looked up at the city, I noticed as if placed there quite suddenly, a woman, looking scared, standing by her car. I noticed the curve of her hips and the sweat dripping from her face and was reminded of how thirsty I was.
My eyes travelled up her body and rested on her face. She was looking straight back at me, searching my face for some kind of answer. Then not one, but two eyes focused on mine. My heart skipped a beat. I had never experienced something so intimate as the prolonged eye contact of another human being before. And for just a few sweet moments, my time was my own.
I was completely un-contactable. But I’d never felt so connected.