Geoff was like any other office worker. He did his work on time, he was rarely late, and he was never one to make waves (which is somewhat ironic to say the least considering his company’s slogan was “making waves”). He was sure that he felt an overwhelming sense of pride from his recent promotion, even though he sometimes doubted this himself. It seemed that he had more friends than he thought, what with everybody slapping him on the back, (perhaps a little bit too hard), and saying half-hearted jargon of vaguely masked-pejoratives. He was seeing a much clearer, if not darker side, to his former acquaintances. He hadn’t seen his prior circle of friends for over three months.
Three months prior to the beginning of this particular episode Geoff had accepted the position of “regional district manager” which included a hefty salary, uncapped bonuses, and a company car. These things highly pleased Geoff for some time, however, he soon realised that these perks were not without cost. Recently Geoff had been having trouble sleeping. This was undoubtedly down to the ever increasing load placed upon his shoulders. This load although metaphorical was nonetheless true. The invisible, weightless entity had crumpled Geoff’s shoulders into the shape of a beaten, broken, and caged animal.
He was finding it increasingly difficult to keep up with the fast paced climate that he had been drafted into. His deadlines were harder to finish, and with shorter time to complete. A never ending cycle of pressure to succeed in what he had come to view as an ultimately meaningless task. He was tasked mostly with the up keep of the image of the company keeping it fresh and new, it was ceaseless. The company was expanding to an ever widening bracket. The company was aimed at both sexes for the ages of 3 through to 80 years.
In fact the company was changing so rapidly that Geoff was beginning to lose track of not only what the company was aiming to achieve, but even what the company was selling. Or even if it was selling anything at all for that matter, he couldn’t be sure. This further compounded the torment of his already scarred psyche. The unsurmountable work meant the sacrifice of his social, and love life. He simply had no time to see either his old friends, or his ex-fiancé Nicky.
This brought about the chastising of Geoff from those who once loved him; “Fucking ignorant prick.” or even “too busy to come down from his ivory tower”. Nicky took it the hardest without question. The man she once loved became an empty husk, an exoskeleton with the insides rotted out. This was also noted by his employers;
“How the hell can you expect to be a Wave Incorporated super star if you’re not even willing to play hard?” his manager Kieth ‘Keefa’ Williams would often ask him in the by weekly JC
“I mean you work hard don’t get me wrong, but that’s just not enough, god knows every guy and gal works hard, but the thing is, if you work hard you’ve got to be able to play hard.” He said this whilst making his hand look like a gun, and then pretending to cock his thumb like a hammer. He then went on to explain how some of the staff were beginning think of him as being indifferent to the team spirit of the office.
He had honestly tried hard to orchestrate his time better, but it was of no use. No matter how hard he tried he would always over exert himself in some aspect of his life and thus leaving no time for the other. When he played hard, he worked less, and vice versa. His mood soured once more when the management had put a new board in the office to ‘promote a healthy competitive attitude’. The premise of the board was a point system in which you rack up points based on either closing “sales” (the latter phrase used lightly of course), or adding to “company spirit” (ditto). The employee with the most points received an extra bonus at the end of the month, and equally the employee with the least amount would have to do a ‘forfeit’ for a week.
Geoff was quite sure that if he had to do another forfeit of swallowing half a dozen raw eggs one last time he would commit the greatest sin of all and take his own life, (however not before his manager’s life, and everyone else in the office). He would try to cry himself asleep at night however he developed an insomnia so severe he was brought to the brink of insanity.
His doctor recommended exercise, however as he was too lethargic to even keep his shoulder’s straight anything more than a slow, drudgingly pace would have him in cardiac arrest. Instead he would just lie awake at night feeling the walls close in, and the swirling void of anxiety heckle, and snipe him with callous thoughts and feelings of self-doubt.
It was after five months and two weeks into his probationary period of the new six month contract that Keefa was given an ultimatum. If his performance was not “marked by significant improvement within the next two weeks” then his contract with Wave Incorpated would be terminated. He decided that he would have to take drastic measures to combat this decline in fortune. It was the evening of that particular day when a commercial appeared on Geoff’s computer screen.
The commercial was a professional production in high definition. It had a light fresh aura which grabbed John’s attention.
“You know, sometimes in life things can feel a little bit, well, just out of reach…”
The advert flashed up with images of beautiful people crying
“Whether it’s that you just can’t seem to lose that excess weight, or even that you find it almost impossible to balance your work with your social life?
Well, there’s some good news, and there’s some bad news. The bad news is that you’ve only got yourself to blame, but, here’s the thing…”
The image flicked to an animated, but somehow scientific looking, image of the human brain. There were purple and blue arrows flowing in patterns along different hemispheres.
“It’s all down to the way that you process life, and how you manage it. You are the root of your problems, but luckily, you’re also the only one who can deal with these problems, all we do is advice, or even guide you in a way to help you deal with them.
If you want to know more, please click the link and we can explain a little better… Thanks…”
Geoff didn’t think twice before clicking on the link. The typeface, the images, the science jargon all assured him that this was something unique. It seemed to him not just a simple app on a phone, but some way of using science to achieve unbridled success. The cost of this app was over sixty pounds for a yearly subscription, however, Geoff’s doubts over paying were easily dismissed when the website indicated that it broke down to monthly payments which cost “less than the price of a cup of coffee from starbucks!”
The first day he used “The App” he was instructed to document every single ‘noteworthy action’; from the time he got up in the morning, to any time he was feeling stressed, and even to how frequently he used the toilet. Features such as stress levels were graded on a scale of 1 through to 10 (10 being severe), and other things such as urine were graded on colouration, consistency etc. At the end of the day he received a text message from his phone saying “go to sleep” and although he didn’t feel the slightest bit of fatigue when he placed his head on the pillow within moments, he had fallen into an infant sleep only experienced by infants who’ve not yet been carved by the barbs of adult life.
The next day he woke up to the sound of a text message from the app which read “wake up!” to which he was somewhat puzzled. Nonetheless, he was amazed at how refreshed he was, and a glance of himself in the mirror showed an invigorated fellow looking back. The app flashed up with a graph showing the cycles of sleep he had been going through during the night. The graph indicated that it had awoken him precisely at the time of his lightest sleep cycle.
Geoff laughed at this in amazement and then caught sight of himself in the mirror again. He noticed that his face although looking ten years younger than it had done a mere four hours earlier, his facial hair had, paradoxically, made him look ten years older. It was just then that the phone vibrated, “shaved yet?”, Geoff giggled with excitement.
He shaved his face thoroughly and then a fleeting thought glanced across his mind about perhaps maybe having a shower. This was soon forgot when the phone vibrated again. John was quick to read the instructions “now, at this point in the day Geoff your body’s metabolism is greatly boosted by physical exercise. We suggest perhaps gentle exercises like press ups. For more exercise ideas click here…” and then a digital button flashed upon the screen.
Geoff did circuits that worked every muscle in his body. He felt well exercised but not weary but if anything more empowered. He then showered, got dressed, made a hearty yet healthy breakfast, grabbed his belongings, went to work, and accomplished more in a day than he had done in a year and by the end of the two weeks he was taken on full time, and Keefa invited him to an after work/ gym/drinking outing.
It was hard to believe that the same broken man was now repaired, or even updated, to a chrome plated machine, pistons fired, mind oiled. His ambition grew, his appetite grew. He was thinner than he had been when he was a young man, yet hard, more powerful, and full of vitality. It was no hyperbole to say that Geoff had become the best employee the company had ever seen and certainly not to say he was the biggest player too. He was invited to everything from coffee with the receptionists, to golf with his boss.
However one morning this all proved to be somewhat academic. Geoff had taken things to lightly it seemed. The day had started like any other; he was awoken by the same message that he had been every day since he used The App “good morning Geoff! You know what to do”, and the phone automatically clicked to his favourite radio station. But the message of the broadcast touched a nerve:
“Well goooooood morning! Your listening to 1.05FM in the morning with Nicky…”
“Nicky?” Geoff thought horrified
“And Simon, how are you this morning Vicky?”
Geoff was momentarily relived that his ex-fiancé wasn’t communicating through the radio, but his mind was sullen and all he could do was think about all the romantic times he’d spent with her. Geoff fell to the floor and wept.
Throughout the day when Geoff was asked to update his mood chart he constantly gave negative scores. At the second his lunch break started his phone beamed another message. Like a fly drawn to the flame Geoff reached out to the phone, like a lifeline to draw him out of his misery.
The message read:
“We notice that you’re feeling particularly low today”
The background featured an unhappy cartoon dog with a bandage on its head, a thermometer in its mouth, and a cloud with rain pouring onto a woefully inadequate sized parasol.
“Perhaps there’s something the matter, would you describe yourself as:
a) Physically unwell ( e.g headache, stomach upset, even just a bloated tummy can have an impact on your mental health.)
b) Personal issues (e.g. Loss of parent or loved one, relationship problems, hurtful comments made against you.)
c) Unspecified (i.e. you feel down, but you’re not really sure why.)
Geoff clicked the b icon. Another message appeared:
(The background image featured a purple cat covering its mouth.)
“It looks like your current account can’t access this feature”
There was a small typeface under this headline which read,
“You’ve only got a basic yearly subscription, for full access to your body and MIND’s potential you’ll have to upgrade for a one off cost of £20.”
Geoff didn’t hesitate before clicking the link. Another message flashed up outlining the terms and conditions. Geoff frantically scrolled down to the bottom of the page, and clicked the box affirming his acceptance of the contract, without reading any of the contract. “But after all” Geoff thought “what good is being productive if you’re still at the mercy of your emotions?”
When Geoff was home he immediately activated the advanced setting. The App’s process of deciphering Geoff’s grievances involved a gruellingly long list of personal questions. When Geoff reached the end of the quiz, the phone’s screen suddenly turned black. Geoff stood waiting, dumbfounded- and feeling a little helpless. The screen remained black for a few minutes, but then a loading icon appeared only to immediately flicker off the screen to reveal a new message. Geoff’s body melted from relaxation.
The advanced setting allowed more access into Geoff’s being without him ever being conscious of the fact, or so The App claimed. He followed the messages much the same as he had always done. Nothing about his life really changed at all other than an extra survey to complete before bed. Geoff began to twinge with a feeling of having been taken advantage of. “Typical!” Geoff thought to himself “I’m a sucker, always have been, always will be. This app just takes advantage of your vulnerability, that’s twenty pounds gone, I’ve been hustled.”
Geoff didn’t feel any benefits from the alleged advanced setting for over a month. The feelings of loneliness and heartbreak were further compounded when the rumours of Vicky and Neil’s engagement were indeed true. Geoff found out through an e-mail sent from Vicky via the company’s email. Geoff felt crimson with indignation of such an impersonal message. The woman he loved had left him for his former best friend, and she didn’t have the courage to tell him to his face. In fact, Geoff overheard the news from a receptionist talking on the phone three days before he had even received the email from Vicky.
All the phone could do was send messages with a penguin holding a balloon that read, “things will get better soon!.” Geoff was remained sceptical right up to the point when, one day in the park, during his morning jog, he bumped into his ex-friend/fiancé, who were also out on their morning jog. Geoff was expecting to feel overwhelmed with the sickness of a broken heart, but he felt strong and somewhat confident.
He beamed a smile, and they too. They exchanged pleasantries, one thing lead to another and then it happened. Neil asked Geoff to be his best man at the wedding. Geoff was not only shocked but taken aback. Neil gushed with tears, and then Vicky too. They both babbled about how they had missed Geoff ever so much, and that the old gang would like nothing better than their old friend to become part of their close knit group once again. Geoff of course accepted without hesitation.
The next six months were a blur for Geoff. He was a key part in the marriage of the woman he once loved, and the best friend he had once lost. He was Zen like, he didn’t experience the faintest shred of emotion during the ceremony, he was vanilla. All the loose ends of his life had met at one singular point, and then he felt like the re-incarnation of his former self.
The day after the wedding Geoff received a new message:
“Congratulations you’ve done it! You’re finally ready to move on.
It might interest you to know that according to our latest analysis, one of the biggest reasons for your recent lack of self-esteem is the management of time (again )
But the answer is simple, here’s what we think; an office romance is always fraught with tension.
But at the same time it’s easy to see how an office romance starts! Modern human beings currently socialise with their work colleagues around 80% longer than any other group. That includes acquaintance and even your family!
Furthermore the recession has seen workers “look inwards” and batten down the hatches. There is a developing “us versus them” mentality between workers and their employers. This causes a “huddling together” so to speak. If you feel you have more in common than you should with a certain co-worker who's caught your eye, perhaps you should try to socialise more with friends outside of work in order to gain some perspective on the situation.
Maybe it’s time to tell us about your hobbies.”
Geoff completed another evaluation. He then followed the advice of the following message which said:
“According to our analysis it appears you are lacking in self-assertiveness, this could be impeding your ability to copulate. For your personality type we suggest a sport tailored to self-defence.
So look around for a local social event, maybe something like a kickboxing class, or if that’s too full on, you could try something a little more gentle such as, boxercise, or maybe even Judo (which is Japanese for ‘the gentle way’ I’ll have you know)
And meeting new people is a good way of, well meeting new people ”
And as luck would have it and as if by magic, on his first Judo lesson he met the newest love of his life. Her name was Megan and they were very happy together. What’s more is that Geoff became arguably better friends with Megan’s workmates than he did his own. And if that wasn’t enough, when his yearly subscription came to an end a special message appeared:
“Because you’re one of the original members, we can offer you a special offer. For the price of a yearly subscription (£79.99) we can offer you unlimited access for a lifetime!”
Of course Geoff accepted this,he would have been foolish not to. A lot of people paid over £1000 for a lifetime subscription. Geoff was one of the very first people to use the app, which made him feel like he was part of an inner circle. He was without a doubt contented, as were a lot more people soon after.
Within a few years the app became not only a cultural, but a historical phenomenon. It was truly one of the most significant things to happen in the history of mankind. It wasn’t just an expression to say that everybody used the app. No, every single person from the age of three years old used the app, or at least that is to say the parents filled in the data entry for them. The app became as commonplace a household tool as a toothbrush, or comb.
Geoff’s life was pleasurable but monotonous. He had a good social life, and he was ahead of the competition at work. However one day during the radio’s morning broadcast:
“Well goooooood morning! Your listening to 1.05FM in the morning with Simon and my good half!”
(There was the sound of laughter)
“By which I mean Vicky, how are you this morning Vicky?”
“I’m very good thanks Simon”
“That’s good to hear. Coming up on today’s programme we’re all about sharing today, what are we sharing you ask? What’s the worst date you’ve ever been on?”
(More laughter, but with a slight hint of discomfort)
“I remember my worst date Simon, I was on a theme park ride, and I was sick all over my date”
(Both laugh, but Simon laughs harder)
“Oh god, I want to hear more Nicky, but I kind of don’t if you know what I mean, but stay tuned to find out what happened after the news…”
(Sound of orchestral music to bridge the news segment)
“You’re listening to the Seven o’clock morning news on 1.05FM, here’s the latest:
Geoff has just got out of bed and has now walked over to the chest of drawers in his bedroom. He’s opened up the top drawer halfway, but he’s stopped doing that to look over at his phone, which is on the left hand bedside table.
His face is an expression of confusion and distress, as he takes one slow step forward. Unfortunately however he hasn’t looked whereabouts he was going and now his left foot has trodden on a loose plug with the prongs facing upwards.
I can confirm that he has fallen to the floor and is now clutching his left foot in agony. He’s clutching his left foot in agony, but he’s not screaming at the moment. We’ll keep you posted with more updates later.”
(Orchestral music to bridge the ending segment of the news)
Geoff laid on the floor, too unnerved to move. Instead he waited for a text message to come through. An hour had passed with no contact. The old feelings of despair began creeping up on Geoff until suddenly he bolted upright.
“I’ll be ok as long as I remember my training” he said to himself. He thought back to The App’s mantras. “Eyes looking forward, but unfocused, breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth…” he followed his own instructions religiously.
Feeling slightly reassured he carried on with his daily routine, but all the while a corner of his mind was still preoccupied on why there wasn’t any contact from the app. He put the morning’s bizarre episode down to the lack of contact and believed this had caused his body to fall out of sync. He realised that the hour spent on the floor had completely eaten through his allocated time for running. Now he had to decide whether to sacrifice his allocated time for either breakfast, or bathing. A fleeting thought crossed his mind as to whether it would be better to combine the two events into one, which he of course dismissed as ludicrous. “No need for any added stress” he thought.
He was sure that the app would make contact soon enough. “Just remember the training” he said to himself. He realised that breakfast was more important as he had showered after his evening run. He went downstairs and poured himself a bowl of cornflakes.
He then realised something which disturbed him, how could he be sure that he was awake? This day had been completely surreal by all accounts, was this reality? It seemed so, everything looked much as it always did, and he felt distinctly lucid. He glanced at his phone to check the internet connection, it bizarrely read as receiving full signal. From this he deduced that he must have been indeed dreaming. If he was awake he would have surely received some sort of contact.
He remembered a message from the app after he had awoke from a bad dream:
“To check you are dreaming in future, read something. This can be anything with text (e.g. a newspaper), to begin with Look at some text for three seconds, look away for another three seconds, and then back at the text again.
If you are dreaming the text will have changed, this is because there is no consistency in dreams.”
He picked up the cereal box and read aloud “cornflakes.” He looked away for three seconds and when looked back he was struck by shock and terror as he read the text for a second time, “cornflakes.” He was awake.
He snatched his phone up in his clammy hands and frantically swept his thumbs across the surface to unlock it. A bead of sweat dripped from his forehead and splashed onto the screen creating a little pool, his fingers skated, washing the whole thing in perspiration, stopping him from unlocking the phone. He took a deep breath and slapped himself hard across the face “get a grip man!” he said to himself sternly “as long as you remember your training you can make it through the day.” He used a teacloth to dry his hands and phone, and carefully swiped his fingers across the screen and opened the app.
An image flashed up of a loading screen. Nothing happened. He refreshed The App and still nothing. He turned his phone off, installed updates, but still nothing. He looked for The App contact number and dialled it. An automated message clicked in “thanks for calling the App help line you are currently… two hundred… in the…” Geoff cut it off. He was going to be late for work.
He started his car up and then gasped in horror as he realised he had left his wallet on the kitchen table. By the time he’d grabbed it, locked the doors again, and sat in his car he was jaded, and glistening with sweat. He turned the key in the ignition.
A little while along the way he began trembling when he realised that he wasn’t even sure he was going in the right direction. He had made this journey countless times before, but without a satellite navigation system the roads were scrambled and confusing. There was no doubt that he was going to be late for work, Geoff knew this. His temples began to pound from stress, and dehydration due to excessive sweating.
His driving became more erratic as he began to feel fainter, he swerved. It was all Geoff could do to stop himself from balling when he saw the flashing blue lights in the rear-view mirror. He pulled up on the side of the rode and sat listlessly as he watched the approaching policeman in the wing mirror.
The policeman crouched down and looked Geoff straight in the eye, Geoff rolled down the window.
“Show me your licence” the policeman said. Geoff fished the plastic card from his wallet’s pocket.
The policeman looked at the licence for some time without saying a word. Geoff watched his face intently to gauge the officer’s reaction. The policeman spoke again:
“I’m looking at this licence, but in a moment I’m going to alternate my gaze from the licence to your eye line. I’m going to do this three times.”
Then the policeman did as he said.
“I’m handing the licence back to you now. When I give it back to you, you will look at me, with your mouth open, completely unable to speak.
Ok so now that’s happened, and I’m talking in a tonal voice that suggests a stern warning. This is also the moment that I can tell you that you were driving too fast, but I didn’t see you swerve.
I’m going to make an open palmed gesture with my hand and walk back to my car. I’ll drive off first, and then after you stall the car, you can drive off too.”
The police car drove away as he said it would, and then after Geoff stalled the car he followed and Somehow made it to the office, but along the way he had narrowly missed running over a pedestrian, and drove the car in a circle three times. When he arrived he didn’t dare check how late he was.
Opposite his office was a building site. The noise of the diggers, pneumatic drills, sledge hammers, and other such things was deafening, but he could just about make out the faint din of the foreman stood in the middle of the site. He was stood with a megaphone which he used to bark orders:
“Ok, can we have the digger roll down the hill a little bit by accident please, now the magpie can swoop across and grab the shiny metal that’s fallen out of the excavator. Mike it’s ok to drop your hammer off the side of the scaffold now, and Dave remember to look up just before it drops in front of you. After that point your finger at Mike and shout intensely, Mike do not say anything back I repeat not, just stare back vacantly instead…”
Geoff ran inside the office building and made for the toilets. He threw up in the toilet bowl so violently that it hurt. Wiping the sweat from his brow he then flushed the toilet and felt the strange sense of relief one experiences after a purge. When the water drained he could hear the sound of somebody walking into the men’s room. He stood on the toilet rim to glance a peek over the top of the cubicle. It was Leon who worked on the side of the office facing the brick wall. He gingerly stepped back down and pricked his ears for the sound of a running tap, but it never came. Instead he could hear sound of a door slamming.
He bolted out of the cubicle and stood in the corridor and looked left to right frantically in search of Leon. He caught a brief glimpse of him turning a corner down the right hand side corridor. Geoff sprinted after him, narrowly avoiding the oncoming traffic of people. He followed him all the way to the office. He sat down at his ergonomically designed office desk chair.
He composed himself for a brief moment and then shook the computer mouse which sparked the screen into life. The computer screen displayed the Wave company logo and the words “Log in.” Geoff typed his password into the computerised box. A pop up box sprang onto the screen shortly after “log in error”, and so his re-entered his password but to no avail, the same happened again- “log in error.”
It was only then Geoff realised that he didn’t actually know what his password was and that he had been blindly hammering the keyboard automatically without thinking. He caught the eye of Jamie, a work colleague who sat in a cubicle next to his, and then beckoned to him with his hand. Jamie walked over and smiled at Geoff to which Geoff smiled back and asked politely,
“Hi Jamie, I seem to be having trouble logging in. I can’t remember what my password is, could you help me?”
Jamie’s smile dropped and his face contorted into an expression of sheer horror.
“What’s wrong?” Geoff asked earnestly “what did I say?”
Jamie then slowly walked backwards to his cubicle and sat down at his desk. He did this whilst maintaining a focused stare into Geoff’s eyes. Geoff blushed crimson with frustration and fury,
“Why are you staring at me?” He scowled in a hushed voice “what are you staring at?” with that Jamie’s head swivelled 180 degrees directly forward towards his computer screen, he then sat unmoving.
It’s impossible to describe a feeling as terrible as the one that Geoff experienced in that exact moment. Overwhelming nausea was compounded by an overwhelming clouding of mind. His thoughts were confused and disjointed. His internal monologue kept snaking between different avenues of thought:
“What’s going on?”
“Why did Jamie ignore me?”
“I’ll fucking kill him!”
“I’d like to kill Megan”
“I hate Megan”
“What’s the worse date you went on with Megan?”
“All of them!”
“Why are you sat down?”
“What’s my password”
“Same as your email”
“what is your email?”
“You don’t even know where you live Geoff”
“Get out of the office and try and get home now…”
Geoff walked out of his cubicle and towards the exit, rubbing his temples vigorously in an attempt to blot out the terrible thoughts. Before he could take a step out of the office Keefa stepped out from behind the doorway and blocked his escape. Keefa then extended his right hand in an open palmed gesture, and then without changing either his tonality or facial expression he said
“Are you ok?”
“Yeah… er…” began Geoff “I mean no, I’m not very well. I need to go home.” Geoff waited for Keefa to move but he remained still, looking into Geoff’s eyes with a glazed expression.
“Can you please move?” asked Geoff, barely containing his violent impulses, “Move now!” He said in a more assertive tone.
“Are you sure you’re ok?” said Keefa.
“Are you insane?” said Geoff on the brink of madness.
“Well carry on then” said Keefa “I guess if you’re ill it doesn’t really matter if you were late this morning, so just turn around, go back to your desk, and do your work” he said this whilst making his hand look like a gun, and then pretending to cock his thumb like a hammer. He kept his hand in the position and continued to stare, although this time it seemed as though he was looking through Geoff, towards the empty cubicle.
Geoff tried walk past Keefa, but Keefa kept stepping sideways from left to right to prevent him from leaving. Geoff then lost his nerve and squared up directly to his boss’ face and hissed “get out of my way now.” Suddenly Keefa’s hand moulded from a pistol into a clenched fist gripped tightly around the scruff of Geoff’s neck. He dragged Geoff towards the desk.
Geoff was choked from Keefa’s binding grip. He tried to scream for help but could only manage a strained, guttural sound from his throat. Even if he could manage to scream for help it was unlikely this would have helped. When Geoff looked to his colleagues for salvation he saw that everybody was carrying on with their daily tasks as usual, seemingly unaware of the struggle taking place.
Geoff then lashed out. It happened in a flash. Some part of his limbic response caused him to inflict serious harm. He came out of the daze with his arms around his boss’s neck in a shimewaza choke hold. He let go of his grip and Keefa slowly slumped to the floor. Geoff trembled at the sight of Keefa’s bloated, blue tongue that lolled out of his mouth.
In shock and awe he looked up at the entire office, who were in turn looking directly at him, silent, unmoving. They looked at Geoff like oil paintings, their eyes were steady and yet they met and followed his gaze wherever he walked in the room, he slowly walked on his toes to the exit.
Just as he grazed an inch out of the office door he received a message. He stopped momentarily to remove the phone from his pocket. The message was from The App:
“Stay where you are and wait for the police.”
Screaming, he threw his phone to the ground and smashed it. With that the entire office took a step forward in unison.
Geoff didn’t sprint at first, he jogged only little more than a walking pace at first but then built up steam and momentum, much like a deer being stalked by a pack of wolves in the wild does… It was the brief glimpse of something coming from Geoff’s left peripheral vision that caused him to run for his life… in a split second he saw the janitor raise his mop, and then strike out at him… there was a clatter from the broom striking the floor, and then of the janitor throwing it against the wall… and there was the thunderous sound of cheap, fake leather office work shoes stampeding…
The roar followed him for six flights of stairs and then began to dim- however, as it dimmed there was another rumbling of a seperate set of mock leather, clad shoes advancing. He was in a vice like trap. He saw an exit from the stairway which led to floor eight. In ran inside of a dark office space lit only by the rays of light flitering through the half closed blinds.
As he ran in he looked for another corridor but saw that he was in a box room. He saw a green light “fire exit”, he pushed on the bar of the doorway, but it was stiff and rusty. He heard the sound of footsteps padding down the stairs… but the bar still didn’t open… he could hear the padding from downstairs… still it wouldn’t open… he barged his shoulder against the door forcefully, but the footsteps still came. A little harder still, and then more so, and then it opened by a crack, but the footsteps were now pounding… Geoff screamed in terror kicking the door so hard it tore off a wedge of the frame in a burst of splinters, swinging the bottom half of the door open.
Geoff ran out of the door on all fours like a fleeing animal, only without the dexterity or balance. The staircase was steep, so steep that he tumbled over and cartwheeled down the stairs. Lying on his back he looked up to see people punching, and kicking to break down the rest of the. He shrieked in desperate terror.
He moved with quickness and urgency. It was an automatic response generated in a fight or flight reflex. He bounded the steep stairway like a surefooted goat, but it was complete instinct that fuelled his movements. He could have almost fallen to his death, but, those same instincts told him stop and look down.
The steps were no more, but he could see three skips lined in a row, two floors beneath him. He calculated his move. If he missed the direct centre of any skip he could catch a metal edge and snap his leg… or miss entirely and hit the concrete… or fall in a skip full of broken glass. He lept and landed in waste paper… He scrambled out and ran with weary legs down a tarmacked road.
A little further he came to a row of parked cars on either side of him. Further along still the lane diverged rightwards until he was running concave. A car reversed outwards from the left hand side of him knocking him tumbling over a speed bump and onto the ground. The car kept reversing until it ploughed into the row of cars parked behind it. Geoff scrambled to his feet to run, his left leg carrying a limp. The car then switched into forward gear with a clunk and the car lept towards Geoff once again, this time forward.
The car narrowly missed, and Geoff saw that the driver of the car had injured himself. He lay with his head slumped on the steering wheel, the air bag had failed to deploy and so his shattered nose sunk into the horn. All around was the sound of carnage, the horn blared, and the crowd advanced in choreographed unity.
He opened the car door, unbuckled the driver, and threw his body like a rag doll across the ground. He jumped into the driver’s seat, buckled up, and slammed the car into reverse. He stalled. He choked the engine into life and tried again, the car shot backwards into a car. He sped forward and crashed it on the right side, then threw it reverse again, knocking down a few of the advancing crowd, forward, over the body of the driver, and down the lane.
He sped down the lane as fast as he could push the car’s limit. All down the road the speed bumps hindered the car’s full potential, and occasionally the bumper or suspention would take a critical hit. A grave realisation came upon Geoff as he realised the struggling engine sounds meant that this car was on the brink of collapse. He could barely see das the plume of smoke from the engine blew from the bonnet of the car.
He wound down the driver’s side window and leant out to see. Before him were the entrance gates, a wire mesh netting held by steel bolsters. He noticed that the gate was beginning to close and so he sped him as fast the car could tolerate, the gate clamped onto the car’s rear bumper causing it to crumple up. He escaped down the road into the built up residential area.
When he got to the residential area he noticed quite peculiarly that the pursuit seemed to be over. Indeed he realised that a sneaking glance in the rear view mirror showed that the crowd had stood still at the gate. There were no cars on the road either, and no people walking the streets. The radio was on:
“You’re listening to 1.05FM in the afternoon, the lunchtime news, here’s the latest:
Geoff has run amok at his workplace and is now speeding down a residential area. He’s turned a sharp right and is now swerving as he leans over to…”
Geoff punched the radio dead on the dial. He drove aimlessly for a while. Then came a realisation that 1.05FM was his favourite station, the same station that sparked the beginning of this whole escapade in the same bizarre manner. The leather interior was familiar too. In fact he was sure that this was his car.
He grinded on the breaks until the car came to a halt. He exited the vehicle, and ran towards a house. It must have been his since the key fit into the latch and unlocked the front door. It seemed uncannily familiar from the place he’d left that morning. Perhaps though, Geoff thought, maybe every house looked the same. It struck Geoff in that moment that running past earlier he noticed that all the parked cars were uncannily similar. The car was undoubtedly a dead ringer for what he had been driving for as long he could remember. Tuned to his favourite station no less… Maybe all radio stations were the same too, he thought…
As he stumbled through the doorway both the TV and the radio sparked to life. Geoff double bolted the front and back doors, and proceeded to check that every window was closed and locked too. He peered out the window to look upon desolate streets. It was eerily quiet, other than the sound of the TV and radio screaming full volume:
“Hello! Good afternoon, and today on Countrylife we’re discussing the best tips for Geoff’s garden…”
“Well goooooood morning! Your listening to 1.05FM…”
Geoff screamed a blood thirsty cry, and ripped the TV from the wall. He then ran to the kitchen and threw the radio against the wall. Picking up a rolling pin he smashed the foul beasts into assorted pieces of circuit board and warped platic.
He sat in the arm chair in the lounge, and remained motionless. He sat for at least thirty minutes, and then it was shattered by the clattering of the letter box, then the shrill cry of a mobile phone ring tone echoed from the hallway.
Geoff remained still, he refused to answer the phone. At this moment he wasn’t even sure if there even was a phone ringing. Or even that he’d left his house all morning. This could be all a dream, a hallucination, a schizophrenic fantasy. His instincts commanded him to remain still.
But the phone kept ringing, and ringing. For an over an hour Geoff remained still, but his ears were now burned with by piercing frequencies the phone was emitting. Another two hours passed and still no change. Geoff rose from his seat. He walked to the front door and picked up the package.
He looked at the label to see that the address and name seemed strangely familiar. He opened the parcel, and rummaged through layers of bubble wrap to reveal a brand new mobile phone. Again, uncannily similar looking to the phone he destroyed previously.
He tried to refuse the call, but the phone only stopped momentarily, seconds later it would again emit the same torturous sound. Geoff eventually accepted the call.
“Hello?” he said
“Geoff?” said a kind voice
“Yes” whispered Geoff
“My name is Andy and I’m calling from the app” said the voice
“The app?” said Geoff
“Yes. Just to let you know, we’re sorry for today, sometimes, although not very often, these things happen.”
“What do you mean?” said Geoff
“Well obviously an error with The App today has meant you’ve been temporarily out of sync. But! The good news is that you picked up the phone! So well done…”
“I don’t understand what’s happening” Geoff stammered “I think I’ve lost my marbles…” he trailed off as he said this.
“Well you almost did!” Said the voice, laughing, “but luckily we caught this in the nick of time. You see, a message telling you to update your phone was lost. This has caused a train reaction throughout your entire day. Luckily it seems that only a few people were affected by it. That is the people you have interacted with…”
“Hold on!” Geoff interrupted “What has updating my phone got to do with anything!?” He roared. “What the fuck is going on? Who are you?” There was silence on the other end of the line. But then the voice spoke once again.
“Geoff, you agreed to the terms and conditions…”
“What?” Geoff cried, stupefied
“Well Geoff, every three months the app needs update with the new script, but, obviously since you failed to install the update, we were unable to properly process you… Now obviously, according to your terms and conditions, you have agreed to let us control your conscious mind, but, without the update we didn’t have full control. This has led to a melt down in your functioning and has almost ruined an entire days programming. But! Like I said I’m talking to you now so everything should have corrected itself…”
“Control of my mind?” said Geoff in a broken voice
“Well… yes” said the voice, evermore soothing, “you wanted us to help you manage your time better yes? Well it only makes sense that we could seize control of the prefrontal cortex of your brain.
The prefrontal cortex is the newer and weaker part of the human brain. It’s what truly separates us from the animals who are just controlled by stimulus. Therefore if we could control you by our own stimulus in your conscious mind we could direct you in the right direction …Kind of like a sheep dog…”
“What are you saying to me!?” Screamed Geoff
“Geoff…” Said the voice still softly “you wanted to organise your time better, we’ve just created conditions to accentuate this for you. We’ve both conditioned your mind, and created the perfect balance between worl, leisure, and your personal life.
And this was all possible because since everybody you know, as well as yourself, use the app we can basically plan every single action down to the last detail… Kind of like a movie script, L O L!”
“What do you mean?” said Geoff.
“Well since you joined the app we’ve been creating, a happier, healthier you, as well as everybody else who joined. But the thing is Geoff, sometimes real life can get in the way of the things that are important. We’ve not really created anything new Geoff, people have been communicating via impersonal interfaces for years. It was only a matter of time until the next social media, or app came along to revolutionise the way people communicate with each other.
What set’s The App apart is that it not only bridges a useful tool with communication, but also it’s a melding of body, mind, and technology. It’s changed the way people think, interact, both emotionally and…”
“You’re controlling everybody’s mind?” Geoff interrupted
“Well…” Said the voice “yeah, of course we are! Like I said you accepted the terms and conditions.”
“The terms and conditions!?” Geoff screamed
“Yes, did you read them? It grants us access to: your mobile phone data, your email, your browsing history, your bank details, your medical history, personal secrets, sexual orientation…”
“Well I quit! I quit the App, delete my file!” Geoff screamed again, louder.
“Why would you want to quit?” Said the voice softly “you’ve got a great job, a great social life, a great girlfriend…”
“I don’t think I even like Megan! Looking back now I think I just asked her out because you told me to do.” Said Geoff
“Geoff, Megan is a highly suitable candidate for a wife.” Said the voice
“A wife?” Geoff asked stunned
“Yes, she is highly fertile, and unlike Laura she hasn’t slept with any other potential mates without telling you.” Said the Voice
“What!?” Screeched Geoff “Then why did you make me forgive her then?”
“Because we can’t have everybody in synchrony if there’s any kind of division. If you resented her in any way productivity would fall sharply.”
“So I have no free will?” Asked Geoff
“You have no choice Geoff. You’re following our script as we speak.”
“Oh yeah?” said Geoff “How many fingers am I holding up” Geoff kept his hand clenched, the voice was silent. A moment passed and then Geoff laughed
“Ha, you see? You don’t know me.” but then the voice answered:
“Well Geoff you weren’t holding up any fingers, but now you have one extended because you're using it to point at the phone.
And now you’re running over to the window in your lounge to see if anyone is looking in. Now you’re running to the front door, you’ve opened it… You still can’t see anyone… Now you’re searching your house for hidden cameras… you’ve climbed onto a table to look above a bookshelf, but you’re about to slip…”
Geoff crashed onto the ground, throwing the mobile phone across the floor. The screen was cracked, but he could hear the voice clearly.
“Geoff… come on now. This is all for your benefit you know.”
“I quit…” Gasped Geoff.
“You what?” the voice asked, a little more sternly than before.
“I quit you hear me? I said I quit!” Geoff sighed with winded breath. There was silence for a brief moment. Then there was the sound of the speaking once again.
“Very well” It finally said “We have put in a request for your account to be deactivated. It will take around 24 hours to complete, we will send you a message tomorrow in which you can choose whether or not to finalise the request, or retain your account… Thank you for using the App, it is our policy not to refund membership costs.
We’re sorry your leaving us, but, as one of our original members you qualify for a special deal. If you ever want to get back in touch in the future we will renew your membership free of charge.
We’ll also make sure that your last day with us tomorrow is especially good for you. We just feel terrible that your day today was, well, so terrible! We accept full responsibility for all inconveniences.
It might also make you feel relieved to know Keith is absolutely fine, and that you aren’t in any sort of trouble, now.
Our system failed you, but tomorrow we will do our absolute best for you. Have a nice day Geoff…”- The phone line cut off.
“Well goooooood morning! Your listening to 1.05FM in the morning with Simon and my good half!”
(There was the sound of laughter)
“By which I mean Vicky, how are you this morning Vicky?”
“I’m very good thanks Simon”
Geoff awoke the next day fresh like morning dew, carrying himself with a feeling of innocence felt only by lambs in April. He completed his daily routine with no issues, including; running, yoga, shaving, showering, further grooming, and then getting dressed.
Looking highly presentable, he made his way downstairs at around 08:00 and had a breakfast which consisted of; thirty grams of oatmeal (made with cinnamon, honey, raisins, and fresh vanilla), a fruit salad (including mango, pineapple, apple, banana, grapefruit, passion fruit, dragon fruit, lychee, watermelon, honey dew melon, can elope melon, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, and both red and white seedless grapes, a stack of buttered pancakes (served with maple syrup, blueberries, strawberries, and then dusted with icing sugar), a full English breakfast (including sausage, bacon, black pudding, hash brown, baked beans, fried tomatoes, fried mushroom, fried egg, scrambled egg, and fried bread), eggs benedict (with both variations of either smoked salmon, or ham), and a continental breakfast (which included croissants, pain au chocolat, and served with blackberry, strawberry, or apricot jam.)
The breakfast was served on a platter atop a brand new stylish dining area which had suddenly appeared that morning. The breakfast was also served with freshly squeezed juices (decanted from ornamental, crystal glass bottles, and poured into delicately sculpted glassware), a fresh pot of tea and a cafetiere of freshly ground coffee (served into fine china cups), and bottles of expensive water (both fizzy and still).
Geoff sat down to eat at the beautifully laid table and noticed a tv remote lay next to his knife. It was then that he noticed the brand new TV installed (which was twice the size of his previous set). The App messaged him with the suggestion “why not play the radio through your new surround sound system on your TV? Click here to do so” and so Geoff did.
The radio announcer could be heard “and now here’s Good Vibrations by the Beach boys!” (one of Geoff’s favourites.)The sound was crisp and sharp, but not too cold. It had the warmth of vinyl, but the high definition of modern sound equipment. Geoff than sank his smiling jaws through the bountiful breakfast, and slurped through all the accompanied drinks.
He was astonished at the amount he’d eaten and drank, however, he was ever more astonished that he didn’t feel uncomfortably full at any point, he just felt satisfied throughout the meal, and after too. He left the house with a spring in his step, humming The Beach Boys.
A very brief point of mild anxiety came across him as he was driving to work. He decided that he didn’t want to listen to the Radio and so he turned it off. The lack of noise was a little unsettling, but what was even more unsettling was that he didn’t receive a message from the App. He very nearly gave himself a panic attack when he began to realise the implications. “Have I accidently broken my programming again? Is today going to be another repeat of yesterday? Am I caught in this endless cycle?”
His anxiety soon gave way when he realised that he wanted to leave The App anyway, and that the sound of the car engine humming was relaxing. It was also a glorious day outside, the colours and hues of the foliage and flowering in the early spring morning sunlight glistened intensely.
Once at work he completed his daily tasks at work with ease. The day was exceptionally productive. In fact it was so productive that he even partook in leisurely activity in an allocated work time, which was highly unusual. During his lunch break Megan, who was looking particularly nubile, paid him a surprise visit. She told Geoff that she had planned a surprise Picnic in the park.
They ate outside in the glorious weather, in a completed desserted space of nature. Megan had packed the basket with the finest ingredients including; caviar, lobster, brioche, olives, red and white wine, fois gras, pate, and freshly baked bread. They ate heartily and Geoff even felt as though he genuinely enjoyed her company. Once they’d finished eating they laid in each other’s arms and looked at the clouds. Then they engaged in passionate sex in the middle of the day, in the middle of the city.
Once Geoff returned to his office he found that there was a party being held in his honour. He entered the office in a burst of confetti, cheers, applause, and silly string. Keefa, who was wearing a neck brace, shook Geoff by the hand and escorted him to a stage erected next to his office.
“Geoff this won’t at all be a bit of a surprise to you,” Said Keefa “But you have won the outstanding achievement award in business!” The crowd roared with applause. “And, as the winner of this award you have now won a brand new company car! Anything you want and it’s yours buddy!” He said this whilst making his hand look like a gun, and then pretending to cock his thumb like a hammer, and then presented Geoff brochures, (Ferrari, Aston Martin, Mercedes, Rolls Royce), with the other.
The rest of the afternoon Geoff celebrated his achievement with his work colleagues. There was a huge celebratory cake, and several hundred bottles of champagne. Geoff was overwhelmed, almost drunk, but not drunk. He made sure that he limited the amount of alcohol he was consuming, as he had a meeting with the Sales Director of Wave Incorporated at the end of the day. No, he was intoxicated by a bizarre feeling of bliss. Almost sedated.
The District Manager Howard Childs confirmed Geoff’s suspicions. He was to be promoted with immediate effect. This promotion included a hefty salary increase, uncapped bonuses, a luxury company car of course, and a stake hold in the company’s stocks. This effectively made Geoff a millionaire. He accepted the job.
He texted back Megan that he would be in the pub for his second congratulatory party within ten minutes. He turned the corner as he walked from the Directional Manager's office and found that a group of his work mates had been waiting for him to surprise him once again. They all congratulated Geoff on the job offer and then lead him out with them- forcefully at first, but once they realised Geoff wasn’t going to struggle, they let go. Geoff slipped from the group, out of sight, and through the staircase doors. He swiftly ran up the stairs until he came to the roof.
The rooftop was littered with a forest of pylons, satellite dishes, and mangled wires from telecommunication poles. It seemed very peaceful to Geoff, the wind blew a breeze as Geoff walked through the thicket. As he walked closer to the edge the voice of the foreman on the building site became clearer:
“Ok, the red car needs to stall now… And the little girl needs to run across the road, then in about three seconds I want her friend to run across after her. Ok, red car, err, beep your horn three times at the first little girl, now I want the policeman to get out of his car, and run over to the girls. The other officer needs to park the car on the pavement.
Now the first policeman needs to tell off the little girls about how they should watch where they’re going when crossing the road. Second policeman, please can you park the car now…ok that’s great, now, look up to the sky now because Geoff’s about to stand on the ledge of the building. Second policeman I want you to radio that you have spotted a potential suicide atop of an office block, followed by your co-ordinates. The first police officer needs to hear this on his radio and run back to the squad car.
Now Geoff, as you’re jumping towards the ground I want you to give me a really bloodcurdling scream... that’s fantastic... yes, just like that! Before you die I want you to put your arms out in front of you as though you’re trying to break your fall…”
(Based on this Story Jam)
Fruit from this Jam:
Time's Chaos. by Benjamin
The Frenchman by MichaelThompson
Americana Chance by
Modern Factory by Matt Drake
A wrinkle in Time by
Emilio by Richard
Personal time by lindalopez
Time Machine by Zita Barlai
All in the mind by Sam
When we were young by Kip Logan
Echoes of Darkness by James
we are Al ready time machines by David Pinto
song on repeat by H.L.W.
The Black Hole Walker by Kevin Cagle