Everything went blank, dark, deep nothingness.
“AHNNH!” An alarm roused me from my deep slumber.
First, I glanced at the intercom that woke me, then, I stared at a colorless wall in front of me. There were walls on either side of me: front, back, right, left. The barriers made up my dismal, dimly lit room. Although, you could hardly call it a room at all. I was enclosed.
“State your status 0247M,” the intercom droned.
“Prime,” I replied.
I never have had to say anything other than prime. I wouldn’t know what to respond even if the event occurred, so I just answer prime.
“Standby,” it declared.
I could hear rumbling in the distance like a freight train with rust on its wheels. The wall in front of me slid to the side revealing another cell the same size as mine. I stepped into the next chamber and the same wall behind me slipped shut. I could feel the cell ascending, and I wheeled around because I had been through this at least a million times. Once again, the wall behind me glided sideways to reveal a dreary hallway.
I could see a compact, dull archway connecting to a dark corridor. There was a title on the arch, lettered in bold, “0247=John”.
“I still don’t know why they don’t put my full name, John M!” I thought to myself.
I strode through it and along the hall, but stopped abruptly at a door in which I proceeded to push open swiftly and stroll out. I found myself in a modern business-like building bustling with movement as wave after wave of people formed five tight lines out the doors. I ambled into a line moving closest to the reception area at the far end of the foyer. The receptionist was a lovely woman who sat in a cushioned high-back chair.
“Good morning John M,” the woman exclaimed as she saw me.
“And the same to you Teresa M,” I replied, “is it nice outside?”
“Very much so, same as always.” She remarked.
I walked out and the sunlight momentarily blinded me. It was a warm blanket that evenly coated my skin. Then, I hopped on the nine o’clock bus to fifth street. I exited at the corner of fifth and sixth. I came to a halt at the number five coffee shop and gave the cashier my daily medium coffee stamp.
“I’ll have the usual, Bert M,” I told the portly distributor.
“Coming right up!” Bert M replied.
“Man, I can’t wait until I turn thirty years in a week. I get a wife and large coffee stamps, that’ll be the day!”
He was a cheerful man, even though he got the short end of the stick on his life. Because he was only a coffee distributer, he didn’t get a wife or an apartment.
“Day 1 is some day alright, even on day 360 I can feel it looming above me. There are too many people changing to large coffee stamps every year,” Bert M said, “Why does everybody have to be made on the same day?”
“I am new to your troubles, Bert M, I am not a coffee distributor.” I replied matter-of-factly as I strode into apartment building five.
In the building, I advanced straight to the elevator in the corridor. Since I had to walk through the entrance hall to get to the elevator and I was on a tight schedule, I kept my head down so as not to speak to the receptionist. I pressed the up arrow and the elevator rumbled as if it were not sure if it should let me in or not. Then, obviously having made its decision, the doors spread wide and I marched in. The only item on the control panel was a scanner, in which I placed my right thumb on, and the elevator ascended up to level 3.
“Ding!” the elevator cried like an elephant with the voice of a mouse.
I stepped out just as the doors closed behind me. In front of me was a massive hall of doors. There was one hall on my right, and one on my left. Also, I could mosey forward and proceed down the hall in front of me. Basically, the halls formed an enormous “T” at which I was at the crown of, where the base of the “T” met the top. My apartment was down the base, the hall in front of me. I strolled swiftly forward to apartment 0247= John. I unlocked the door by again pressing my thumb to the scanner. Inside was a massive living room with a luxurious Persian carpet and one single velvety couch and chair. It was heaven to a neat freak. Nothing was left out or askew.
“Next Day 1, there will be two chairs. I wonder what my wife will look like?” I thought to myself happily as I shut the door behind me.
I slipped off my black, leather shoes and gold toe socks so I was standing in my bare feet in the middle of the carpet. I sighed, long and deep.
“Good day 0247M, your daily meal is in the kitchen,” came a female, robotic voice from the ceiling.
“What is today,” I asked, “the third day of the week?”
“That is correct 0247M,” replied the ceiling again.
“Ooh, tacos, my favorite.” I said as I trotted into the kitchen.
“Enjoy” I heard from behind me.
After scarfing down my delicious taco with the energy water we were given, I trudged into my office, the chamber connected to the living room by the kitchen. Those were the only three rooms in my apartment, the living room, kitchen, and office. I plopped down in the black, leather swivel chair behind my laptop and stretched. I was a king in his throne.
“Did you know that tacos were invented in a place people used to call Mexico,” I inquired.
“I did know that 0247M.” came the voice from the ceiling again.
“That was way back in the first twenty centuries, at least 5 thousand years ago!” I said astounded.
“That is correct, you had better get to work or you will not be finished by shut down time.”
“ I’m going, I’m going!”
I began typing rapidly on the keyboard.
“It’s hard work programming robots to work in the Cornucopian Fields during harvest.” I grumbled to myself.
I tapped away two hours on my laptop and almost missed 11:30 stop time. There was so much work to be done in the programming business. So many commands to tell the robots; when to plant the seeds, where to plant the seeds, how much water to give them, and how to harvest the crops. Crop harvesting was the most challenging of all commands.
“Woo wee,” I cried out, “I was working hard!”
“You almost missed stop time,” fussed the ceiling.
“Oh don’t be so abusive!” I teased.
Slipping on my loafers, I looked back at the living room, oozing sapphire blue from the walls.
“I will see you again when I wake up.” I called.
I tromped briskly down the hall, took the elevator to the lobby, and exited through the two mahogany double doors in the front. I leaped onto the 11:45 bus when an alarm like in a basketball game reverberated throughout New York. It was the Master calling us back to the shut down center. It signaled fifteen minutes until shut down. There were many rules implanted into our brains by the Master when we were first made. One of them was the rule of silence, fifteen minutes before shut down. We were not allowed to communicate during that time. Actually, we were physically unable to speak at all. I’ve tried before. It’s like someone flipped the switch on our vocal cords to “off”. It was really quite terrifying in the first days of my life, but then I got used to it.
The bus let me off at the shut down center where I filed into a line leading to the front doors. After entering the building, I jogged over to the door marked “0247=John” and pushed through it. Finally, I was alone, a lost child on his way home. I walked down the hall, beneath the archway and into a cell. It proceeded to descend down, down, down, before stopping abruptly. The wall in front of me skimmed to the right revealing another compartment into which I stepped. The door closed behind me and everything went blank, dark, deep nothingness.
An alarm jolted me awake.
“State your status, 0247TU,” it told me.
“Prime,” I replied.
The wall in front of me slithered away like a slimy snake slinking back into its soiled hole. It disclosed another cell of the exact shape and size as my own. I stepped inside and it started to ascend up to what I knew would be a building. Again, the door behind me opened to a hall about the width of a rather skinny person. Luckily, I was that person. I passed through an arch on my way down the hall before thrusting the door open. My eyes came in contact with a lobby that had five single-file lines leading out the doors.
After sashaying to the back of the line closest to the inside of the room, I followed its progression out the door. I caught the 9:00 bus to fifth street and placed an order for my medium coffee.
“Mornin’ John TU,” uttered the cashier.
“As to you, Bert TU,” I added, entering apartment building five. I placed my thumb on the scanner in the elevator and got off at level three. I plodded forward to apartment 0247=John. After unfastening the door with my thumb, I entered my royal blue living room with my silken persian carpet with my easy chair in it.
“I’m here,” I declared.
“Good,” stated the ceiling.
“I wonder what’s for meal time,” I thought aloud.
“Tacos sir,” answered the ceiling, “always tacos on the third day of our seven day week.”
“Try not to bore me,” I replied as I messily devoured my taco and roamed into my office.
“Ugg, robot programming as always, back to the old grind.”
After two grueling hours it was finally stop time. I closed my lap-top and trekked back to the shut down center and into my cell.
The alarm from the intercom startled me.
“State your status, 0247W,” said the same droning voice.
“I’m good,” I replied. Then, I blacked out, with the phrase “remember the routine” ringing in my head.
Another bleeping buzzer woke me.
“State your status, 0247W.”
“Fine…. I mean prime, I’m prime,” surprisingly, I stayed conscious. There was no pushing against that system, you had to go by the rules or you got cut off.
The wall in front of me glided to the side to reveal an elevator I leaped onto. It brought me up to a building that looked like an office building. I stepped into a line that slowly crawled out the door.
“What a beautiful day as always,” I thought, “I think I’ll take a walk.” I moved in the opposite direction I usually went to for the bus. I took in the trees and the glorious sky. Again, I fell unconscious, thinking again about the phrase “ remember the routine” resonating in my head.
I sat up in bed. I could feel the bags under my eyes from lack of sleep. I trudged into my bathroom groggily. There was no one to comfort me, feed me, or heal my sick, derailed mind. It was all because of the responsibilities I was given by the previous Master. He chose me. I was chosen. Out of everyone in the city, me. It would have been better if I had stayed programmed and locked into the daily life of New York, but I had to be the different one. I was the Master of all New York. Regular people thought I was “Belle of the Ball”, but I worked a sad, lonely life overseeing the progress of the city. I alone knew the secrets of the robotic, methodic existence normal people called their life. I alone knew that for every one day someone lives and shuts down, there are six more lives exactly like theirs between their shut down and wake up. But I had to live out all seven of the days. I aged much faster than them. I didn’t get a peaceful shut down. I alone had to lay in a bed and fall asleep fitfully. My life was so different. So lonely. So miserable……. to be different.
After doing what I had to do in the lavatory, I walked into the only other room in my……my….. That was the problem, I didn’t know where I was. When I was born, I had certain things etched into my mind, like the rules of the city and that my job was to make sure everything went normally. I had never spoken to anyone. I had woken up, looked after New York, and fallen asleep. That’s what my life was.
Anyway, I went into the control room and gazed at the many tiny screens in front of me. They gave different video shots of the city. There were buttons in front of me for every person in New York. Somehow, I knew that if one of those buttons was flashing, I was to press it and the person it corresponded to would shut down. Then, the people closest to that person would carry him back to his cell. I had to do this because the whole of New York had to be on schedule. Our fathers worked for this organization and control, we won’t mess it up by having drastic changes. That’s why if any person got off schedule, we shut him down immediately and etch what he did wrong into his brain. I never had too many buttons flashing at one time. Today was different.
By this time I knew that if I got off schedule, the Master would shut me down and program my brain to fix what I did wrong. Obviously, that wasn’t working. I could still disobey the rules set forth when I was made.
I devised a plan to break away from the system.
“There must be some kind of boundary around New York City,” I pondered. “If I could just break through it, I might be free from this terrible control!”
I also knew that when I went off the schedule, I would black out. That was why I decided I would need to get enough people off task so the Master would have to shut them down before he got to me. It was not much of an idea, but it was the only piece hope I had left. The next morning I put my plan into action.
For once, I awoke with excitement to the sound of the regular alarm.
“State you status, 0247W.”
“Prime,” I replied
I stepped into the cell that opened up to me and started to move upwards. I skimmed over the plan in my head to the point that I could recite it on the spot without thinking. After I stepped out of the elevator, I moved swiftly down the hall and out into the city building. I followed my schedule all the way out to the coffee vender. Then, I put my plan into motion.
“Hello again, John W. Would you like some coffee,” Bert W. asked.
“No!” I yelled and slammed his head against the table. I flung the table at a group of people walking down the street. They dropped to the ground.
“What the….” Bert started, but then shut down.
Automatically, the people behind me, on the ground started blacking out. I sprinted down the street, punching and kicking everyone in my way. They collapsed, out cold. But… they were shutting down too fast! Eventually the Master would get to me. I needed to cause a gigantic diversion so that a great many people would be set off course. I looked around and spotted a bus stopping near me. I had to act fast. I ran onto the bus and threw the driver out. I floored it straight at an apartment building and jumped out the window just before impact. I landed safely on a canopy above a coffee stand, but I couldn’t say the same for the bus. It slammed into its target and the apartment building started to collapse like dynamite had been set off underneath it.
First the bottom floor, then the second and so on. I knew it would finish caving in before a minute was up. I probably had that much time before the Master shut me down; he must have realized by now that more people were going to get disrupted so he would devote all his time to shutting down. I bolted down the street and I saw a haze two blocks down. There was nothing visible beyond it.
“That must be the boundary,” I exclaimed.
I raced closer and closer to it. It was yards, feet, inches away. I could feel myself slipping into unconsciousness. Just one more second….. I blacked out.
I awoke, not to an alarm but to sunshine and lush grass under me. I had made it out! There would be no more control, no more organization. I alone controlled my destiny.