Hello. It has been a while since the last post, I know. It’s busy work wasting time, believe me. Anyway, here’s a little something I wrote for a class I took last year. It still needs work, and isn’t all that subtle, but like I said, it’s not like I get paid. I also couldn’t think of a good title. Those things are hard.
Hector was fairly certain that he wasn’t crazy, but it seemed that something always disagreed with him. The device on his wrist was the main culprit, frequently telling him that he was indeed crazy. It had started early today. ‘Hector Hemmingway!’ it flashed in lurid green. ‘You’re crazy if you pass up on this!’. It then proceeded to show him an advertisement for televisions. Hector already had a television. In fact, he had six of them. In his mind, this raised the uncomfortable question of just who exactly was watching who. It was a cold April morning, and Hector huddled into his coat as he hurried down a city street. He was leaving forever, he had decided. Once out of the city, he would go south, to somewhere quiet and peaceful where green was the colour of grass, and not of neon. Still, the device on his wrist chattered at him. He pressed angrily at it, although he knew that it was impossible to turn it off. At birth, everyone was given a device that was attached to the wrist, and would flash brightly with offers at various points during the day. These could never be removed or turned off. As a consolation, you did eventually get to choose a colour. Hector’s was blue. He had grown to hate the colour. They only displayed advertisements, and it was mandatory that one of these offers be accepted, regardless if one had a need for the product or not.
Before he left the city, he had one last thing to do. Hector slipped into an alley, and when he was sure that no one was watching, ripped the device from his wrist. This was a terrible crime. The morning crowds rushed past, no one noticing that a cardinal sin had just been committed in their presence. The removal of your device meant disappearing into a rehabilitation facility, and they surely would be coming for him now.
’You’re crazy!’ the device implored, as it lay on the ground. Hector poked at it with his toe, curious about the object that for so long had dictated his life. It presented a compelling second opinion to be sure, and Hector knew that the world had just become a lot more dangerous. But, he just couldn’t continue with this life. As he cautiously ducked out of the alley and back into the flow of people on the street, he reflected that although his recent conclusion there was something terribly wrong with the world had not come easily, it was nonetheless an important place to have arrived at. He was smart enough to know that it was a dangerous opinion to have, and so had initially decided to ignore it, doing his best to bury it amongst the minutiae of daily life. Despite his efforts, he had found it increasingly difficult to escape from. It had progressed in an infuriatingly resolute manner, and Hector’s inability to disregard it had bothered him greatly. The thought begun small and difficult to grasp, only flickering briefly before fading away, like a dying bulb. As time went on, it grew steadily until it began to feel as if he was waking from a dream. It was now present when he woke in the morning, and as he walked down the street, bursting into his thoughts with increasing frequency throughout the day. It had even begun to enter his dreams, where nightmares of being an increasingly faded photocopy woke him gasping for breath. Impossible to placate, and yet equally impossible to act upon; it was the worst kind of idea. But now, with the idea formed and actionable, he finally had purpose. Lost in thought, Hector bumped solidly into a passer-by. This was the kind of slip-up that could end an escape before it began, and Hector’s bare wrist was now a giveaway. Panicked, Hector began to apologise repeatedly, but the man was focused on his wrist, and didn’t glance up. Instead, he turned to the woman next to him.
‘Look honey!’ he said, pointing. ‘Half-price vacuum cleaners, now we can have one for each room!’
‘Good idea, I’ll get some too!’ the woman replied, tapping furiously.
The clocks struck over to midday, and it was time for the mandatory buy. As the clocks chimed, everyone stopped in place and looked hungrily to their various devices, eagerly awaiting the new round of offers. Hector joined in with the routine for what he hoped was the last time, his face adopting the accepted expression of eager anticipation. It was safer that way. Cars stopped in the streets, their drivers now occupied with more important tasks. This caused more than few accidents, but no one seemed to mind. A large Cadillac collided with a wall, spilling its driver onto the hood. He smiled groggily as he accepted an offer for discounted helmets. Activity resumed as the daily buy ended, and the cars began moving again, inching their way to their various destinations through a maze of steel and tinted windows.
Hector was close to the station now. All he had to do was purchase a ticket, and he would be on his way. He saw a familiar face approaching, and ducked into his jacket. It was his neighbour, Davidson. He was genial, enthusiastic man who always wanted to discuss his latest purchases with Hector. Short, rotund and blessed with the unpleasant skill of being able to sneak up on people, he frequently cornered Hector every morning, wherever he may be. His round face would flush brightly whenever he discussed whatever products he had purchased recently, and had a habit of bouncing excitedly on his feet, like a child would do. Hector hated him intensely. He briefly considered turning around, but Davidson had spotted him immediately, and was homing in on him like a beige missile.
‘Hector!’ Davidson called as he pushed through the crowd. Too late now. Hector turned, and with some effort adopted a smile.
‘Hello Davidson. Cold morning, isn’t it?’ Hector said. He never quite knew why he always said more than was necessary. Was being rude to a man he hated such a terrible thing? No one seemed to be rude anymore. Everyone greeted each other with smiles as plastic as the products they bought, and had grown so used to it that the alternative seemed unthinkable.
‘Oh yes, deathly cold’ Davidson said. ‘Glad I bought that crate of surplus thermals during the last weekly special.’
Hector hoped he wouldn’t continue.
‘Sure, some of them have a bit of a chemical smell,’ Davidson continued. ‘But the price was right, and it gave us a chance to use the seven surplus boxes of air freshener we bought. Personally, I think new car is a fine thing to smell like.’
Hector glanced longingly at the entrance the station.
‘Say, you don’t look well.’ Davidson said, adopting a look of concern. ‘Are you buying enough?’ He placed a hand on Hector’s shoulder. Hector looked at the pink, chubby hand resting on his coat and felt a throbbing begin to grow behind his eyes.
‘Yes, I’m buying as much I should. I meet the quota every week.’
‘Well it can’t hurt to go above, can it? Me and the wife go above every week, just to be safe. I hear that they recently caught a bunch of people who hadn’t been spending for weeks. Can you believe it? Weeks!’
‘You don’t say? Shocking.’ Hector hoped he sounded an appropriate level of appalled.
‘So, what was your latest buy?’ Davidson asked.
‘Well, it was …’
The silence dragged out as Hector struggled to think of an answer. It was unthinkable that someone would not remember their last purchase, but Hector had frozen, unable to think as the possible answers became hopelessly jumbled in his head. To be foiled by the most innocuous of questions seemed a strangely ironic way for him to be caught.
‘You don’t remember your last buy?’ Davidson said, now suspicious. ‘Are you sure you’re feeling alright?’
Hector began to back away slowly. His pulse thumped in his ears as he edged towards the station. If he could just make it inside, everything would be fine.
‘Your wrist …’ Davidson had noticed Hector’s bare wrist. It was only a matter of time now. Davidson’s mouth opened in mute terror, and he pointed at Hector.
‘Saver!’ he screamed shrilly. ‘You’re a Saver!’
Everyone in the immediate vicinity froze. To be labelled a Saver, one who did not spend, was to be branded a dangerous deviant, and those who were labelled as such frequently disappeared, only to emerge sometime later as drooling shadows of what they used to be. A woman screamed. He turned to run, but a crowd had formed, blocking his path. ‘Saver! Saver!’ the crowd screamed. A rock struck him in the head, drawing blood. It would only take moments for them to tear him apart.
With a shove, Hector forced his way through the crowd, and sprinted into the station. His only chance was to hope he could board a train, and escape the city before his identity was circulated. As he barged through the doors of the station, a black van shrieked to a halt behind him. Men clad in black uniforms, their faces hidden behind masks, emerged in precise and co-ordinated movements. Armed with truncheons, they were the feared Green Boots, named for the striking green colour of their footwear. They were responsible for keeping order, and ensuring that people met their daily buy quota. Few ever encountered them and returned. With surprising speed, they pursued Hector into the station. Hector gasped for breath as he willed his legs to go faster, his sight set on the nearest train, which was preparing to depart. If he could somehow get onto the train before the Green Boots reached him, he would be safe. The rhythmic thump of boots grew louder behind him. Nearly at the train, Hector put the last of his energy into one final burst. All those exercise machines he had bought were perhaps not such a waste after all. Suddenly, a shiny black shoe emerged from the crowd, and tripped Hector in one swift motion. He crashed to the tiles of the station floor, only a few feet from the train that was to be his salvation. Dazed and gasping for breath, Hector rolled onto his back and stared at the station ceiling. A black-suited figure stood over him, and a curiously friendly face leaned in.
‘Hello, Hector. Let’s have a talk, shall we?’
Some months later, Hector sat on a park bench on an overcast day. The season had turned, and now the leaves floated to the ground around him, blown along the concrete on a chill breeze. An offer flashed up on his wrist. Hector smiled as he accepted it, a scar prominent on his forehead. ‘You’re crazy if you miss this!’ the device said.