Mondale IX - Alightenment
Dale didn't know what time it was. Tiredness leaked like smoke from his eyeballs, their sockets felt wet and hot. A voice in his head spoke to him. It told him it was Monday again.
'I thought tomorrow is Sunday?' Dale thought. 'How can today be Monday?'
Dale squeezed his eyes back shut, trying to extinguish the fatigue and turn the unfocussed cloud of business suits, prim skirts and school uniforms into inky blankness.
Of course it was Monday. Dale was right, tomorrow was Sunday, but Dale lived a life of only Sundays and Mondays. He'd tried to tell Joe about it one Monday in the office, but it had been a conversation of mainly body language and assumptions. The kind of conversation where you realise you spoke incoherently and yet still receive a normal response.
It was at that point Dale realised the two were not actually talking, just making noises at each other to pass the time.
'Is anyone listening to me?' Dale asked the carriage curiously. The crowd was not responsive, most faced away. No ear was independent from an ear bud, tethers to smart phones. Absorbed by tiny entertainers and easily absorbed fluffs of internet. No one was listening.
'Do you ever have that feeling, where you can see through the flesh of the world?' Dale asked a small crowd of standing passengers nearby. 'I do. Only just for a brief second. I see the muscles and the nerves of everything exposed. I get a flash of how it all fits together. And I know.'
'Doors closing.' The speakers chimed.'
I see it clearly, but I can't grasp it. The motivations, no, the programming of everyone around me is listed like tooltips in the corner of my eye. I see it. I see the streams of money floating invisibly through the air like the blood in this planet's veins. I witness the way everyone behaves around cake, the way it makes parts of their brain throb, triggers the nervous systems to spasm and scream. I know when three storeys became the new two storeys. I see through the walls of those houses and I can see the layout of their foundations, the steel frames and the concrete but also the fear and the lust and manipulation and insecurity found in the blueprints.
'For every minute you spend in an Ikea showroom I see the hours that marketers and psychologists spent planning for the thoughts you're having right now. I see the trendy meeting rooms where they planned how to affect your feelings. I see the cubicles they sit in; I see the cake their HR department brings in on the first Friday of the month to celebrate everyone who had a birthday since the last cake. How many layers of management do you think you have to go up before you leave the sheep and join the wolves? Do you think it's a gradual thing, or do you just wake up down the rabbit hole? Do you go from bottling Coke to supervising the production line to sitting in the laboratory trying to perfect the recipe? Then you feel the tap on your shoulder and you're suddenly researching how to make everyone that drinks Coke think they are a bee in the world's stickiest, most gigantic flower?'
'How does it happen?' Dale asked. Silence.
The train doors opened and a flustered looking businesswoman rushed along the platform, dragging her wheeled luggage behind her like an uncooperative dog. The suitcase clipped a Chinese midget who was trying to bridge the gap between platform's edge and car. He tumbled in, landing in a heap at Dale's feet.
'That was a little rude,' Dale said to him. 'Do you need a hand?'
'Are you mocking me?' the dwarf snarled. He waved a stumped forearm dismissively at Dale's kneecap, then propped himself up with the amputated limb. Just as he found balance on his feet the train rocked sharply around a corner and he was sent sprawling again, the roof mounted hand-holds weren't even close enough to be ironic. He twisted himself into a sitting position using his tiny legs and scooted to the wall of the carriage where he sat.
'Go on.' He said to Dale eventually.
Dale responded with soundless question marks.
'Thought I'd offer a bit of perspective,' said the midget.
'It's different,' admitted Dale. 'I think it's making my neck hurt.'
'No, that's from the way you've wedged your head against the toilet roll holder.'
Dale blinked, adjusting to the fluorescent lights of the technology park's men's bathroom. He took a moment to calculate his alpha wave regeneration and to pull up his trousers. As he fastened the belt the midget squeezed his head underneath the stall door to look at him.
'Get out there, Dale.' He said. 'It's Monday.'