Bringing the company’s towers down
(for Pat Robertson)
Earth air smells clean as I step through the blue plastic bubble.
After 200 years, the air finally responded to the massive cleanup efforts.
I take deep breaths, feeling odd to breath without the press of a mask against my face.
In a life time when almost nothing seems to change, this change feels most odd to me.
The Company offices glitter in the sunlight like some exotic space jewel, blue and golden and rising so high I cannot tilt my head back enough to see the tower tops.
The Company works hard to changes its image from the darkness heavy-handed monster of the pre-Revolution years.
But I know down deep it has changed least of all things.
Not the people.
Not the routines.
Not its purpose.
I see the same faces here I always see and I see my own face reflected in the glass apparently as unchanged as theirs.
My outside shows the perfect bureaucrat while inside a raging rebel throbs.
I walk to the main doors, pass into the lobby, glass around me like a buzzing cage.
I miss the heaviness of the blaster at my side. After six months off planet, I feel as if I have lost a limb.
But such weapons are out of fashion, and have no place in a society as civilized as this.
Men here wear suits, carry brief cases and wait for the beltway to carry them from one appointment to the next in a routine so dull most die inside from lack of real thinking.
Most pass beneath The Company’s logo with no idea of what it means: two eagles on a crimson star-clustered background clutching rockets in their claws.
I am impressed although I know how much The Company controls and how many it has killed to get that control, and how much it continues to kill to keep it.
Our failed revolution only makes the company change its image, not its essence.
The door mean wishes me a good morning, reading my name from the scanner that reads my name from a chip imbedded firmly in my brain.
He greets everyone by name.
All are the same.
At lease he thinks so, knowing only what he sees of me and what the chip tells him, not precisely what I am thinking or of my history as rebel in battle with the worst of The Company’s policies.
Our fizzled revolution cost lives but made no dent.
The Company continues, unchanged except for the face paint.
I hate this face more than I hated the last.
But I pretend to have no feeling as I walk from the door to the receptionist, where a young blonde woman smiles at me, says my name and finds the badge I need to travel deeper into The Company’s hive.
She looks as she always does, like all the women The Company hires: available, smiling up at me to advertise the fact, her fingers pausing near my cheek before falling to pin the badge on my lapel.
She does not see the real me, mistaking me for the same dead men who pass this way in a constant stream of living dead.
This is how I have survived when so many before me have failed.
Too many of them looked subtly different when I do not.
Many my predecessors had better skills to do what the revolution wants me to do now.
She asks me how the weather is outside.
I tell her better than ever and said I didn’t even use a mask.
I try not to seem too cheerily.
Even joy is out of a place in a world of perpetual sameness.
I want her and her masters to presume the revolution is truly dead, when we have changed our image, too, so that we look and sound if not think like them.
She wishes me good day as I step towards the moving belts that will take me into the heart of their world.
In any time and space, I miss these least: the miles and miles of beltways carrying each of us to some distant windowless destination as if we have not managed after so many centuries to escape the caves.
I decide to walk along side the belts -- perhaps for the whole three miles to the elevator.
My steps echo amid the clatter of The Company’s machines.
And after a time I imagine this really is a cave, a natural worlds to which we might safely again return.
Yet even this small effort strains my imagination as I realize I am in the belly of the beast, glass tubes feeding the increasing hunger of The Company’s ever expanding body.
I think: Should I do now what I can to do?
But I know this is too public a place and someone will see me and what I am doing well before I can accomplish it.
No, I need to wait and watch for when no one is watching me, regardless of how much the sameness sickens me.
I hear the rustle and then, the cough, and see a dark shape coming at me across the sea of moving belts, his steady step like a soldier’s, each limb moving as if marching to war.
He wishes me good morning.
He tells me he is head of this area’s security and wants to know why I am walking when I have belts to take me where I have to do.
His eyes are narrowed with suspicion, and remain narrowed even when I tell him I feel like walking.
He tells me I should do what The Company designs for me since the Company has thought through all the details better than I can ever do to make life run smoothly.
I agree and wish the man well as I step onto the moving walk, vowing to be more careful in the future.
It is the small things that kill you, and I still have things to do before I die.