Empty Worth – Part 1

From: Niall Winchester <nwinchester@secureatery.com>
Sent: 22 July 2039 16:06
To: Veronica Reeves <vreeves@secureatery.com>
Subject: Incident #329 logs

Good afternoon Veronica,

Hope you’re well.

I’ve attached some of the ‘Larry’ logs we spoke about on Tuesday – please see below. As I said, they’re causing the team some concern, but we’ve been advised to hold off on making any decisions about this employee until our meeting next week.

I know I don’t need to say this, but the following material should be handled strictly on a need-to-know basis.

Have a good weekend.

Thanks,

Niall

.

Log 1

I’ve been told to be honest when writing these things. And so, to be very honest, I’m only doing this because they won’t allow me to work my three-month contract if I don’t. 

I don’t understand why I need to do this. It can’t be for therapeutic reasons – I scored low on the ESS test. 

I went through a six-week recruitment process, extensive physical and psychological testing and will have five days of training starting tomorrow, all to pour coffee for a team of people in an office. For three months. Seems a bit excessive. Granted, the people I’ll be working for carry out ‘highly confidential work for the government’, or so I’ve been told, but logging my thoughts every day? Really?

Well, they’re going to feed me and give me accommodation above the office. All for free. And the recruiter said I could retire at the end of this. I’m twenty-five.

I suppose it’s worth it.

To whoever’s been tasked with reading this – I’m sorry. This is going to be a boring few months for you.

Log 2

Training started today. When I arrived, I was given a ‘work name’ – Larry – because we’re not allowed to use our real names here. That’s how confidential the work is. It’s crazy.

I have a script that I have to stick to. Every conversation I have with the office workers has to start with these exact words, and in the exact order they’re written:

“Good morning/afternoon/evening, would you like anything to eat or drink?”

After that, the script deviates off into a load of different directions depending on how they respond, and I have to memorise all of them. But I’m quite good at memorising things. I wouldn’t say I have a photographic memory as such, but something close to that.

I found out today I’ll be working with about nine other people. I met them briefly. A bit of an odd bunch. Quiet. I don’t think I have much in common with them.

I also found out I have to be on call at weekends in case any of the office workers want to come in and do overtime. And I can’t leave the premises at all. For three months. That’s the only thing that’s made me consider leaving so far. The trainer told us if we felt we couldn’t do the job to say so, but I can. I can do this for a few months. No problem.

The office is in the middle of half a dozen acres of woodland, so I’ll be going on a lot of long walks, I think.

Log 3

Second day of training went well. I’ve memorised most of the script. Not much else to say, really. I had to practise some of my lines with my ‘colleagues’. Everyone’s really focused on the job and not smiling or saying much.

Log 4

For the first half of today we finished working on the script. On the second half we focused on movement.

Apparently, we all have to walk in a certain way. It’s a very upright and stiff yet slow-paced walk, I suppose you would call it leisurely efficient, or maybe efficiently leisured? This walk has been scientifically proven to put the office workers at ease, the trainer said. They need to focus on their work, not on us, and everything from the tone of our voice to how we move could impact on their ability to do whatever they’re doing.

No running. No dawdling. No leaning. No slouching. No sitting. No crossing of the arms or legs. No scratching. No yawning. No smiling with teeth. We can’t even keep our eyes closed – blinking only.

The couriers are allowed to run. We’ll be able to tell who they are by their uniforms, and we are to keep out of their way or we could be dismissed. There are some other people who are allowed to run as well, but we were told it doesn’t matter if we can identify them or not, so I’ve already forgotten about them. As long as I and my fellow coffee pourers keep to our rules, that’s all that matters. We’re not to involve ourselves with anything other than what we’ve been told to do. Which is fine by me.

Stick to the script. Stick to the walk.

Log 5

Today was the final day of training. Two men were deemed unfit for duty because they couldn’t remember the script. They were demoted and placed ‘elsewhere’. I wonder what’s below a coffee pourer. Toilet cleaner?

The remaining eight of us learned how to prepare the food and drinks. It was a long, long day. We also learned how to properly clean the kitchen and food serving areas.

The work starts tomorrow. I’m going to try and get at least ten hours of sleep.

Log 6

We were introduced to the office workers first thing this morning. My supervisor introduced me as Larry. Still feels weird to have a ‘work name’.

The work itself was fine. The office workers are a bit uneasy, maybe because they don’t know whether they can trust us yet. I just smiled (but not with teeth) and kept to the script.

When I went to clear the lunch things out of the boardroom, there were a few office workers in there discussing something. I just blocked out whatever they were saying using the method the trainer taught us. It was surprisingly effective, and I only registered a couple of thank yous whenever someone handed me a plate or some rubbish.

The other seven ‘pourers’ – which is what we’ve dubbed ourselves – are a little chattier. After work, that is, we’re not allowed to speak to each other during office hours. We’ve all moved into the shared living space above the office now – there’s a big kitchen and living room for us all to use, and we have separate cubicle-like bedrooms to sleep in. It’s fine. A lot better than a hostel. And the fridge had fresh pasta in it. I’ve never had fresh pasta before.

Log 9

I didn’t log at all over the weekend. I told my supervisor and apologised – I completely forgot. I don’t know how I could’ve forgotten something that important for forty-eight hours. It’s not like me at all. I don’t even know what I did over those two days – I think I mostly slept. It’s all a blur. The workweek is quite gruelling and I’m on my feet all the time.

But it doesn’t matter, thank god, my supervisor said it was fine and I don’t need to log at weekends. I can just rest. I was sure I was going to get demoted.

Log 10

I think one of the office workers has realised we’ve all learnt a script. He tried to get me to deviate from it today by asking questions. But I know the script too well and he got bored after a while.

All of the office workers are ridiculously clever and say a lot of things I don’t understand to each other over lunch. I think they do something like science theory. They don’t wear lab coats or do experiments, but they use a lot of sciencey jargon.

It’s weird, though. They all pick boring food and drink. I’ve been trained to make quite complex orders, yet they always choose the same things. Plain sandwiches, milky tea, black coffee, the occasional cappuccino. Also, none of them eat the fruit. It always goes off. They like the crisps. And chocolate bars.

Log 11

One of the pourers dropped a cup of coffee on an office worker’s foot today. The office worker didn’t make a fuss and he said it was fine, but my supervisor demoted her anyway. There’s just seven of us left now, and it’s not even been two weeks.

The other pourers were all bitching about it this evening, but I didn’t say anything. She made an error, ruined a man’s shoes and then completely deviated from the script when she started apologising and babbling on about it. The rules are quite simple to follow, so in a way I’m glad she’s gone. She was a liability. I’ve worked hard to be here.

Log 13

The man who tried to get me to go off script tried it again today. Once I had exhausted all of suitable responses, I simply stopped speaking. After repeating, “Larry? Larry? Larry? Larry?” for a few minutes, he cheered. He actually cheered when he realised I wasn’t going to talk anymore. He thought he’d won.

I asked my supervisor if that was the right thing to do. He said he’ll speak to someone about it tomorrow to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Log 15

The man who tried to get me to go off script hasn’t said a word to me since, even when I served him earlier today. Well, he did say one thing. He said, “Tea.” He then pointed to the sandwich he wanted. I think that’s a bit of an extreme reaction to being told off. I want to ask my supervisor what happened, but I don’t want to make an issue of it.

Log 18

It’s Saturday. Five office workers came in today. I felt like I was going to pass out by the end of the afternoon – I really need the weekends free to rest. They worked for ten hours and asked for a lot of coffee. Because I’m the strongest pourer, I served them more than any of the others.

Jerry is by far the worst pourer. After hours, when we’re all chatting in the living quarters after dinner, he often asks me what my real name is. I ignore him and try not to think about why he’s asking me. I even left the room once when one of them, Susan I think, said she was going to tell us her real name. Why can’t they just all concentrate on the work at hand?

I just need to remember that in a little over two months, I’ll be retired and will never have to work ever again. Or see these people ever again.

Log 20

Worked again today. Who the hell works on a Sunday? It’s ridiculous. Only two office workers came in, and the other pourers voted for me to work with them all day. There was no need for us all to be there, and I agreed because I’m an idiot who likes to show off. I can’t think, I’m so tired.

Log 21

My supervisor saw me this morning and sent me straight back to my room. He said I need to stay in bed all day and recover for work tomorrow. He didn’t seem angry, but I really hope I don’t get demoted.

Log 22

I woke up this morning. The last thing I remember is finishing yesterday’s log at about 9:30am… I slept just over nineteen hours. I needed it, though. Work was fine today.

Log 24

The man who keeps trying to get me to go off script came up to me in the kitchen today when no one else was around. He said, “You have a brain in there somewhere, Larry, you know what’s going on here.” He said my name as if it was a swear word.

I said, “Good afternoon, would you like anything to eat or drink?”

“Just say it.”

“We have a great selection of cakes and…”

Then he threw a cup at me that only just missed my face. I tried not to flinch. I don’t know why he did it, but I wasn’t going to show any fear.

I’m not losing this job for anything. Least of all for some lunatic like him. I didn’t tell my supervisor about the incident because I don’t want him to think I’m causing problems. If whoever reads this tells him – so be it. But just so you know, I didn’t do anything wrong. I didn’t do anything.

Log 25

Last night, just before I fell sleep, I heard two of the pourers whispering. They said something about our supervisor, then I’m sure they were talking about me.

“He doesn’t know, does he?”

“No. I don’t think so, anyway.”

“I remember being like him. I was like that for two, maybe three jobs. Then I learned to open my eyes.”

“Yeah, but he doesn’t think he’s going to have another job after this. He says he’s retiring.”

“Really?”

“Yeah.”

“Poor guy.”

“He’s old school though, isn’t he?”

I cleared my throat and they immediately stopped talking.

Log 26

I was in a really bad mood this morning. It’s the other pourers. They’ve split into two groups, but I’m on my own. I don’t mind that so much – what I hate is the fact that I know they’re all talking about the same things, and about me, but I can’t get close enough to hear exactly what they’re saying. They all look out for me and make sure they stop talking the minute I’m in earshot.

I don’t care. I just need to focus on the work. I’m almost a third of the way through this.

Log 27

I did something terrible today. Really, really bad.

I listened.

I was clearing out the boardroom after lunch, like I do every day, and like every day there were a few of the office workers still in there, still talking about the meeting they just had. I was blocking them out using the technique. Then one of the men – I don’t know why – but his tone changed and I automatically started listening. I couldn’t help myself.

He said, “The devices are dissociating.”

That’s all I heard, and I stopped listening immediately and cleared up as quickly as I could. I think I even left a dirty cup in there. And I have no idea what it means…but I still heard it.

I’ve really screwed myself over this time. Whoever’s reading this – oh, I don’t know. But I can forget it. I promise I can forget it. I can’t get demoted, not after a month. I can forget it.

I think I need to tell my supervisor.

From: Veronica Reeves <vreeves@secureatery.com>

Sent: 22 July 2039 19:33

To: Niall Winchester <nwinchester@secureatery.com>

Subject: RE: Incident #329 logs

Hi Niall,

Thanks for sending over these ‘Larry’ logs. While they are concerning, we need to see how this plays out before making any rash decisions. Keep forwarding the important logs when you receive them, and we’ll talk more next week.

Veronica

Empty Worth Part 2 is out now.
You can also check out my novel These Unnatural Men, available in paperback and Kindle.

Emily created Dystopic in July 2012 after requiring an outlet for her love of dystopian and apocalyptic fiction. Her debut novel 'These Unnatural Men' was self-published in 2018.

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