Empty Worth – Part 2

From: Niall Winchester <nwinchester@secureatery.com>
Sent: 16 August 2039 07:59
To: Veronica Reeves <vreeves@secureatery.com>
Subject: RE: Incident #329 logs

Hi Veronica,

Thanks for taking my call yesterday. While I appreciate the ‘Larry’ logs are still low priority, I really do think you should take a look through the latest entries before we postpone further action.

As I said yesterday, I’d rather avoid another employee issue leaking to the press – the ‘Nicole’ incident last October was catastrophic and we’ve only just started to recover financially. I hope the below will help illustrate my point a little better.

Thanks,

Niall

.

Log 27

Last night I told my supervisor.

I told him I heard the office workers talking. He said he needed to consult his supervisor to understand what to do next. I didn’t even know he had a supervisor. This morning he called me into the boardroom before any of the office workers arrived.

He said, “That’s all you heard, ‘the devices are dissociating’, and you stopped listening straight away?”

“Yes. Straight away.”

“Do you know what it means?”

“Not a clue.”

He looked into the distance for a moment, as if listening to someone. I turned to see what he was staring at. It was one of the abstract paintings that are in most of the meeting rooms, a smearing of red, yellow and black acrylic, all smudged and splatted together. Meaningless, corporate-friendly art.

Then he looked at me again. “You’re just getting a warning this time, but you know the rules here. The office workers do very important, very confidential work. This is for our government, for our country, if any information were to ever leave this place…”

“It won’t.”

“It better not. You’re my best pourer. Don’t mess up again.”

I couldn’t help but smile at that. He must have heard that we call ourselves ‘pourers’.

Log 28

There are five pourers left now. Five including me, that is. I don’t know what happened, no one will say anything. I asked where Jerry was, and they all just looked at each other. Then work started and I didn’t get a chance to ask again. It was non-stop today, as five of us are having to do work designed for double the amount of staff. My supervisor is acting as if nothing has changed. Maybe I should just do the same? I think it’s best not to push things, especially after yesterday.

Log 29

Whoever’s reading this – I’m trying. I really am. But again, I didn’t actually do anything wrong.

The guy who tried to get me off script came into the kitchen to see me this afternoon. He came in to see me. He was looking around, and then he saw me. He went straight up to me, he cornered me. I couldn’t escape. But he didn’t say anything, just stuffed a piece of paper into my hand and walked out. I know I should have put it straight in the bin. At the very least I should have ignored it until the end of my shift, put it in my pocket and handed it to my supervisor. But I didn’t. I read it.

Don’t go to sleep.

That’s what it said. I scrunched up that piece of paper the second the words had entered my brain. Then, I don’t know why, but I ate it. I ate the piece of paper. It was just instinctive, I just did it. I was frightened and wanted to get rid of it.

To whoever is reading this, once again I didn’t do ANYTHING wrong. I just hid something that someone else did wrong. I’ve been threatened, I shouldn’t be demoted for that. I’m not going to tell my supervisor, I don’t want to worry him. He’s got enough to do as it is. But I suppose you, whoever you are, can do whatever you want with this information.

I wonder who ‘you’ are. Is this your main job? Reading the stuff I write? Or is it just a small part of what you do? Why am I writing this? Why do you want me to write, or not write?

I keep wondering what the other pourers write in their logs. Am I writing the kind of things I’m supposed to?

Log 30

The other pourers are up to something. I don’t know what. Whenever I’m cleaning a surface or loading up the dishwasher, I turn and they’re looking at me. Then they scatter like a flock of startled pigeons, all in different directions.

I’m a third of the way through. Just two months to go and I’m done. That’s really motivating for me right now. It’s helping me ignore the other pourers and smile at the office workers. It’s helping me get up each morning.

At least the office workers are polite, if a little weird. Except for that one man, the man with the note. But he avoids me now.

Log 34

I couldn’t believe it when I saw him. Jerry came back today. No one seemed surprised except for me – I almost said something when he strolled in during the middle of the morning shift, but I managed to stop myself in time. He just picked up a cloth and started buffing the coffee machine as if he’d never left. I tried to catch his eye but didn’t manage to – it’s not like he’s avoiding me as such, but he hasn’t once looked in my direction since he came back. Maybe they gave him training. He’s definitely focusing a lot better on the work and getting more done.

This evening after dinner I tried to get him to tell me where he’d been, but he just smiled and shrugged. The other pourers told me to leave him alone, as if I was being mean to him. I just went to bed after that. Why should I care, anyway?

Log 35

I’ve been thinking about that note all day today. I saw the man who gave it to me this afternoon, but I didn’t serve him.

Why would he threaten me? What have I ever done to him? Don’t go to sleep. What’s he going to do? Come into the office in the middle of the night? Find my room? Cut my throat while I’m lying in my bed? Why me and not the others?

I’m going to put the bedside table in front of my door tonight.

Log 36

Everyone keeps whispering to each other. It’s driving me crazy. Can a particular volume of talking drive you crazy? I’m either working, where everyone speaks a little louder than they would do naturally, a little too clearly, a little too safely, or I go above the office and everyone’s muttering and murmuring. They shush each other a lot, too. There are so many ‘sh’ sounds, hushing and shushing. And then there’s the throat clearing. I feel like I want to hit someone, I can’t take it much longer.

Last night I was awake in bed, thinking I could still hear them. Like mice scuttling beneath the floorboards, but I know it was all in my imagination. It’s like music, sometimes noises just get stuck in your head and you think they’re real when they’re not.

It must have been all in my head, because to hear them whispering inside my room they would’ve had to have been right outside my door. And they’re never that close to me anymore. They’re always gathered in someone else’s room, in the kitchen, in the bathroom, in the hall – but never near me.

It was about ten o’clock last night when I decided I couldn’t hack it anymore. I was so irritable from lack of sleep that I had to get out of bed. I couldn’t just lie there, waiting for the sun to come up.

It was then that I realised I haven’t been outside since I started working here. Isn’t that bizarre? I haven’t missed it either, or felt claustrophobic…well, until now.

I put some shoes on and a jumper over my night clothes, and went down to the office. It felt stuffy down there. As if without people there was no air, no atmosphere.

At the foyer I went down the steps to the large glass entrance doors. I typed the security code into the keypad and tried opening them. But they were double-locked. I felt a bit silly then, because of course the huge entrance doors would be double-locked at night. The security team don’t patrol after eight o’clock.

I went back up to the foyer, through the office and into the kitchen where there’s a small door that leads outside to the bins. I typed in the security code and pushed the door – but it didn’t budge. I tried it again and really shoved it, but it was double-locked as well.

I’d seen one of the pourers go out earlier to empty the bins. Karen. Karen had used it. So the door definitely isn’t broken.

Maybe, after a certain time, the whole building locks down. I’ll have to ask my supervisor about it tomorrow. He wasn’t around today.

Log 37

My supervisor said the building doesn’t lock down at all, not even at night. I must have the wrong door code. I asked him what the number is, but someone contacted him on his handheld and he had to leave.

I won’t ask the others. I’m not talking to them anymore. It’s bullying, what they’re doing. Leaving me out like this. It’s childish and moronic. I don’t care. I need them to know I don’t care. I just need to finish these three months.

Log 38

I caved last night and asked Jerry about the door code. It took a while to get it out of him, he kept blathering on about work. But it turns out he has the same number as the one I have. I was too tired to try last night, and I’m too tired again tonight, but I’ll do it this weekend.

Log 42

I slept all day Saturday, but yesterday I forced myself to get up and try the doors while everyone else was asleep. It didn’t work.

I’ve been thinking about it. Karen is the only one I’ve seen take the bins out. She’s the only one who’s gone outside the entire time we’ve been here. I need to see what number she uses, or better yet make sure I get to the rubbish bags before her. I’ll do that tomorrow.

I’m starting to notice a smell here. I’ve never been able to detect the smell of somewhere I’ve lived or spent a lot of time in before – no one really knows what their own home smells like to other people, do they? But now I can smell it here. I can smell the office. I can smell the living spaces above. It’s a weird detergent smell, mixed with milk. And something bitter. Sour chemicals. I can smell it on me.

Log 43

By the time I got to the bins today they had already been emptied. Karen watched me check. I think she smirked when I looked up. Just slightly. I’m wondering if she’s been reading my logs. I’ve hidden the device in my room, somewhere she won’t find it.

Log 44

Nothing happened. I worked.

Log 45

We’re halfway. I can do this.

Log 46

Work. Sleep. Work. Sleep.

Log 47

I’m such an idiot.

How can anyone be this stupid?

I’ve been focusing on the wrong things. I can’t believe I’ve spent so much time thinking about those stupid bins that I completely forgot about the note.

Don’t go to sleep.

But I’m thinking about it now. And I’ve been thinking about it over and over and over. And I’m thinking maybe it’s not a threat. Why would he threaten me? He doesn’t even know me. And he hasn’t spoken to me since. He actually hides from me now. I saw him skulking around the corner the other day, looking over his shoulder to make sure I wasn’t following him.

“You have a brain in there somewhere, Larry, you know what’s going on here.”

Don’t go to sleep.

No. It’s not a threat. It’s an instruction.

Because what do I do the minute my shift is over? Sleep. What do I do at the weekends? Sleep. Whenever I have a moment to myself, I just sleep. And write a few lines on my log. And then I sleep.

There’s something in this. There must be.

But why?

Is it connected to the reason I can’t go outside? Am I being drugged? Why am I here? What are they doing here?

I’m starting to think no one reads these. If anyone did, something would have happened by now. But maybe I want something to happen. That’s why I keep writing.

I suppose there’s only one thing to do.

I need to stay awake.

From: Veronica Reeves <vreeves@secureatery.com>
Sent: 16 August 2039 21:12
To: Niall Winchester <nwinchester@secureatery.com>
Subject: RE: Incident #329 logs

Hi Niall,

Please can we be a little mindful of when we call in future? My diary is available for everyone to see on the system – your call yesterday was right in the middle of a conference and was very embarrassing. I had to apologise to the Director of Communications at HydroSave, and we’re on thin ice with them as it is.

But you are right. We do need to resolve this. Soon.

Be subtle. Call more patrol in. Ramp up the shift work. And don’t pull ‘Karen’ or ‘Jerry’ out of the office, that’s just asking for more trouble. Keep them in there for the foreseeable.

I’ve cleared the next few days. I’m going to be working from home, but call me if the ‘Larry’ thing escalates.

Veronica

Empty Worth Part 3 is now available.
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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