Skip navigation.
Home
Write - Share - Read - Respond

CALL, WAITING

stanley.lieber's picture

 

CALL, WAITING
730 words by Stanley Lieber

 

The whole side of the building turns green and now I see that I've come all the way out here for nothing again. I'm not very quick to pack up my gear, as the the whole day has already evaporated around me. Might as well soak the trip for hours. This happens every week. All year long. I've yet to be activated, actually. The work is easy, but dragging out my gear just to sit here in the dark is humiliating. If I didn't need the money for school...

The sun is not quite vanished yet. There are still a smattering of locals out and about on the street. I decide to finish my report here, on the scene. I finger the leaf out of my coat pocket and expand its display. As soon as I get the screen on, four messages appear, edging each other out of the way according to some sort of algorithm deemed intuitive by the software engineers. Presently, desktop real estate on the handheld is an unlikely fiction. All four of the messages are from Eva.

    Message 1: 16:01 Are you coming to work today? :)

    Message 2: 16:03 I know you're there, I can see the little light of your leaf reflecting off those mirrors and peeking out from the curtains in your window. Should I send over a a tray of makizushi, or just keep it to myself?

    Message 3: 16:07 FINE THEN! I'M GOING TO BREAK.

    Message 4: 16:16 Why won't you talk to me?

There are numerous ready answers for her question, but I'm not about to enumerate them. I close all four windows with an index finger and bring up the report template. Light from the apartment's windows continues to leak in and play against the mirrors, even though it is dark enough outside the sodium lights have come on, down on the street. Dusk, and this room, always wreak havoc with my visor and its ability to read the screen of my leaf. Consequently, I leave the visor off most of the time and miss out on a lot of the trading I could be doing while I pretend to work.

There is a sound I don't like, out in the hallway, and suddenly I've got the pistol out, working my finger into its trigger guard and inserting a clip of ammunition. After a few moments I put the firearm back in my bag. It was the landlady's cat.

So, right. On to the report.

    19:04 NOTHING HAS HAPPENED AGAIN. I RECEIVED THE ALL-CLEAR SIGNAL AT 19:00 PER THE SCHEDULE AND SO RETURNED ALL INSTRUMENTATION TO ITS STORAGE LOCATION AND SHUT DOWN THE TRANSMITTER. SIGNING OFF TO RETURN TO THE REAL WORLD. EOF.

This I encrypt with my thumb and push along on its way.

As I'm gathering my things, my mind wanders to my fellow agents, spread out across diverse countries and kingdoms, who must have also been called out and then sent back home without seeing any action. I wonder about their frustrations with the tedious ins and outs of the business.

I'm not much longer dusting the chair and table. I wrap my shirt around my hand to grip the doorknob and vacate before I'm noticed. My visor tells me the landlady is rounding the corner two blocks away, returning home with a bag full of groceries. I follow the path the visor illuminates for me until I reach a public transport, which it flags me away from. I instead hop into an idling taxi which has lately begun to throb with a brilliant orange light.

By the time I get home I have decided against more studying. I set my visor to emulate telescreen and lean back in bed, trying to get some rest. I'm wondering now who they did decide to blow up today, and if the selection will necessitate my having to transfer schools yet again. They always want to keep me close, even if they never actually want me to do anything. I don't try to make sense of it.

I fall asleep just as the name of the target city hits the scroll, as a group of wailing women are brought up on screen to provide visual grounding for the headline story.

I don't remember what happens next.

I'm sure it will be boring.

 

To be continued...

 

 

creative.commons.attribution-noncommercial-noderivs.3.0

 

1OCT1993 | INDEX