RETURN ON INVESTMENT
The Investor groaned mournfully as he turned in his final stage of sleep. His old body had felt every second of time that had passed and he had aged beyond the whishings of any man. He had spent the night running through his mind, all of his days that he had spent and in his broken sleep he had played out the theatre of his life; every choice he ever made and the weight of those choices that he carried with him and one in particular of whose weight he could bear no more. The final groan as he broke into conscious struggle; a weary aging chord, dissipated through the air on a cold grey August morning; as every morning had been and every morning would be and as life is; a production of The Industry.
As he dragged his legs over the edge of the bed and leaned his tired body forward; sucking in the cold air, his lungs expelled a thick clump of phlegm and he started his morning with a low heavy cough that soon built into a tearful wheeze as he fought desperately for every breath. His hands trembled as they gripped the sheets by his side and feet; numb from his failing circulation, curled over to cling to the filthy carpet; his body engaged in primal dance to ground itself to existence; to hold on to anything that it could, to stop his life from slipping away with every heave of his chest. He wished his mind could feel light and it should; on a day like this.
The shutters opened in his room as they always had without surprise and without his bidding as the sun birthed as it did each and every morning; flooding obedience and responsibility onto his loose fitting skin. He squeezed his eyes as the bright luminescence shone through the greasy window setting his sight to a blur. Burning neon reds and blues lit up the night sky, birthing the day. Outside his window he could see the morning flux of people rushing about in great urgency; their faces lit up by the magnitude of fluorescent lights beaming from every tower and from the clothing of every person walking about on the streets below; the dance of electricity in the morning air as man and machine intertwined in the great ballet of human potential, in this; the age of information.
The wheels of The Industry were turning. Under neon lights and a midnight sky, the day had begun.
In a second the sound started from inside his mind and in the recesses of his conscious auditorium came the strolling of words and from words came music and from music came song and his mind filled with glorious advertising. As he stood in front of the window, staring out over The City, his mind filled like a kitchen sink with a thousand ideas, a thousand songs and the speakings of a thousand men of which none of them were him. First came the message as it did every morning and he absorbed every word as he stared listlessly out of his bedroom window entranced by the flow of neon lights through the artilleries of the city as he sat high above its pressure; up in the clouds looking out of the stretch of its potential, seeing its veins fill with the bright flashing red and flickering yellows of human traffic passing through the body of this city, filling it with life; defining its existence. As he lost himself in the sea of colour set against the filling of black space in the morning sky abounding, the message of The Industry dressed his conscious waking.
“Good morning citizen, welcome to a new day in The City. The Industry would like to inform you that it loves you. The Industry would like to inform that it is grateful that you exist. The Industry would like to inform you that you love The Industry. The Industry exists, therefore you exist. All hail The Industry. All love The Industry. Citizen; look unto the light and repeat The Industry prayer” spoke the voice in his head. The Investor continued to shed his focus like a cat’s fur on the splashing of fluorescence across the city below and along with the entire human race he uttered his prayer. “I am what I do, I am where I´ve been, I am what I have, I am what I´ve seen. All hail The Industry, all hail me, I am The Industry; The Industry is me”.
He, like every human high on the current of electricity fed by The Industry, sang the words loud from the bottom of his heart; eschewed out from the pit of his belly, cast out of his throat, out into the morning air as the prayer filled the emptiness in space and The Industry was loved by one and by all. Then came the propaganda. The Industry prayer settled into the cold air and vacated from his mind as now his conscious was filled with static as he moved about his room starting his morning obligations.
As he walked around the room, sensors imbedded in his cerebral cortex picked up signals beaming from all directions feeding him information; some of which he had subscribed and others just a useless flow of data, opinions, discounts, rumours and product sales; none of which would affect his day but all of which would attest to being necessary to do so. Every ad was the same but told in a different voice and dressed in a different guise; but they all spoke of the same truth; today was a special day.
The Investor finished his morning obligation. He put his bible back on the mantle careful not to crease the pages and washed his hands thoroughly. His mind felt light and his body cleansed of desire. He passed his hand over the glossy magazine cover as he walked out of the room, brushing his fingers over the naked woman’s breasts wanting to obligate himself again, thinking on this special day; once more, if this could be my last the let me spend my day in prayer.
But inside he knew this would not be his last. On this special day he would receive The Administrators to his door and they would hold in their hands a red stamp; the validation of his contract and they would give him the return on his investment; his entitlement; more time. Still, even though he knew that he was sure of a healthy return, a fear within his sub conscious fed on the possibility of what if.
What if his investment was poor? What if the choices it had defined were not of Industry standard? What if The Bankers arrived instead? What if today was really his last day? How would he spend it? Would he carry a heavy weight into the outcome of his investment? Would he spend his last day thinking that it was his last day?
A screen lit up in front of him then screens all through his apartment all lit up at once beaming light and sound through his dwelling. He cast his sight on the large screen hanging on his bedroom wall; connected to his profile. He hadn’t updated in days. What was he to going to say? What would he write? He looked through the scrolling messages from names and faces that had wished him well along every milestone of his life; along every accomplishment and recognised his every obligation; always saying what needed to be said, constant approval.
He read through the messages and they all read the same: ‘congratulations’, ‘you did it’, ‘I’m proud of you’ and ‘thanks to The Industry, you get what you deserve’. There were maybe seven hundred messages and they all read of the same thoughtless response. The Investor clicked reply all but he couldn’t think of a thoughtless thing to say. He looked at his profile and he felt so far removed from where he expected to be, but he had to write something; everyone had to write something. ‘Today’s a special day’ he wrote; updating his status, telling his hundreds of friends exactly how he didn’t feel; and that alone was more weight that he had to carry.
He poured himself and coffee and sat down on his old rickety chair pondering at the images flashing on the screen in his kitchen; images of war and sadness and suffering and crying children. He turned off the television and opened the newspaper which offered little respite; more disaster, more suffering, more weight for him to carry through his final day. ‘Enough’ he thought, ‘today is a special today. I will not sit here and stew. I will not dwell on what cannot be undone. Today is a special day’ he said out loud as his hand brushed against the coffee cup and it slid off the table and hanged in the air long enough for him to catch the site of it just beyond his reach, falling into the hands of gravity and smashing into the floor.
In the second that the mug held in the air, as his sight turned in wakened fright his mind stopped; the mug stopped and time stopped. It held tentatively in the air, ignoring the logic of up and down, disregarding the delicate mathematics of the universe and the rules unto which all things subscribed and as it balanced on a whim, he dove through the black fluid, into the depths of his sub conscious; into thought.
When he opened his eyes he was less old than he was and he dressed in skin more suited to his muscular frame. It was his committal; when he gave himself to The Industry; adorning his brand and starting his life. This day would be one he would never forget and so fitting then to return to this memory on this very special day. And he stood in the corners of his imagination dressed in green overalls waiting with his eyes watching the numbers race upwards; his breath deepening in anticipation, his hands sweating and his throat parching as the brakes sounded and slight thud brought the elevator to a halt and steel doors opened casting his eyes open the cutting floor.
“This is where you work” said the voice beside him; a behemoth of a man dressed in a long white coat; his face hidden under the mesh of his beard; his voice booming sending a great weight of authority through every syllable.
“The green button starts the machine and the red button stops the machine. You press the green button and your colleague the red, ok? Green to start and red to finish Do you understand?” asked The Behemoth.
“Yes sir” said The Investor who at that age was just a young idealist wanting to belong, to find his place in the grand design; to play his part and make the right choice; as he had been educated to do since his production. The Investor stepped out of the elevator and took his post behind the controls of an extraction table.
“What does the grey button do?” he asked to his colleague.
“Do not press the grey button. You press the green button only. Green to start and red to finish. Do you understand?” said his colleague. His colleague dressed in red overalls stood watching the railings above as from the end of the room a set of doors swung open and the hosts made their way on silver trays along the length of the roof dropping down systematically at each extraction table; aligning under the great birthing arms. His colleague looked to him and nodded and The Investor turned to his training; pressing the green button. The great arms swung into action slicing and dicing the woman’s stomach and reaching in a extracting the foetus from her womb; taking it over to a silver tray where it was immediately whisked away for processing, weighing and feeding. The Investor’s colleague pressed the red button and the arms retracted and the tray with the woman; whose chest was opened like ripe fruit, lifted high into the air where the conveyer took it along with the thousands of other hosts to the suture rooms; but The Investor had no time to ponder of this other work.
In seconds another tray arrived and another woman lay under great swinging mechanical arms; her stomach being torn open and the foetus inside extracted like program file; quick and procedure like; the woman still and unemotional; unthrlled by the event and the two men; one dressed in green and the other in red, pressed to work faster and more efficient by the urgency of their quota. Green, red, green, red. All day long, they came, they cut and they went. He loved his work so much and this first day was so special but this wasn’t the weight that he carried with him.
The sound of a coffee mug smashing into a thousand pieces; spreading across the cold tiles of the kitchen floor, was but a whisper to that of three firm knocks on his front door; like that of the last breath of dying old man to the raucous bellow of young child at play.. The Investor evacuated his state of dream; his temporary delusion basking in the reverence of one becoming zero and lifted himself away from the table looking down at the floor covered into tiny ceramic pieces a drenched in black fluid. ‘Will this affect their decision’ he thought.
“I’m coming, one second” he said as he quickly pushed the tiny pieces underneath a low hanging cupboard, out of immediate sight and disapproval. ‘I’ll keep them in the living room’ he thought. The old man motioned towards the front door feeling every second of his forty years in his mind and in his body. He was old; ancient to the young man who would today start his obligation to The Industry adorning the same green overalls he had worn for twenty five years and standing where he had stood for all that time dedicating himself to The Line.
The Investor had been a model servant and throughout almost the entirety of his existence; since the day of his production, he had almost always made the right choice; aligned with his branding and according to The Industry standards. Almost always though does not account for everything and along his path of impeccability, there was one decision he made of his own accord which carried in the recess of his subconscious; a weight that would be stifling as he walked into his outcome.
He thought about his own Investor as his fingers circled to embrace the silver handle on the door. He had never thought about it before but now his eyes were lingering away from his hand and settling on a small table at the far end of the living room where stacked neatly in a pile of white papers was the contract for his Product; the investment he created and gave to The Industry a great many years ago. He wondered if the man who had produced him, given him to The Industry, had carried a great weight into his outcome and was this what every man thought of before they opened the door; imagining their inception; the marriage of ink to paper as their names rested upon the bottom line of a contract. He would never know of the outcome of the choices he made and whether his Investor was welcomed by The Administrators into his entitlement or greeted by The Bankers and liquidated. One always thought of the former and in every choice one made throughout their life they thought of their obligation; to The Industry for giving life and to The Investor for signing off on it.
The Investor turned the handle nervously even though subconsciously he was still expecting to see the two Administrators holding their red stamp, approving his extension and defining the terms of his retirement. It was early though. Processing and evaluation always occurred at the end of the day, before the shutters closed in the apartments, the time when The Industrialists; of which today he would retire from, would normally settle into their digital profiles. Maybe today was different; it was a special day after-all.
His heart raced as adrenaline flowed through his veins; his stomach sinking under the drag of his anticipation; drunk on abiding fear; wanting so much to see the Administrators but imagining the two Bankers standing with their black briefcase, no smiles on their faces, no stamp in their hands; only an array of cruel instruments. He wondered if the man in the doorway could hear his heart pounding in his chest. It was so loud. Thump, thump, thump it went, drowning out the advertisement playing in his mind.
With every beat he travelled further from his state of reality, further from the outcome beyond his reach and finally with a single thump of his heart he opened his eyes to see scores of men in green and red overalls yelling and throwing their arms about, all pointing to a break in the line; a pointing to him. The Behemoth, the man in white looked at him in such a way that he knew no right amount of decisions could ever undo what has been done.
As The Behemoth recorded his number on an electronic sheet The Investor sank into disappointment and threw his arms away to defeat, stepping away from the line where a product freshly extracted from a woman’s womb was wedged in the packing line; mangling the product completely rendering it valueless and worse still, stopping the entire line, affecting the quota. As the men in green overalls stood around him screaming into his ear he heard nothing but the thumping sound as the conveyer tried to move under the product, squashing its tiny frame against the outer railing and with pulse of energy firing the pistons up and down; driving the machines to turn the line, he heard not the sound of men screaming down his throat but only the thump of the fleshy product being forced against metal; thump, thump, thump.
He turned the handle and though his heart beat like an African drum, he expected to see a red stamp, his return on investment. The door opened with The Investor quickly losing his smile; confusion setting upon his face and his heart sinking into his stomach.
“Who are you?” he asked; the flutter of his heart pumping more adrenaline through his body making him feel sick and light headed but willing his arms to slam the door and his legs to take his somewhere to the far end of the apartment and crouch behind something bulky and shadowsome.
“I am your investment. I’ve come home to die” said the man standing in the doorway. The Investor stood mute. What he had said made no sense at all. His heart beat faster, his knees trembled, he wished that this were the day before or the day after; a life coming to a close or a life once lived; the former or the latter but not this; this ambiguity in between.
“I know how this sounds but it’s true. I am your product, you are my investor and I need you to help me” said the man; his eyes wide like a hungry kitten.
The Investor was still mute but now his body had taken to becoming numb. He couldn’t feel his toes that were curling against the sticky mat at the foot of his door. He couldn’t feel his fingers; which on one hand gripped the silver handle so tight his knuckles shone a bright white while the outskirts of his hand burned deep red and his nails cut and dug into his palms; his hand primed to thrust the door in the man’s face and press the weight of his disbelief behind the frame and keep this incident long from his immediacy. His other hand which drooped by his left side shook wildly but he couldn’t tell, because it too was numb and just as his hands and his feet had abandoned their reality so too did his eyes as they glazed with a smoky hue; filling like air in a tyre as quickly and softly, the image of the man disappeared from his sight until he crashed to the floor and slipped into unconsciousness.
When he woke, his head was sore, it felt like he had been drinking and been sleeping for days. His mind was laden with guilt; a sense of remorse he thought that a long time ago he had managed to repress but now the warmth of his discomfort sat idle in his conscious mind and the great weight he thought he had left somewhere far from where he stood, a great many years ago was now saddled with him on this; a very special day. As he rubbed his eyes vigorously a voice behind him threw him into fright.
“Are you ok? You took quite a fall” said The Product.
“Who are you? What are you doing here? I’m expecting company, you can’t be here when they arrive, you have to leave. I’m expecting The Administrators, they’re coming with their red stamp, you have to go. It’s a very special day. Who are you?” The Investor asked again desperately not wanting to know, but needing to know all the same.
“My name is Marcos and I am your investment. Before you hurt yourself again, please let me help you to chair; somewhere more comfortable” said The Product picking the old man up and taking his weary body over to the rocking chair that sat on the veranda over-looking the bright neon lights of the city below. As The Investor swam in a sea of worry, paralysed in his rocking chair, The Product made his way into the old man’s kitchen preparing some food and pouring two cups of coffee taking both back to where the old man sat staring out over the sea of blue and red as the morning night sky filled with luminescence and the sound of vibrancy reverberate through the great height of the buildings and rested where he sat; overlooking the old cathedral and the flux of winding streets like an industrial web; the dark matter trafficking The Industry’s gradual expansion but inevitably holding the city together.
“You’re not supposed to be here. You’re not real. You’re a piece of paper. That’s you, on my table over there” The Investor said pointing inside the apartment to the small table hosting a pile of white papers.
“My name is Marcos and I am real. I am product just like you but I am your product. You made me, you gave me away. You gave me to The Industry just as your Investor gave you away” said The Product.
“What are you doing here? How did you find me?” asked The Investor.
“I need your help” said The Product.
“You can’t be here. Today is a very special day. Do you know what that means? The Administrators are coming, with their red stamp. If you are here, they will not come. You shouldn’t be here, you have to go. Whatever reason you came, it was a wrong decision. They’ll find out and mark it, the day isn’t done. They’ll void my contract” said The Investor with urgency in his voice, his fight or flight instinct grounding him and willing him to stay in his skin and get rid of this man, at any cost.
“I can’t go. I’m sick, very sick and only you can help me” said The Product.
“You can help me, by going right now. If you’re telling the truth and The Industry realises you are here, they’ll liquidate us both. Do you understand? You shouldn’t have come, you shouldn’t have even thought of this. They already know. You know that right. You made a choice. They know. They already know that you’re here, that you were coming here. Why the fuck did you come here? What did I ever do to you?” he screamed.
“You produced me” said The Product.
“What? You’re an investment. It’s not your choice on whether you are produced or not. It wasn’t my choice that I was produced or anyone’s for that matter. We are, and that is all that is. We have our obligations; to The Industry and to our Contract. You have an obligation to me. My outcome is the result of your obligation to me. That is how it is. Your obligation is to not be here and right now, you are fucking your obligation. You’re fucking The Industry and you’re fucking me. Is it clear? You cannot be here?” he yelled as if The Product were deaf.
“I will leave, only after you listen to me and then if you say you won’t help me, I will accept your decision” said The Product without protest in a calm reflective tone. The Investor’s heart was racing but he didn’t weak anymore, instead he wanted to take this young man and tear his head off. How dare he show this disrespect? How dare he; an investment, turn up on his doorstep on a day like this, the most important day of his life; this very special day.
“This is not what I was expecting. This is all horribly ironic” said The Investor.
“How do you mean?” asked The Product settling his arms on the metal railing and looking out over the expanse of The City below.
“Today is the day I receive my return of investment and lo and behold, my investment turns up on my doorstep” he said laughing dolorously to himself.
“Was it worth it? Living your life according to right or wrong? Living your life for someone else?” said The Product.
“That is the nature of things. You can’t deny nature” said The Investor.
“What is natural about any of this? The Industry made man; it made us and yet it took many men a great many years to build The Industry, then who or what produced these men? What was there before The Industry? Was there a void? Did it really start with the turning of a screw? Or is this just something we were taught in school?” said The Product cryptically.
“We all had those questions at one point in our life. You’re young, you’re ideal. You want to press the grey button but it doesn’t matter what came first. What matters is how many pistons are firing and who is sitting behind the wheel. The Industry is real. Whether or not it’s natural doesn’t matter. It just a word. You can apply it to any tangible or intangible substantive. It doesn’t matter. The reality is the weight of your choices; the division of your right and your wrong” said The Investor wisely.
“For the sake of your contract, yes?” said The Product.
“Exactly” replied The Investor.
“Then what about your own sake?”
“That is the risk of investment. If I didn’t invest then today would literally be my last day. My return is based on the value of your life and every decision you make. Knowing that weight, knowing the trust that an investor has with his product; his bind to his contract, it simplifies one’s purpose and makes every decision in one’s life easier to make. And just as my outcome rests on your obligation, my investor risked everything for the sum of my decisions. Knowing this, I always made the right decisions. This is the nature of existence. You are a product, it is not your right to desire until you deserve. Life is not a right; the extension of life too is not a right; it is the outcome of an equation” he said.
“And what if The Bankers arrive at your door? What if today you are liquidated? Are you content with how you lived your life? Tell me, do you love your investor? You bound yourself to his obligation. Every decision you made in your life was weighed against what was right for him; what would ensure his return on investment. Did you love him? Did he live long because of your love? Did he live through you as you through I? Did you love him as I love you?”
“I love my contract. You are not my contract. You are a product. I am a product and I don’t love myself so how could I love you? Now could you please leave” said The Investor pointing to the door shakily in his voice; hoping either the man would leave before The Administrators arrived or he would wake from this foul insanity.
“This is your last day?”
“Yes it is. It is a special day”.
“Then why are you so sad?”
“Because you made a wrong decision coming here and now they’ll know, and I won’t get my entitlement”
“There is no entitlement. It’s all a ruse, you do know that right?”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about, you’re just a boy”
“I am you and you are I. I am the result of your choices and you; now, are the result of mine. But I want to know about you, about a decision you made”
“It’s none of your business”
“But it is. You see, every decision I made was with you in mind, always hanging over my head; what would my contract do? I’ve never felt so close to anything in my life, so affected by something or someone that I couldn’t touch, that I couldn’t prove real. Yet I couldn’t deny your existence. I wanted to. Consciously I did, I fought you, and I rejected your influence. But always, underneath that hate, that abandon, that negation, was love. And so every choice I made was the right choice. Every choice I made would appease your ideal; your return on investment. I devoted my life to you. The Industry was just the stage. You were everything and everywhere and you were no one and nowhere at the same time. So it is my business to know of your devotion, of the service you kept to the choices you made”
“I don’t have to tell you anything. I dedicated myself to my contract like you should be doing to yours. I pushed the green button like they said. I desired what they desired that I desire. I fit every Industry standard. I was just like everyone else. I obliged. I made every right choice and I deserve this day. This is a fucking special day”
“You worked on the cutting room; green button yeah?”
“It’s honest work and I was satisfactory at my job. Fuck you. What do you do?”
“I exist” said The Product.
“I exist” said The Product.
“What is that? That’s not an obligation” said the Investor
“I met your investor; years ago”
“No you didn’t. That’s impossible”
“He was a good man; a wonderful surgeon. He was a humanist. Do you know what that means?”
“He helped a lot of Industrialists and at no charge. He didn’t care much for The Industry or its rules or its obligations. He referred to me as a child not a product and he believed that life was created, not produced” said The Product.
“So now you’re talking to my contract. Who are you, what do you want?” said The Investor nervously and angrily; his temper slipping from his grip, his stomach rising to his throat and a cool shade of white painting on his face.
“His name was Conor”
“My what? Get out of here, it’s getting late. I have to get ready. Today is a special day”
“He called you his son. He knew who you were. He watched you grow. Did you know that?”
“That’s against the rules. The Investor must not interfere with The Product” screamed The Investor slamming his fist on the table, his face now brining red. As he huffed and puffed he saw The Product standing before him with his right hand trembling; a shake that had persisted for the entire of his unwarranted visit.
“What’s wrong with your hand?” asked The Investor more curious than concerned.
“His name was Conor”
“Who? Who was Conor?”
“Your investor. His name was Conor. You know, he looked at me the same way that you look at me now and the same way; one day, I will look at my child” said The Product.
“You said you need help, help with what? You need money, credit? What do I have to do to get you out of here?”
“I need you to make one more choice, the most important choice of your life. Would you make a choice for me before the day is through?” said The Product.
“Are you insane? The product lives for the investor that is how it is. The Industry wouldn’t recognise a choice of this kind” he said.
“The Industry won’t, but I will. Doesn’t that account for anything?”
“No. You are just my fucking product. You have to leave, please. If they find you here it will void my contract, they’ll kill me. Please I worked so hard for this. I don’t want to die” pleaded The Investor.
“You didn’t ask me how I met Connor”
“It doesn’t matter”
“Conor was my surgeon. He looked after me; after the accident”
“A man made a wrong choice; he pressed the wrong button”
“What does that have to do with me?” The Investor said entranced by the tremor in the young man’s hand.
“I thought about what I would do to you. For a long time; for years, I thought about killing you. I watched you every day standing by your machine, pressing your button, meeting your quotas. I wanted you to pay for what you did to me”
His heart beat hard and fast and his mind started to race as he slipped into a part of his mind he had thought had been long forgotten; a memory that he believed if he could bury somewhere in the waste of his hopes and aspirations, nobody would notice; just as on that day he thought nobody had noticed.
“It was an accident. It wasn’t my fault. That was you? That was my product?”
“Ironic isn’t it? The worst decision you ever made affected your only two links to this world; your contract and your product” said The Product.
“No, nobody saw anything. You got stuck in the machine. It wasn’t my fault”
“You pressed the grey button”
“It was an accident. I slipped”
“You told nobody. You pushed me through with a metal spike. I lost my spleen and my right hip. They had to remove my right eye and my skull was fractured. I spent years in surgery and rehabilitation”
“I’m sorry but that wasn‘t my fault. You were just a product, you had no feelings; you were like a fish. It didn’t matter”
“It could have been different if you just stopped the line and admitted your mistake” he said.
“I couldn’t stop the line. There were quotas. If I told them, they would have marked me. I would have fucked everything for my contract. He would’ve lost his entitlements. I did it for him”
“You were marked in the end; and your contract, it was voided; and Conor, well I sat cowering in a kitchen cupboard trying not to let my breath fall on the feet of the men who stood in front of me and killed the only human who showed me compassion in this world. Because of you; he died and because of you I am dying” he said short of breath.
“Don’t put this one me. You can’t judge me for something I did. It makes no sense; it’s not fair. I’m not responsible for the outcomes of my decisions. I am just the fruit. Conor is responsible for your accident, not me. That’s life, it doesn’t have to make sense and what you’re asking isn’t fair; that one should make a choice for someone else and then be responsible for the outcomes, are you crazy? I am not responsible for your death but I am responsible for you being here, for you breaking the terms”
“Which makes you responsible for your own death. What will you do that you haven’t already done?”
“I’ll kill you”
“I’m already dead” said The Product laughing
“Will you help me? Make this day; different”
“What’s wrong with you?”
“I need your heart. Because of that day, the mistake you made, the one I have is failing and by the end of this special day I will be dead, unless…” he said pausing.
“Unless what?” yelled The Investor already knowing the response.
“Unless you give me your heart” he said.
“No. That’s not fair. You can’t do this. You can’t just turn up on my doorstep and blame me for something I did to you twenty years ago. No, I’m going to call The Moderators. There’s still time, I’ll say you just arrived and…”
“It doesn’t matter and you know it. The extension of your life is counted on the decisions I make, not you. You can call whoever you want but as soon as The Industry realises I chose to visit you, your contract is void. They‘ll liquidate you” said The Product.
“So what now? We die together?”
“You have a chance to redeem yourself so that you can walk with a light mind into whatever your outcome may be” said The Product.
“I don’t want redemption, I want 15 years. I want my rights. I want my fucking entitlement” said The Investment angrily.
“It’s not fair is it; how life can weigh on one wrong decision? Conor didn’t deserve to die. He was good man and he was useful beyond his years. And I don’t deserve to die; there is still so much that I could do with my life if I just had one more day. One wrong decision, you killed two good men. What do you deserve?”
“I’m sorry I am. I really wish those words would mean something but there’s nothing I can do now. I’m really sorry that I damaged you in production, I am. I damaged my own product. If I had of known; they all look the same. I didn’t know”
“But you did, didn’t you? You tried to extract my chip. When my head was crushed against the railing, you wanted my chip to fail so they couldn’t register me”
“Of course not, that’s insane. Who would do that sort of thing? The Industry would find out. You can’t get away with something like that”
“No you can’t. It doesn’t matter now. The decision has already been made”
“What decision? What do you mean?”
“I’m here. Your contract is void”
“No, it can’t be. No, this is my special day. I just told everyone, that this is my special day”
“I found a way to make you responsible”
“I’m really sorry that my contract suffered because of my action. I tried to do everything a thousand times more satisfactory after that day. I thought; if nobody saw it and I didn’t think, than it wouldn’t have happen. But they know everything. They know our decisions before we even decide. You’re right, it’s not fair. The tree and the fruit are not the same. But this is the way it is. Just because it’s not right, it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done”
“Will you help me? Will you give me your heart?”
A loud banging on the door interrupted the two men. The immediate fright turned to exhilaration as his heart palpitated; thinking about what stood on the other side of the door.
“It’s not too late to redeem yourself” shouted The Man as The Investor rushed about the apartment fixing his hair and dressing himself more appropriately before opening the door.
“Shut up. This is my special day, you’re not going to ruin it” said The Investor coming his hair tightly to one side. He forced a smile, staring long into his reflection practicing his corporal lie while inside his mind he heard the crunching of metal against flesh and bone. He tried to think of something wholesome; of the millions of choices he had made but nothing worked. His mind was on fire.
He thought about his contract but he thought about him as a man; a man no different to he; waiting on his special day; and how the young man before him had witnessed the death of that same man, for something he had done; that crunching sound of metal against flesh and bone just wouldn’t leave him alone. His blood felt warm and his eyes started to well. He tried to swallow the sensation, bury it beneath a concrete smile but the weight of his joy was of no match to the despair which derogated his heart. His hands began to sweat profusely and his throat parched. He looked at the young man slouched on the sofa falling out of consciousness; looking identical to he, on the verge of life and death. On which way that he falls, lies on the burden of another man’s outcome.
“Why did you do this?” he said in tears; his voice cracking under the weight of his sadness, something he had never thought a human could feel. The love he felt for The Industry; for its existence; for the purpose it defined for him; he now felt for the old man he had left to die and for the young man dying on his sofa.
“I’m sorry. I wish I could take it back. I am so sorry. I really am” he said. The man on the sofa was silent, he didn’t respond. The Investor rushed to the sofa and shook the man but still, he didn’t respond.
“Please forgive me. It wasn’t me. It was the system. I just did what I thought was right” he said crying into the man’s chest.
“I’m sorry” he screamed into the air thinking of his contract; Conor, the good man who was executed because of a stupid mistake. The knocking on the door continued. The Investor picked himself up and looked at the man lying unconscious on his sofa. The tears he shed tasted like none he had shed before.
“Mr Black. Mr James Theodore Black”
“Go away” he screamed. The door burst open and two men in black stood before him, one carrying a black leather case and the other applying black leather gloves over his hands as The Investor turned and ran to the veranda looking over the edge.
“Please step away from the edge sir” spoke one of the men.
“You won’t get me. Fuck you. I’ll kill myself instead. I won’t die for The Industry; I won’t die by your terms. You’ve taken too many lives already. This is my life. It’s my life to live and it’s my life to take. This is my redemption” he said. He had in his hands, the white contract for his investment; holding it out over the ledge.
“Sir. Mr Black, come back over the ledge” said the man with leather gloves.
“You want this paper huh? You see that man there? He is my product. He is my son. This contract, it means nothing, not anymore because I feel sorry and I love my son so fuck you. Forgive me father, forgive me my son, I give me heart to you” he said tearing the contract in two and throwing it over the side of the veranda, the pieces picking up in the wind and drifting out of the bright luminescence below; some landing on wet splashes of cold concrete; some catching on feet of Industrialists walking in many down the winding streets adrift in the whim of obligation; oblivious to the man above on the twenty fifth floor standing on the tip of his toes; mouthing I love you to a dead man on an old shredded sofa and diving high into the air, his arms stretched like an eagle; his eyes closed, the delicacy of flight bridging his breast for but a moment; a moment that felt like a lifetime as into his outcome he dove, feeling lighter than air; until it was that gravity took its orders and down he fell; through the midnight black on the cold grey August morning; hitting the cold concrete floor with absolute finality.
“That was unexpected” said the man with the gloves putting away his red stamp. The other man; the one with the briefcase undid the leather straps and reached inside. As he did, his colleague took a metal reader form his pocket and passed it over the dead man’s cortex.
“He doesn’t scan sir. What now?” said the man with the metal reader.
“Leave it. No scan, no chip, he doesn’t exist. Is he breathing?”
“Well then there’s nothing to report”
“Do you think it was his product?”
“Highly unlikely” said the man with leather gloves.
“What was he getting?”
“Let me see. Umm. Fifteen years. Full entitlement. Wow. Good Investment”
“What a waste”