April 11, 2010
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[A picture of a laughing boy, who is tall, well-built, clean-featured, clear-skinned and dressed in the school-uniform of a very distinguished institution.]
Caption: Before Educatium™ Ted “Trollface” Griffith was an irritable and unruly youth, getting mixed up in dangerous subcultures and neglecting his studies for his all-important exams. But now Teddy gets results! Captain of the school football team and winner of its prestigious Forward-Looking Citizenship Prize for Goal-Oriented Team-Players, he says, “I was a nightmare for my parents, a real loser. But now with the help of Educatium™ I can see through the dangerous distractions of immoral subcultures and focus on my studies for my all-important exams.”
It’s hard now to remember the days before Educatium™, when rebellious children spurned your hard-earned wisdom and wasted your hard-earned dollars, often on dangerous and illegal substances. Violent crime and pornography were everywhere, and subcultures stole our children’s lives away from them.
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He’s cutting himself. He’s sitting at the end of the table and cutting into himself. He’s holding an obsidian knife to his left cheek. He’s just twirling it into himself, like a drill at an oil exploration-site. He lets the blood trail down his face and fall onto the reports I left in front of him. He’s bleeding on the last six months of my life.
I could cry. Does this mean he hates it? Do I fail? He hasn’t looked down since I walked into the room. Has he moved at all this morning? How long has he been bleeding?
I can’t look away from him. In my peripheral vision I see a few of my coworkers. Their faces and eyes don’t move. His secretary is the only one not watching him. She’s the only other person moving. I can hear her behind me, typing the minutes of the meeting. Clink and clank go the keys on the antique typewriter she bought for probably the same reason her boss has an obsidian knife.
Tear and plunk. He’s cut the way through his cheek. The blade’s now resting partway in his mouth. He’s stopped moving altogether. It took me a moment to realise, but his secretary stopped typing as well.
He’s leaned forward, but as though only a hinge in his lower back moved. I turn to look at what he’s staring at, open-mouthed. It’s the one part of this whole room that’s just unadorned plaster. Anywhere else it would be an invigorating open-floor plan seen through a space-giving internal window, or a motivational message on a type-font-exhibitionist poster. Maybe that’s his problem. Maybe he’s stuck and he needs a motivational message. The heart of this company, the brains, the self-abusing demi-urge that gives motion to this too-many-headed golem is stopped, and now we’re all stuck here watching a man bleed from the face.
He’s sat back up and he’s twirling the knife again. Now he pulls it out of his face and makes three light, graceful, fast motions, he traces out three lines over his face, like the beard and moustache I used to draw on faces in school text-books in class.
He puts down the knife and begins reading the report. Now he’s moving fast, and the clink-clanking follows him. It’s like they’re in love. They’re dancing. A tango in mutilation and minute-taking.
The whole meeting room is moving. Everybody’s eyes are still transfixed. But folders are getting flipped open, pens click like baby office-birds champing at regurgitated work.
It’s part of his office-authority strategy. This company doesn’t do anything. Anybody who’s come into contact with a trace of the work we do around here knows that. They’re all sitting here, these unmutilated tie-wearers, because they want his desk and his paycheck. They’re waiting for him to show any sign of weakness. Any show of the faintest lack of dedication to the share-holders and that’s an openning for an underling to catch them crying on the rebound, comfort them with a million hours of unpaid overtime, to sing them soft cooing carresses to the melody of higher, stronger, longer-lasting returns on capital.
Let’s see them cut off their fingers for them. If you love me, cut yourself. Bleed out the red, financial blood-letter. Bleed until it turns black.
He’s flipping over the pages, pausing like he’s looking at a graphic, or reading a key passage. The rest of them are buying it. They’re taking notes like any of this makes the least bit of sense.
I faked it all. Tell them. Tell them it’s all text, that our marketing strategy is an anthology of love-stories told to me by the hobos I find sleeping on the steps of the building each morning. That’s what I do on my overtime, I give booze to bums, the way you tepid fucks throw bread-crumbs to pigeons. Tell them it’s a meta-analysis of the shopping-lists I find on the fridges of the houses I burgle. Tell them it’s a detailed study of their masturbation habits.
Don’t tell them the truth. My job is to sell woolen socks for people to keep their phones in. I did my job so well! The niche was big enough to drive an ocean-liner full of pointless crap through. Why do phone companies make those ultra-glossy black and metallic cases for everything, the ones that get stained with the finger-prints of people in the next room? To make my job possible. To take the perfectionist tendency of the human mind and give it newer and ever more paranoid avenues for sterilising everything in its immediate environment.
He’s bleeding so much. No one’s speaking and he’s bleeding so much. He’s going pale, like a lead-powdered signor. There’s so much blood, how come none of you are speaking?
There are always ways out. On every path you can turn back and run home, where you can cry all night and no one will bleed. Run away onto those empty, useless, rocky hills where even the pylons haven’t been built yet.
I don’t remember where we decided to go, or what the fuck quest this is, but I’m not playing anymore. I know I haven’t got anyone to blame but myself if my life is pointless. But I didn’t know there was going to be this much blood. (It’s running down the table. I’m pressing myself against the back of my seat. Don’t let it touch me.) No one ever told me there would be blood here.
It’s cold up here. The wind blows loose, lonely dust into my eyes, and I blink and try to shield them. The dust still comes on the wind. I breath it in. Dry, lonely dust.
I trip and fall and crawl and cry and I’m too old for anything else. I can feel the rocks and the dirt tearing my clothes. I pass a gravel road, the tiny stones rub the excess skin off my face. I’m moving in circles. I have no idea where I am. Further and further away. Please, nothing else.