The man leaned over the balcony, smoking his America Spirit, and surveying the people below. He thought of them as insignificant ants that are unaware that he would soon touch their tiny lives. After taking a deep drag from his cigarette, he flicked it down to the ant colony below. It was like a firework in reverse, with sparks flying out against gravity and a faint whistling noise as the ember traced its way to the ground.
Chuckling softly to himself, he glanced back at the glass-walled boardroom. The arguing had not abated; instead, everyone was still making emphatic hand gestures and heatedly pointing in his direction. Though the owner was focused on their adversary at the other side of the table, none of them noticed when he turned around, lest he reach for the insect repellent.
The man had been gone for at least fifteen minutes and smoked a few cigarettes in the time he had been gone, so they should have expected his return. Nevertheless, their minds had fogged with adrenaline and noradrenaline, leaving them no sense of time. The only clue they had to his arrival was an involuntary shiver that ran down their spines when the door opened, and cold air rushed into the room. They would later remember this shiver as him entering, symbolizing his maliciousness. As he thought about this, it made him smirk; he watched some of them shuddering and rubbing their arms trying to stay warm. It was these details that created the atmosphere.
He stood at the head of the meeting table, arms outstretched and his body in silhouette by the burning red sun behind him. He made sure to strike an imposing figure, a silent presence that could be felt by all his employees. His silence was more powerful than any words he could have spoken: each employee slowly became aware of their boss' presence as they noticed their peers falling into silence. Eventually, only one person was left talking, who then heard their own loud voice among the quietness that had descended upon the room.
The heavy silence filled the air, illuminated by the setting sun, glare fixed on all of them. He waited 30 seconds — which felt like an eternity — for someone to speak up and break the tension. He sat down and in a low, deep voice, he asked: “Do you have a decision?” Everyone remained quiet, so he sat down in his big black leather chair and declared, “Since you are unable to make a choice between yourselves, I will do it for you.” As he spoke, nervous glances exchanged around the room.
“It all starts tomorrow. You all get the code ready tonight and deploy it out of sight. Gather your intel, then a week from now we begin our mission - but no one outside this room must ever find out what this entails. Do you understand me? No one. If anyone else finds out, it's you that will face the consequences - not me. So, I'm making it perfectly clear: if anybody slips up, their career could be over or worse, they will suffer a fate much more severe.” With that said, he stepped away from the boardroom and heard murmuring from within as he made his way to the elevator. He smiled at the thought of them spending hours discussing the legality and morality of their plan, before eventually surrendering and figuring out how to make it happen.
He stepped into the elevator and inserted his key into the lock before giving it a twist. This key was his access to his top-floor office, which also served as his home, and only he held a key to the place. None of his staff had ever been up there, and he preferred it this way—it added to the mystique. He only met with his senior management team on the floor below in the boardroom, and none but them, as well as his personal assistant and bodyguards, were permitted access to that area.
The only other entrance to his office and home was from the roof, which could only be accessed by air. He knew he was living in a guarded compound, but it wasn't because he was overly suspicious. After all, he had secrets that could potentially threaten those with power. People were trying to access those secrets of his - that much was certain. From where he sat, however, he could observe the entire planet, leaders of countries, commoners, royalty, and factory workers alike. He had all their data and information, enough to cause political chaos or economic destruction. He had the power to single-handedly ruin lives or topple a nation in an instant – but only he knew how to get into those documents since he had written the code himself.
He reclined in his favorite leather chair, content yet the voices inside his mind seemed louder than usual. It was almost time for him to put his plans into action. He had amassed all the information he needed and had the national leaders of the world on speed dial. The pieces were falling into place downstairs, ready to bring down the illusion and instigate a new start with himself at its core. Yet, he knew that he must calm the turmoil within him before continuing.
He lit up a cigarette, letting the thoughts in his head meander and take shape. He needed the nicotine to help them dance around and play out their inconsistent, crazy movements. He knew he had to clean the house before he could start work. After taking one last drag from his cigarette, he slowly exhaled, feeling like it was the punctuation at the end of a sentence that made no sense. As he ground out the butt, it felt like an ending to his empty wondering; now he was aware he had tasks to complete.
The man acknowledged, somewhere inside of him, that there was still some good in him. Despite this knowledge, his intelligence had led to a swollen sense of superiority as he surveyed the world outside and its apparent ineptitude at managing itself. He proceeded down a hallway to an inner room with a white door outfitted with both a retina scanner and a fingerprint scanner. After opening the entrance, he stepped into the all-white chamber and felt the door shut behind him.
When he flicked on the switch near the doorway, the room was filled with a dim turquoise hue. In its centre sat one chair facing one screen with an accompanying virtual reality helmet. He took off his clothes and then took his seat on the floor, he did not put on the mask; his work tonight would be done without it.
He took a few deep breaths and closed his eyes. A blissful silence enveloped him as he cleared his mind, as though the world around him had dissolved. After several minutes of focusing solely on his breath, he started counting backward from ten. As he did, he imagined himself descending some stairs; this was the gateway to his loci, his method, his memory palace--the place where all the secrets were tucked away. Knowing the end result made getting there easy for him; it had been a simple process of reverse engineering.
This is a live book series writing/story art graphic novel cyberpunk, dystopian fantasy project. Written by Sam I Am Artwork by Wonder Ai directed by Sam I Am. Copyright is protected. It is a first rough draft work in progress so will change over time. This project is part of the SleeplessDystopian.com writing projects.
Image directed by me and created using Wonder Ai