“Do you like your job, Walter?”
My glass was about to reach my mouth when the question came out of nowhere. “Yes, I suppose,” I said.
“Well, it's like any other job. Sometimes it's interesting or even creative, other times it can be really dull. But overall, I do enjoy it.”
“What do you enjoy about it?”
The whiskey had found its way to my lips, and I let its warm embrace linger on my taste buds before I answered.
I paused to think for a moment. “Well, I write the code and create reality for a lot of people out there. Knowing that they are living in and experiencing my designs is a pretty cool feeling.”
“You feel like a god?”
“Not exactly that, although there are many that do.”
“What do you find tedious?”
“The five million spreadsheets, reports, and other documents I must fill out every month. The bureaucracy and politics feel pointless as if no one ever reviews them. I thought the Great War had put an end to them. And what purpose do they serve now, really?”
“You are keeping people safe from harm,” they said with a dark smile. “But that book you're writing - what's it about?”
“It's more than just a book - it's an app that chronicles the history of AI and data science, and how big business used persuasive techniques to take control over people's thoughts and physiology. It's my attempt to educate the world on the power of propaganda.”
“So, you’re a bleeding-heart liberal.”
“Do you want me to staple your fucking chin to the floor and blow out your brains again?”
I was already standing before I realised it.
“Come on Walter, I'm just joking. Why are you even writing this app about it? I mean, there's no one in real life to read it.”
“I don't know. I have a few ideas, but this is something I've worked on for a while. I'm a bit of a self-made expert in the history of behavioural designs and neuromarketing. I've studied linguistics, sociology, and persuasive language patterns, investigated the struggle for truth and facts, examined the tactics of propaganda machines, and studied the technology and psychology of the big breakdown. Seemingly by accident, I became obsessed with learning the tricks that big business and the media used to urge people to spend money on things they didn't even need, or even worse—to trust them.”
I paused for a breath and sat in my porch chair again before continuing. “I see those same techniques all around me each day—in my job creating realities for the network, on portable devices, social media networks, digital TV, the internet, car radio, billboards, holographic messages and double-dip chip incentives…society is sleepwalking back into being corporate slaves in our Ultra-High-Meta world—history repeating itself in a more organised way that fits into the attention economy matrix of the network.”
I glanced at their stoic face, perhaps I was being dull. I forged ahead with my babble, “As most are aware, corporations are mostly running the show these days, in the same way that religion did in the past. Consumerism has been cleverly crafted into Ultra-High as a fanatical fervour for the public, and they don't even know why they're buying what they buy or doing what they do. Not to mention that the items they purchase are not real. They've become addicted and manipulated by this system. This addiction was originally stirred and guided by marketing experts and rapacious businessmen all around the world, many of whom were addicted to their own type of consumerism or a drug-fuelled lifestyle. They were all controlled by a handful of people who managed to persuade the masses to get into those pods right before The Event. The disaster that theorists and religious individuals had predicted time and time again, but no one believed in. It happened, leaving dead bodies everywhere except for those that trusted the techno gods, the addicted buyers, and disbelievers who stepped willingly into their pods, now slaves of our new masters.
I took a sip of my beverage and listened to their long-winded speech. They were talking about how people could protect themselves from manipulative tactics used by people in power.
“Do you think you could be the one to teach them?”
“I don’t know, but why should that stop me from trying?”
“In my experience, going against the status quo hasn’t worked out so well for me.”
“That may be true, but does that mean you regret asking the question?”
Satan seemed stuck for words, stopping abruptly as I lit a cigarette, thinking to myself that although I was slowly growing fond of these conversations, I still needed to keep my guard up. I wondered why they were still here when they could be bothering someone more interesting. Before I had the chance to zone back into the conversation, or that I even realised they had started talking again, I heard the devil say, “and I don’t think it was really fair to do, do you?” while looking at me intently.
The air felt thick with anticipation as they waited for my response. After a few uncomfortable moments of silence, all I could do was shrug. There was no way I could agree with the devil without even knowing what they had said, after all, they were still the father of lies and a very skilled deceiver.
It was plain to see that I hadn't been paying attention, but they seemed indifferent. Did they expect me to tune out? This made me even more suspicious of whatever they had been saying.
I lit up a cigarette and they still stared; I just shrugged in response and looked away. The temperature was starting to drop.
Since the devil moved in, distractions had become more frequent, but I kind of enjoyed having someone to chat with. People, that were free and able to live outside Ultra-high, back then stayed at home with their robotic families, fake partners, and children, glued to their TVs with ads and corporate commands filling their heads. All the while I was back upstairs with the devil, discussing philosophy and eating amazing homemade food. It almost made work bearable, knowing I had something more than others did. But what was wrong with me? What was I thinking? Were these figments of my imagination or were they real?
I had the devil on my stoop, drinking my whiskey and smoking my cigarettes like we were old friends. But I despised them and the damage they had done; that was why I had killed them on that day. I had inserted the end of my shotgun in their mouth and ended their lives. Though I hated them, did it really have to be their fault? As I glared at them, tears streamed down their face, sinking into whatever material made up their exterior. “It wasn’t all me….” They said nothing more, and we sat in silence for the remainder of the evening.
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