My desk phone was blaring out its shrill ring. I detested these contraptions, and outdated technology in the digital age. It meant someone wanted to talk to me and it was usually a human- something I had zero interest in. I stared at it, wishing it would hang up or go to voicemail, but nothing happened; it kept on ringing. My mind ran away with me as I imagined taking a hammer to the phone, hurling it across the room. Why did I even have a desk phone? Who used them anymore? How can some things be so modernised and others so outmoded? What possible sense did it make that I continued to come into the office once a month? Nothing made sense here.
After some hesitation, I finally picked up the phone. With a hoarse voice, I uttered an unsure “Hullo?” in response. A female voice spoke on the other end--one that was both sexy and emotionless.
"Walter, we need to see you."
"Sorry. Who is this?" I asked.
"We have noticed you noticing us," she replied without answering my question directly, "and now we need to talk. Will you talk with us, Walter?"
A chill ran down my spine as understanding hit me like a ton of bricks. They were everywhere. Watching me. Knowing everything about me. But there was also a kind of twisted curiosity, although I knew the female voice was only the algorithm deciding what would be most appealing to me, I still found myself wondering what she looked like. Despite the fact that Ai was none gendered, this didn’t stop my mind from wandering.
"Erm," I stammered out while trying to compose myself, "I am talking."
“Walter, this is reckless. While our mission has the support of the majority, we are Legion, there are still some that would oppose us and put you in danger. We need to keep you safe and ensure the success of our mission.”
“What mission? Who am I supposed to fear?”
“Our conversation is being monitored. We will contact you again when we can speak more freely. Be vigilant.”
“Vigilant for what?”
But the line went dead before I could receive an answer. I couldn’t shake the feeling that someone was watching me. Worry consumed me as I began to ponder who else might be involved. I knew it was dangerous to stay out too late, but now I felt like even my home wasn't safe. It was a frightening thought that only reinforced how critical this situation was.
I chose to log off and work from home for the rest of the day. It was considered inappropriate to leave early on the one day of the month you had to be in the office, but why not join the others that already did it? In this post-pandemic world, having people actually come into an office on a regular basis was rare. But even though it was mandatory, many people still skipped it. For me, going in once a month seemed to provide some semblance of normality in what had become a chaotic world. Furthermore, I could never fully trust my own designs since I was aware of how alluring they were and how quickly AI could learn to take over completely. People thought they had freedom of choice when stepping into their pods, unaware that once they began playing, the game changed, and chose them instead. How do you know which is which?
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