----------------------CHAPTER I-TO CATCH A TRAIN------------------------------
It's a strange point in the future of human history. Somewhere close to the twenty ffith century. It's all too comfortable now. It's almost repulsive. And with comfort comes a price. No need to channel perseverance or to cultivate satisfaction. It's all right here at our fingertips. Lightning fast subways and trams roam about the networks filled with the dirt and squalor of the daily men and women that go about their lives in a city where it all began. And among them is our main character for the day. He does not have a name.
He chooses to change it each day. Sometimes to suit his tie, some days to suit his favorite energy drink, some days to suit his preferred phone brand. He has forgotten his true name. It's become so simple now. Simply pay a fee at the nearest sub station to an external server and it will change your name and all your references from all existing databases. In the past, if you were to meet his mother, she would tell you that she had named him William Pryce. He's standing with a calloused face and a briefcase containing some rather important contents, crucial to his 'satisfaction' and livelihood. A banner with the words 'Be complacent, Be a consumer' flashes before his eyes at the train line ten feet away. He scoffs his face lightly as the station lights shimmer on the sidewalks against the evening sun. It's not even a real sun, just a large photo emitter that lost its attention a long time ago.
And it seems that William is about to enter the B12 train route that heads all the way to Austenville. It's a six hour ride, not that anyone on the train notices anymore since they're all immersed into their online profiles the entire time.
He takes out a train route map to confirm the train's destination when he's caught back by a service policeman.
"Hold up for a moment, Sir", he says, "I need to inspect your luggage and your bag."
William nervously fidgets at first, then hands him a special name tag with his facial image, "I'm a salesperson, I operate on these routes mostly to sell people the additives."
The policeman stands back and lets him enter as a voice echoed throughout the entire compartment- "Train B12. Currently at Orville. Next destination Austenville."
He scans through the train seats and finds most of them occupied with people glued to their phones and laptops. He decides to head towards the nearest lavatory, brushing past seat handles and looking at the interior magenta decor.
Inside the lavatory, he opens his briefcase and takes out a syringe like apparatus, the size of a gun, and empties two vials named 'carbohydrates' and 'proteins' straight to his veins. His lunch was over. He looked at his face in the lavatory mirror and prepped himself a bit. Dabbing some powder to improve his weak complexion and injecting a wrinkle suppressant to make himself look a bit younger. There was a graffiti symbol of a green thumb behind him on the wall and he looked at it with affirmation. He had chosen this particular lavatory for a reason.
His foot kicked the sink and out came packets filled with syringe vials just like the ones in his briefcase all marked 'Supplements'. He filled them in his briefcase and adjusted his tie.
Then he came out and started to span the corridor. He places the tag on his neck and begins to shout with assertive authority- "SUPPLEMENTS. GET YOUR SUPPLEMENTS. ALL THAT YOU NEED FOR A THREE COURSE MEAL ALL SUMMED UP IN YOUR FAVORITE VIALS.GET YOUR SUPPLEMENTS."
The people on board stop their finger tapping and call William as he distributes the vials and collects money for different sets. One of the women on board asks- "Why didn't you just inform us about these vials on our social media channels like you normally do? Nobody shouts out anymore you know?"
William looked intrepid and continues the same salesman pitch hoping to grab a certain someone's attention. By another hour, the entire train had ordered the vials and William seated himself at the end of the first compartment with a curious gaze strolling the aisle, hoping to see someone. It was his wife, seated a few seats ahead. She had procured a mental visor and an electronic glass and seemed to be talking to her coworkers.
He calls her,"Martha?"
"William. Well isn't this a pleasant surprise. And it's not Martha anymore. I've changed my name you see."
"Is that so? What are you doing on this train? Where are you headed?"
"I've got to buy a new condo in Drex City. How are you holding up?"
William looks at her weak white face. He could remember how beautiful she was even on the day when she divorced him.
"I'm doing fine. Honestly I've had a few revelations as such."
"Really. About what?"
"About how it's all condensed to living in front of a screen now. Nothing seems the way it was like in the past."
"Oh William. We've got all the comfort we need. What's there to cry about the past really. No need to get too nostalgic. Have you been taking your drugs lately?"
"See the thing is....."
Martha goes back to her conversation on the visor and almost loses her focus on William. He felt a little dehumanized. A person no more. He seats himself back at a vacant seat and feels his pant pocket vibrate. It's someone's call. At first he fears picking up, afraid that he'll start browsing again indefinitely and finally picks up.
A muffled voice spoke at the other end.
"Has it been done?", the voice asked.
"The people have their vials. But how did you make them exactly like the ones I sell?"
"All in good time, brother. You said you wanted the ultimate potion right? I'm here in the second compartment. Come meet me."
-------------CHAPTER II-THE MAN WITH THE GREEN THUMB--------------
William walks through the aisle looking at the morose faces to his left and right, busy in their individual satisfactory web searching on visors, or enjoying the vials that they had bought from him. No one's having any conversation of any sort.
He enters the second compartment and notices everyone but one figure repeating the same actions as the inhabitants in the last compartment. The seat next to the figure was empty. He wore a raincoat and dark rimmed glasses with a Texan hat, looking too old for his time. William takes the seat right next to him. It occurred to him that the windows were made of glass and he looked at the works of nature outside as did the figure.
"What's the meaning of all this? And when can I get my potion", asks William.
The man ruffles through his raincoat and takes out a cut out paper slip with the following words written on it-
Last night I invented a new pleasure, and as I was giving it the first trial an angel and a devil came rushing toward my house. They met at my door and fought with each other over my newly created pleasure; the one crying, “It is a sin!”—the other, “It is a virtue!”
"What’s the meaning of all this?", asks William.
The man in the coat spoke out after taking out his sunglasses. His eyes were yellow with a weathered look that gave him the impression of an old homeless vagrant.
"That's a little piece of literature that I was reading a while back", the man says.
"What are you trying to imply?"
"I know you feel slightly nauseous thinking about the way that most people live these days. And you should be. Things have become too comfortable. Mankind kept accepting every new innovation like it was a blessing to be alive. But then again who are we to decide what pleasures are sinful or virtuous."
William flushed his eyes and looks down with a morose face.
"You can't just criticize all that's happening. People are leading better lives. Health, food and security have all improved over the last few decades."
"If you believe in such lies, then why was it that you were searching for fruits on the internet?"
William was mildly shocked.
"Are you a hacker?", he asks.
"Just a person interested in anomalies like you. Tell me though what happened?"
"There's nothing to be done about that. Just give me the potion that you agreed to give and I'll be on my way."
The man slides out a briefcase from under his seat and takes out a black glass beaker sealed with a metallic top. William reaches out to grab it but the man slides it back asking, "First explain to me about the fruits?"
William looked defeated and gave up quite easily.
"How do I know this conversation isn't being recorded. You're not a state police trooper looking out for defectors?", he asks the man.
"Do I look like a cop to you?", the man replies.
"It all began a few weeks ago when I started having dreams about my childhood in Austenville", William looks at the man for a reaction.
"I felt angered and empty knowing all that I've been doing all these years is search for clients to sell the company vials to. The lack of empathy and emotion troubled me for a few days until I realized just how badly the world had changed. People spent their entire time huddled in rooms glued to monochrome screens, communication glasses, talking about stupid internet videos of cats, children and other mundane stuff."
"And then what?", the man asks William's somber face.
"Then the elections came and while I expected the people to make a decision based on personal preferences, there was barely any participation. No one was talking. No one was discussing about the issues at hand. I spent the entire electoral week in his very train distributing vials. People were commenting on social media profiles, buying gadgets online or food. And then a striking revelation hit me. Everything I once loved had turned fake. The waters we drink no longer like the one I remember. The air we breathe possibly more cancerous than a smoker's fumes. And the food. I asked myself when was the last time I actually saw, let alone eat an apple. All the so called 'nourishment' the corporations provide is packed in these stupid vials."
"You felt like a prisoner, didn't you?", the man asked.
"Something was wrong. Suddenly the people I knew didn't seem like people but brainless cowards who had forgotten the true aspects of human life, tied to believe that as long as they have satisfaction, they're enjoying life. And if they're enjoying life, they must be alive and well."
"And what do you believe, William?"
"That they're squandering their lives. That there's some kind of a truth that's being concealed from the public. And for the first time in a long time I wanted things to be the way they were. I started searching for any remaining reserves for fruits but found nothing on the web."
"But I suppose that you didn't just stop there. What did you do next?"
"I went through a few websites online asking for medical help. The doctors on the forums were afraid that I was getting too resentful of consumerism. They prescribed me some pills and videos to watch."
"Did you take any of them?"
"Why didn't you? You came across something life changing, didn't you?"
William looked at him with suspicious eyes.
"What do you know about all this?"
"I know a lot David. I know that you absorbed the consumerist manifesto posted by our group online and started to question things. More than the usual man, you became inquisitive."
"So can I safely assume that you are...."
"Exactly. I am the man with the green thumb. And while I would hand you your potion. I want to make you a deal. I really hope you are interested."
"What is your group and what have your people been up to? Are you the ones behind the Big Consumer Store leaks?"
The man didn't answer. He simply handed him a plastic bag taken from another coat pocket. It seemed as if he had the entire world inside it.
"What's this?", William opened the bag and inspected the contents. Like a child discovering a new toy he let out a look of marvel and shock which later turned to anger mixed with curiosity.
"These are seeds. SEEDS. We were told that they didn't exist anymore. But that means there must be more", he shouted.
"So tell me William how curious are you to go ahead with this idea of ours. Do I take this to be look of acceptance?"
He sighs at first and then takes a deep big gulp of air and says,"Alright what's the plan?"
-----------------CHAPTER III- CURIOSITY KILLED THE CAT-------------------
The train slowed its silent motion and William knew that they were approaching their first stop before reaching Austenville. Some of the train boarders were informed by their visor systems about the destinations and they moved out.
"We have to move out of this train immediately", the man said.
Both William and the man exit the train entering the shanty town of Shropshire. It was a desolate exception on the eastern seaboard being the only region left with enough trees to supply timber to the local industries.
"What exactly is our business here?", asks William.
"You'll see. I hope you understand that the potion you're so keen to use will kill you."
"Maybe that's why I want to use it."
The man kept quite. Their journey continues for another half hour and it appeared as if William was already getting exhausted.
"Long years of sitting around and wasting time on the internet will do that to you", the man quipped.
They arrived at an abandoned mill where the man leads William to a large pilot plant. The sound of mills and machines was eerily running through the entire vicinity.
And as William laid eyes as to what the workers in lab coats inside were doing, he drops his briefcase in a fit of shock.
"WHAT'S ALL THIS?"
There were hoards. Bags of fruits and actual food was being processed and stored in silos.
"Hold yourself William. I would tell you eat but I'm afraid that your stomach has lost its ability to process natural nutrients.
William strolled through the conveyor belts and sampled each of the produce, touching it, smelling it. The workers looked at him with bewilderment.
"So it's all a lie then, isn't it?", he asks the man.
"Wouldn't it seem obvious William. The industries that flourished after the twenty third century involved the works of a charter that made sure that every last nickel the earning man makes is spent on consumer products. First you reel them in with the factor of choice. Give people the hope that whatever is being sold on shelves is as good as new and has all that people need. Even it has no actual nutrients. Then when their bodies begin to deteriorate and decay, sell them the drugs that never kills them but rather prolongs their existence turning them into the profiteer's permanent piggy bank. And deception, use things like comfort, happiness, hope and the internet to malign everyone's train of thought."
"No, no. It can't be. What could the industries ever stand to gain from anything as such."
"They all fill one conglomerate's pockets now William. Competition went out the window a long time ago. And this particular conglomerate that I'm talking about is present everywhere but they act inconspicuously. Do the words Globulous mean anything?"
William dropped the produce and fell to the ground his eyes witnessing floods of images and people he was made to forget. His head started to ache and the man held him by his hand to direct him to a room full of images and mugshots.
"This is you", the man says.
Then when his eyes felt strong again, the man showed him a series of photos and videos
"And like all the million people that you meet each day, your life too wasn't always so dull and bleak"
"Give me the potion, I want to end this now", William shouts.
The man doesn't comply. Instead he asks him to focus his gaze on what he was showing him. There were videos of him being dissected in a hospital among a row of other people undergoing similar procedures.
"Is that me? What are they doing to me?"
"Your mind was processed William. Each week certain people from Globulous seize control of certain salesman like you feeding your mind with chemicals that makes you more subservient to them. Then they tell you to spread the same chemicals in vials to people on crowded transportation channels under the guise of nutrition. If you search through your scalp you'll find the scar caused by any entry port. It's quite elaborate you see."
"NO NO. This can't be happening."
"Get a hold William", he slaps his face, "I need you to understand why you are important to us. With your help we can put this nightmare way past us."
"I don't need to. I'm off the ride. I'm not a pawn in anyone's game anymore", William seizes the potion from the man's pocket and is nearly stopped by him. It falls to the floor and William looks at the wet surface with a hoplesss grin on his face.
"I'm not going to let you kill yourself this way. Do you have any idea how important you are to this entire operation?"
"What operation are you talking about?"
"One of the company's heads will be boarding the train to Austenville at the next stop with an entourage of bodyguards to protect him. Only his processed henchmen like you would be given the permission to enter his compartment where nobody else boards out of security protocols."
William looks at him menacingly,"What do you want me to do?"
"Remember the vials you distributed to the people on the train before. It's actually a thought enhancer that activates people's reasoning abilities. I want you to inject him with the potion while he's there. We extracted that from you after I ran my little experiment with you."
"What experiment?", he asks glibly.
"This isn't the first time we're meeting William. I've made previous attempts at meeting you and instructing you to get rid of this guy", he holds out a photograph of a stout elderly man with a maniacal face,"This is Richard Parker. But everytime we would meet, the plan would go undone because you would be processed again."
"Wait a moment. You mean to tell me that I've been brainwashed before."
"They run it in cycles William"
"And what makes you so sure that I'll be able to do it this time."
"Because this time, you searched for us. We didn't come to you. I see a yearning in you to end this. And we share that feeling. It's either this or death William."
He looked at the photograph and then at the man. He snatched it, remembering the face and keeps the photograph with him.
"Give me another potion sample", he says," I'm going to have a little chat with Mr.Parker at the next station."
"Remember William if you get caught or are questioned, you are not to breathe a word about us."
"I'll be on my own?"
He nodded in approval and made his way back to the station.
"I just wanted to ask you William", the man stops him in his way.
"Do you know what the allegory of the cave is William?"He looked at him expecting an answer and then continues.
"If you could imagine a group of people tied to chains inside a cave such that no light enters, all that they would experience would be the shadows cast by the things outside. They would eventually develop ideas as to what those things might be simply by looking at the shadows. Now suppose that a man escapes those chains and his naked eyes touch the world outside for the first time. He would run back in a state of shock and awe and convince the others inside of what he saw only to realize that the chained inside no longer understand him. Either that would encourage them to follow his path and cause them to exclude and vilify him."
"Are you saying that that man is me?"
"I'm saying that you've become enlightened. I hope you don't go astray. Till now only your hunger existed and not you as an entity. Don't go back to that life. Keep curious and stay away from satisfaction and comfort.
William walked away thinking about his words, with the curiosity to find some answers on his own.
-----------CHAPTER IV-AND SATISFACTION BROUGHT IT BACK-----------
The advice retold from a thousand ages.
As repeated by nonchalant sages,
Of how great it is to be content.
Now seems as worthless as a cent.
What is lost shall never return.
But be not quick to anger's turn.
And I ask of why must one agree?
Of all such indignant hapless sprees.
And just forge a smile in acceptance
But still turn blind to life's tenses.
Those with hearts pure and mouths loose,
Judge me for my angered truce.
A truce with a mind so clustered,
That it finds rest not so flustered.
But the failed minds cry of insolence and fate
Some blame their birth or their dates
And some just point towards the stars
And complain that the world sets strange bars.
Here they get bitten by the bug of complacency.
So they twiddle in content and lay back adequacy.
Delusions of grandeur would arrive soon,
And they would be a bane, not a boon.
For those who say they want and desire more,
Keep up ahead in all of life's scores.
And yet I agree that such greed may be wrong,
But so are those who sing satisfied songs.
The shock in a battered man's mind follows him no matter where he goes. And William had just received a powerful dose of outright craziness.
The train would soon start on its journey to Austenville.
William entered the compartment and was questioned by another service policeman who later allowed him to enter. He took his briefcase and then shook his hand.
William could feel there was a crumpled mass inside it. It was a note.
"Take a look at it once you get inside", the service policeman said.
William nodded his head and stepped one foot inside the compartment, than the other as if he was losing control over his limbs.
He took out the note and read the words
"This is Richard Parker. I need to see you immediately."
He stepped into his compartment by asking one of the security members.
It was empty space of rows and seats with only a navy blue suited figure enjoying an apple. William realised that he must have assumed that he is still brainwashed.
"Now tell me, have all the vials been distributed?", Richard asked.
"Yes they are."
"You're looking a little strange William, have you been unprocessed?"
He looked at him with rigidity.
William positioned himself close to deny his statement keeping a close watch on any guards nearby.
Then when he had a brief window of opportunity, he slipped the poison into his half bitten apple and some in a cup that contained coffee.
"I know what you've been upto William and I know why you're doing this. Tell me what would it take you to turn it the haters of peace to whom you support right now."
"I don't know what you're talking about."
Richard scrammed throught his pockets and found a location tracker. William looked nervously at it.
"But I do. I have with me an offer. I will knock you off unconscious and then send my men behind you once you recover. I need you to point out who the man is behind all this. The tracker suggests that he'll be back."
"And what if I refuse", he grabs a pen placed decoratively on Richard's breast-pocket and aims it for his wrist.
"Don't do that William. We have ways to bring you back that won't be painless. Listen to what I have to offer. These fruits and food might be only available for the elite but do this for me and I'll offer you a life of luxury and comfort. Anything you want, you will receive.
And I'll even let you peek into your life before all this conundrum began. Choose wisely."
William lowered the knife. He could feel the sting of a syringe go right through his neck and the eerie feeling of someone fiddling with his head.
The world seemed to darken with each moment and he could feel his body get limp. He could see men huddle around him and exchange words. Men in lab coats with big machines and gloved hands.
"HURRY UP AND BUY A SUPER DELUXE COMBO RIGHT AT BURGERMART"
William wakes up to the sound of other salesman loitering up. A few brief moments of happiness was all that a man wants. And William had received a mental manifestation of that happiness. Maybe the pills the doctors had prescribed were working after all. His eyes felt lurid and low and there was the uncomfortable feeling of dryness on his lips. He quickly gets up and sees that he's still in the train and rushes towards the nearest lavatory.
He begins to inspect his hair and his head to check for any visible spots or scars as if he still believed what he saw in his dreams. There was nothing there. He let out a sigh of relief and then went through his pockets with a note saying-" NO LONGER DO YOU EXIST. ONLY YOUR HUNGER DOES" and a green colored spray can.
He saw there wasn't any graffiti behind him as he had seen in his dreams but felt like the spray can was speaking to his mind and out of curiosity sprayed the mirror in front.
The mirror turned black and when it showed the letters-" The man with the green thumb", he nearly fell down.
He felt highly dumbfounded with what was happening. He thought about the choices he had. On whether he should meet the man with the green thumb or to kill him and gain some perspective on his past life.
There was a note in his pocket from Richard Parker just like the ones in his dream instructing him to name who was 'the man with the green thumb' and report him to the security on the train.
He thought for a few minutes then with calm and concentration he took out the poison and injected it directly to his veins. His puppetmasters wouldn't have anticipated this but for the first time in a long time, William was making his own decisions. He felt at peace away from the revolting consumerism of the world.
There was no need to wait impatiently for the latest phone release, no need to brag about possessions or consume the same bland products day after day.
And then the world felt a bit lighter. Time slowed down and so did his pulse.
He saw a light emerge in front of him as he choked and died. But it wasn't the light signifying death but that of something more sinister.
The other people on the train paid no attention to a dying man, captivated by their gizmos and gadgets.
Death would have seemed like the only release from a fake world, but globulous had found a way to keep even the dead alive and have them function to their every command.
So a few weeks later, the same William walks down the same aisle
distributing the same vials and having the same questions in his heart about the world. But this time strangely, he doesn't search for a way out, nor does he search for flustered people like him. He frequently goes online and checks out the consumerist manifesto, convincing himself that he'll find the courage to act out someday. But he seems so attached to his things that he doesn't want to die anymore and rebel. He just wants to stay and consume, till he can find the happiness that was robbed from him, many years ago.
Thus ends the tale of a curious old being
Who grew only empty at what he was seeing
Held by the hope that his miseries would change
But it was a thought powered by a mind deranged
That could not see or accept what had become
And so the man ventured with his heart numb
And fell into the charms of a world that talked sweet
Told him that happiness was at his nearest corner or street
But he had renounced that sweet gratifying tongue
For he saw his possessions as if they were dung
And his thoughts had grown a bit more small
But his heart still craved for joys quite tall
So he fell again for the words of of a gratified loon
Who promised him a paradise quite so soon
But his mind was wrought with a lot of pain
And he didn't want to continue so insane
So he gulped down a last gulp of death
And lay himself to the earth's cozy bed
Only to be brought back a few quarters later
Told to pursue things not so better or greater
For he fell in love with his things so shallow
And turned his face so happy and mellow
But behind it lingered a demise quite done
Where man plays with possessions for fun
Losing touch of true happiness and will
Spending his entire life paying bills