How many days can a person go without chocolate? That is a silly question. There are still a few billion people left in the world. I suppose there are some that are allergic to chocolate and some that just don’t like it. It’s not the unifying common denominator of what makes us human. It’s just a stupid bean. It doesn’t even taste good until they add the cream and sugar. And yet, I am desperate for some chocolate right now. I imagine the silky sweetness on my tongue then gag on the bitterness of my own saliva. My brain won’t drop it even though I haven’t seen chocolate in...eight months...a year?
There are no calendars, windows, or clocks. There are other people here, analysts mostly, but to me they are just voices in the hall. I’ve never seen them and they rarely talk to me unless I’ve done something wrong. They talk about me and they make observations. I feel the familiar tingle in my frontal lobe. They must have liked that chocolate thing. The numbers on my dashboard start blinking and changing.
I know I am lucky to have this job in the creative sector. The workers in the physical sector have it much worse. All day breaking their backs and for what? When the whistle blows there is nothing to come home to, nothing, not even dreams! Instead of sleeping they are reset every night. Cracking the code on sleep, beating circadian rhythms was one of the company’s crowning achievements.
It wasn’t even a scandal the first time they reset a worker. Back then, workers loved the idea of not having to sleep. They saw it as a shortcut, a way to earn more money. They lined up in droves. More money, ha! Our money is useless now, converted to company credits.
The company uses both the carrot and the stick. But some genius at the top decided it was smarter to keep the carrots behind a paywall. It’s funny. Their lives are nothing but carrots. They have an endless supply. I laugh, imagining them munching on carrots like a council of godlike Bugs Bunnies.
A laugh. That might be enough to meet my quota. It’s hard to say. They keep raising the bar. These ‘Unique Human Experiences,’ are in demand. No rest for the weary.
We are permitted to have a few personal items. Even the company knows that creativity can’t exist in a vacuum. My bed is here. I’m not sure when ‘working from home’ became ‘living at work,’ but I digress. The quilt on the bed was made by my grandmother. The colors clash and the sewing is wonky in parts, but it is soft as hell. Grandma was pretty ill by the time she finished it. She was a talented quilter and there were others, but this is the only one that survived. I try not to wash it too much to preserve it as long as possible. I give it a sniff. It’s pretty stinky to be honest.
I reach under the bed and pull out the margarine tub where I keep the rest of my personal things. I try to resist bringing them out too often. I like to keep some thoughts private, but who am I kidding? If they like it they’ll take it and sell it, so screw it! I dig down to the bottom of the tub and fish out my only piece of jewelry, a heart shaped locket. It is filled with little stickers, the kind that came stuck on fresh fruit. My sister’s kid used to stick them on the end of my nose every time he’d eat a peach or a plum or a banana. I just thought it was sweet that a little kid would give away stickers like that, so I kept them. That was before. Fresh fruit is a thing of the past and I haven’t seen my nephew or my sister in...I don’t know how long.
They wont let us have anything around our necks. It’s a suicide risk. But I’ll just wait until they tell me to take it off.
The minutes pass and I start drawing blanks. I look around the room for anything of interest to keep the ideas flowing, but I am numb. I scroll through the company deck of gifs: puppies, a car chase, a wedding, a birth, a beheading. Nothing is working until I settle on an image of waves crashing on an empty beach. The sun is golden yellow like a healthy egg yolk. This clip must be old. The beaches are all uninhabitable waste dumps.
On a slow day I might resort to outside stimulus so I can produce more, but I have to decide if it’s worth it. My finger hovers over the little sun icon and I hesitate. I search my mind for anything of use, any kernel of emotion. Still nothing. I press the button with an uncomfortable sigh and watch with concern as my number of credits shrinks dangerously low.
The steel door opens and I step out into the bright sunlight. It takes a few seconds for my eyes to adjust. I wave to my neighbors, the lucky ones who could afford it. I take a breath of fresh oxygen and feel the sun's warmth on my face. The garden is in bloom. I get closer to admire the flowers, daisies mostly, each of them sporting their own perfect little yellow sun. These should be called sunflowers. I lean forward to pick some for my desk. And then I feel it, the invisible tether choking me back. The flowers are out of reach just like everything else.