Thursday, 15 December 2011

98) Security

    All I can see is a wall of flames up the closed transom, all I can smell is smoke, all I can hear is the useless fire alarm blaring away. I look back into the meeting room where I’m stuck and smoke is starting to seep under the door. I frantically strip off my shirt and pants and shove them in the crack to stop the smoke from coming in. But maybe I shouldn’t have done that. I rummage through my now smoking pants and find my cell phone.
    I go back and open the window, not only for fresh air, but to see a tiny slice of blue sky out beyond the towers of the city. I hear sirens, hundreds of feet down below and I think maybe about jumping. I’d certainly land with a splash.
    I flip open my phone and scroll through my contacts list. Who do I call? Mother, Father, any of my sisters, grandparents, aunts or uncles? My wife. Her cell phone number is one of the few I have memorized, it’s only one digit off from mine.
    It rings and rings and rings. The firemen have turned off their sirens and the fire alarm has been shut off. I wonder idly if the fire has been cancelled, if they can do that. But I have to cut off that stupid thread of thought as her familar voice mail picks up. I think that maybe it’s better this way. Then they can play the message for everyone, even though it’s only for her. Without thinking about it I know what to say, the Rumi poem I memorized for our ten year anniversary:
        The springtime of Lovers has come,
        that this dust bowl may become a garden;
        the proclamation of heaven has come,
        that the bird of the soul may rise in flight.
        The sea becomes full of pearls,
        the salt marsh becomes sweet as paradise,
        the stone becomes a ruby from the mine,
        the body becomes totally soul.
    As I finish the poem the epensive wooden doors at the end of the room finally fall to reveal an advancing wall of flame and thick black smoke. It licks up the ceiling and in less than a heart beat the heat hits me hard. I can’t do anything but fall out of the window. The cell phone slips out of my hand and floats in free fall next to me. I don’t try to catch it. Through the rush of air I can almost hear the mechanical voice on the other line asking me to press buttons. I am eerily calm.
    And all too soon the ground slams up into me. It doesn’t hurt.
    In big friendly red letters the words “GAME OVER” pop up in front of me and I slide off the VR set from my head. Disbelief falls to the ground and shatters and I’m back at work, goofing off.
    Only a few minutes has passed in real life even though the dreamy weight of death is still heavy on my mind. I slip the VR set back into my desk, close the drawer, and take a deep breath. The snuff games aren’t my favorite, I prefer animal rides or ancient cities, but my hacked set only works on shuffle. In fact, my death, the businessman’s death has put me off of VR entirely. I look at my watch, still another fifteen minutes until I need to do my rounds and make sure all the doors that need to be locked are locked. I hate being a security guard.
    I try to distract myself by watching an old black and white television. The set is made of green plastic with a smooth bubble shape. It has several dials, but only the volume works. The figures on the tiny lit screen works their feeble magic on me for about five minutes. Someone is chasing someone else in a car, there’s explosions and screaming.
    And then like a good rat I fish out the VR set and put it back on.

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