By Amber Robbin
I was nearing the end of my first month with the firm, and as time had passed, my co-workers had begun to appear more and more like machines to me. They marched past my desk in eerily straight lines, their steely gazes transfixed in the direction they were headed. Sometime before lunch on a routine day, the secretary Nova came to my desk with several case files. “Amber, I need these retyped, formatted exactly as they are now,” she said in monotone, beaming herself back to her desk before I could ask any questions. I escaped down the elevator shaft to take my break, less than eager to start retyping.
I took a seat in the corner of the marble lobby and called my father, desperate for human connection. But I couldn’t get a signal. It was too bitter outside, so I resigned myself to huddling in the corner and opened my lunch. For an hour, I watched people passing in droves through the giant, echoing space. They moved just like my co-workers – a bunch of soulless androids floating in straight lines. I was sucked in to their mesmerizing dance and began to experience some sort of mind-meld with the group. Voices flooded into my head, mixing and churning to a deafening roar. There were cries for help and shouts of rage from so deep inside that none were reflected on a single person’s face. They were walled up and wrapped in a plastic, pore-less skin to suffocate any ounce of emotion. I wanted to run screaming out of the revolving door, but as I glanced at the time to find I was already late, an invisible force gripped tight around my neck and threw me into the elevator, sending my body straight back to its desk as if it had no mind of its own.
I picked up the stack of papers from Nova and started typing. As I became engrossed in the strange documents, I began to think that maybe this was actually the most interesting task I’d been given. It gave me the chance to find out exactly what kind of cases we were working on. The first document contained page after page of depositions disclosing the frightening treatment of countless employees of some manufacturing company. It told of how they were barraged by orders from their screaming supervisors while they loaded gigantic, steel parts off and on barges in the hot sun. It described an otherworldly universe where men were still expected to do such backbreaking work by hand at some secluded clearing in the wilderness where no one could hear their calls of distress. It left me feeling sick, especially when I realized we were defending the company. I took a break from the horrible retellings to try a different document. As I typed on, however, the second case proved to be even worse…I felt the fluorescent light over my head baking my brains as I read on about a doctor who had left his instruments inside of a patient’s chest cavity, rupturing his spleen and causing it to bleed out slowly into his abdominal cavity until he died a horribly painful death. Of course, we were defending the surgeon. I wasn’t even typing anymore. I looked up suddenly as one of the partners passed by, turning his head robotically to glare at me. It was as if he knew I’d just discovered the firm’s dirty secrets. Big Brother was watching.
I went to meet some friends after work for a drink. As I sat sipping my wine to calm myself, I couldn’t shake the feeling that eyes were on me. I was outside of that concrete container of a building with its body-snatched clones, but looking around the bar, I realized everyone was starting to look synthetic. My friend turned to me and asked how the new job was going. I opened my mouth to speak the truth, but just then, that invisible force that had earlier catapulted me back to my desk grabbed my tongue and wouldn’t let it go. “The new job is going just fine, thank you,” I said in monotone.
To be continued…
Amber Robbin is the creator of Tumbleweed Diaries. She is passionate about languages, world travel, and currently working on a book about her adventures in Italy.