We wake. We think. We sleep. They didn’t see a need for the unique thoughts of the “elite.” It was dangerous and all together frowned upon. The media refers to us as rogues. The government prefers the term, U.O.P. (oo-ahp)—the Ungrateful One-Percent.
We used to joke about how childish it’d sounded. It may have been meant to demean us. No one, in their right mind, would reject the chance to join, the connection. Though, I suppose that sanity is subjective. You’re listening, so I’m guessing that you’ve made your own conclusion on my mental state. If you haven’t, I’ll do you the favor of clarifying.
I, and a handful of courageous others—had that special kind of crazy. On the day that we were to graduate from our esteemed universities, we opted out. I hear that in the early millennium, they’d give the graduates some fancy paper, a thin robe, and a pointy hat. It sounds silly, I know. But, my friends and I would’ve rather played dress up for an afternoon, than to undergo that public procedure.
I’m still baffled at how many, supposedly educated people, voluntarily took a syringe to their frontal lobe. I’m even more so confused at how many of their peers had witnessed it, and still cheered. “Hoorahs” and “Hoorays” for the new generation of grid-heads. The fools.
Again, and again. One, after the other. Acquaintances, family members, and whomever else lucky enough to win a student loan—were uploaded and a part of it all. “Upgraded.” Yet another microbe, in the synapse, of the mind, of the growing New World Order. Happy graduation, I guess.
Me, I preferred to be the only one bouncing thoughts around in my skull. To feel only what I’ve experienced and long for that which evades me. It’s a perilous ecstasy. An orgy of existential dread. It’s life. Its human.
When is the last time that you’ve felt something so affirming and wonderful? What’s last secret that you were able to safely keep? What did your last fuck feel like? They’ll take it from you. They’ll take everything from you. Then, spread it across their digital hive until the memory becomes nothing but meaningless bytes stashed alongside others just like it.
They call it MOTHER. Most of you listeners out there are probably too young to remember its introduction. Don’t believe the grand lie that it’ll somehow make your life better. Don’t fall into the social trap of chasing the exponentially moving ceiling of upper-class. Fight it. Fight all of it.
The day will come, when MOTHER is no more. Shut-down. Annihilated. What remains of society then will rise and prosper. That, I can promise you. But, I can’t guarantee your safety if you let them put that shit in your brain. Think. If only for yourself.
Be well. Stay free. The UOPS, are coming.
It was winter in July. The city had just been doused in several feet of hail and snow. It’d been a few seasons since they’d had their last bout of precipitation. It was an occasion to be celebrated. The separate halves of society expressed their jubilance in their own special way.
The blue-collared folk, frolicked and carried on through the streets. Their faces were adorned with the smiles and nasal drips of an unexpected cold front. The weather was no longer predictable. Most had quickly adapted to that. Inconsistency had become the norm for them.
Those connected to MOTHER, however, didn’t move around much—whenever they did show their faces. The ones that had droned about on the streets stood still. They’d oscillate their heads from one side to the other like an old rotating fan—pressing buttons on screens that weren’t there, and emoting in unison.
They’d never looked directly at one another, but somehow, they’d always known when one of “them” were around. They’d stare blankly and wave, as if saying farewell to an invisible, departing ship. Society had grown accustomed to the odd habits of the connected—despite never quite fully understanding them. The parallel races co-existed well enough.
Morgan had been sent by his mother to pick up some groceries from the bodega around the corner. He was thin, obviously undernourished, but spritely and energetic. His thin-faced smile would often warm the hearts of connected and disconnected alike—that is, whenever they paid mind to him. Most found the task of interaction too taxing.
“Morgan! My boy, how are ya?” Sal was always friendly to his customers. Morgan had used to think that it was just his nature, but upon seeing the “NO MOTHER HERE!” sign dangling on his front door, he was forced to reconsider. Hate always seemed to find a way into the hearts and minds of the disenchanted. Morgan remained openly neutral.
“Fit enough to skip, old man.” Morgan said. He kicked the snow off his shoes, with the lip of the single downward step, and let the door close behind him as he entered the cell-sized shop. “How about you, Sal?”
“Old man, huh… Boy, I could be your daddy,” Sal said. The two had known each other since Morgan and his mother had moved there for his schooling nearly six years ago. Morgan stared curiously behind the register—as he always did—while Sal filled up a brown bag with the usual.
“I’m alright,” Sal said. “Still creeped out by those damned grid-heads. What the hell is wrong with your generation Morgan? Why do you all want to go and plug-up? You know in my day, people had the friggin’ courtesy to keep to themselves sometimes.”
“Yea,” Morgan laughed, “And in your day cigarettes were still legal, and you burned the ozone half to shit!”
“Hey, watch it. I’m not that old! That was my grandfather’s generation. I’m post millennial you whippersnapper,” Sal said with his trademark gusto and pride, “What are they teaching you at that damned school?”
“Enough to know that coal’s bad, gas is bad, and cellphones caused nuero-cancer.” Morgan grabbed the full brown bag from the counter, and placed his thumb on Sal’s financial scanner.
“Credit or debit, smartass?” Sal said. He leaned forward on the counter—his meaty stomach and man-tits flopping carelessly through his sweat stained shirt. He enjoyed making digital transactions awkward. It was his tiny way of rebelling—the bitter man’s triumph.
“Credit,” Morgan said. The register dinged.
“Alright, snot-nose, you’re clear.”
“Thanks, Sal.” Morgan flipped the hood of his coat back over his head, and left the store. He’d wondered if he would have enough credits to get to school the next day.
He hated to pan-handle.
His home had used be a single-family brownstone. Formerly, it was one of the most prestigious and envied residences that those of Old New York could’ve hoped to waddle into. Morgan and his mother had gotten lucky when they bought it.
The building had become decrepit and worn over the years, and there was aged graffiti spray-painted across the home’s face. Instead of windows, the holes in the wall had been replaced with sheets of plywood, and whatever glass shards had remained from years of neglect.
Despite the appearance of the home, the former owner had been business savvy—he was connected, after all. He’d been able to forego demolition of the home and make the best of its fast approaching demise. Best, of course, equating to the credits of those desperate enough to purchase a room there. Morgan and his mother had fallen into that group of unfortunates.
Though the outside was off-putting, the rooms of the large home were just above subpar. The floorboards creaked, the lights flickered, and there’d been an ominous smell of old moth balls—that occasionally wafted through the halls.
Morgan didn’t mind it much. He’d essentially spent the beginning of his formidable years there. His mother, however, could never quite get comfortable. Then again, she was always generally unnerved.
“Morgan! Is that you?” She shouted from the kitchen, just down the hall from the front door, “Morgan!”
“Yeah, Ma. It’s me.”
“Did you get the stuff?”
“I’ve got it,” Morgan carried the large brown bag to the kitchen. His mother had been standing in front of the oven—watching a pot of water boil. She anxiously twirled the tassels of her makeshift apron, “Jesus, what took so long?”
“There’s a storm, Ma. Remember? That’s kind of what they do.”
“Don’t get smart with me, young man. Did you get everything that I told you to?” She took the bag from Morgan and poured its contents out on the counter. He hated this part. He hated to look.
Out, beside the oven, rolled ten cans of cat food—it was cheaper, a single roll of toilet paper, a head of lettuce, two loaves of bread, and an off-brand—turquoise colored—can of air-freshener labeled SPRING MEADOW FRESH. “Oh, thank God.” His mother said. She gripped the can tight, and began to spray in a circular frenzy around the room.
Morgan watched his mother spin—aimless—for a second or two. He looked around for the glass of whiskey that he’d known she’d drank while he was gone. It would be the first of many on a day like today – well, actually, any day that ends in “y”, he mused. Morgan never hung around to find out.
He’d wanted to mention her alcoholism to her. Each time he’d come close, he shut down. It was one of the few comforts that she’d had. He didn’t see much point in taking that away from her. Instead, he bit his tongue, and watched the water boil to steam, and return to liquid, as the condensation stuck to the stainless-steel vent of the “ancient” home appliance.
“So, how was school?” His mother asked amidst the raining sounds of the spray can emptying in the mothball flavored room, “Did you pass the test?”
“B-plus,” Morgan said. The news left his mouth the same way that an announcement of death would. His mother didn’t understand his lamentation, “Oh my goodness! Morgan! That’s incredible! Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. Thank you.”
Calm down, Karen, she said to herself—flailing her hands and trying to slow her quickened breathing, “I mean. That’s amazing, Morgan. I’m so proud of you!” Her calmer tone was somehow more exuberant.
She wrapped her hands around him. With her head against his chest, she squeezed him as tightly as she could. Morgan didn’t much care for displays of affection. It’s one of the reasons he never minded being around the connected, their emotionless displays were always more comforting to him. Besides that, his mother smelled like mothballs and cheap whiskey, a formidable combination.
“Alright, Mom. That’s enough. It’s not that big of a deal.”
“Not that big of a deal?! You’re graduating!” She said. She took a step back and twisted her face to him. Her smile descended into a deeply planted frown—like gravity had been pulling solely on the corners of her lips. “Morgan. I know that this could be a lot,” her voice rattled, “I mean, for Christ’s sake, the only other person in this family that’s ever even qualified for MOTHER was your uncle. And he’s batshit crazy.”
“Or, maybe that’s just what it does to you.”
“Not this again. Honey, trust me. He was always like that. What you have is an opportunity. Don’t you hate walking the streets and being ignored? To be told that they don’t serve “your kind?” To be eating GOD DAMNED cat food, because you can’t even get into the nearest grocery store! It’s hell, Morgan. It’s fucking hell. I just want the best for you.” Her eyes filled with tears. Her face reddened, and her breathing fluctuated even worse than before. She pulled a chair away from the dinner table, and sat.
“Mom.” Morgan reached his hand to her. “I just want you to understand.”
“Don’t touch me,” she screamed. Morgan jumped back. He’d never heard his mother yell at him in such a hateful way before. “Listen, I can’t tell you what to do. You’re twenty. You’re a grown man. I know that. But, please just think about everything we’ve been through. Remember what we’ve lost, Morgan.” She couldn’t bear to look him in the eyes.
He was forced to watch the teardrops fall from her face. Her short red hair blocked even the slightest sight of her expression. He’d hoped that a forced smile would bring her mood back around. When she wouldn’t allow it, he resigned to beg.
“I don’t want to hear it, Morgan. It’s fine. Just… Just go to the room. I’ll come get you when dinner’s ready.”
Somehow, his walk back their bedroom, that day, had felt longer than it ever had before.
Toys. We’re all just mortal instruments in the band of our own destruction. Bound by breathless captors and damned to repeat the sins of our fallen ancestors. Greece. Pompeii. Rome. America.
Do you feel it coming, listeners? Can you feel the end? Does MOTHER know? Quick answer. No, to all of the above. I’ve warned you, time and time again. The end is coming. I’ve implored you to disconnect. To warn your loved ones.
We must put a stop to this viral disease—that disproportionately distorts mankind. I’ve warned everyone. But, just like those grid-heads, so many of you have refused to heed my warning. They all share the same false mind. The same falsehood. What’s your excuse listener? What shall you tell your maker when you meet him?
What of the children? Where will you be when the wicked are punished, and the weak alongside them perish? What will be left of you then? This is life without the wireless umbilical cord. Taunting. Inviting. Exhilarating.
Morgan sat on the edge of the twin sized bed and stared out of the only window that hadn’t been boarded up with his headphones still nestled deep within his ear canals. Most people had given up on the primitive technology, but it was all that his mother could afford to pass down to him. She was forced to sell the bulk of her childhood memorabilia. The resulting profit from her sales bought them two tickets to the Big Apple and a month’s worth of rent.
They’d survived on the meager amounts left behind from his father’s passing. His suicide allowed them to transcend the hypothetical red-line of debt. It angered him, though he’d understood the motive. His death was a fair trade in exchange for the chance to alter the course of his family’s future. He didn’t speak much about it before it happened.
All that they’d known was that he’d taken out insurance policies on all three of them. During long nights—sleeping on the floor—he’d wonder the options that his father considered. “If not himself, then whom would’ve taken the bullet to grant the survivors financial freedom?” The thought both titillated and terrified him.
The consensus, between Morgan and his mother, was that he’d killed himself out of impulse—and partial necessity. It was a wretched thought nonetheless. Morgan lost himself in the guerilla broadcast while he watched the coming snow blanket the streets.
“It’s suicide, I tell you,” the raspy voice continued, “Yes, you. You, listener with the hope in your eyes and wistfulness in your ear. Do you see it coming!” Morgan gripped the corners of the bed and grit his teeth. He’d wanted to shout in exaltation, but knew he couldn’t without garnering the attention of the strange man, next door.
He was silent yet unwavering in his agreement. “Do you feel it, newcomer?! Can you taste it and smell it? Those senses are yours and yours alone. Witness the revolution. Rejoice in the end of pixelated tyranny!”
“Yes!” Morgan shouted. He stopped himself from the unseen praise and lowered his clenched fist back down to the outside of his thigh.
“Those who follow the false shepherd—known as MOTHER, will come to know the wolves. You will all come to know the wolves. We wake. We think. We sleep.” Morgan waited for the voice to give him the queue, and mouthed the words along with him.
“The UOPS, are coming.”
He replayed The Voice’s daily broadcast. He’d never known what’d it felt like to be recruited. Rallied for an idea that he placed above himself, he listened again, intensely.
The snow fell harder. The lights flickered—on, then off, then on again. The feeble walls creaked. The home filled with the smell of mothballs, cheap air freshener, and the fried cat food sandwiches that his mother had been preparing for that night’s dinner.
It was the best day that he’d had in quite some time. The week before, they’d split a jar of pickles for the duration of a heat wave.
It was graduation day. The snow had been melting, and the two species of bird left in the sky had been dancing in flocks. Their silhouettes casted playful shadows against the deep orange hue of the morning sky.
The air was humid, hot, and heavy, but breathable. Sweat would sprout from the skin, but never enough to bead and fall. Citizens had traded their wool coats and boots, for thin fabrics and sandals. Morgan had hoped to see a few topless women tanning in the park, but that trend had fallen out of fashion — they reserved it for the later months.
He and his mother had just arrived on his college campus. He’d wanted to get his “diploma” as soon as possible. Rather than wait for the winter ceremony—where many would attend, he chose to receive transcendence privately. It was a courtesy reserved for the best and the brightest. Morgan had finished a year early and with high marks—they were happy to oblige him.
They arrived at the Dean’s Building. It was large glass structure, with several mazes of cubicles and private offices, that ran throughout all of the seven stories. They were met by a guard soon after they’d entered, “Paper-work.” He asked to them and held a scanner waist high. Morgan placed his thumb on the screen and awaited the green “cleared” light. “Alright, you’re all set. This way.” The guard began to walk forward. Morgan stayed behind and hugged his mother.
The disconnected and unsanctioned (UOPS), weren’t allowed past that particular point. He’d just wanted to say bye to her. This was more of her dream than his—at least, initially. “I love you, Mom,” he said, rubbing her back between her shoulders.
“I love you too.” She grabbed his face and kissed his forehead. “I’ll be right here when you get back. You’re going to do great.” She smiled and held his hand for as long as she could while he turned to walk away.
“Come on, son.” The guard rushed.
They walked through the glass plated hallways. Morgan felt his palms moisten. To calm himself, he drummed up a forced conversation, “So, does it hurt?” He asked the guard—who’d been pointedly leading him. “Not much, from what I hear. It’s basically a booster shot. I wouldn’t stress it, if I were you, kid. You wouldn’t want your mind to reject it.”
“Does that happen?” Morgan asked. He’d clenched and unclenched his fists to keep his imagination from taking off with the thought. …Will it?
They arrived at the only room whose walls had been blackened, “Like I said kid, don’t stress it. You’ll be fine.” He opened the mahogany door, and pointed Morgan in, “Congratulations,” he said. Morgan entered the room. The wooden door slammed shut behind him.
“Morgan Pruit,” he heard as he stared at the medical bed in the center of the room. There’d been three large tables that had surrounded him. On the two opposing sides, they extended across the room from wall to wall. On the wall furthest from him, a third table connected the space between the parallel two.
Rows of chairs had been lined behind the tables—for viewers of the procedure. It was the same for the table in front of him. Each chair was occupied by a member of the school’s academic staff. Everyone’s heads were facing down—their fingers poked and prodded precisely—on to nothing. To him, it was little more than synchronized chaos.
“Don’t worry. It’ll all make sense to you in a few moments,” the man said. He’d been the only one looking him directly in the eyes. Morgan had never seen him before. He was older. Much older. His skin had been hanging from the bones of his skull. His eye sockets were deep and treacherous. He’d been balding—very noticeably—on the top of his head. On the sides, he’d had long strands of gray hair. To his credit, the little hair he did have, was well kept. Morgan’s mind raced, as his eyes met with the man in the lab coat in the center of the room. He approached slow.
“Don’t be afraid son. It may not look like it yet, but we’re all applauding. We’re all so happy that you’re here. We are so proud of you. Trust me. Take a seat. Lay down. Get comfortable.” He said.
“Is my mom alright?” Morgan asked. The man smiled as he swabbed Morgan’s forehead with a disinfectant, “Yes. I’m looking at her now. She’s fine. A bit nervous, but, as well as one could be. This is a big day for her too, you know?”
Morgan had paid him little mind. He just wanted to feel less alone. In this crowded room, with this strange man, he’d somehow felt a powerful distance in the pit of his stomach. “Relax.” The man said, as he placed a hand on Morgan’s shoulder and gently pushed him down, to lay on his back, “Relax,” he said again.
“Will it hurt?” Morgan asked.
“No more than it did for any of us.” The man in the white lab coat flicked a syringe—to let out the air. Without hesitation, he lunged it into the top center of Morgan’s forehead. There was sting. Time slowed. Morgan watched as the man pushed down on the plunger. He embraced the burning sensation. The coming lights startled him.
The room went quiet for an instant. As Morgan overcame the shock, he heard the intensifying sound of uproarious applause and adulation. He swiveled his head to the side. The unimpressive long table, had no longer been just that—but a stage.
The rows of chairs extended backward, the room spread apart, and stretched into an arena. Two dozen dissociated attendees became two thousand admirers—laser focused on their newly birthed brother.
When he sat up, he saw a glowing display run across the top of the scenery that read, “WELCOME TO MOTHER!” The sky was blue. The trees were still there. He could see the sun. It was beautiful.
“How do you feel, Morgan?” The voice seemed to be amplified a hundred times. It was like an announcement from a stadium microphone. The crowd of thousands lowered their roars of praise, “Morgan?”
He closed his eyes and thought of his mother. She appeared on a screen in his line of sight—sitting in the lobby, waiting anxiously. “Morgan?” He heard again.
He reached down into his pocket, and fiddled around. It was hard for him not to be taken by his new reality. He clasped his hands around his headphones, then stared at the adorning crowd.
“We wake.” His voice echoed and reverbed through his body.
“We think.” He placed the headphones in his ears.
“We sleep.” He played the broadcast for all to hear.
The last thing that he’d heard, himself, were the voices of millions, screaming, “NO.”
We lost a brother today folks. A soldier. He died fighting the good fight. Just seconds after his graduation. I admire that man. He’d been stronger than I was. It just goes to show you the power of our resolve. The sanctity of our mission.
Maybe the frequency wasn’t strong enough. Maybe the room was secured. Maybe it was the weather. Maybe we just needed more time. Mistakes are human. Life is human. And even though we’ve failed—even though he’s given his life in the hopes of a different end for mankind, we still live. We still thrive.
We have to fight. We have to win. MOTHER still stands, and because of that fact, we must stay at attention too. Don’t be tamed by defeat. Be emboldened by it. Be inspired. Be like Morgan Pruit, the twenty-year-old soldier who gave his life, and rejected the fortunes that being connected brings in an attempt to destroy MOTHER. Until then, I am with you.
The UOPS, are here.”