Friday, January 25, 2013

The Very Terrifying Process of Animal Recognition

            Terrance Trull pulled up to his home, a contemporary, multistory, mixed retail/residential, tired and feeling overwhelmed. He parked in the second subbasement far away and protected from the sun, though on this particular day the high cloud layer has effectively blocked out all light rendering the day simply a lesser shade of night, the darknesses blending together, waxing and waning at semi-irregular intervals.
As Terrance shut off the engine the radio dies. It had been playing top forty all the way from his the office building where he works at a medium sized software firm. Terrance steps out of his hybrid vehicle into the hard sterile light of the underground parking lot. The parking space next to his (his reserved after much paperwork and payment) is occupied by a swollen late model pickup and, in spite of the fact that Terrance had entered his parking spot at a perfect angle which should allow more than a foot of room on each side of his car, the size of the other truck combined with a shoddy parking job means that Terrance has to inch his way out, wary not to scratch the truck with his belt buckle. Removing his bag from the back seat he becomes acutely aware of the sound of distant fans, circulating the dead air of the broad low-ceilinged room.    
       Emerging into open space Terrance notices that the parking spot on the other side of his hybrid vehicle is empty. This fills Terrance with a sudden and brief feeling of terror and loneliness. As if a shot of heroin inverted, this feeling lingers on his periphery, tainting the rest of the night with a decidedly visceral maliase. The walls rise in perfect angles like extensions of the floor, that perfect poured concrete with its regular conical indentations. These indentations assuage Terrance's fear slightly and, after checking around for interlopers, he approaches the nearest wall and nonchalantly touches it, his fingers on level with the indentations so that as he walks along his finger enters one, then another, then another hole: the wall smooth and cool like clean skin, the indentation's round edge perfect and clean.
         As the wall runs out he must enter the elevator vestibule. The change in sound quality from the echoic garage to the dull numbness of vestibule fills him with a deep flailing fear. It is something about the closeness of these walls, the absence of other breaths which makes him anxious or, perhaps said better, makes his constant anxiety grow deeper and expand inside him. Terrance presses the button to call the elevator to his floor, watching as the indicator number counts down, then count up again while preceeded by a capital 'B'. Each turn of the number ratchets up the unease within his bowels. Elevators. Elevators. Dirty, small, awkward, vile rooms. Full of people and silence and stale air and pulsing fear. The smell of the dead air, the layers of shed skin, the greasy stained metal and over-trodden carpet.
     Fucking elevators.
     Terrance had searched hard for a building without an elevator, and would ideally take the stairs, but to ascend to the lobby from the sub-basement he is required a ride of at least one floor.
 This one.
 This one that he hates.
    The elevator reaches the basement and waits for a tick, as if taunting him, building the suspence:
 'How many people you going to stand next to this time Terrance?
 You ready?
 You gonna press the lobby button again this time you big Pussy? You wouldn't even believe what goes on in here when you aren't around... Orgies, intravenous drug use, ritual satanic violence.
 I look clean,
 yeah I look clean, but it all happens here, inside me, and every time you press that button, or rub up against my wall you get a little bit on you.
 The fiiiiiiiiilth.'
       The machine tings, the doors open. Hoooosh. And again silence. Terrence tries to enter, needs to enter (doesn't want to) but is held back, the red eye above watching him, daring him to step inside and partake in the unholy ascencion. He takes a step, looks down.
    "come on, get in the little room" he whispers to himself. "there's nothing wrong with it, its okay." Terrance steps forward, the fat bronze threshold right beneath him, humming, buzzing, pulling, delineating what is bad from what is awful. He slides his foot slightly, touching the threshold then shifts his weight forward, almost falling in as the door begins to close. He stares at the back wall for, to Terrance, the inside of those doors is the worst part. He reaches back, sweat glowing on his palms, his armpits already moist and hits the 'L' button with his left knuckle, wiping it four times on the back of his pant leg, the fabric in this one place frayed and worn from these rituals, a grimy metallic smell wafting from there. He wipes his palm off, closes his eyes and leans his head back, attempting to slow his breathing. He counts everytime.
    Every morning and every evening Terrance must ride the elevator, which shreds his heart with fear and agony. A fear so great it causes him to stutter and stumble over his feet and words. Terrance works in the city, every day driving an hour each way to his shell colored office park wherein he places himself year after year to gather his meager pay. And seven years he has been there immersed in small rooms, team meetings and lukewarm evaluations. Seven years without even a promotion, but then without the humiliation of being fired. Terrance himself finds this a frustrating stasis which at the very least keeps him alive, keeps him warm and fed and moving. Whenever one of Terrance's aunts or cousins asks him what he does he has found it hard to explain, usually opting for the ambiguous descriptor of 'office work' for which they often seem satisfied, asking no more questions after that.
   That next morning Terrance enters the office at 8:30, while it is still fairly quiet. The coffee machine is generally on by this point, but he finds it off and empty. Terrance fills up the reservoir, changes the filter and flips the white toggle, this setting the heating element alight. Terrance sits at his desk and while checking his e-mail finds two notices regarding what appear to be (at a first glance) boring and esoteric technical details of recent software updates. Unintelligable, naturally. Terrance wastes no time perusing them.Terrance feels an urge to delete the e-mails but figures just as quick that they may serve some purpose later in the day. He scans the news for a few minutes, says 'hello' to Clarence as he walks in and sits down at the desk across the aisle. Finally, hesitantly, reluctantly, Terrance begins to work.
   For roughly six hours a day Terrance sits in front of his computer with a basic interactive window opened on his desktop. This program, referred to as a reducer window, consists of four variously colored 'doors' arranged in a neat diamond. One of these acts as an 'In' door, the other three as 'Out' doors. Every few seconds (and at a pace slow enough that a suitable tired individual could easily fall asleep out to boredom) a colored block 'emerges' from the 'In' door and floats around the reducer frame. The only other feature on the window is a small counter at the top of the window which records the number of squares accurately placed. Terrance's job consists solely of directing these colored blocks toward an 'Out' door of the corresponding color by depressing the 'A','S' or 'D' keys on his keyboard. As one would expect this quickly becomes a mind numbing chore to any suitable sentient and intelligent being, Terrance after only four minutes (and roughly 60 blocks directed) finding himself becoming quite bored.
   There being no pattern to the blocks as they emerge, and the irregularity of the intervals at which the squares emerge leaves no possibiliy of directing one's attention away from the frame (to perhaps a celebrity news site or an episode of a satisfying television show) while blindly and repeatedly pressing keys. Terrance (albeit breifly) finds himself reflecting on the particular, deep horror associated with a task which requires one's very close attention and yet which delivers almost nothing in terms of immediate rewards.
   Something on the edge of Terrance's hearing, a distant metal clatter causes his heart to breifly jump. The sound is low enough to be unplaceable, lying on the very limina of his attention, and Terrance's attention is (just barely) held by the task at hand, though a few seconds after the sound seeps its way into him he begins working just a little faster, a little more intently (though Terrance himself is totally unaware in any change in his productivity). Down his aisle come noises, little human noises, indicating gratification, satisfaction. These cause a spark in Terrance and it registers with him. He turns his head and finds, just at the end of the aisle, an awkward, gangly recent highschool graduate (Name is Kyle or Carl or Cal or something) pushing a rickety metal cart upon which lay an array of small squat bottles, light grey with a small orange rectangle on the face.
  Come on, come on Terrance thinks Could use a pick me up right now, about time fucking GET OVER HERE NOW Okay...okay, just keep working until he gets here.
   In Terrance's line of work coffee is considered a pleasant drink though its stimulant qualitites are considered to be too low of a caliber to maintain appropriate productivity. The mental performance, the concentration, necessary to sucessfully produce in Terrance's position has resulted in the adoption of Ananol, a synthetic stimulant not distantly related to the more well known Praxadon. Where Praxadon generally results in a pleasant, encompassing sense of wellbeing which segues slowly but surely into protracted spells of bizarre psychotic violence, Ananol shows relatively fewer side effects and generally results in extended periods of enhanced productivity. Dispensed in liquid form Ananol may be enjoyed at the user's leisure over the course of the workday increasing focus and attention a sip at a time.
   The cart mere yards away Terrance's hands suddenly becomse bone dry and he loses all interest in directing the blocks. His eyes remain held to the screen but his focus rests squarely on the cart. He can hear as it approaches:
       "Thanks Cal"
       "No problem Stan!"
 clatter, clatter
       "Thank you Carl..."
       "Sure thing Alana!"
rumble, clatter, rumble
       "Give...just give me"
       "Ho, ho, ho Alec! No need to rush, plenty to go around!"
  And so now he's here next to Terrance, with the time between parking the cart, removing the bottle, checking Terrance's name off a gridded sheet and handing it over a seeming eternity. Terrance reaches out for the bottle but it slips right through his frictionless fingers. The bottle hits the ground and rolls as uneven cylinders tends to do, in lazy winding half circles right under Terrance's desk. Kyle (or whatever his name is) begins to apologize but Terrance is already on his knees hunting into the dark crevice, dusty and tight on his hand. His fingers reach just around the glass and, in an attempt to close his digits around it, Terrance manages to push the bottle a few more centimeters back. Terrance scrambles up and searches for some object with which to manipulate the bottle but is unable to find a suitable tool. Terrance grabs a manila folder, pushes it into the gap. Laying his chest now, his ass unflatteringly stuck in the air, Terrance sees that the papers have only succeeded in lodging the bottle against the wall, as far back as it may go. In one final attempt to attain the bottle, futile surely and born of desperation, Terrance shoves his hand in under the desk as far as it may go, the bottom corner of the desk biting into his wrist. Pushing, pushing, the carpet now grinds on his palm and fore arm. He notices, in the periphery, Carl taking a step to the side and reaching behind the desk where a wide gap between the desk and the wall (wholly invisible to Terrance in his frantic haste) has left the bottle fully exposed.
     "Here you go!" Krill chirps proudly, setting the bottle on Terrance's desk. He unhitches the wheel lock and trundles away down the aisle. Terrance stands and brushes the lint off his knees, looks at the long rosy dent in his wrist and sits down.
    The bottle sits stoic.
    It is is authoritative.
    It is in repose and it watches Terrence not. Its creamy matte coating is perfect and is marred only by a small sticker, bright orange with black text on one side. Some warning perhaps, though it is written in Cyrillic so Terrance has never paid attention to it. He wraps his fingers around the bottle (so cool and liquid to the touch) and holds it up and out in front of him. The cap's seal breaks beneath his fingers in a most satisfying way, the cap landing instinctively in the trash receptacle. In bringing it up to his face Terrance's eyebrows tremble with excitement, his teeth chatter and neck spasms in anticipation. The liquid which fills his mouth and slides down his throat is slightly frothy with a mild chemical taste covered by an antiseptic orange scent.
   Terrance downs it in one quick go. The bottle goes back on the desk and he places both hands before him, lowering his head to the level of his outstretched arms. He takes in a deep breath, holds it and
        lets it out.
       The very first tingles of animal recognition flutter deep within in his legs, in and around his femurs. A dull constant tension, previously unnoticed, releases in a soothing wave. Terrance shakes his head out and returns to his paused terminal window. Hitting the space bar blocks begin to flow again in the slow shaky march, Terrance continues his duty: placing each block in the right spot without error. The task still seems mundane to him, though the boredom of it feels less crushing and becomes more of an unconscious movement.





The counter at the top of the window begins to grow steadily, rises and rises and Terrance-engaged in the activity-notices at one point the the counter is jumping jumping by tens and fifteens each time he checks it.
    After the counter tops '350' Terrance pauses the feed and checks his e-mail once again, opens the missive he had glossed over earlier:


    Three feeds of highly sensitive block groups will be sent to your terminal today. These will need the utmost care and you will need to transform a subset to ℝ4. Indicate precisely block destination and do not forget to check source awareness.
    A job of this priority was rare for Terrance and the prospect excited him. In fact the seemingly innocuous squares that he directs are compressed packets of information sent to his company by various sources, often large corporations, which he is tasked with moving to the appropriate consumer. Even one slip up in the case of today's projects could result in a loss of tens of thousands of dollars to his clients, and in some cases even lives.
   Returning to his terminal window Terrance notices a subtle change: within the blocks he is moving are written tight lines of coded script. Enlarging his window the code comes fully into view, and he realizes he must now direct the squares not in terms of their colors (no doubt put in place to throw off the prying eyes of corporate spies) but by subtle clues in the script written thereupon which he has been trained to understand. The blocks come now at the same speed, but parsing the messages takes much longer than before. This leaves Terrance with just enough temporal leeway to place a block before the next one arrives.
   Leaning into his monitor (both to better read the text and to protect the information from passersby) Terrance begins to work faster, utilizing hotkeys to direct the coded blocks to 'out' doors which, due to high secrecy, are not displayed on the screen. Pressing a key combination causes blocks to begin coming out in multiples which group up into stacked layers to form cubes of text. Terrance uses his mouse to rotate these in three dimensions, finding patterns and clues in matching rows, columns and diagonals which would not have been apparent earlier.
  As the blocks emerge and float on the blank field before him, small vibrations in the cubes of text become apparent, he recognizes subtle patterns and shapes in these vibrations that indicate yet another layer of encrypted indicators (information inside the information, clues within the clues). He uses these to classify at yet an even deeper level the information which comes his way. He gets an intense feeling of satisfaction from discovering these messages, by placing the blocks correctly. Up to this point the placement of the blocks had seemed random to him, but within the placement he now catches what might be indicators as to the real world implications contained in this information. It isn't entirely clear what company these feeds are originating from but there seem to be hints of some high level activity in the works: perhaps a merger of two large companies or the prosecution of a long running pattern of fraud at the executive levels. Terrance has been in this business long enough to see right through the code, which at this point has blossomed into many colored fountains of neat quavering petals which he directs like a firehose, the text and blocks themselves melding and breaking before him like an oil slick upon pavement.
    It suddenly becomes entirely clear to Terrance what is occurring.
    Yes! The way these two particular threads jitter and swing, oscillating on a spectrum between yellow and green while that orb shimmers and pulsates. It serves as a strong indicator of an imminent collapse of some important commodities market, a rare earth metal perhaps...
    This most likely caused by the decisions at the very top levels of government; an economic movement architected by Shadow World Government leaders most likely with the intention of strategically reducing the population in a large developing nation. Terrance is sure he is directing communiques to sleeper agents deep in the field, directing sabotage at key power points, the release of infectious agents into food supplies in order to elicit international consequences.
   The speed at which Terrance is working now is blinding: he is directing dozens of frames per second, the information takes on pseudomystical meaning to him. Terrance senses, while directing one particularly long and ornate series of hypercubes, that the covert actions he is privy to will lead to the first small steps of a spiritual rebirth of mankind, that the coming economic crisis in is actuality a benevolent act bequeathed upon the world by a universal federation of spiritual beings, manifested on this planet as the heads of multinational companies and government leaders.
   Glancing, but only for a very brief moment, at the time Terrance notices it is almost three-thirty, notices that the day and its requisite small duties has flown past him: lunch, coffee breaks, conversation, rendered irrelevant by the screaming torrent of information before him. The frames continue to flow but Terrance feels sluggish now, tired almost. The flow feels haughty and aggressive. Terrance blinks and finds his eyes gritty and dry. Adjusting himself in his seat, bending his arms to get a better grip on his mouse Terrance feels blood flow to parts of his back and legs which seem to have been deprived for some time, feels his elbow crack painfully as tendons stretch, cartilage realigns after the gap of disuse. A pile of frames has already built up in the open window. Terrance attempts to align them into a cube but finds his fingers shaky and unable to hit the necessary key combination. He pauses the feed and takes time to sort each frame one-by-one. It takes him almost 15 minutes to clear up the backlog, not to mention it seems horribly tedious. A distinct weight settles on his shoulders.
  Terrance gets up from his desk and wanders into the break room. Two men in starched white button-up shirts sit across from one another at a large rectangular table. One has his head buried in his crossed arms, the other is slowly rubbing his temples in a circular motion. Terrance fills a paper cup with water and throws it back, the majority of the water running down his face and the front of his shirt. He stares at the other workers. He says nothing. Terrance shambles into the bathroom, the false scent cloying his face. He tries to pee but finds his body sluggish and unwilling. When it finally comes it is a dark yellow, almost brown, and he catches a scent of maple syrup, this phenomena had caused a sense of alarm in him all the way up to the end of first year of work.
   Back now at his terminal the frames start up again, though any thoughts of fluorescent rainbow streams have all but left Terrance's mind at this point, the task taking on an even greater enormity of boredom, stretching out through the range of negative emotions until the task strikes a horror into Terrance's very concept of existence. As four thirty rolls around Terrance is on the edge of becoming comatose. Brief snatches of the events of the day (the brilliant cascades of information, the multidimensional frame positions, the international information conspiracies) seem to be entirely separate from the task at hand now, like those strange childhood memories for which it is impossible to determine whether the memory is legitimate or only exists in one's mind from being heard recounted time and again by an older relative, at which point the sounds, smells and tastes of the memory coalesce from the retellings.
   Terrance drives home in a fog. Approaching the parking garage he wonders (as he does around this time, everyday) about how the expansion of the frames coincides so perfectly with the onset of the drug, how the pointless task takes on such great importance and complexity. These thoughts are always slow and fickle to form in his head after the stresses of work, and in fact he often prefers to simply let them go. Until the next day, when he must do it again, and again, and again, and again, and again...

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