I don’t know how my fucking life lead up to this point, but I can try to start.
It was ce 2103, I had just turned 29. The reflection of my life at that time was a mix of stagnant loneliness and boredom. I don’t remember exactly what I was thinking but I know I hated living so much I just didn’t care about what would happen next. But wait, let me back up and explain how the fuck I fucked up.
I guess it all starts out with me hating my shitty job and shitty apartment. As with I most people of my, er, designation, we stay in one-bedroom apartments stacked high in wide skyscrapers, or buried in complexes deep underground.
Unfortunately for me, I lived about 70 meters up in a huge complex with white walls and no windows. The first floor of the building is a giant grid with dozens of 3 meter tall semi-translucent cylinders. Each cylinder was made to transport one person to a narrow hall aligned with rooms, and you walk until you find yours. There is only one cylinder per hall carrying one person at a time; you never get to see who your neighbors are.
My one-bedroom, I assume, is standard for this hall. I have a small kitchen, bathroom and living space equipped with a small bed, a couch, and a desk. Utilities like energy and water are limited and based on how many units you use per week. Any units left unused gets reset at the end of each week, so use it or lose it. The allowance was not that generous. Daily showers had to be quick; the room temperature was always uncomfortably hot or cold depending on the season.
The day all this started, or the day before rather, I was sitting at my desk at work like I have been doing for the past 4 years. This job was a lot like the other 2 jobs I have been designated; I sit in a small 16 square foot room and work alone at my desk and computer terminal. My computer terminal was a holo-projected screen with another thin holo-projection as a keyboard. The projections were lit from slits on adjacent walls, that are the color (who could have guessed?) white. My uniform is also white, and it’s not exactly a uniform, more like a hazmat suit. The suits were designed to keep the mega-corp I work for’s building as sterile as possible. We also wore headgear to cover our face and hair, so when I see other employees that work for this mega-corp, I can’t see what they look like or talk to them.
My job is considered pretty average, low wage labor. Since machine intelligence is designated to all government service jobs like public safety and city maintenance, most people work for one of any unknown number of mega-corporations that exist in the world. Since this is the age after the Market Crash of ce 2082, when hyper-capitalism failed as most of the world’s resources were exhausted, governments agreed to yield civil power to mega-corporations and abolish nation-state boundaries. Government still controlled territory, such that it will keep it safe and running, as well as designate its citizenry to various labor positions; you never know what mega-corporation you work for. It could be centralized from Japan, Brazil, or who knows. All I know is I show up to the mega-corp’s building 6 days a week, live in my designated one-bedroom, and receive a bi-monthly credit deposit in my Social account.
My work was very easy and monotonous. I sit at my terminal and manually correct code that has spelling mistakes made by some human (of a much higher designation than me) that confused the digital intelligence that does the actual data processing for this mega-corp. I scan thousands of lines of code per day and if I see any highlighted terms, I look in an inventory, pick the most likely match, correct the code, and send the file back. I do this for sixty hours per week. The salary is not that much; it’s about enough for one person to barely support one child, or enough for someone like me to go out once a week.
So back to my explaining why I hated my job and I hated my life so much. Why couldn’t I get another job you ask? Well, that was impossible. After you passed your twelfth and final year of schooling, you take an exam to test your intelligence, abilities, and potential aptitude. Up until my tenth year, I had scored in the highest tier that would have lead to the highest employment designations, but I spaced out during the exam and scored slightly below average. My life
designation as spell-checker was forever embossed in metal.
It wasn’t exactly that I tried to score badly on purpose, it’s just that I really didn’t care about the test at that time. My mind was preoccupied with my mother’s condition and how I was going to make more credits to feed myself. My mother was diagnosed with dementia, and luckily she was in the labor force long enough to get a monthly unfit-for-labor deposit. Unfortunately for me, it was just enough to afford her food and other necessities, so I needed to make income for myself.
I had began making programs and fixing old terminals for some shady people I met through my brother who died some years before. I had gotten good with coding and terminals since we’ve had one in our two-bedroom ever since I could remember. My mom was physically handicapped and could only work from home. Although she could have gotten into big trouble for it, she let me use the terminal at night and I learned as much about coding and terminals as I could. My in-school side hustle was enough for me eat and also to save a little just in case anything worse happened to my mother and I was one my own. After I took the exam and received my labor designation, I was escorted by machine intelligence officers downtown to my first one-bedroom unit, and my mother was taken to an old-people’s facility.
According to the advertisements that were customized to appeal to someone of my lifestyle profile, most people my age go out to local nightclub spots, make friends and date, or use one of the other many entertainment services available downtown. Not me, I was already a bit of a loner and wasn’t interested in any of that. I was saving all of my Social credits for a ticket to one of the Martian colonies that faced a labor shortage; since machine intelligence was too heavy and expensive to launch and land, humans could pay a large sum of credits and go instead. It was very expensive and would take me about another 15 years to save up, and even then the only jobs available was shoveling regolith for resource utilization plants. As terrible as that may sound to you, that life on Mars had to be better than this repetitive and depressing shit.
So, back to how I got myself into some deep bullshit and now I am essentially hiding for my life not to mention all the other damage I caused.
It began when I received a ping in my Social account from the mega-corp I work for.
EMPLOYEE EID: 734xdf21
BASED ON PAST WORK PERFORMANCE, YOU ARE QUALIFIED TO WORK AT A HIGHER DESIGNATION. REPORT TO ROOM EID: MU219 TERMINAL 12. YOUR BI-MONTHLY UNIT ALLOWANCE WILL NOT CHANGE.
Nice, I thought, and rolled my eyes. It means I’ve been given more work for the same credits.
The transport cylinders at work were similar to the ones in the building where I live; you enter one, slide your EID chip into it, and it takes you where your only designated to go. The cylinder carried me to a large room marked MU219. MU219 was filled with a grid of terminals each separated by three screens for privacy. Passing by other anonymous hazmat suit wearers, I walked to Terminal 12 and sat down. Two familiar slits turned on projecting my screen and keyboard.
My new job was similar to my previous one, only this time I had to spell check one line of code at a time and couldn’t move on to the next line until the digital intelligence on the other end confirmed it understood every term. The terms were also very unfamiliar; I used to be able to breeze past thousands of lines of code and correct terms from memory, but this time I had to look up all of them in the given term inventory. It only took a few days of me occupying this new designation to fully realize that my life is hell.