By S. Michael Downs @2008

Joe Biggs climbed the vertical shaft to his assigned placement, residence number 714-2356 section 12 level 9. Carefully he deactivated the auto-door of his cubicle and reached for the shimmering device sitting on the shelf over his cot. He had successfully completed his shift in the oversight department to which he had been assigned. Mistakes happen and occasionally random subversive thought streams could slip by the scanners which monitored the workers as they came and left their assignments. Only a few weeks ago radicals had slipped through the scanners into the information dissemination cluster and sent terrible thoughts out to the whole colony. Riots occurred on three levels and the magistrate himself had authorized the released of over a thousand terra-quads of Bio-calm Metaflox into the air vents to get things back under corporate control…expensive. The fall out in Joe’s department had seen the removal of seven of his colleagues to the reclamation centers. Not even penitence before the oracle would save them. They had failed to do their work and the corporation would not tolerate incompetence. Thus Joe had been promoted to this newly formed department, “Oversight”. “Mistakes happen but not here” read the sign hanging from each screen. That was the first thing he noticed as he was led to his new placement.
Joe caressed the machine. He knew he needed the machine to make it through these difficult times and thoughts. Gently he set the gleaming metallic cylinder on his lap and felt the long tendrils wrap around his waist and lock into place behind him. The humming of the machine began to tap out the rhythmic beat it always made as it sent the long tube down his throat into his large intestine. “Thank you for choosing Metraxaal relief products”. Said the machine. Why do I do it? Thought Joe. The machine signaled yellow, then blue, and then green and the jolt hit Joe’s cerebral cortex with the force of a cannon shot! Every nerve of Joe’s body quivered with the sheer ecstasy of it! That's why! It was cheap...just two days off his total lifespan. Forty eight measly hours of banality in trade for this euphoric feeling, something he could get whenever he wanted it, whenever he needed it. Something within his control, something that felt really good.

As consciousness slowly reclaimed his body Joe eased the tube out of his mouth, carefully wiping the bile from the long slender tube and easing the tendrils off his waist and back into the machine. It was his decision after all. His life, his and nobody else', Not even the companies.

Like always the machine thanked Joe and reminded him that his account now totaled one year three months and twelve days and according to his bio-feed he would have to report to reclamation center one ninety five for life extraction on July 12th,2023, at twelve thirty P.M.

Plenty of time, thought Joe, maybe he would have another session later that day. Maybe even two… he would feel good again. What the hell, life is short.


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