The steady tapping of the keyboard was the constant companion to my ears these days. When I dare to take a second’s respite, even the muted sound broke through the thick, material booth that was meant to segregate us all from each other. No communication, no chance for discontent; take the cards you were dealt and keep your head down. This was the way they wanted us. Docile. Hopeless. The perfect workers to fuel the idea of a perfect empire.
Since countries around the world had decided that enough was enough, that the constant protests and disruption didn’t actually need to be tolerated, life had become extremely hard for the regular, common person. Of course, if you had money, the world resumed as normal. You stayed in your mansions, reaped the rewards of what us lesser beings toiled to bring to your gilded feet. But for us, the ones who had to work to eat, work to survive, life had changed forever. Any wasted time at the workplace was treated without delay, instant dismissals becoming the norm without the right to even appeal. Workers unions were dissolved in days, even the most militant of lawyers no longer attempting to get justice for the wronged – too many are thrown out of court before it even began. Pensioners forced to live with their children as their state pensions were revoked and their houses lost. They never let the children starve, though. They never let any potential workers go hungry, lest productivity be harmed. But something had rocked the boat. Something had brought a form of tension into their precious order.
The night before, on the T.V channels we were actually permitted to watch, news had emerged that seemed within their guidelines, until it wasn’t. Starting with a flicker, the dull looking news reporter distorted on my screen, bringing a lash of fear in to my heart at the thought of affording another television. But then he solidified again. Then totally disappeared. In his place was dark figure, shockingly contrasted against a bright white background. The figure spoke, raspy voice almost robotic with its masking technology overlapping its true sound. It didn’t suppress the words, however; those were the most dangerous words I had listened to in a long time.
“Citizens of the shackled world, are you happy with your lot? Are you content to live beneath the feet of your employers? Under the yoke of the elite, whose only claim to their superiority is the fact that they have money, when you do not? I’m here to tell you something that our parents knew, that our grandparents knew. THEY CANNOT KEEP US DOWN. Their laws, their rules, their money mean nothing if we don’t let them. Billions of us are unhappy, forced to live in almost slavery, whilst they live the good life in their mansions. I’m here to tell you to do one thing... Stand up.”
It was that point that the figure was ripped from my screen, and I closed my mouth from its involuntary lapse of control. Words like those hadn’t been written in years, let alone said on national television; it took me a while to pull myself together after that, squash the dreaded feeling that I'd begun to feel blossoming in my chest: Hope. That emotion wasn’t practical, these days. They had complete control, and the world knew it. But sat in that office booth, hearing the incessant tapping, the feeling made a slightly welcome appearance, bringing a glimmer of light in to my life of gloom. Did the others around me, whose names I did not know, feel the same way? Or were they that ingrained in to the regime that they didn’t dare to believe? Just like I am, despite this welcome feeling. A quick burst of static through the roof speakers was my only warning before the droning of the announcement broke through the tapping for one blessed moment.
“Ahem,” it started, a cough that wasn’t meant to clear the throat of the speaker, only to alert the peasants that we needed to listen. “Beloved employee’s, our esteemed CEO will be making an appearance in the office in the next few minutes, you know how to act in his presence. Do NOT shame this branch or the consequences will be severe.”
Abruptly the speaker crackled out, as usual. Message delivered; they wouldn’t dirty themselves by carrying on speaking to us. Keeping that same divide. The announcement brought a low murmuring through the booths, quickly quelled to avoid the imminent pay deductions for wasting of time. Although the tension could be felt in the very loud silence that ensued, even the tapping done at a pace so as not to draw the ire of the most powerful person in their lives. Seemingly within seconds, rather than the minutes they’d been told, the ding of the lift punctured the office air, followed by voices we had only ever heard on videos and speakers. Alnor Sain, the CEO of Sain industries, one of the largest companies in the world, and the leech that I worked for. Usually, the sound of that voice inspired millions, including myself. But that’s the thing about the pesky emotion creeping in. Hope breeds more than just that, it allows you to dream, to think outside the box, to truly believe that life actually meant more than this. So, when that laugh grated on my ears, for the first time in my entire life, I felt more than just a regular sycophant who grovelled at my boss’ shoes. Then he spoke.
“Well, at least this establishment is still under control. Not that I'd expect anything more from people under my pay. Trained properly, like the beasts they are.”
Some laughter. More muttering, giving the room a steady thrum of underlying noise. Alnor didn’t notice, which made my anger build further.
“As if any real entrepreneur would allow people beneath him to disrespect them. Walk outs? Refusing to work without proper breaks? It’s as though we’re back in the old days!”
Laughter again, this time followed by more than just mutters. Choice words were uttered, in more than one language. The laughter was cut short, followed by a furious shout.
“Who said that?! You dare?!”
But the floodgates were opened, that hope had expanded in to much more, just as they’d feared. Bravery was the outcome, and people had had enough. Ask for me, I did the bravest thing that I'd ever done in my life. With my chest filled with righteous anger, I prepared for the change of the world. Taking a deep breath, I steeled myself.
Then I stood up.