Fiction Science Fiction Speculative

Manny’s alarm goes off at 5:30am, just like it does every day. 

He hops up from his bed, brushes his teeth, shaves his face and head, and takes a hot shower, just like he does every day.

He opens the closet doors and selects the singular gray coverall jumpsuit, a specifically designed uniform for plastic manufacturers, hanging in the back. He places his used pajamas in the laundry chute, turns towards the door, and reaches for his toolbelt hanging on the hook to complete his uniformed look, but something stops him in his tracks.

Not something, though, more like nothing.

A nothing that is usually a something, but today, for the first time, is a nothing.

He almost didn’t notice it, the nothing, but because his morning routine has remained unchanged every day for the past twenty years, when a something becomes a nothing, he notices.

Every other day, when Manny places his pajamas in the laundry chute, he hears them slide all the way down thirty-two floors, scraping the sides of the narrow chute, and plopping into the industrial hamper in the basement for daily laundry services provided by the building.

But today, he notices, the slide sounded much shorter, perhaps only making it down one floor, or two.

He finds a flashlight on his toolbelt, still hanging on the back of the bedroom door, and looks down the chute to find a blockage of other apartments’ clothes piled up throughout the chute.

If Manny owned a broom, he could force it down there to free the clothes, then perhaps he would have his clean pair of pajamas waiting on his bed tonight when he returned home from work. However, he does not have a broom because he does not maintain his own apartment, so he trusts that someone else has already alerted the building attendant and they are aware of the problem. 

They would already be working tirelessly to clear the laundry chute and push the dirty clothes through so that he and his neighbors would have fresh pajamas folded and awaiting them on the bed when they return from work.

What Manny doesn’t know, is that Brittany is unregistered and did not undergo the cerebral microchip procedure. Therefore, her free will remains untamed, and her lifestyle is completely unregulated. Because of this, Brittany ate something strange last night that made her feel sick, so she did not show up to work today and now the laundry is piling up from the basement all the way to the thirtieth floor of the chute, and no one will have pajamas awaiting them when they return from work.

But more on this in a bit… Let’s check back in on Manny…

Manny buckles and tightens his toolbelt around his waist, feels his stomach growl, and walks to the kitchen for his standardized breakfast. 

He opens the cabinet to find the last package of steel-cut oats in an otherwise empty carboard box inside the otherwise empty cabinet. 

He folds the cardboard into a small square and places it in the overflowing recycling bin stacked atop the previously folded milk carton from yesterday’s breakfast.

The milk carton. 

Now he will have to use water with his oats instead of milk.

Manny opens the refrigerator to find the last bottle of water in the middle of the otherwise bare shelf. 

Manny closes the refrigerator door to confirm the date on the calendar pinned to the front.

July 17th.

A shipment should have arrived two days ago, and the recycling should have been taken out with yesterday’s routine maintenance sweep while he was at work. But for the first time in Manny’s life, the monthly supply shipment is late, and the recycling bin is overflowing. 

What Manny doesn’t know is that Keith, the building’s new attendant, has been on leave this week because he is an unchipped citizen who felt overwhelmed by his home-life decisions and work obligations and requested a week off without pay to sort things out.

Because of Keith’s selfishness, the entire building is behind on their daily housing maintenance, and the monthly supply shipments have gathered in his office with no one available to deliver them until he returns.

But we will get back to Keith in a moment. For now, let’s see how Keith’s decisions have interrupted the flow of an otherwise lovely day for Manny…

Manny opens the refrigerator again and stares at the bottle of water on the empty shelf in the empty fridge. Then he stares at the packet of steel-cut oats in his hand.

If Manny’s individualized, regulated diet had multiple breakfast choices, or if Keith had shown up to work to deliver the apartments’ monthly shipments, or even if the city’s water was more suitable for drinking, perhaps he would have been spared the decision he would now be forced to make. For, making a decision, would mean Manny would have to weigh the options and variable outcomes. 

Should he choose to use his last bottle of water on his oats, he may not have enough water to take with him to work. Knowing the factory provides one bottle of water per worker per day during their scheduled lunch break, even in the sweltering temperature of the plastic melting heat rays because of the water shortage across the country, should he choose to waste his water on the morning oats, he could pass out from dehydration or die of a heatstroke. Or perhaps, without the extra water, Manny’s blood pressure could drop, deeming him unfit to work. He could lose his job, and with it: the security of housing, supply shipments, regular maintenance, and laundry. Without these securities, he could die of thirst or hunger in only a matter of days…

On the other hand, should he avoid making the oats, he could save the water for work, but he would be hungry until lunch. Knowing the factory provides his regularly scheduled lunch sustenance of one ham sandwich and one bag of chips along with his one bottle of water, Manny could be undernourished, and his blood sugar could drop, deeming him unfit for work. He might pass out before he even gets to lunch, which could put the factory behind on their shipments, meaning water plants around the country might not have enough bottles in which to store and ship their water, which could mean hundreds of people around the world may go without water, which could be the tipping point in an already global war for fresh, water. His ineptest in decision making could mean the end of the world as we know it.

Either way, he cannot count on the supply shipment arriving today, because as we know, Keith’s selfishness has triggered a week off regular routines throughout the building, so it’s possible Manny could return home and have nothing to eat or drink for dinner. Unless, of course, he should decide to save the oats and the water, but that would mean going hungry until lunch or risk passing out from dehydration. 

So, you can understand why Manny is stuck with his refrigerator door open, and a packet of oats in his hand. A decision that you may think is simple, is no small task for Manny, or for anyone else in his apartment building, city, state, or country.

This is why our government implemented the inhibiting cerebral microchip in combination with monthly supply shipments, regular housing maintenance, and strict routine guidelines for all their registered, working citizens. Striping away the rudimentary decisions of everyday life, allows the individual to focus their mental capacity on productivity, invention, and creation.

Our studies show that in the past, when an individual was given too many choices, their brains were overwhelmed by the abundance of decisions that had to be made. Scientists and mathematicians of the time have indicated upwards 35,000 decisions every day for ONE individual!

Decisions like:

“Should I buy white bread, wheat bread, or gluten free?”

“Should I wear shorts, pants, skirts, or leggings?”

“Should I dye my hair blonde or red?”

“Should I grow a beard or only a mustache?”

Can you imagine!

These choices, when given enough contemplation, turned into larger problems that exhausted the citizens' energy supply and, more often than not, sent them spiraling, unable to cope or take responsibility for the decisions they have made, will make, or might make in the future. 

“Should I buy white bread, wheat bread, or gluten free?” turned into, “Well, I know white bread is unhealthy for me, and wheat or multigrain is supposed to be better as it has more fiber and less processing, but recently gluten free has been trending and although my physicians never explicitly told me I have a gluten allergy, I do feel as though it helps with my overall inflammation and digestion, but white bread is so much cheaper and better tasting.”

With decisions based on cost or taste over sustenance and individualized diets, people like Brittany might eat something that was not good for them, causing their bodies to act out in cramping, nausea, vomiting and in some cases, death.

Let’s look at another one…

“Should I wear shorts, pants, skirts, or leggings?” turned into, “I want to be comfortable at work, but it is supposed to be hot outside today, but the air conditioning at work is always on full blast, but I am planning on eating outside later today and I don’t want to be too hot, and I cannot wear a skirt because the forecast calls for wind, but will I look too unprofessional in leggings even though they are the only things that suck my stomach in and don’t make me look too fat to find a suitable partner at work since I am too busy to find one outside of my work-life?”

Again, you can understand how even the seemingly smallest of decisions can take up an excessive amount of mental capacity. 

With relentless anxiety about how minuscule decisions might affect their image, health, relatability, likability, popularity, and so on, citizens were in a constant state of exhaustion, high blood pressure, and stress, or what we could now identify as: survival mode.

This fight or flight, survival mode instinct kicked in across the nation. These fatigued citizens, like Keith, refused to take their place in society because they were too burdened with the pressures that come with moral responsibility. They were too worn-out from the small details and decisions of their mundane lives to do anything extraordinary in their chosen careers or maintain the equilibrium of the world around them.

It is due to the greediness of free will from people like Brittany and Keith that our country’s water and food supplies have become outsourced and polluted. When given the choice to recycle or not, these unregistered inhabitants chose the easy way out and we were forced to pay the costs of their egocentrism.

That is… until the government’s inhibiting microchip replaced our selfish tendencies with capacity for global compassion.

Now, with the decision-making process out of the way, good citizens like you or Manny, here, have a chance at a noble work ethic and a successful, happy life. 

You will no longer waste time at the grocery store shopping and swirling over which products to choose because our food sensitivity tests determine the most nutritious meal for your body and our monthly shipments save time on shopping so you can focus on what you really love!

You will no longer need to worry about which outfits look best on you because your predetermined employment uniform looks great on everyone! 

You don’t even need to lose sleep over finding the right partner anymore because our algorithmic love applications can find a suitable, microchipped partner for you without you ever taking time out of your busy, productive schedules to meet!

Gone are the days of anxiety and ambivalence. Say hello to the new, state of the art state of mind!

With just one simple procedure, you can be on your way to living a care-free, anxiety-free life. 

Oh, and did we mention it’s completely FREE?

That’s right! Not only that, but once you have your registered cerebral microchip installed, you will no longer need to worry about medical bills, making ends meet, or sustainable lifestyles. We have everything you need to take your mind off of… well, your mind!

Don’t be selfish like Brittany and Keith. Join your rightful place in society by getting out of your own head to enjoy the things you’ve always wanted. 

By this time tomorrow, you could be living your new, best life!

July 21, 2022 16:06

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Solana L.
15:34 Aug 18, 2022

This was a very clever story, especially for the contest prompt it was submitted for! I loved the transition from Manny to the cerebral microchip, something I was not expecting. Great story!


Hilary R. Glick
18:25 Aug 18, 2022

Thank you so much for reading!


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