Sunday 19th April
Back to Eymet for barely three days. I will write about France again soon but for the moment this will have to do…
When we left Janek a few days ago he had just finished his third journal entry on his secret laptop. He was totally unaware that he was being observed. But someone was watching. Back then in good old 2066 someone was always watching….
[Janek closes the laptop, almost forgetting to close the document, before he is reminded by the little grey box asking him if he wants to save it. We got rid of that nonsense decades ago; now any com-unit doesn’t need to ask such a silly question. Everything is saved automatically as soon as is it created and every time it is amended too, and more importantly – nothing is delete-able, everything is forever. Every command, every nod, every flicker of the eyes, every word whispered or shouted is here forever. Harboured, lovingly stored, safe, and saved for eternity.
I am watching Janek in backtrack, zooming in to read on his actual laptop screen, blurred and at an angle the words he has just written. I keep returning time and again to watch him, even though I have the full transcript in front of me. I cannot seem to stop myself, it is really fascinating watching him, even if it is in backtrack mode. The words on their own tell only half the story. It is as if seeing him, even in 2d without holo-tech I am getting closer to the man. Humans are all so elusive, multi-faceted, complex and contradictory, that it is hard to pin them down, to really understand what they are thinking, but I believe in Janek’s case I am beginning to understand. Understand, not empathise; I must make that clear. Pleased do not begin to imagine for a moment that my attempt to understand excuses his digressions in any way.
Janek looks around, listening hard, just in case. But no, his wife is fast asleep, dreaming sweet product-filled dreams he is sure. Janek had woken at three in the morning, and had lain in the bed for ten minutes with his eyes wide open, wondering whether to get up and switch on the machine. He didn’t move a muscle, just laying there, eyes open but not moving. Wondering if the words would still be there; he can still remember writing them, but not exactly what he said. It doesn’t really matter anyway, the content was almost unimportant to him. Janek insists to himself it is the doing of the thing not what he is saying that is important.
Some of us may beg to differ.
But nothing has happened for three days; no little message on his screen asking him to speak to his supervisor; no polite reminder to ask him if he has read and agrees with compolicy. This is of course a sure-fire way to trap guilty people, if they blink the yes box, then they know that they may have transgressed in some way, maybe so tiny that they haven’t even noticed, although undoubtedly we will have. So, by admitting that they agree to compolicy they are admitting that any possibly ‘innocent’ transgression should have been avoided and is now compounded by their complicity. If they were ever stupid enough to blink no, then their transgression is two-fold as the main condition of their employment, besides turning up for work every day, is that they agree to compolicy.
We like to think we have thought things through thoroughly.
But no – no messages at all. And Janek works on steadily, even more assiduously than normal; his hit rate is up about 7% on most days. Not too high to raise eyebrows, but undoubtedly a good day at the office, and one which I, his ultimate employer, will approve of. Even as we record his almost indecipherable jottings and his rapid eye-movements we still cannot work out quite how he does it. The smartest hypercoms cannot spot any pattern in his detection of these minute irregularities. If it were that easy a computer would have worked it out years ago, but somehow, almost like water divination, Janek seems to be able to spot or maybe sense that a number is wrong, or suspect in some way. And he is right about 20% of the time, which given the millions of digits flying past on his four screen matrix is quite amazing.
In the rest room he chats a bit too much with a couple of colleagues, everyone on this floor is involved in some sort of com-analysis, and in general are a pretty nerdy bunch. Slight misfits; those who prefer not to talk unless spoken to, the shy, the diffident ones, the ones who always felt a bit substandard at crammer, the ones who have difficulty in sustaining any long-term relationships. Some have given up any real contact with other people at all, preferring to live alone and use the porn channels and syn anonymity to any human touch. But Janek isn’t one of those, he is ‘happily’ married, he is far more normal, and after a hard day searching and running numbers and symbols past his brain he likes to chat, even if it is just about a book he is reading, or some music he particularly likes at the moment.
Lying in bed, he wonders if he has been dreaming all along, and in a minute he will wake up and realise that it has all been nonsense, the imagined whimsy of a fifty-five year old who really should have known better. At least in that case he wouldn’t have to worry, he could just carry on with his life, rather than this paranoia, this constant fear that he will be discovered. But no, he is wide awake and sweating again (three times the average male secretion, for the record) and it never was a dream.
We later discovered that he had spent weeks of waking in the sleeping hours and waiting until the familiar sounds of his wife’s sleepy snuffles and the occasional swishing of tyres on the road outside told him it was safe to get up. He worked night after night on converting the laptop, remembering all those old lessons in IT when he was a teenager, adapting it to run on micro-power and restoring its ram and re-configuring the hard drive so that it wasn’t connected in any way, dismantling the auto-wireless connectors and cleaning the stuck down and broken keys so that he could type. He was good, it was completely undetectable. He test-drives it a couple of times, just using notepad, and deleting each sentence straightaway, then he hides it away every night, behind all that old camping stuff they never use anymore in the tiny third bedroom that is mostly used as a store these days. He wraps the grey laptop in three black disposer sacs and places it in the metal camping cooker box, leaving the reversible grill on top. To a casual eye, even to our hi-res-surv-cams, it looks just like some old bits of camping gear. Then he tucks the metal cooker box under the super-lightweight inflatable tent which he, Cathy and the kids used to take to France each year back in the forties. His routine is quite hypnotic, no matter how many times I re-watch him he always does it exactly the same way.
They stopped those little excursions when the kids got to their teens and didn’t want to go camping anymore, but sometimes Janek misses those holidays when they had no set itinery, no plans at all, just driving where the fancy took them, stopping at small campsites and inflating the tent, and cooking out in the open air. He misses that overwhelming feeling of freedom, out in the fields, away from the masses. Now they holiday in exclusive bubble resorts, in West Africa or maybe Iran or Burma. He leaves it to Cathy to choose, she craves the sunshine more than he does, and is quite happy to just sit around the whirlpools, read gossmags and sip drinks all day. He would rather explore what is left of their individual cultures, he especially likes all the old buildings and temples.
He loves the feeling of solitude and contemplation and the cold stone walls and high vaulted ceilings, the frescoes and the intricate carvings of an earlier age. He wonders what devotional madness drove these people to spend so much time and effort on objects of worship to a god of which there was no rational proof of existence, just centuries of unquestioning belief. He wonders where this belief comes from, is it just indoctrination, the words passed down from generation to generation and never questioned, or is it something deeper. Or am I imagining all this, as I re-play again and again these sometimes blurry images of Janek’s life, trying to understand what he was thinking, what might have turned him into the reb he is fast becoming? Is there a hint in his fascination with earlier religions? In the rational world he inhabits that sort of belief is fading fast. Scientific discoveries are leapfrogging each other; the origins of the Galaxy, the nature of matter itself, the beginning and ever growing tendrils of the Moebius strip-like convoluted Universe, the incredibly complex details of atoms are all becoming clearer and better understood.
Consequently there is less and less room for the Unexplained, which is at the core of belief and faith itself. Mankind did not comprehend so they turned to ‘god’ to explain the unexplainable; but now as more and more secrets are revealed, and the physics of the Universe are being revealed by the day there is no room for ‘god’. Or no room for him to hide from human gaze anymore; there is rapidly becoming no place left for ‘god’ to exist except in the minds of a few stubborn individuals who refuse to accept the truth. But Janek is no secret believer either; he has no delusions about religion though he does wonder what drove people to build Cathedrals and Temples to such unseen and unknowable entities. Almost as now he considers, where we have built an edifice of sustainable wealth governed and controlled by Hypercoms that are just as unknowable and just as unseen. But, he constantly wonders to himself, who is behind the edifice, who is controlling the computers? Or so I like to think as I watch my little Janek running round and round in his little world. Of course I am watching in back-track, not real-time, but fascinating even so.
Unfortunately for him he may have let his mind stray into places he would have been far more content to have ignored. If only he could just enjoy his life – that is what it is there for, after all. Enjoyment and procreation are the only two possible meanings of existence. For most species it is simply procreation, the passing on of genetic code, the slow unravelling and replication of atoms so that the programme, the code can continue. The mammals were the first group of animals to actually experience enjoyment as a thing itself, rather than a consequence or a side-effect of survival. And humans managed to refine this into an art-form. But a contradictory one at that; enjoyment, that most un-definable of states, is constantly being self-analysed. And therein lays its downfall, as soon as you start to examine enjoyment it dissolves like sugar in your morning cup of tea. Just drink it and enjoy it while it is there – try to work out why it tastes so nice and the flavour starts to pall.
And so it is with Janek’s life at this stage. For now he cannot relax his brain enough to simply enjoy all the wonderful benefits of our society. He is a deeply troubled soul and one we will soon be forced to deal with.]