7 point 2

“Remind me again why we’re in fucking Salt lake?”

“They rerouted us away from Chicago.”

“And why the fuck did we want to go to Chicago?”

“It’s the only way to get to Seattle”

“I wanted. To go to. Anchorage.”

“Calm down. Seattle is the only way to Anchorage from where we started.” Mr. Gray was getting tired of his younger supervisor’s attitude. The long delays and flights from the East Coast weren’t making it any easier.

“I’ll calm down when we fucking get there.” said Mr. Brown, emphatically.

“Well, that’s your right.” said Mr. Gray, not caring if it pissed his boss off more. He’d had enough of this shit. He walked off toward the phones and the restrooms.

This was getting old, of course. After 25 years of near constant and almost perfect service, he had to follow this jackass around and act like he gave a shit. It had been different, in the old days. When he had hit his stride in the early eighties, it had been a ton of fun. Investigate this, go deal with that. It was a great decade.

The nineties started to change things. The stuff just got weirder. More and more XFiles shit, if that were even close to the truth. Aliens, ancient civilizations buried beneath the water, odd happenings, and even the occasional miracle. He could deal with those. Stuff was just getting out of control, lately, though. Things were much less freaky-paranormal and much more sci-tech.

Take all this nano stuff, for instance. You’d think that the damn eggheads could keep it in the lab. From what he’d read, if it got out of control, it would start replicating all over the place, turning everything into undifferentiated piles of gray goo.

He ran his hand through his gray hair, wishing he had less of an imagination. If the nano tech that had gotten out in Alaska worked, it would be something he could deal with. It would infect a small population, take over the basic workings of their bodies, and make the programmed changes. No problem, he had the anti-code software to de-activate it all.

Now, if it DIDN’T work as advertised (and to think of it, what DID work as advertised THESE days?), how would you fight it? The anti-code wouldn’t do a damn thing. The tech would rampage, out of control, until the eggheads found a better coding solution. It was that or set off a damn nuke to create an EMP that would stop the tech dead it it’s little silicon tracks. Of course, it would also cause a few little other inconveniences, like killing him and the other 300,000 people in the city. Oh, and starting off a local version of nuclear winter that would make Alaska of now seem like fucking Miami.

It was just a bunch of shit. In the old days, if stuff stopped working, or your basic government experiment got out of control, you could punch it in the nose and make it stop in its tracks. Or you’d call in the Guard and have them riddle it with bullets. Ahh ,those were the days.

—-

Ralph put his lunch in the fridge, and went to his cubicle. He sold insurance as a tele-marketer, and hated every minute of it. He sat in his chair, and looked around at the posters and comic paraphernalia that cluttered up the walls of his daily little prison. A soul-sucking prison of rejection and hatred, slung at him across the telephone wires like imprisoning chains.

He spent the next two hours trying to get sales. He did ok for a commission based job. He could usually sound sad and dejected enough, or exciting and full or promise enough for the people on the line who didn’t actually hang up when the auto-answer software kicked him into the line.

He took his cigarette break like a dutiful drone, out back of the office. He listened to the sounds of the 101 freeway just beyond the screening hedge of ivy, trees, and chain link fence. The mini-mall held a dozen or so of these kinds of businesses, none of them actually dealing with the public. Which was ok with Ralph, as it let him ignore people. Yeah, he talked on the phone for a living, but it wasn’t as if they were breathing, living creatures with lives and such. Just one more number to add to the sales list, one more blank space in his universe. It paid the mortgage and the car payment and let him get his comics.

Reading about the heroes, with their colorful costumes and their even more colorful lives, didn’t make Ralph feel bad, the way his co-workers might think. He knew they thought he was a loser, just from the way they looked at him reading a book on his short lunch break in the dull, undecorated lunch room.

Reading about super-heroes was like opening up his world to possibility. Opening his mind to the potential of a million years of human evolution. He had a poster in his cubicle, said “I Want To Believe” with the near iconic grainy UFO picture covered over with a photocopied Superman. Ralph wanted to believe that mankind was worth saving, even if he had little insight into what made them tick. He wanted to believe that happiness was merely knowing right and wrong, kicking the bad guys in the ass, and finding the love of a beautiful woman through supernormal exploits.

Comics were simple things that gave Ralph joy. They were direct, honest, wish-fulfillment stories that carried much of the modern mythology of our society. Ralph wasn’t stupid, just depressed. He realized why he wanted to believe so much. He knew he was socially awkward; he knew that he’d never stop a train with his bare hands, or soar through the air to stop a hurtling meteor. He’d never foil a plot to destroy the universe, or a city in danger.

Yet he kept picking up the books. Kept spending all his disposable cash on them. Continued to leave them in shops, airports, libraries, and the like. Hoping to spread the love, spread the Word, spread the hope and belief that sustained him every day. because, honestly, what else was there?

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