Harbinger of Afterkey – part 1

Maureen

 

A gentle breeze flows from the bay. Air is fresh from last night’s rain. The early morning is full of hour’s buzz.. people-people everywhere. Too many people for Maureen’s liking.

Suddenly she stops in her tracks. Did she forgot something home? Or maybe something she needed to do? Did she heard a scream.. or was it just a memory. Her feet start again dragging along the well known path to work. Something feels off in her mind, or is it her inner feeling, long hidden in every woman since day one, that something which tells them what’s good or bad, that mute voice like a surviving instinct strong enough to guide them even when they seem distracted, but also that weak inner bugger which makes men miss it altogether. That instinct feeling, part of every woman’s arsenal of invisible weapons, it unwillingly whispers into Maureen’s body something is not round this morning. She’s struggling to find the non-round issue, to catch the not-there-yet item which is eluding her senses, to see it within her.

The mobile buzzes at the back of her jeans. She’s ignoring it undisturbed. It’s that time of
day when all the support emails are coming over and at the moment this is a distraction, yessir a big nosir. I’m on my time goddamit, not in the office yet! her inner voice says. Once this thought of hers ends a burst of guilty feeling creeps in; the mobile is meant to do just that since it was given on her first working day by her boss. Back then that seemed like the finest catch. Wowsir, a just released iPhone on a company plan. As always this’ll always go by the idiom ‘no good deed goes unpunished’, or alike.. thing is.. she’s feeling this mobile now like a blackish flat stone which is distracting her desire to catch the source of that sensation.. thought.. solution.. or problem?! Which one is it!

It must be another support reporting issue. Oh boy I’m sure as hell am sick about them
reports. Who’d have thought I’ll be writing that much nada code about data reports, such a brain drainer this ugly job is.. after that Artificial Intelligence course I’ve so much enjoyed last year in Uni, I’m now doing the mundane-st of them all.. reporting. Oh, and what was Joke saying last night about that AI’s findings of his, some 24 x 7 x Multi OS daemon! Very interesting idea actually, boy he’s so smart, at times I’m plainly in awe with his mind and it’s power. At times I just feel lost near him.

Of all the students he was the one who had answers to all the questions, who took all exams with no mistake, who finished learning before us, masses, even began. Like he’s already known it all; seen it all; sniffed it all; what the… And he was likable too, just that all other colleagues were really afraid of him. I wasn’t thou, not back then and not now; maybe even more now since I broke that ice of his, that annoying speaking defect he likes to hide under, the we’s and me’s, but once he’s in intimacy he’s all but normal. Yessir! Oh wow, am I falling for him?

I remember the first days in Uni, the girls already bitching about the nerdiest guy of them all, the rounds were going he was the one who’d teach the teachers. Bitches would point to him as ‘the tall blond guy with rebellious hair and deep ocean blue eyes who’s almost always smiling, ‘due to his superiority of course’. Such was the fear of him, even before the first course together, that we’re all more afraid of what he might do to us than the guy at the front who was the teacher. I mean, come on! So I said to myself I’ve got to know this guy, somehow he didn’t seem that scary to me. Just another nerd, if you were to listen to people, although not much of one to me. He’s into sport as well, basketball player I believe, and the other boys don’t have anything bad to say either.. he drinks, swears, spits just like the regular John. Well, almost, his name is Joke. In saying that, it’s like I’m telling a big joke.. “Hey girl do you wanna hear a joke about Joke!” Hmm.. not funny.

Then, since that AI course he’s had a new sparkle in his eyes.. like he discovered the
Computing Perpetuum Mobile.. and maybe he did. If anyone was supposed to, then it’ll be him.
Definitely him.. the new Einstein.

So, he used to manage hundreds of lines of program code over an afternoon, once he did several thousands over the night and the result was a perfectly working program, well, I’m no tester myself and weren’t really looking for bugs, but we were all able to comprehend what was underneath the surface and oh boy what a Beut! But that was back in the last days of Uni, one mortal year back, and since then we’ve only rekindled occasionally.. apart from yesterday that is. So what could his mind botch in 1 year! That’s the scary part, could it be the 24 x 7 x Multi OS daemon! I think so.

Yesterday he seemed to have the Perpetuum Mobile in his back pocket, nicely wrapped up, over and done with. Although it looked like he also knew what’s the best use of it. I mean ok I’m scared about something and then I’m also gonna to be scared about my goddamn scariness. What the fuck! In the same time the nice thing I noticed was that he didn’t seem to mind about his AI archaeology digging too much, what he cared was me.. really me.. as in me-Maureen, not me-Whomever-girl. He’s just so sweet.. oops, nice nobody can’t read my mind!

Ever since high school finished I felt free: (a) done with all the sophomores and juniors, (b) done preoccupying over my shirt too short or too long to other kids liking, ( c) done making all the swimming teams, (d) done thinking why nobody really likes me.. now all that shit is out of the way and I can listen certain music and study certain academic matters with a degree of interest I could’ve never managed whilst in loony-high-school.

Joke and me have had our first ice-cream together near some place were Classic 60s was playing and discovered we both enjoyed the ‘Sir Douglas Quintet’ band, and I thought I’m the only freak in town with such tastes.. no Ludacris or Usher fan myself, no hip-hop or dance fan either, just clicked to the old plain rock and roll. We were both born in the 60s but somehow this hasn’t stopped us to unveil the music of ‘Byrds’ and ‘Elvis’, ‘Yardbirds’ or ‘Troggs’, come on, you must remember these lyrics from back then:
‘Wild thing
You make my heart sink
You make it everything
Wild thing’

Last night I wanted to hear again the ‘Sir Douglas Quintet’ just to relive the atmosphere
with Joke near me but I was distracted by something.. like something was watching over me.. in my room. Which is spooky enough..

Maureen’s mind is back struggling to diagnose the source of that off feeling, and the mobile keeps buzzing in her back pocket. Get lost! she mutters.

Something catches the corner of her eye. She stops. A billboard which yesterday pictured a big men’s watch, today she believed was saying “Hi’s there!”. She tilts her head slowly to her right, secretly hoping to see Joke making a joke, but the same men’s watch of yesterday peaks at her.
What was that about? Get yourself together Maureen!

Another two corners and she’ll see the Compendium Ltd. office’s entrance, her place of daily grunt.. well, reporting work mostly. She has an idea, her iPhone reflective protective screen serves up nicely as a mirror; a nice accessory to sneak up behind her to check if somebody’s following. She grabs the iPhone and pretends to flick through, then closes it and watches on the mirror screen the street left behind.. cars, people, coffee shops and the traffic lights.. nothing out of ordinary apart from the traffic lights all being synchronized on Green. The “Hi’s there” keeps coming back in her mind while crossing another street on yet another Green.. Nice one again! mutters to herself without reflecting what’s the probability that all the traffic lights to become green right when she’s ready to cross. She did stop occasionally.. bought a Late, grabbed the ‘Interior Design’ magazine, peaked through several windows.. stopped occasionally to deal with the cipher of her thoughts.

With the iPhone still in her hand she steps through the Office’s revolving door prepared to swipe her access card through the reading device near the second row of doors. Her mind is distracted and not really present. The door opens while the reading device prints ‘Card AcKnowledged’ on the little screen and this reflects on the phone’s reflective screen. At the same moment iPhone’s messenger pops up with the last incoming alert, subject being ‘AK is ready and willing’.

Her eyes do not notice the new message pop-up, something more daunting presses at her temples, something bad enough to make her not wanna know about it.

 

Part 2 of this story is here

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