Author : Grady Hendrix
Johnâ€™s antenna went up, his senses clicked into hyperdrive, adrenaline slammed through his veins: grilled chicken breast!
â€œReally?â€ he said.
â€œI picked it up at Fairway. You want to eat while we watch â€˜So You Think You Can Dance?â€™â€
TV during dinner? Eating off trays? It meant a blind drop. Charts, diagrams, lists of coded gestures unfolded in his mind. His mnemonic devices were always old, heavy paper with brittle edges and the solid feel of starched linen. In his mind, the light was always the warm organic glow of candlelight.
â€œSure. I donâ€™t know why weâ€™re watching, though. After Hok got voted off that show is dead to me.â€
Mira heard his Hok reference: her ready message acknowledged, he was primed.
They continued to chitchat while he got plates: the red ones. On top of the Signal Language they both knew, there was their own private code. The chicken was skinless, a low fat meal, this meant sheâ€™d had personal contact to receive this mission.
â€œDo you want wine?â€
â€œBut use the old glasses.â€
The old glasses, meaning the target would be revealed later. They talked to each other in gestures, and it was as clear as speaking. He thought it was as clear as speaking. But theyâ€™d never exactly worked out the meanings together because there had never been a time when they werenâ€™t being watched. Watchfulness was eternal because machines never slept. The TV was always pumping your image back to the buried engines, the bugs had always been in the walls, their doorman had always been reporting on them, they had always been reporting on their doorman. So they had worked out their secret language through trial and error and for one vertiginous moment he thought: what if Iâ€™ve got it all wrong. What if the old glasses mean something completely different?
â€œDo you think Laceyâ€™s got a big ass?â€
â€œI think Lacey tries too hard,â€ he said, as they ate off the coffee table.
Mira paid close attention to the order of the contestants and which one was assigned which call-in number. At the third commercial break she said, â€œDid you return Netflix?â€
He put his tray down.
â€œIâ€™ll do it now.â€
â€œYou donâ€™t have to. I just wanted to watch something tomorrow night and I think â€˜Dirty Pretty Thingsâ€™ is next in our queue.â€
He grabbed the Netflix envelopes and an umbrella.
â€œIâ€™ll be right back,â€ he said.
He waved to the doorman and walked to the mailbox. Listening devices, video cameras, pressure plates in the sidewalk, they surrounded him, here in the heart of the city, in the heart of the enemy. He dropped the envelopes in the mailbox and on his way home, he opened the umbrella. It was broken. He left it, upside down, jammed in a trash can on the corner, sending a secret signal out into the city, waiting to be seen by someone he had never met, another soldier in the invisible army. He never looked back. You had to take this war on faith.