Author: Stuart Watson
Overtime became mandatory. The “client” (no one knew who, whether nation or corporation or social medium) had insisted that they move their original deadline forward. Something about a solution to climate change.
Ben told Phil and the others about the “product rush.”
“Home time is canceled,” he said. “Sleep under your desks.”
Phil supervised five N-Bs (“NoBodies” they joked). He had a boss, who had a boss, and so on. He called his wife.
Sarah started to cry. “Use your toy,” he said.
They needed to deliver their drones in a week. They believed in their mission, worked as if possessed, shipped two days early. Ben called Phil to his office.
“Great work,” he said. “The client is elated. They’ve ordered thousands more.”
But there was a problem. The strain had prompted three second-level bosses to quit. Just quit. Stood up and walked out. No exit interview, no notice, nada, zip, zilch.
Phil saw a chance to move up. Ben agreed that Phil deserved promotion. But his boss hadn’t authorized direct hires or advancements. The pressure had forced several team leaders like Phil to quit. In a perverse bureaucratic twist, Ben was authorized to hire the quitters back as higher-level bosses.
“You’re shitting me,” Phil said. “You can’t just promote me? I have to quit so you can rehire me to supervise my replacement?”
“You really deserve it,” Ben said. “Think about it.”
So Phil quit. Two days later, he called Ben.
“Can I apply?”
“Sorry, but H.R. says all those positions have been euthanized,” Ben said.
Phil sat at his desk, holding his head. He could hear his pulse. A buzzing circled his inner skull, like motorcycles on a banked motordrome.
Phil realized the buzzing came from outside, like rain from above, a sprinkle to a downpour. As it did, the midday sun started to fade. He looked out the window. Overhead, the sky had shrunk to an oval pool of light, darkness doming downward toward the horizon.
The pool grew smaller.
A swarm of drones blanketed the sky, drawing tight the horizons, like the purse string on a fishing seine, slowly cutting off escape. Less and less sunlight leaked through. Temperatures dropped. Global warming came to a halt, slipped slowly into reverse.
Phil felt himself grow faint, struggling to take in his shrunken share. Beneath the drone canopy, no sunlight, no photosynthesis, no oxygen.
He went looking for his wife. She was in bed.
He lay near her. The buzzing grew louder. Not outside. Inside, beneath the blanket. He waited until his wife finished with her toy, then reached for her.