Two [The Coworker]

9.1K 409 421

Harry's athletic shoes hit every other step as he takes the stairs two at a time in a hurry to reach the platform to catch his train, his body squeaking between the closing glass doors and opting to grip the railing above his head for balance rather than finding a seat. He isn't one for smalltalk and he finds that people are less likely to strike up conversation with him when he's standing with his large, intimidating headphones smothering his ears.

The walls of the trains are lined with television screens playing all varying stages of advertisement and programs, news channels boasting propaganda and lies, debates and arguing - coupled with children's shows to keep the younger crowd on the train occupied and quiet. Harry glances around the jammed car once before adjusting his hood to cover his peripheral vision, reaching his hand into his back pocket to click the volume up on his headphones. He closes his eyes and the image of the mangled dead heap of a bird pops up behind his eyelids, his fingers gripping the handrail even tighter when he remembers the sound of the crack when his neck broke in the dream.

It's rush hour, albeit most people are rushing home at this time whereas his day is just getting started. He works the dinner shift at a lavish five-star restaurant in the heart of downtown, no dress code necessary since not a single customer lays eyes on him in the back corner of the kitchen. He spends eight hours six evenings a week rinsing off dishes then loading them into the sanitizer to bleach and unloading them to be used by the kitchen staff all over again. Eight hours of monotonous work that a robot can do but honestly, it couldn't make him any happier.

He does his job exceptionally well; moving as quickly as a machine and cleaning just as accurately, keeping to himself and creating zero drama amongst the staff members. He shows up when he is supposed to, never calls out sick and requires minimal interference in order to maintain his position. Harry thrives on the structure, order and consistency of a dependable schedule; it is how he functions best and is grateful to have it in at least one area of his life, the one that matters the most to the rest of the world - the waking life.

The restaurant owner allows him to work his shifts with his headphones planted firmly on his head as he stands hunched over the sink, his hair falling into his face or tucked inside of a beanie. He is allocated one thirty-minute break five hours into his shift and is allotted one shift meal a night, of which he usually opts to devour a cucumber and tomato sandwich from a plate in the unlit alleyway behind the restaurant with his back perched up against the brick wall. His jaw working the food between his teeth, chewing as if he were starving as he looks up at the small sprinkling of stars in the sky that are visible through the crack between the buildings, the rest of the galaxy muted due to light pollution and distance.

The train hovers above traffic from the sturdy cable system overhead, Harry's vision drawn to the massive crystal clear windows to watch the animated city zip by as the train carves it's way through the streets. Mostly every single passenger has their sight glued to the screens above their heads or to the devices in their palms, but Harry has never been interested in the instant satisfaction of flickering technology, it strains his eyes and aches his forehead. Everything about widespread mass media feels contrived and artificial, as if he were watching a caricature of society through a screen rather than the actuality of it. Bleached teeth and a contrived cheering studio audience, disingenuous smiles and a forced plot, unnaturally well-timed retorts and a distorted sense of ego.

The reality of humankind was sitting around him; crammed onto benches and stuffed like sausage meat into casing, oblivious and uninterested in their habitat and surroundings. It saddens him that he feels no connection or trust to both the images that are force-fed down everyone's throats via virtual reality and also the flesh and blood neighboring him. He feels too much, he knows too much. It's just safer this way - to be an outlier, to live in seclusion, to be his own confidant.

Kismet [H.S.]Read this story for FREE!