Displaced, p.1

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  Steve Harvey

  Published by Steve Harvey at Smashwords

  Copyright 2017 Steve Harvey

  Smashwords edition, License Notes

  This eBook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This eBook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your favourite eBook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.


  Chapter 1 - Displacement

  Chapter 2 – A lost life

  Chapter 3 – The Camps

  Chapter 4 -Losing hope

  Chapter 5 – A light at the end of the tunnel

  Chapter 6 – All gone to hell

  Chapter 7 – Worse than hell

  Chapter 8 – Life’s end

  Chapter 9 - Perspective

  Chapter 1 - Displacement

  As the only passenger on the bus Ian sat in the front row with his brief case on the seat next to him. A drop of rain ran down the outside of the window and following this with his eyes Ian thought that this was a fair representation of his life in the last few weeks, a seemingly unstoppable downward spiral as if in the grip of a strong gravitational force. His life as it had been was now behind him and a new life awaited him at the end of the journey. There was no use in speculating about what would happen; as far as he knew no-one ever came back from the camps to describe things there. It may be the end or something worse. ‘How long to the camp?’ he asked the companion driver. ‘Fifteen minutes and forty-two seconds.’ The driver said without looking around, very precise and with a companion’s lack of emotion. Returning to his own thoughts Ian ran through the events of the day in his mind, from his short talk with his boss to boarding the bus to the camps.

  The day started off as usual, a bus ride to the office, through security and upstairs to the first floor office he shared with eight other members of the department. A cold shiver ran down his spine as he saw that his desk was missing. His so-workers avoided his glance and seemed not to notice his arrival. He had heard that when people were destined for the camps that they were essentially made to vanish in some Orwellian fashion, never to be spoken of again. Being confronted with this reality left him in shock and he just stood in the entrance clutching his briefcase with white knuckles as though to make sure it too did not disappear. His boss Graham appeared and took his arm, leading him into his office. The rest of the staff seemed to be pretending to work and not to notice what was happening.

  Ian knew what was coming, he was to lose his job, his flat and be transported to the camps. Graham asked him to sit down and offered a cup of tea. With a sick feeling in his stomach and a strong sense of unreality Ian sat down clutching his briefcase to his chest. ‘As you are aware,’ Graham began to say when Ian interrupted ‘Look Graham, I only need a few more weeks and I’ll have enough credit for the next level of enhancement, then things will be fine. I’ll do better right away, surely you can wait a couple of weeks. I’ll stop spending so much too. What do you say?’ ‘Sorry Ian, this is out of my hands now, you have three warnings on file about your performance and now there’s nothing I can do.’ Just then one of Ian’s erstwhile colleagues knocked loudly on the office door and popped his head in. ‘Boss, you are needed in our nine o’clock meeting.’ ‘I’ll be there in a sec’ said Graham. ‘Let’s talk more about this after your meeting’ said Ian ‘I’ll wait in your office if you like?’ ‘Sorry Ian but this is done, you are to leave immediately for the camps, there’s nothing more we can do.’ At that point the companion bus driver stopped outside the glass office door, waiting for Ian to go with him. Graham stood up and offered his hand to Ian. Becoming angry now, Ian ignored the outstretched hand and ripped the office door open and stormed out of the office. ‘Come on you’ he said to the companion ‘Let’s get the hell out of here.’ Pausing half way to the hallway Ian turned and shouted ‘Hey, you lot!’ Looking up from their desks and meeting tables the office staff met his gaze reluctantly. ‘It’ll be you next you know, this won’t be over until we are all gone, good fucking luck!’ Ian followed the companion driver down the hall. There was no use in resistance or refusal as more companions would be called and he would go where they were taking him, willingly or not.

  Out in the hall Ian used his briefcase as a battering ram to push his way through the crowded common areas, immune to the shocked looks and sideways glances. He knew he was never coming back and felt betrayed by those who had at least been his acquaintances during his time here. ‘Bastards’ he thought, it won’t be long before this building is empty or staffed by companions, quietly getting on with it with not a human in sight. In a deepening sense of reality Ian walked outside and boarded the bus. On the side of the bus the screen was showing an ad proclaiming that ‘To live is to Consume – seen the latest catalogue?’ in red lettering on a white background with a crowd of smiling faces in the background. Grey skies overhead promised rain and cold, just the right weather from a trip to the camps. It was strange to think that he was finally leaving the job behind for good, not only that but his visits with the escort companions and his flat with all his collections and comforts, and Bickie.

  Back to the contents page

  Chapter 2 – A lost life

  On the morning of his transportation Ian was awakened by Bickie. ‘Morning Ian, time to get up now’ she said from the wall screen. ‘Your coffee is ready and the morning news brief is ready, should I play it now?’ ‘No,’ said Ian. ‘I’ll watch it in the bathroom.’ He got out of bed and went to the small kitchen to collect his coffee on the way to the bathroom. Bickie was on the bathroom screen. ‘Now?’ she asked. ‘Yes, now.’ Said Ian and Bickie’s cheerful face was replaced by a newsreader talking over a video about expected Christmas sales. Graphs and charts showed how sales would again outperformed the same time last year. Ian groaned having been reminded of his work as a watchmaker and how sales of his creations although increasing had not met the expected sales growth for the month. ‘Bickie, are you there?’ said Ian. Her face appeared instantly, replacing the news program, cutting off the monologue on Christmas sales. ‘What’s my bank balance this morning?’ Bickie’s face disappeared again, replaced with a bank balance figure and a daily IN and OUT figure for the last month. The final figure was not encouraging, longer red bars showing money going out of his account and shorter green ones showing money in. Last night Ian had bought another toy for his collection, a small golden parrot with diamantes that would fly about in his flat and glitter and flash in the lights. This was something he could not resist but felt a twinge of guilt when he saw the order details and delivery tracking on the bathroom display. Ian knew that if he did not somehow pick up the pace with his watch designs he would fall behind and perhaps never get that upgrade he needed. Stopping his spending was out of the question and even a reduction in spending would be hard for him to do. ‘Any chance of a bank loan Bickie?’ he asked, knowing the answer. ‘Sorry Ian but you already have three loans and must increase your average weekly pay before another could be considered.’ Bastards, thought Ian. His pay had been reduced below average in the last two weeks due to lower sales of his watch designs. He designed watches, put them up for sale and once purchased they were manufactured and delivered on the same day. He had nothing at all to do with the manufacturing or the delivery. His job was to design increasingly desirable watches with evermore elaborate shapes, colours and functions. All he had to worry about was designing as many as he could each day and make sure he designed watches that would be very desirable. Fewer sales meant less pay which
meant less chance of keeping up with the necessary implant upgrades that helped him to work more quickly. His future depended on his design output always increasing day by day, week by week. To some extent working longer hours helped but there was a limit to this as he would sometimes work late one night and not be able to work very fast the next day. He needed the upgrades and he was caught in a classic catch-22 situation. Getting into the shower Ian resigned himself to working harder, this was all he had left.

  Ian got dressed, finished his coffee and slipped on his shoes. A drop of coffee had landed on his shirt front. ‘Shit!’ He said. He covered it with his tie, too late to change now. Bickie appeared again on the wall screen, replacing a blaring ad for a new type of toothpaste. Ian thought to himself that he was glad not to be a toothpaste designer. How the hell could you keep up with new and exciting versions of toothpaste? ‘Your car is outside Ian. You have two minutes before a waiting penalty applies. Would you like me to order the new toothpaste for you, it seems so very colourful and effective?’ ‘No Bickie, no more toothpaste, I have enough’ ‘But this is new, and colourful and effective.’ ‘What about a nice new shirt? That one is not nice anymore. We could get a gold shirt with diamantes to go with the new parrot toy?’Ian picked up his brief case and left the flat without answering. Bickie was on the screen in the lift. ‘Are you sure Ian, I could have it delivered while you are out.’‘No Bickie, now drop that subject.’ The screen went back to ads; the next one was of course about men’s shirts, in the right size and style that Ian normally wore. They were in a choice of colours including gold of course. Each ad was personalised and his interaction with Bickie ensured that the ads were always just what he was thinking about at the time. It was hard to escape them. Most times he didn’t try.

  Arriving at his desk he nodded to the others in the office. They were all working under the same contracts and no-one had time for chit-chat. Graham, his boss seemed to be avoiding him this morning but Ian didn’t think much of that, thinking it was to do with his own work pressures. Sitting down at his desk the ad that was playing was again the one for men’s shirts. ‘Bickie, you there?' said Ian. Bickie appeared on the screen, replacing the ad. ‘Yes Ian, I’m here as always. I see you have arrived at the office. Do you want the DesignaW program loaded?’ ‘Yes please.’ Ian loaded a template for a square faced watch that had become popular recently and began to work on a new design. Determined to work more productively Ian used as many templates and skins as he had on file from previous work. There was a danger that this would create a design that was not entirely innovative but it was certainly a faster method of working. At tea time he ordered a white tea and ham sandwich and kept on working. By lunch he had nine new designs uploaded with sales already coming in for four of these. This was a good result being that he normally produced twelve or thirteen per day. He was on track for fourteen or fifteen designs. As usual he had a very short lunch, taking just enough time to eat and have a quick toilet break and back to his work station. Ian normally tried to keep his breaks to a minimum, preferring to keep going on his work as much as possible. He was on his eleventh design and almost done when Bickie interrupted his work. ‘Ian, there will be a fire drill at three-thirty this afternoon. It should take fifteen minutes. I hope that doesn’t slow you down too much.’ Damn, thought Ian. He could not really afford to stop for that long but there was nothing he could do about it. Looking around the room he saw the same dismay on the other designers. They had all been told at the same time by their personal interface programs like Bickie. He has just finished his eleventh watch design and his sales seemed to be rising when the alarm went off. Everyone left their desks smartly; everyone knew that to get back to work quickly they’d have to get a move on. Outside the sky was overcast as they moved towards the assembly point. Ian noticed some people out walking with their companions, mostly a step or two behind and usually laden with shopping bags. In a nearby restaurant people sat at their own table with their companion standing by to one side. These were the basic type or type ‘A’ companions which were robot like and only smart enough to be helpers for physical tasks. Other of the ‘B’ type were rarer and were smart enough to be almost human; certainly more of a ‘companion’ than the type ‘A’. There was some animated discussion here at there but always with someone on the screens, few people would take the time or have the interest in meeting people for real. Ian looked longingly at those who had obviously reached a level in society where, through their ownership in businesses and assets didn’t have to work in the normal sense and could free themselves from mundane chores as well by making use of their personal companions. If Ian could make enough for his next round of enhancements and improve his productivity and sales he may one day be able to start buying shares and perhaps one day be one of the ‘owners’. The alarm sounded briefly again and the pack of designers almost ran to the doors and up the stairs, not waiting for the lift. Sitting back down at his desk again, Ian began to daydream about a life of leisure. With his pay he had often made use of the services of a companion escort. This was to him essentially the only way to have sex as spending the time and money to get to know a real woman would have been too big a drain on his resources. Apart from that the escort companions could be ordered in any size or shape with a variety of clothing and hair colour. Ian had a perfect profile for his ideal escort companion on file and always ordered the same one, with a few small variations each time. This was the very limit of his association with companions for now. One day he could perhaps have one of his own that could live with him and walk with him when he went out shopping. Bickie popped up on the screen again. ‘Ian, you have been inactive for seven minutes.’ Ian snapped back to reality and took a breath. He ordered a coffee through Bickie and got back to work.

  Some of the designers got up from their desks at the end of the day and left the office. Most did not, staying on to put in additional time. This was not paid overtime as such as their pay was purely dependant on a proportion of the sales of their designs. The more designs they produced the more likely they would receive income from the sales. Ian regularly worked an hour or two late. He wanted nothing better than to go home and enjoy his comforts, relax and immerse himself in a 3D experience or scan the catalogue for wonderful new items for his collection. He could of course save more if he spent less but he was unable to contemplate a life without the gratification of buying things. Bickie was great at finding things he’d like and she was one reason it was so hard to give up buying, the golden parrot being a case in point.

  It was close to eight when he left the office. Bickie had ordered him a car for the ride home and he fell asleep during the fifteen minute ride. He awoke with a start as the car stopped at his flat and the door opened letting in the cold evening air. The yellow street lights were always somehow depressing and he hurried up the stairs to his flat on the first floor. Inside the atmosphere was cheery and warm and his new toy was flittering here and there, glinting in the warm lights. Ian had a shower and switched on his surround scene. ‘Pick me a nice movie Bickie.’ He said as he sat down. ‘I’d like to see Anna tomorrow night I think too Bickie.’ Bickie’s face appeared at the top corner of the screen, the sound was reduced a little and she asked ‘Any specification changes Ian? ‘I’d like her to be wearing that green dress from last time and make her hair a little shorter. Also I’d like her to bring her toy collection.’

  ‘Any specific mood?’ asked Bickie.

  ‘Happy, mischievous, cheerful I think.’

  ‘Fine, Ian, all sorted for nine tomorrow night.’ Bickie disappeared from the screen and the movie volume came up again. Another working day was over. Three more and there was a half-day off. Ian had no idea that his life was about to change long before then.

  Back to the contents page

  Chapter 3 – The Camps

  He must have fallen asleep. He was shaken awake by a companion who appeared at least to care in some way for him and his apprehensive state. ‘Mr. Wilson, are you awake? Come with
me please you have arrived at camp 14 and we need to get you settled in.’ Wearily Ian stood and slowly exited the bus into a scene from a World War II movie, one where prisoners of war are first introduced into captivity. There were some lights on very tall poles here and there in a compound made up of row upon row of wooden huts. ‘This way please Mr. Wilson’ said the companion as he led the way through a gate and down a path to the nearest of the huts.

  Ian was led to a smaller hut near the gate which was apparently for new arrivals. ‘We are sorry Mr. Wilson but we will have to lock you into this room for tonight, just for your own safety you understand?’ The room was clean and included a bed, cupboard, chair and a small bathroom. Probably a quite a bit better than a world war two accommodation for prisoners of war, thought Ian. By this time he was tired after the drama of the morning and the long bus ride and was only too happy to lie down and perhaps sleep. ‘In the morning we will introduce you to the camp leaders and get you a uniform and settle you into one of the barracks, until then please rest.’ With that the companion withdrew and closed the door. Ian dropped his briefcase on the bed and moved to the only window in the room. Looking out there wasn’t much to see except the front gate and the tall lamp posts. It was still raining and there was a constant dripping sound somewhere on the other side of the wall. Turning once more to the bed Ian sat down, placing his briefcase on his knees and opened the latches. Inside was a reminder of another world, some slim folders, pens memory sticks and a trail bar. This he ate realising he’d not eaten all day while he examined the room further, noting the complete lack of adornment or decoration of any kind, a very sterile space unwelcome but for the soft glow of the bedside lamp. He lay down on top of the bed and drifted off to sleep.

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