Thursday, April 7, 2016

Modern Mind Control

“Magazines control the world. You know that, right?”
                “No.” She looked up from the silky flimsy pages to her anxious brother sitting nearby. “What’s been with you lately, Michael?”
                “Please, listen!” He grabbed the woman’s occupied hand. The wild movement caused the flopping of the article onto the wooden table.  She looked around as coffee shop customers glanced at them from the outburst.
He peered into her face. “These magazines are controlling people, Cynthia! I might sound crazy, but I need you to listen to me.”
                The man’s composure threatened to break as he spoke through a wavering voice. Her calm expression wilted and was replaced with a frozen smile. “Okay. But you need to be quiet.” Her hand retreated from his grasp.
                “Look,” the man continued. “I know I sound insane but just hear me out for once.” Michael’s chest swelled as he took a deep breath. “People don’t buy things they want, okay? Just things they think they want. Brains get hacked through repetition, right?”
                The young woman nodded, her wide blue eyes enveloping him.
                “Okay, great!” He straightened in his seat with a smile. “Then you’ll get this next part.” The man glanced around before leaning toward the woman with excitement. “Magazines are meant to distract. That’s what they want, zombies. We all focus on different things. For women, it’s clothing and maybe men. For men, it’s sports. And women,” he added with a shrug. “You fill in the blanks. But they want zombies. Don’t you get it?”
The woman’s head tilted. Cynthia was silent as her eyes jerked to study the man in front of her. “Why are you telling me all of this?”
“Because I don’t want you to be like them. I want you to snap out of it and save everyone else. To stop it with that,” he said with a glare to the item on the table.
The woman was silent for a few moments. Then, she spoke in a slow and deliberate manner as she leaned forward and patted his hand. “I know you have been stressed lately, Michael. But I need to ask you something.”
Relief flooded through the man. “Anything. I’m just glad you’ve listened.”
Cynthia nodded. “I’ve listened. But I want to know if you’ve been taking your medications.”
                Michael sighed. “Yes, I’ve been taking medication.” He hung his head, placing a hand over his forehead. “Forget it. I should have known I was wasting my time. You’re just like everyone else.” He rose from the seat with a dejected look as he turned to leave.
                “Michael? Hey, wait!”
                He paused before whirling around to the concerned face on the woman.
                “Talk to me if you need, anything, okay? I’m really worried about you.”


A young head rose above the grey cubicle wall in response. In the next moment, the well-dressed man padded away from the compartments, a questioning look overcoming his face. “Yes?”
“Come speak to me in my office please.” A figure stood in the middle of the hallway, regarding him with a grave stare.
A look of shock swept over Michael’s face, but it dissipated just as fast. He reached a hand to straighten his tie as he marched to the awaiting man.
The taller man simply turned his back and continued walking when the subordinate was only steps away. Michael faltered at the unfriendly greeting before sidling up beside his superior. “Sir, is anything the matter?”
“I said speak to me in my office, Michael.” A terse gaze from the dark-set man cut into the other. The remaining twists and turns as their shoes clacked on the tile were met with silence before they faced the front of a mahogany door.
Michael stood still as his boss stepped forward with a grim look fixed on his face. A series of beeps were heard on the keypad before the older man stepped aside with the large door ajar. Michael couldn’t help holding his breath as he brushed past the serious presence.
The creaking of the door that shut behind him increased his anxiety. Alone, with his boss.
“You seem absent-minded lately.” The commanding voice rose behind him. “Is there reason I should worry?”
After the pause was met with silence by the lower-ranked, the man continued. “You know why you’re here, don’t you?”
“Yes.” Michael lowered his gaze to the floor. His lip curled. “I do.”
“Look. People don’t want to be helped. No matter how hard you try, we have them under our control. They can’t ‘wake up’, as I’ve heard you say in the past. The way you’ve been looking, I can tell you tried again.” The man regarded Michael with a passive look. “Who was it this time?”
“My sister.”
The older man grabbed the pen from his breast pocket. He lifted it to his mouth, poked the surface under his lip and began chewing. Small cracks were heard as the noise permeated throughout the room. Michael respectfully lowered his gaze before turning his head.
Suddenly, the cracking stopped. His boss was done thinking. Michael looked in time to see his superior stride toward the large windows that lined his office. Light cascaded through the blinds and striped the man’s pants as he walked. “Come here, Michael. I want you to look outside with me.”
The younger man joined the journey across the large room. As he neared the windows, gaps between the blinds formed a blurred picture of the world outside. The pair of eyes were drawn to the street three stories underneath. Michael scanned the countless people that formed a single animated carpet along the sidewalks, straying in unique paths like lost ants.
“It took years to get where we are.” The boss gave a meaningful glance to the shuffling man beside him.
The young man continued to regard the street. Finally, his shoulders slumped and he broke the intense stare with a sigh. “I know. I’m done trying. They can’t be saved.”

 “Good!” The boss stepped away, a large smile playing over his face. “A major perfume company wants our magazine to advertise and they’ve offered large incentives. I trust you won’t stand in the way.”

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