MONTAG publishes curious short fiction, exploring our strange future and what it will feel like when we get there. The stories are outré and atypical; they're also closer to our today than you think.
When you wake up in the morning, the world says hello!
And you say, Shut up, leave me alone.
You open your eyes in bed, and groggily tap the alarm on your smartphone.
The mail daemon pops up as soon as the device is silenced.
“You have: three thousand, two hundred, and sixty nine unread messages”
You hit dismiss.
“Incoming call from–”
You get up, walk to the bathroom and the mirror tells you the day’s weather.
“It’s another beautiful day in our constantly connected world!”
Our never-alone, always-on, can’t-get-a-damn-moment-of-peace constantly connected world…
You dress to be left alone, which means all black, including sunglasses and headphones.
You don’t need the sunglasses for the weather, but you do need them for the subway.
Without sunglasses on, the woman in each poster on the subway station’s walls who is smiling and holding a popular brown sugar cane-based carbonated beverage would become animated and try to talk to you directly.
With shades, the eye tracking embedded in the poster can’t find you.
Noise cancelling headphones are a universal symbol for “don’t talk to me,” and even though you can hear through them, you pretend you can’t when a homeless person tries to sell you a newspaper at the exit to the subway station.
You swipe your ID card to enter your office.
Your card reads as “Authorized Guest,” because otherwise they try to get you to answer an employee happiness survey every time you swipe in and leave.
“Incoming call from ‘M–”
You pull your Pod disc out of your wallet as soon as you get to your desk, and insert it into a slot which also allows the desk to accommodate sitting, standing, or lying down inside of the Pod.
A tinted semi-transparent shield unfolds from the sides of the desk, surrounding your work area with a mesh screen.
You reach into the desk drawer for your complimentary caffeinated protein supplement.
The drawer is empty.
You tilt your sunglasses onto the top of your head and peer into the drawer.
An office maintenance robot should have filled all of the desks with breakfast bars this morning, but the drawer is empty.
You now have two options: go ask the maintenance department for your breakfast, or order an early lunch delivery.
Just kidding, only one of those is an actual option.
Human interaction makes you short circuit.
You file a maintenance ticket about the missing bar and schedule a drone to bring ramen to your Pod in one hour.
Now all you need is caffeination to get you through the first half of your day being a productive cog in the machine of our constantly connected world.
You know there is a complimentary caffeine dispenser only ten feet away.
You also know that you will have to leave your Pod to retrieve caffeine from it.
You take a deep breath and grab your employer-branded caffeine flagon.
You can do this.
Headphones and sunglass-less you exit the Pod.
You keep your head down.
You cover five feet with no incident, everyone else is working in their Pods.
Three feet left, now two, now you are at the machine.
You jam your finger in a green button and it noiselessly squirts sweet, hot, life-giving caffeine into your flagon.
You turn around to a scene from your nightmares.
Your colleague Fred is walking right towards you.
He’s seen you.
He’s seen that you see him.
There’s no looking away now.
You pull out your phone as if you have just received a call.
“Hi Mom! Yes, just got into work this morning, the funniest thing happened –”
Fred is deterred.
He believes you are having a social interaction.
You enter your Pod with your caffeine flagon and seat yourself as it re-encloses you.
You will not have to leave your Pod or speak to any other human until the end of the day.
You breathe a sigh of relief.
“Incoming call from Mom”