This Can Only Mean One Thing
1)a) Jessica, at home with a camera.
“My name is Jessica Lock. When I made this video I was twenty-four years old.”
I aim the camera at my feet in the mirror and work my way up. Maybe one day I’ll care about what I looked like at this point. Maybe I’ll be worried about what I’m wearing. Maybe I’ll be seeing the guy coming up behind me with a knife and wondering why it took me so long at the time to notice.
I check behind me. He’s not really there. No harm in checking though.
“The date is November the first. The time is…” – bring watch up to camera lens – “thirteen minutes past two in the afternoon. If you look out the window” – walk around bed, push curtains aside, spot the plane – “You’ll see BA flight 1177 on its way to Berlin. I’ll go outside now and find a newsagents and confirm the date for you.”
It seems a bit like overkill but it’s not like I don’t have the time. I’ve been cruising this week for three days straight. It’s not like the apparatus is going to stop working without me. I figure I can keep this up until maybe Thursday afternoon or evening, do the second batch, print the results and be ready for the supervisor meeting Friday morning. The more procrastination I get done now the less I’ll need to do later. That’s just what I tell myself of course: in fact, I’ve learned that there’s an infinite well of time-wasting possibilities.
It’s occurred to me that the structureless nature of a PhD might not be entirely unintentional. The best minds of any generation, once fully educated and at their peak – as I supposedly am – would undoubtedly pose a threat to any organisation that relies on its population’s docility and lack of critical thought to get away with its insidious agenda. Whatever genius worked out that giving us no structure, despite seemingly giving us so much free time, actually allows our natural instinct to goof-off and remain unchallenged run rampant, well, my hat’s off to them. My metaphorical hat. Actually I should wear my hat again, I haven’t worn it for a few months now and you have to keep them guessing.
Sarah’s in the kitchen preparing probably her seventh cup of tea of the day. We could distract one another for a few hours but currently we’re both fully self-sufficient for time-wasting; saving up experiences which can then be used to pad out the hours later by relating them to one another.
Step to the right to put my body to the side of the letterbox. A determined wrong-doer might have some weapon lined up through it, waiting to see the light of the spy-hole blocked when I check it, to strike. Lean over and check. Someone is walking towards town on the opposite side of the road, although their walk is slightly odd. Perhaps they were watching and now need to pretend they were always on the move. Unlikely; if they could tell I was here, whatever means they had would have given them a longer warning.
Open the door. Lens flare in the camera lens. “See that? That’s authentic lens flare. Because I’m using a video camera. Not because some games developer thought it would make a game which is purportedly first person look ‘more realistic’. This is the genuine artefact. Accept no substitutions, especially when it shouldn’t be there.”
Glance both ways down the street. There’s that man and his golden whatsit dog. Labrador or retriever or something. Expensive. He’s rich enough to worry about being richer. A friendly local until the right person pays him off. The dog should be good for clues as to intent though. Can’t buy off a dog.
Walking down the street now, camera following my line of sight. Left eye open for real vision, right eye checking all is okay in the camera’s perceptual world. It’s amusing to watch people’s normal patterns of eye-contact disrupted like this. Here comes a guy right now. I see it all in slow motion. He notices my feet. They register as female. The eyes flick up immediately to chest-height, for confirmation purposes, I might charitably imagine. Not too much to see there, not in this jumper at least. Then, still in that first fraction of a second, his eyes flick up to mine then register the camera and suddenly avert as if he’d never noticed me. Another half a second, and there they are coming back just to check out my face/hair/eyes/make-up/whatever. I make strong challenging eye-contact but it’s diluted by the camera lens and he breaks it without embarrassment.
Already now he’s passing by me to the right. I take the camera away from my face just slightly to I can get more of a warning if he tries anything. I’m not saying enough to camera, I realise.
“For the record,” I start, and I can hear him behind me being slightly surprised that I’ve started to speak, “I count myself as paranoid but functional. I don’t take ridiculous life-altering measures on the off-chance that one of my theories are correct. I know that in all likelihood, if they want to get me for whatever reason, it will be by some means and for some reason I’ve never conceived of. But when your mind can’t help but contemplate the possibilities, you can’t help but take a few precautions.”
Around the corner, cross the road; look both ways although it’s a one way street – someone coming the wrong way is all the more dangerous, so it makes plenty of sense to check rather than assume.
“Anyone that has even the remotest conception of the possible dangers of the future should have a decent stash of tinned food buried somewhere. I have two, and three can-openers. To go much further would be crazy, I like to think I can judge that fairly well. Low risk, high consequence, ongoing rerolls – taking no precautions for fear of being proved wrong would be folly.”
The illusion of dialogue with an attentive listener is strong. I can feel myself wanting to open out and waffle about my life. Winning the race last night. Finally getting hold of the last episode of Trigun. My incredibly insightful post on the bulletin board. Pointless and empty. Stick to the task at hand.
“Here we are. There’s the newspapers. See, November the first right there. Half naked-women coming obscenely close to eclipsing utterly unrelated political headlines. Another diversionary tactic, of course.”
Too public a place to carry on now. The point is made. Back to my room for the rest.
I suppose I should right a blurb for the novel...
"In this world, where almost anything can happen, Jessica Lock is ready for most of it.
In this world, where citizens with certain powers are contracted by the government, Mike Starck is attracting too much attention.
In this world, where Something is going to happen in a few day's time, no one has any idea what to expect.
In this world, the only question that matters is this:
Are you paranoid enough?"
The preview image is a sketch I did of Jessica Lock, who narrates the first chapter.