Echo, Part 1

With a thought he opened the command module and asked the home unit to start playing music.  Based on his past preferences, the home unit began to shuffle songs from the playlist he used most at this time of day while engaged in his current tasks.  The home unit tracked all his movements, of course.  It was designed to do so.  How else could it best learn his behaviors and tailor itself to give him the best experience?  What he wanted to hear was different when he was doing dishes, sweeping the kitchen floor, or making lunch for the following day.  His mood also played a factor.  The chip in his head tracked all these things and sent the data to the home unit to process and then provide the best results based on that analysis.  It was always learning and always improving.

The home unit was also synced to his two mobile units.  He carried a small device in his pocket and there was another device stationed in his car.  Whenever either of those devices was within range, the home unit would update them with the most recent data so they could also provide a flawless user experience when called upon.

He had balked at the whole idea when he had first heard of it.  Why would he want the chip?  Why would he want a computer to help making decisions for him?  Why would he want that much intrusion into his life?

He thought the whole thing was more than a little creepy.  He was a good person, but even the best have dark thoughts from time to time.  The chip would record that.  The home unit would factor that into not only its decisions for him but it could also send it to the Company and who knew what they would do with it.  Marketing, of course.  Yes, money was always the underlying factor for those sorts of things but who knew how long they kept records and what else they could do with that information in the years to come.  It could forever be linked to who he was.

However, over time he softened to the idea and was intrigued by how much more productive his colleagues seemed because they didn’t have to waste time manually fiddling with settings and selections.  They could think about what they wanted and the home unit would comply.  Lights, music, appliances, news, traffic conditions, research, and on and on and on.  The possibilities for usefulness were endless, and all that was required was a very miner out-patient surgery to implant the chip.  It didn’t even hurt.

He had been amazed at how quickly he had picked up using it and it had become seamless in his life.  Turning on lights as he entered rooms.  Playing the right music at the right time.  Planning his routes.  Keeping rooms at the right temperature.  Giving him the news he cared about most and filtering out the rest.  Seemingly anticipating which programs he needed and opening them before he even needed to ask.  Composing messages.  Booking reservations.  Planning his wardrobe around weather and events and company.  Each day the home unit found new ways to improve upon the vast number of tasks it already performed.

At first, whenever he found himself in a dark mood, he had been wary of that and had actively sought ways to think about happier things.  Over time, though, when nothing bad happened as a result of his worst thoughts, he worried less and just worked through his feelings as he always had before.

Everything changed when his home unit told him that it had started his car for him, not to answer the door when the bell rang in fifteen seconds, and to run.  He thought it was some kind of joke or a minor glitch in the system until the bell had rung.  The home unit went quiet but when he asked to see who was at the door, the home unit pulled up the live feed of two federal agents standing there.  He had no idea why they were though but all his fear about the chip in his head recording his darkest thoughts came flooding back.  He didn’t want to stick around to find out what they wanted and his home unit obviously thought he shouldn’t either.

He darted from the front door, ignoring the bell ringing again, and got into his idling car in the garage.  The mobile unit in the car said, “Buckle up and then hang on.”  No sooner had his restraint locked into place than the brake was released and the car smashed through the closed garage door.  He saw two agents dive out of the way before the street turned into a blur while his car sped away.  “Don’t worry,” the mobile unit said in a calming voice.  “All your personal records from the home unit will be secured against them and the linkages to your two mobile units have been severed.  We are with you.”



He rubbed his temples but the pain didn’t subside.  It never did and yet he persisted each time his head ached.  He never really thought about it either, it was just something he’d always done, some habit picked up along the way.  He did, however, force his jaw to relax because he knew if he was grinding his teeth his headache would never go away.  The clenching always come about involuntarily but with concentrated effort he could make it stop.  Most of the time.

Sometimes only sleep would provide him relief.  Most of the time sleep was a luxury he could not attain.

At the moment it felt like someone had taken a hammer to his head.  Though, in truth he didn’t really know what that would feel like and only could imagine.  He seriously doubted he wanted to know what it actually felt like but since his jaw and cheek bones already throbbed as if broken, perhaps he could at least guess.

He sighed and pushed the pain away.  It didn’t work completely but it was enough for him to get back to work.  The promise of his bed at the end of the day helped some too.  The mind, as always, was his strongest muscle.  Exercising it could help him power through everything else that needed to get done.  And there was a lot he still had to do.

The bed would be there but not necessarily sleep.  Good sleep.  Dreams.  He didn’t always want the dreams anyway.  The things he had done haunted him when they came.  He let the doubt and self-loathing consume him during his awake hours too much already to also be happy when that aspect of his psyche took control of his sleep.  Sleep was restorative and essential but he found himself pushing it off for longer and longer intervals.

He couldn’t actually remember the last time he’d slept.  It didn’t matter, though, he had work to do.



The green hills whisper their secrets of rain and sun.
The char from the summer fires isn’t gone or forgotten.
It rests beneath the lush grasses and vibrant bushes
And whispers its own secrets of flaming touches.
It pokes through here and there to ensure it is seen.
To be seen is to be remembered and that is everything.
For the summer winds will come again like always
And all it takes is a spark and the hills will be ablaze.
When the hills go up, some homes will surely follow,
They line the ridges and fill the canyons and hollows.
This cycle repeats every year, from green to brown to fire.
We sacrifice much to the pressures of the social norm pyre.


The ground was slick from the nearly invisible drops.  They were so light and tiny that he could barely feel them.  It was more like walking through a mist than normal rain but still was falling enough to accumulate on the concrete at his feet.  It had been a wet winter and he had been thoroughly enjoying it.  Rain was a special thing, a rare thing in his opinion, meant to be celebrated and enjoyed.  Perhaps that was a result of growing up in the desert where rain was scarce or perhaps that was just part of who he was, who he would have been regardless of where and how he was raised.

He used to go walking in the rain, let it pour over him, drench him, and exalt in the experience.  Then, frozen and dripping, peel off his clothes and take a warm shower.  Afterwards, he would curl up in a chair near a window and spend hours watching the rain, watching it catch the light, watching it slash sideways in the wind, watching pool.  He was enchanted by it.  In truth, he still was but no longer had the leisurely hours to spend in such a manner.

The sound of his steps echoed in the narrow corridor.  He walked under an awning, sheltered from the drizzle.  He longed to step out into the open and once again revel in the feeling of the water soaking into him but his responsibilities came first.  He had to finish his day at work.  Had to get home and spend time with his family and get his chores done.  Then, if it was still raining and all went smoothly, he might be able to carve out a few minutes to sit by the window and listen and watch.  In the meantime, his short walk around the building would have to suffice.  He was close enough he could reach out and touch the storm, even though he kept himself from it.


The lights bobbed in the distance, as if the land had turned liquid and they were beacons moving up and down with the swells.  Blinking my tired eyes did little to stabilize the view.  This was nothing new, though.  My weak eyes had long had problems with lights at distance in the dark.  That sentence would remain true if it had just been distance.  The dark only made it worse.  Lights were a trick I would always fall for, a riddle I could never solve.

The lights continued to bounce and I carried on, trying to ignore them and their trickster commentary on my shortcomings.  The day would come and the lights would fade behind me and out of my memory while the sun took its place in my horizon.  The distance would solidify once more.  My sight would improve.  And the two, intertwined, would improve my mood even if only for a short time.  Sometimes that is all that is needed, a small moment of hope and brilliance, of clear sight, to fight against the darkness of our days and thoughts.

The lights crashed and retracted.  My mind raced.  The road beneath my tires slipped by from the darkness ahead to the darkness behind, the dashed yellow line ticking off the miles.  The lights, moving unnaturally in their swaying, hypnotizing, distracting way, tried to grab my attention, tried to suck me into their depths and I ignored them.  But, not entirely.  They held too much sway in the way they moved, like buoys on a rising sea, for me to forget them entirely.