Friday, October 05, 2012

The Enterprise - 44

It felt strange to return to work. But what was the alternative? Some reappeared on Thursday, others on Friday. Still others waited. The solemnity of their empty chairs and darkened screens had the effect of a reproach. What are you doing here? The world is burning. Think of the dead.

Conversation arose fitfully, all of it concerning the Event, its aftermath, and corollary concerns. The well-being of friends, of former coworkers. Of acquaintances. Everyone knew a victim—or a missing person, anyway—or knew someone who knew one, or knew someone who knew someone who knew one. The closer you were to such a person, the louder and more animated you had license to be as you told their story. The prouder you could be. This was understood to be a rule.

It occurred to me that I knew no one. I told myself that was a good thing.

I tried to do some work. Tinker with code, scrutinize error logs. To get the least bit done seemed to require enormous concentration. What was work? It now seemed absurd. Had civilization itself not just been uninvented?

We all thought they were coming for the rest of us. Wouldn’t they? We also thought we could never tell the same old jokes again. On both counts we were wrong.

We reprogrammed certain aspects of the Product’s algorithm in order to reflect the new reality. We made it—him, it really was a him now—in equal measures mournful, dignified, outraged and steadfast. All the proud, new American qualities.

In the news, authorities had yanked a Sikh off a commuter train, citing precaution. His turban, it appeared, had rattled the nerves of fellow passengers.

Messages arrived from out west, expressing bewildered sorrow and sympathy. Yet among them was the following note from Judy to the creative team, cc’ing Neil and Sam:


As I’m sure you’re aware, there remain several outstanding action items from our conference call on Thursday the 6th. I think we all need to make sure nothing falls through the cracks.


Upon reading it, Bob smacked the metal surface of his desk five times, hard, in quick succession. Soon a small group had gathered behind him to read the offending e-mail over his shoulder. There were howls of disgust and disbelief, of derisive laughter. The message was forwarded around the office, annotated in turn by each recipient with a suitably scathing remark. But once we all had seen it, a silence fell upon the room. We began the Enterprise anew.