by Thomas Lambert | 1,437 words
“Think of it as meditation.” He said, as he leaned in and took one of my cigarettes for himself.
“Meditation?” I asked.
“Yeah.” He sparked the cigarette and exhaled, shrouding us both in thick blue smoke. “It’s like… clearing your mind, man. Focusing on a single thought that….isn’t.” He leaned back again, and rolled the cigarette between his thumb and forefinger, making the ember dance in the gloom of the bar. It trailed light and I knew the drugs were finally kicking in.
“Every thought you have,” he continued, “is memetic”. It was getting harder to focus, the pain and the drugs were vying for control of my frontal lobe. “They’re all linked. You can follow them backwards and trace a path back to every thought you had before it.” He had traced a line with the cigarette through the air, cutting through the smoke and leaving an orange afterburn. “So what you’re lookin’ for is a thought unconnected to anything else.” I felt sick and tasted blood. My right eye had swollen shut. “If you can focus on this one thought, or word, your mind’ll go blank.” He swiped his hand across the table as he said this, sending our bartab app and half a dozen advertisements skittering across the surface and bouncing off the edges.
I was confused. I needed help and Porter said he knew a guy who knew a guy that could fool the scanners, but I had my doubts. When they jam that thing on your head its pretty damn hard not to think about all the bad things you’ve done, and that was as good as handing them a signed confession. When I walked in he was sitting in the corner, cigarette in mouth and whiskey in hand, middle finger pressed into the tables’ Surface as he tossed energy balls at digital invaders.
“The guy’s a sage,” Porter assured me when I called him from the bathroom. “He’s like… the messiah of Offenders. They all come to him for advice.”
I was in deep shit, and I was desperate. And there I was, standing in the middle of the bar, slack-jawed, watching this ‘Messiah’; piss-drunk, playing fucking games on the table’s Surface, spilling his whiskey and cheering with every triple score combo he got. I walked over and muttered “Are you the guy?” He turned and I regretted having spoke at all.
“Fuck yeah I’m the fuckin’ guy. Fuckin’ high score here. Did ya see that?”
After a round of drinks on me, because I looked like a guy who “can fuckin’ afford it,” and a few of my cigarettes, he started explaining this idea to me. His grand teaching, being passed from master to student, on how to fool the portable Magnetic Resonance Imager, or pMRI, and stop it from snagging you for all the Offences you’ve ever committed.
“You know you done some shit, right?” Another one of my cigarettes was in his mouth and I didn’t even remember handing him the packet. “And as soon as the Met whips out the snagger, you’re thinking ‘Oh fuck. Oh Shit. It’s gonna know I knifed that guy in the bar fight, and that I defrauded the Corp, and that I stole that fucking candy bar when I was eleven.’ and bam!” He had stabbed the table with his middle finger and leaned in suddenly, looking me in the eye for the first time. I looked away, watching the ripples undulate from his finger, bouncing off the embers that knocked onto the Surface and registered as heat signatures.
My arm burned from being wrenched out of the socket at the shoulder, and I winced at the pain. “So what you’re saying,” I finally had the strength to speak. “is when they grab me, I have to think something, a random word or idea, that I’ve never thought before, and my mind goes blank?”
He nodded and grinned. Half his front teeth were missing, the rest were brown. “Exactly! Now you get it! Hale-fuckin’-lujah.” He threw his arms up, tossing the last of his whiskey into the air behind him, soaking a young, smart-suited salary man and his female companion that were clearly out slumming. The shock of this act hit them when they realized there wasn’t a MetCop in the bar to report the Offending to. They realized that they were not in an upstanding place full of smiles and fake pleasantries. This guy sitting in front of me, still grinning, didn’t give a shit. He probably didn’t even realize what happened.
Back in the Low Numbers, the ‘Purity Zones’, if you Offended someone you’d have a MetCop on the scene in thirty seconds, questioning everyone, mandating apologies and reparations. Pulling out the portable Magnetic Resonance Imager, checking you out to see if you were some kind of radical who went around throwing drinks on people and murdering children and subverting MetAuthority.
“Offensive acts beget Offensive Behavior,” the classroom slogan went. “Offensive Behavior Subverts Our Society. We Must Protect Our Society.” What I had done, the thing that made me call Porter in a panic, and had me sitting here with this guy, would have made my childhood Citizenship & Social Responsibility Coordinator cry. I had tapped the service app for another round and tried to wrap my mind around what he had told me.
“So, how do you do it?” I had asked. “What do you think of to throw the machines off?”
He frowned. “Well, I have a list.” He took the drinks as they were delivered, slurping his loudly and passing mine over. The weight on my stomach pressed harder and I gagged. “I carry my reader with me everywhere, and I get these random thoughts or hear something, a word, a phrase, a snatch of conversation in a language I don’t speak, and I write it down.”
The Offended couple loudly complained to the bar staff and the salary man waved his arm in our direction. It became a black blur and I saw his gold ring carving a bright arc in the air.
“So when I meet a Met, and he pulls me on account of ‘Suspicious Activity, and Possible Offensive Behaviour’ I glance at my reader real quick-” He flicked his eyes down and mimed the action, making me feel like the whole room had tilted toward him. “And I pick a word at random, and then I just let it sit there in my head and whoosh! I can’t comprehend it, it’s not linked to anything else I’ve ever thought, so my mind goes empty ‘cept for this one word.” I felt the searing pain across my face again. “And then he jams the pMRI on my head, and I come up clean, ’cause there ain’t nothing there ‘cept this one phrase, this ‘Memetic Annihilation’.” He air quoted, and I caught sight of the Offended salary man storming out of the bar with his mascara-streaked and whiskey soaked girl in tow. “So, give me an example,” I said. “Give me one of these ‘Memetic Annihilation’ and let me see how it works.”
He blew smoke out his nose and thought for a moment. “Gobblefunk.”
“Gobblefunk. What are you thinking about right now?”
I paused. I felt the wetness behind my head grow larger, soaking my hair and neck. “Nothing…not nothing…just– gobblefunk. It’s-It’s not anything. I just think it, and… blank out, I guess.”
He beamed, “Now you have it! Now you gotta get your own Gobblefunk, and ain’t no Met with no snagger or Hound or whatever you want to call it gonna finger you in anythin’!”
I spat blood. Gobblefunk. Fucking Gobblefunk. I wished I never heard that phrase. I wished I never went in that bar. I wished I never met that brain dead fuck, taken his pills, listened to his bullshit, watched him fuck me over with his casual disregard for Offending people.
I panicked. I froze, but I didn’t go blank. One thought came to me as they held me down and strapped the pMRI to my head. Pinned to the floor in this shithole of a bar, half-dead with six MetCops surrounding me. “Got it.” I heard the one with his knee in my chest say as he yanked my arm behind my head. His vox-mod voice was dull and monotone, but I heard the delight. “pMRI is pulling everything. This guy’s got some class A capital Offenses.”
The Taller one leaned in, and I saw my bloody pulp of a face reflected in his black visor. “What-” he practically spit venom as he said it, “-is ‘Gobblefunk?’”
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Thomas particularly enjoys dystopian science fiction which show how ultimately humanity will retain its flaws regardless of how advanced the technology has become. Thomas loves to write and is usually taken to writing stories set in the near future. Gobblefunk is Thomas’ first published prose.
© Thomas Lambert 2012