Joe got ready for work, swiping off the Stats alerts on his phone afterwards. He no longer felt shy about asking Claire for her phone number.
“Good morning, I hope you didn’t have to work too late. I’m concerned with the integrity of my email… I got a message stating my provider had been hacked. Some jerk students from the local university, no doubt. Viruses are the last thing we both need right now, right? Would you mind if we exchanged numbers?”
Joe continued with replies to her last email to him, and offered his phone number at the end. Sent +1.
Now to face the music. Music did sound good to Joe. He plugged in his earbuds to his phone. “Wonderful, these devices,” Joe thought as he walked to work hearing nothing but his rhythms. “And capable of madness.”
Joe pressed the button to the elevator. Blinking lights as the elevator lowered down from above. A coworker he managed walked up behind him while he was waiting. Or a coworker he used to manage… he had not learned of the new responsibilities of his promotion yet. His coworker pushed the elevator button as well.
“Good morning, sir,” the coworker said. Joe looked at him. He thought about potential Stats notifications.
He made a quick decision. He put the best casual smile he could muster onto his face. “Morning! How are you today?” Joe asked pleasantly.
They chatted the usual morning chatter Joe knew by heart, with Joe never betraying his real thoughts and feelings on the outside.
Joe decided this would be how he would play it. Casual and cool. A “screw you” to “them”, the watchers.
The elevator stopped at his floor. No boss to greet him when the doors opened. He went to his desk. No employee encounters.
He switched on his computer. He half-expected there to be something on it, some alert related to the Stats app. Just his usual desktop. Three new emails, work-related. “Oh wait,” Joe said when he saw the latest of the three emails. The subject line read “Welcome to your new life! Welcome, Big Position Name!”.
It detailed the benefits of his newly acquired stature in the company.
They hadn’t held back. They had spared no expense. Everything he had ever dreamed of obtaining was in there. Even his own personal company car. He read the make, model and year of the car and it raised a small flag in his mind. The car sounded familiar to him. He continued reading, then finished.
His stomach had been turning the entire time he read the email. This happened because of the murder of a person.
“Something about that car…” Joe thought.
“Greetings, champ.” Joe recognized his boss’s voice instantly. Joe remembered his casual smile.
“Good morning, sir. I checked my email, you folks must really like me, ha ha!”
His boss agreed with him. He congratulated Joe on his fine work. They had a meeting. His boss was cool as ice. So was Joe. Joe kept his mental eye open and peeled on him.
They came to the subject of the company car. His boss revealed to him what his earlier mental alert was about. It had been his late coworker’s car.
“I know it’s a little weird that we’re giving you a car of the recently deceased, but hey, it’s a great car, 30,000 miles, not even a scratch, and hey he didn’t even die in it!” His boss sold him on it with no resistance, or so Joe portrayed on his face.
“That Keanu guy from that matrix movie could learn a thing from me,” thought Joe. He did not regret walking out during that film.
Joe checked himself. He realized that this was no time to be cocky. The meeting ended.
He returned to his desk and fought with the idea of driving this man’s car. He realized most if not all of the other benefits were his late coworker’s as well, and now had been diverted to Joe. He knew the name of the position was not the same as his coworker’s, however. Whatever hidden agenda the company had pinned on him had seemed to go without a hitch.
A text from his father.
It was the life changing event.
Joe did not move in his chair for a moment. He read the text again. Joe’s grandmother on his father’s side had passed away the night before. Joe had been close to her, but had not visited her in some months. Joe felt the resulting emotions. His phone buzzed repeatedly with a call. Joe answered it. Answered calls +1.
Joe had a hard, revealing talk with his father. Funeral arrangements were being made. Joe would be posted updates.
After the phone conversation, Joe brought up the app and flipped his finger down to cause the long list to scroll, with little thought to where it stopped. “This infernal app,” he thought. His father had given him an approximate time of death that matched closely to the time he remembered receiving the Stats alert the day before.
Joe thought of Claire. Had she received any big notifications since yesterday? He hoped he hadn’t overstepped his bounds by asking for her phone number.
“Don’t worry +4; I’m on it 444 [Ok] [Go to Stats app]”
Watch. He said he’s “on it”. Joe was curious about what he meant, assuming he was a he. Joe’s grandmother had already passed; that event could not be changed.
Joe’s day continued at work. He was getting a corner office. His boss helped him move all of his things.
Joe stared out into the world through the windows of his new office during the few minutes before 5pm. He wondered how “they” were watching him. “Not in the way I think,” he recalled.
“Go outside +4; look up 444 [Ok] [Go to Stats app]”
Joe stared at Watch’s alert.
“NOW +4; GO 444 [Ok] [Go to Stats app]”
Joe moved swiftly. He rode the elevator down. He passed through the glass entrance doors to his office. He stood twenty feet outside of the building. He looked up.
His eyes scanned. Blue sky. It was a beautiful day. His eyes continued to look.
A point of light. Extremely dim, but it was there. An electric pink color against the crisp blue. Straight up.
It disappeared abruptly.
“That’s how +4; more later 444 [Ok] [Go to Stats app]”
“Stay alert +4; always watch 444 [Ok] [Go to Stats app]”
Joe looked back up. His eyes pierced the sky, at the direction of the point of light that no longer existed.
Joe would never feel alone again.