The Falling Man

It wasn’t what he expected. 

Content management was the creative hub of GB News, but the expected buzz and pumping excitement of breaking news stories didn’t ring through the 12th floor. Instead, the managers walked as hollowmen and women, fixed rictus smiles as false as the doublespeak used to transform daily events into GBN-worthy material.

Brewster didn’t consider himself a naive man, he was not innocent to true company policy, but the extent of the depression radiating amongst the staff was more extreme than imagined. The biggest blow was meeting Larkin. The astrology guy. 

He’d been following Larkin before he knew Larkin existed. Before he became a GBN man he was hooked. Doom-scrolling one bleak day he’d stumbled across tomorrow’s stars on the ‘gram and something just clicked. It was spot on, the words made sense to him, personalised even. He downloaded the app and an addiction was born.

In the flesh, Larkin was just another of the grey hollowmen on the 12th, digital screenlight flickering across dead eyes and pallid skin, ageless in the production line manufacture of alternative truth. Brewster still persevered to introduce himself, to find out for himself.

“I just write what the computer tells me,” said Larkin. His voice, so strong on the daily bulletin, was a tired whisper. 

“I’m a greetings card guy. We make people feel better, guess sometimes it works. People love platitudes; just have to mix it up a little, rough with the smooth, y’know to make it feel real.”

“But …”

Larkin smiled at Brewster, anticipating a query heard before. “An algorithm,” he said. “Pretty random, far as I can tell, swapped around every few months. So March Pisces gets January’s Aries and Gemini will get it in April. What sign are you? I can let you have the next few months if you like?”

Brewster walked away. He felt a nausea rising from his stomach, one not felt for a while, clagging in his throat and drilling behind his eyes.

DO YOU DOUBLE DOWN, OBLIVIOUS TO REASON, ALLOWING COMFORT IN FANTASY?

At least he had an office, one with a big window and a view. He was glad of that now, his forehead was leaking.

A box with Harris’ belongings sat on a leather sofa. The items inside were generic office cliches: ForeverSpin tops, Newton Cradle and a vintage Rolodex for the personal touch. They could have belonged to anyone, they could be Brewster’s. He briefly considered unpacking them for himself, then thought better and moved the box underneath the sofa.

His stars said accomplishments would be paid in kind, but what did that mean? This was the office he’d worked for, smiled his way through thick and thin for, the empty goal he had been guided inexorably towards.

He took a deep breath, inhaling as per Netflix meditation guidelines and exhaled, bidding the cynicism flow away. What did he believe now? Do you follow a false God knowing He wasn’t there? Once privy to the Machiavellian string-pulling behind the scenes the curtain couldn’t be pulled back. Do you double down, oblivious to reason, allowing comfort in fantasy? Should he ask for the signs of his new workmates?

He looked out the window and placed his forehead against the glass. He could just about see the forecourt twelve floors below. Rain had washed the blood stains away, lending an inviting sheen to the concrete. The glass felt cool and refreshing against his forehead, but the longer he held there, the more that chill began to sting and throb through the back of his head.

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