There was a blizzard on the East Coast, but for us in San Francisco, it’s been one of those sunny weeks in the middle of winter. The blizzard is just another show on TV.
I saw the Egyptian uprising on the newspaper stacks in front of the stores where I shop, but nothing on that scale could happen in the States as long as people keep setting up bigger and better surveillance systems to shut down the kind of rebellion our band used to fuel.
Effective Disorder charged our audiences up to take on all the people who tried to tell them who they were allowed to be, what they “weren’t supposed to do.” For a while, our job was to build up the potential aggression against things like companies that run surveillance of their own employees. Our concerts were where anger had a purpose. We made audiences free to let those feelings grow, but sometimes I wondered if their courage wore off as soon as we stopped playing. Maybe it was all bullshit. Now all the members of the band are either working for this company, homeless or dead.
With Casimir gone, I don’t know what to do with my anger against the system trying to control my life. The band isn’t around to help tear it all apart and deal with the consequences later, but somebody has to do something. If you want to kill a snake, cut off the head, but I have to find it first.
This is the Dude’s company. He created the system, but I didn’t know what was guiding him until I went to his house.
If anything happens to me, my time with the company is all here in this notebook. The notebook is something outside my brain, a backup so someone might find it and tell people this shit is all happening. People should know before it’s too late. I keep it under my seat in my car, the only place I have left there’s even a chance is private, and I only take it out when I’m sure there’s no cameras watching.
There are secrets here. I know so much more than I did, but there’s still more to figure out. This has to be useful to someone, but there’s nobody for me to leave it with. I don’t know where Harry is anymore. The only number I have for him brought me to Roger, but I tricked him into giving me the Dude’s address.
The Dude’s House | Jan 31 | 7:45am
The sun was just rising when I pulled up to the curb. I thought the houses I delivered to were nice, but this was a palace. I hoped that giant house was the Dude overcompensating because he doesn’t have any real power, but the truth is that he can afford to live like that in a city where people kill for apartments, and I have to stay where he puts me.
I snuck down the driveway, around the fountain, but there wasn’t a moat or a drawbridge between the street and the front door, just a few steps. I went up to the big double doors, and they were open a little bit. I didn’t even need to break in.
Since I started this job, everyplace I go, people are expecting me, but I left the phone with the tracking device at home. I still hoped I could take him by surprise.
I went through the doors into a grand entrance hall. It was an asshole waste of space, and I hated him even more. Then I saw something familiar on the wall, a framed poster for a rock show. Effective Disorder was on there, listed last as usual. As the potentially alienating factor, we were always the end of the show, but what the hell was a poster like that doing framed behind glass in a fancy mansion?
I snuck forward. Past the entranceway was a long hallway. Who the hell needs all those doors? Where the hell do they all go? I didn’t bother to find out, because the big door at the end of the hall was also open a crack. It felt like a trap, but I figured I could handle it.
I opened the door at the end of the hall. The next room was dark, with something bright in the distance. I stepped through, and the door closed behind me on its own.
There was complete darkness around me, but my brain couldn’t adjust. The walls and ceiling were somewhere, but my eyes focused about thirty feet ahead, were there were bright lights aimed at a giant chair on an elevated platform. There, in the same black robes, with the same big hood hiding his face, I saw the Dude in person for the first time.
Chanting and a strange voice came from his end of the room. “Welcome, young Skywalker. I have been expecting you.” So much for the element of surprise. The voice and chanting cut off.
I took a step at a time across the darkness between us, my arms out to catch me if I tripped. When I got close, I held my hands up to block all the light reflecting off the throne and the green screen behind it.
I reached the front of the Dude’s platform. There was nowhere for me to sit, so I stood. There was also no desk between us stopping me from kicking his ass to get him to shut down the system, but that could wait for a second.
Another voice came out of what I figured were some embedded speakers under the throne. “I want to know more about what you do here. Frankly, there have been a lot of wild stories in the media and we want to assess for any possible environmental impact from your operation.” That was a sample from Ghostbusters. I knew that. I’ve been watching it since Christmas.
I put my hands down and squinted to see him. “That’s what I’m here about. Don’t try to turn that around or confuse me, Dude. All your surveillance shit ends now.”
I saw the Dude do something on his armrest, and the speakers answered me. “Don’t shut it off. I’m warning you.” That was another line from Ghostbusters, but it was on topic. We were communicating. Time to make my threat.
“Yes, shut it off, or I’ll kick your ass.”
Even with him sitting, I was looking up at the Dude’s chin. I tried to see the rest of his face under that hood, but he tilted his head down to deal with something built into the armrest, and even his chin went in shadow. “Strike me down with all of your hatred and your journey towards the dark side will be complete!” That confused me a little, but then he played something from Ghostbusters again. “My friend, don’t be a jerk.” He kept moving his hand, and another line played. “Hey, I don’t have to take this abuse from you. I’ve got hundreds of people dying to abuse me.” Same movie.
He was stringing together the lines to try and have a conversation. I decided to answer what they said. “Yeah, they abuse you because you’re the big boss. People don’t like being told what to do.” Under that hood, I imagined every authority figure I ever put up with before Effective Disorder taught me I didn’t have to. My anger gave me strength.
“Perhaps you think you’re being treated unfairly.” That was a line from something else, but then he went back to Ghostbusters. “Twenty-four hours a day. Seven days a week. No job is too big. No fee is too big.”
“What are you say–“
“Anyway, Peter, what we’d like to do is put you into position to have as many as… four people… working right underneath you.” The playback stopped, and the Dude stared at me. I don’t know what the fuck that was from.
I didn’t even see his hand move, but his speakers played something else. “My colleagues believe that I am wasting my time with you, but I believe that you wish to do the right thing. We’re willing to wipe the slate clean, give you a fresh start, and all that we’re asking in return is your cooperation.”
“Let me tell you something about myself, I come home from work to my place, and all I have is my work, okay?” We were back to Ghostbusters. “There’s nothing else in my life. I meet you, and I think, my god, there’s someone with the same problem I have.”
I remembered Sigourney Weaver’s answer to that from the scene. There were three steps up to the platform his chair was on, so I put my foot on the first one and said it. “Yes, we both have the same problem, you.”
He smiled, and I realized he didn’t just want me to be Winston from Ghostbusters. It was everyone from Ghostbusters.
He cued a different set of lines. “I am the Gatekeeper.” Now he was Sigourney Weaver. This was getting confusing.
I gave the next line. “I’m… the Keymaster.” I knew what came next in the movie, but I wasn’t gonna kiss him, so I switched over to a different response to the same line. “I’m a friend of his. He asked me to meet him here.”
The Dude smiled again. A different voice came on. “Good. Adaptation, improvisation. But your weakness is not your technique.” I wasn’t threatening police action like last time. I was using words on their own, and they were working. The voice in the Dude’s playback switched. “I’m looking forward to completing your training.”
I didn’t know that line. “Listen, I know you can shut this off. The computers are watching everybody, and I know you’re behind it all.”
The Dude shook his head. “Oh no, my young Jedi. You will find that it is you who are mistaken, about a great many things.”
TO BE CONTINUED. . .