Embarcadero Center Parking Garage | May 22 | 5:46am
I’m here early, so I’ll take a few minutes to try and make sense of everything. Then I’ll put this notebook back under my seat.
I have that feeling again from Storage San Francisco, from before I knew anything about the Dude — being watched without understanding who’s on the other end. With the laptop in the office and the surveillance in my company apartment, the only time I’m not being watched is my commute between them. My hope is, when I turn off my cell phone and act like it gets no bars in this underground garage, Sarah can’t keep track of me.
I shouldn’t be afraid of surveillance if I’m not doing anything wrong, but breaking the rules is the only thing I want to be doing. That’s what I used to live for.
I feel like I’m never alone, but the only interaction I have is with Sarah. Acid Burn choses to live this way, but she said her secret network is the only escape she needs and told me I could never fit in with them. Lanning tried to make me understand why someone would choose to live in a bubble, if he could just get some fresh air, but I still haven’t gotten that for him.
I miss the open air too, and I miss the changing scenery of making deliveries. In my janky hatchback, I tap the steering wheel and hum old Effective Disorder songs while I watch a familiar route stream by through the glass of my windshield.
I fantasize about what I could do if I didn’t have this job hanging over me every second, if I could make a living playing music like I used to. No, not without the band.
I think about turning off the road, leaving forever, but it wouldn’t be like taking off in the tour van, when I believed I had nothing to lose. I was wrong, but I didn’t know that until it was too late.
I’m not Casimir. We never faced anything like this in the days with the band, and I don’t know how to fight back. I barely understand any of this technology stuff. I thought smashing the computer would destroy the world the Dude created, but maybe I screwed up by confronting him and taking the promotion.
I finally have money, but there’s no time to spend it. Work takes up everything, and I’m useless if I drink enough to forget it all. There’s two cup holders in my car, so I use one for wine and the other one for coffee. I have to stay alert, but I don’t want to be conscious enough to see my life for what it is.
I’m not sleeping well. After I used the last of my strength to rebel against Hans and the programs, my body never really refueled, and the tiny naps at my desk are just getting me through. I keep reading Sarah, waiting for the system to start taking over the world, but it doesn’t. Things are so boring, I’m starting to count on them that way. The routine helps me save the strength I have, but it takes away my will to fight.
I keep thinking about the last thing the Dude said in our video conference. What small evil do his people fight to keep them strong? Where did he even get that? What’s crazy is that he really did shut down the deadline texts, so it’s definitely not those.
It’s the drinking wine that keeps me strong, but the real evil are the programs. They’re the ones keeping all the programmers as tired as I am, some of them for years. The system is watching all of us all the time but only writing certain things down in the log, judging us based on rules I can’t figure out.
When I read Sarah, I see people doing their jobs without talking to each other, each programming little pieces of the same thing that’s watching them, making it smarter, building up more of the system around themselves while it sends them messages to wake up, go to sleep, keep going, but I’m not strong enough to do anything about it by myself. I should get to work soon.
I wish I
[Editor’s note: at this point, there is a significant break in the writing, after which the handwriting becomes noticeably worse. For legibility, this will not be replicated in electronic form.]
Let me write this down so I remember. That’s the only thing that matters now.
Someone was outside the car.
I stuck the notebook under my seat and climbed out. There were footsteps, but everything echoed in the concrete space, so I couldn’t tell where they came from. I looked from pillar to pillar, car to car. The industrial architecture made every direction look the same.
I looked up at the camera mounted above me on the pillar. There were cameras on all the pillars, sealed in metal boxes with clear plastic over their eyes.
If Sarah were watching through those, she could have told me who those footsteps were. She only kept records about the other employees, and she never said she saw me writing down there, but maybe she wasn’t supposed to. I know she saw more than she told me.
I saw someone moving at the other end of the garage, saw them slip into the shadow of a concrete pillar against the wall. I walked down the row of cars towards that pillar.
“What are you doing back there?” My voice echoed more than the footsteps.
A car came up slow behind me, looking for a space, and its headlights hit the shadow.
I saw a face. He looked at the car, then at me. His eyes were clear. His body held still. His eyebrows went up, and he smiled.
The car turned the corner, pulling in front of me, and the shadow came back. By the time the car was out of my way and I reached the pillar, he was gone.
I heard more footsteps, but they echoed everywhere. I ran for the exit. The last time I ran was last November.
The chase was short. Harry was in as bad a shape as me. I caught up to him at the spiral staircase that went to the surface.
“Harry, what are you following me for?” I breathed hard.
So did he. He sat down on the stairs, his face only a few feet above me. “I had to make sure you were safe.”
“Don’t you have some new job?” I was out of breath.
He shook his head. “I quit.”
“Spying for someone else then? Working with Tink to try and win our bet?”
I froze, and I realized how much my heart was pounding. I spent so long making decisions based on it, got so close to doing it, it almost seemed too obvious to say out loud. “You bet me you would fuck Tinkerbell first.”
“Oh, I forgot about that.” He put his hands on the vertical bars of the railing, trapped in a tiny spiral prison. “Hey, did you actually do it?”
I smiled. “Pretty fucking close.”
“Yeah, I knew that was the only way to get you involved. You weren’t going to do things just because I asked you.”
I squinted. I even had to be suspicious of him. “You were using me?”
“Everybody’s using everybody.” He stood up. “They’re doing it to you now, just like they used me.”
“No, I’m using them to get at the system.” I remembered who I was talking to. “No, you’re just being paranoid, man. How high are you?”
“I’m not that guy anymore.”
“Harry, come down here. How long have I known you?” I went closer. Something was wrong.
“That’s why I got you hired. I though you were the one person they couldn’t turn against me.” He leaned over the railing. “But now I’m gonna take down the Dude. You with me or not?”
I realized what was different about Harry — his eyes weren’t bloodshot. “Harry, why don’t you smell like weed?”
“I told you, I’m not that guy anymore. I quit.”
I couldn’t catch my breath. “What the hell would make you do that?” I got dizzy. I couldn’t deal with change right then, not one that big.
“Casimir.” Harry’s hands were on the railing. “He said if I didn’t like the way this place was run, I should do something about it.”
My world was still spinning. “He did?”
Harry came down the stairs. “All that time I was training Hans to do dispatch, I was keeping an eye on things, like Casimir wanted, but it wasn’t until they took Hans away from me that I realized the real key to the system is Dumont.”
“Dumont?” I had to remember that name. Now that it’s written down, I feel better, but there’s so much more to go.
“What were you doing all that time, chasing women? As usual, I have to do all the work and drag you onto the stage.”
“It’s not like that. We dragged you along.”
“To the gigs that I booked.” We stood eye to eye.
All this from the oldest friend I had left. I couldn’t believe it. “When were you going to tell me about this?”
“Not till I made my move, three weeks or so. Uh…” He shrugged. “Come with me if you want.”
“Okay.” I wanted to deal with the whole thing right then. “As long as I don’t have to work anymore.”
“No, go. Just keep everything looking normal for now.”
That was exactly what I didn’t want to hear. “Well, shit. Then I’m late.” I turned towards my regular exit.
“Wait, are you with me? Can I still count on you?”
“Yes.” I nodded. No hesitation.
I should have hesitated. I should have known better. He told me where and when to meet him, but I’ll write about that in a bit.