8) The Thread – Page 48
He casts a glance over the seats in front of him, staring at a sliver of 17-D’s profile. Her left hand is busy straightening the pleat of her skirt. Wald catches a glimpse of purple on her ring finger. Too far away to be sure, but Wald thinks it must be multiple amethyst stones — definitely not a solitaire. Possible that it could be a vintage piece, but more likely it was just a decoy.
You are the most suspicious person I have ever met, a friend had once said. They had been out at a trendy bar with a large group, and he had just asked her if it was working. Is what working? she asked. He had pointed out the ring on her left hand ring finger. Unless you got engaged without telling me — I take it you are trying to avoid attention? She had shrugged and said, I suppose. The ones I’m avoiding don’t pay enough attention to notice the ring. It had been a sad day in Wald’s life when he realized that most of the people he met had those rings; the day he had first correlated the lack of a ring with eligibility.
Had he been that suspicious before he had started the job, or had the job taught him that? He thinks back to previous positions, but they are hazy, from another life. He struggles to recall how long he had been at this job. Day-in, day-out. Hands on keyboard, headphones on ears. Music kicking like an EKG pulse — reassuring him that he was still a little bit alive while he sifted through 99% meaningless data, searching for that important 1%. It’s not that I’m suspicious — I’m just looking for reasons.
Days on end had rolled together while he programmed computers to be just as suspicious as he was. Days on end had rolled together while he had made tiny adjustments and waited for batches to finish. The problem was, you never knew when the batch would finish, so you couldn’t just take a justified long lunch. His co-workers had devised dozens of methods of wasting time between batches while keeping their eyes on their work: checking mail; paper clip fights; prank wars. One guy — he was a numbers stations guy, and was half-cracked already — had taken up knitting. He found it soothing. Wald’s time-waster was video blackjack. It was almost job related; he’d sit for hours looking through numbers and symbols, determining patterns and repetition. And he could hide it quickly when a superior came by — unlike the knitter.
I don’t work there anymore… why am I still thinking about it? He was still so disappointingly close to it. How long until he doesn’t remember doing it at all, like those past jobs? Part of it was his boss’ fault. Hi Stephen. The call had come at the beginning of the week. Hope you’re doing well, and I’d like to talk to you about reconsidering your resignation. I talked with the higher-ups, and we’ve put together a package… No, Wald wouldn’t be free while he still had the possibility of coming back. That was part of the plan, too.
The penultimate application of a miraculous variably induced gravity device is a floating city: a farcical construction, obviated by argument.