The board briefed for a moment before offering a response. It was silent during this time. The air around me heated up.
One of the members started, saying, “Mr. Manford, we like your idea, but it won’t happen. Not with us. Especially after the crash.”
I unclenched my jaw, loosened my tie and said, “I’ve been turned down too many times by too many suits, but I understand your concern. Maybe it isn’t practical, convenient or any other buzzword you need to market to make a buck, but you can’t deny how many people this might help!”
Once again they paused, holding back jeers. Watch alarms began buzzing. My hour was up.
The security guards guided me through the exit wing to the back of the facility. The door locked shut behind me as I staggered in the cold. Banks of snow on either side of the road were brightened by yellow street lamps and neon billboards.
The parking plaza housed thousands of cars, most of them junk. Mine was flashing red, warning me of bad conditions on the road. Despite this, I started it up.
The dashboard AI beamed, and greeted me, “Hello, Arthur! Where to?”
“Home.”, I said.
“Okay! Setting route for home. Warning! A winter weather system is moving through your area and may make travel more difficult. Is this okay?”, the AI said.
“I don’t have a choice. I can’t stay here all night.”, I groaned.
Electric whirs zipped and crackled as the engine revved up. Cold sparks spewed from the muffler and the wheels broke free from the ice. Leaving the parking plaza, the car turned towards downtown.
“You will arrive home in 35 minutes, Arthur! Would you like to know the breaking news?”, the AI asked, moving through its list of predetermined questions.
I said, “No thanks. Too depressing.”
As we approached the city, skyscrapers loomed on the horizon. Harsh pinks, yellows, greens and blues struck at the sky, lighting up snowflakes as they drifted by. The pavement was cracked and faded near the central district.
The car slowed and pulled up to an old brick building with metal signage, reading “Manford Mechanics”. I whipped the car door open and slammed it shut behind me.
The AI lit up for a moment then said, “You’ve arrived, Arthur! I will park your vehicle behind the building.”
The lights dimmed and the car screeched down the pavement towards the garage.
Inside the building were remnants of old, defunded experiments scattered about. The reflections of blinking light fixtures shone across the floor in sparse pockets.
I walked up to my desk and bunkered down in the armchair, exhausted. My body went limp.
A crumpled wad of papers adorned the desk and the many drawers were coated in a fine layer of dust. I opened one of them to find an old newspaper article from the crash.
It read, "US suffers worst economic recession since 1929; Expected to make profound global socioeconomic impact."
I swiped the bourbon from the corner of the drawer and downed a few swigs. And then a few more.
"Why the fuck did this have to happen? I had shit I wanted to do. Plans for everything!", I bellowed.
My phone interrupted with a ping, and said, "Your alarm will go off in 7 hours."
I took a few moments to collect myself and wiped the drunken sweat from my brow. I wobbled out of my chair and stumbled towards the hallway.
Before retiring to bed, I said, "It's alright, it's alright. I'll just wake up and do it again tomorrow. No biggie."
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