‘The Gift’

23:30 Mon 20 Nov 2006. Updated: 00:17 30 Nov 2006
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Before they got me, I programmed. Software development. I did fine. But I got bored, ennui creeping into my life, my work, my own projects, everything. Everything suffered under a fog of lethargy and angst. I thought I knew what I wanted to do, but I couldn’t seem to do it. So I went looking for more exciting positions.

I found one. Excellent pay, advanced and challenging work, low entry requirements. I took it.

Orientation lasted under two hours—the time it took them to sedate me and implant something in my head. When I woke, I could feel the tender scar at the base of my skull. I didn’t want to stay, and tried to leave. Or tried to try. It turned out that I didn’t really want to.

Instead I devoured their training materials and started working at my desk. And I didn’t go home, instead bunking at the office like the others.

They could make us do what they wanted. And when they did, we kind of wanted to ourselves. Whatever they put in our heads controlled our volition, our motivation. We wanted to do what they wanted, and we did it. Intellectually I knew I didn’t want to. But that didn’t matter.

I couldn’t break out of their control, and nor could the others. We couldn’t talk about it. They didn’t want us to talk. I could think, though. I don’t know if the others could.

Two years. Two years of coding for them, doing more work for longer hours than ever before. Not to the bone—we got food and sleep. But the rest of the time, we worked. All through that time, working diligently away, I kept a part of my mind thinking about escape.

I watched, waited, plotted to get more information. They got complacent, but we all had to keep working.

Then, finally, a break. I heard a supervisor say a fire drill was coming up, and managed to drink enough water that I had to take a bathroom break at just the right time. At the alarm, they simply commanded everyone present to leave. But I stayed in the bathroom long enough that they were gone before I emerged.

And they left a door open.

I had to trick my mind, my self, which wanted to go back to code. Every step involved torturous logic and self-deception. But I made it. I made it, and inside: a control box.

Once I had that, I escaped. I had to get far away in the first few days, but managed it somehow. And then I started a new life.

Since then, I have achieved whatever I decided on. I could do anything I wanted—I just ordered myself to do it with the control box. I used it to focus on any task I chose, learning languages and dancing and martial arts and innumerable other skills. And I could do it whenever I wanted, and I could make myself happy. So I did, and still do.

(500 words)

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