~ a short story

I work for a content company. Most people do these days.

Mine is called Self-Opt. Different nodes, same core. And we mine each other’s minds. Credits don’t come cheap. For every write, I gotta do so many reads. And vice versa.

To join, you simply agree to the terms. Accept your package of salary and benefits. Even unlock some extra ones, if you can afford it. Formulate a plan for how you will clock in. What kind of tokens do you want your salary to be paid in? Which vendors are in your top 3? You’ll want to reconcile any incompatibilities before you sign on. There’s no going back once the contract kicks in.

My new pod has bready and video games on auto-delivery. I even connect to a mini-bar. Has comms on Middays. My tower has 24/7 simulcrafted sunlight. Most of my friends are Underground. Friends and co-workers, that is.

My dad always said us workers gotta stick together. We talk sometimes. Trade sleeps for games, drinks for pills, bread for the harder stuff. I don’t have to tell most of you out there life can get hard in the pod. Loneliness is just the beginning.

But no matter how you slice it, we all spend most of our time working. Regardless of where and when — there is that main, singular commonality: the ability to go Online, where all our channels reside. Where all the work gets done.

The goal of the company is to have us all creating all the time. And when we aren’t, we are giving views to each other’s creations past. At the end of the day, we amount to creators and consumers. Consumers and creators. Consume, create, consume. And so on.

The structure of the organization is silent, invisible, decentralized. There’s no hierarchy that we can see. We mediate only through our pages, written or read. Or coded. Drawn. Calculated. You see, not everyone is a writer like me. There are content creators of all kinds at Self-Opt. “Artists.”

Our job: make something that people can look at. Scroll through. To be read, watched, played. Anything. There are certainly many sex workers at the company, making that kind of content too. Basically everyone looks forward to those arriving on their dash.

For me, I start with a blank page. New one shows up every day in my inbox. My job is to write something. Something interesting. Or terrifying. Intriguing. Amazing. Fun. Or dark, serious, laden with commentary on the affairs of our shared reality. It should be something people enjoy.

Outside of that — it’s entirely up to me. I can customize how it is formatted, what kind of imagery — if any — to use to pair with the words. My tone shifts between informative and persuasive. Sometimes, often, surreal.

I write something — for example, an essay on birds, a short story about an angel and demon in love, an article about 5 reading retention tips. Then we send it on. From our personal domain to the Universal one. Presumably, moderators or intermediaries or reviewers or critics or whatever read them and then put them into circulation. Company men of some kind or another. I don’t know them. After I hit send, company owns my words from there. I don’t get to see them again.

But everyone else will.

After a piece is done, we are sent one thousand other pieces to look at on our screens. From out of the aforementioned circulation, these pieces of content come. Some other creator’s creations. Second part of our job kicks in: We consume them.

Technically speaking, we don’t actually have to read, or even like, the things we are looking at. They show up on our dashboard, and then we click them in whatever order we like.

The page gets pulled up, filled with whatever, then we scroll through them at the speed we like. The scroll pauses on ads, which we have to sit and watch and listen to. That’s obviously the most important part. After our thousand views, we get another blank page for another of our creations. Rinse and repeat.

We work 14 hours a day. Pod doesn’t unlock until the time is up.

Life isn’t so bad, though. I’ve learned so much. About the world, about what people like. About what kinds of shit people are into out there…

And I can finally call myself a writer. My dream. I certainly make my friends refer to me as such. My top article all-time has over one million reads.

It was titled “Why Panopticons Are Good, Actually” and contained no research, just my thoughts.

…Lies. Pandered to the algorithm.

Like everyone else, I’m doing it for the money. For the bread. Mere survival.

But I hate this place.

I am writing this because I’m done.

Today I decided I want to leave more.
Tomorrow, I’m planning to break my screen.
The next day — my door. ~