On his way past he looked out the dining room window. Parked across the road was a Royal Mail van. Good. He hated sitting around, looking for something to fill the day until they arrived.
Minutes later the businesslike knock he’d been waiting for brought him to the front door. He smoothed his hair with his hands, adjusted his shirt and prepared his smile. He opened the door.
“Good morning. Parcel for you.”
He took the proffered stylus and scrawled his signature on the little screen. He hated the way the stylus slid around, making his writing look like someone else’s. Still, he kept the smile until the postman left.
The smile grew into a grin once he’d shut the front door. The old desk in the dining room was now his workspace. It wasn’t a dining room anymore. He ate most of his meals at the occasional table in the living room, the rest in front of the TV.
The desk itself was almost empty. Only a photo of his ex-wife stayed next to his laptop when he wasn’t working. He placed the brown cardboard box next to it. From the top drawer, he took a letter opener. With a series of smooth, careful actions he worked his way through the packing tape at the top and both ends, making sure not to touch the contents. At the top of the box, in a brown envelope, was a docket detailing the contents. He opened it, and took note of how many smaller packages should be inside. He counted them out. Then he put them back in.
Not many. Not enough for a day’s work, but enough to keep him busy into the afternoon.
He turned on the laptop and loaded his employer’s website.
Freelance colleagues please sign in here.
He clicked the text, then typed his ID and password into the pop-up.
While the blue ‘almost there’ disc span, he took the packages out of the box. There were seven. He laid them in a neat line to the right of his laptop.
Please scan today’s itinerary.
Each package had a white barcode label stuck to the rear. He held each in turn, in front of his webcam, watching the hourglass turn into a green tick before raising the next one. After that, he held the letter to the camera.
Consignment complete and authorised. Please ensure all repairs are complete by 09:00 am tomorrow. A courier will arrive between the hours of 09:30 and 10:30.
He opened each small package and placed the phones on top of their envelopes. He wrinkled his nose at the last one, put it back in its envelope and pushed it to one side. He’d deal with that last. With all the phones in a neat row, he left the desk and went into the kitchen.
There wasn’t much to see in his garden. He looked out the kitchen window as the kettle boiled. A patio led to a trimmed lawn. A thin border ran around it. He’d not planted anything in there this year. Gardening had been his wife’s passion, not his. He was going to seed the border in the spring, have the grass from fence to fence. All he needed was the bird table.
The click of the kettle boiling brought him back. He made a pot of tea and put it on a tray. He placed a china cup saucer next to it, and carried the tray back to the dining room. A side table stood next to the desk, and it was there he put the tray. He turned on the DAB. Radio Four as always. He sipped his tea, and sat down to begin his work.
He took a small tray filled with screwdrivers of all types and a USB cable from the top drawer of the desk. A range of adaptors for different phone types sat next to the cable. Then he worked through the collection of broken phones sitting atop their envelopes. Most were in need of physical repairs. Broken screens, unresponsive buttons and worn headphone jacks took up the majority of his time. There were a few firmware issues that required some tricky debugging via the laptop, but even those didn’t take too long. After each repair he put the phone back into its envelope and scanned the barcode again, marking each one as complete. Then he put each envelope back in the box.
He never noticed the time pass when he was engrossed in his work, and it took his stomach rumbling to stop him. He checked his watch. Lunchtime. He made himself a cup of coffee and a sandwich, and ate in front of the news.
Big Pharma was everywhere. The reporters might not have come out and said so, but he knew. They owned the politicians dismantling the NHS, and the healthcare companies picking over its carcass. They controlled the supply and the price of medicines the world over. They influenced the media and politicians, and suppressed all views contradicting their own. They had brainwashed almost the entire human race into believing their rhetoric of drugs being the cure for all ills. Even his dear Jenna had clung to her belief in drugs and chemo, right until the end.
He scowled, and turned the TV off. Thank God for the Internet, where open-minded people like himself could learn, research and discuss their discoveries. He left his half-eaten sandwich on the plate and went back into the dining room.
The final envelope. He turned her photo away before opening it.
The phone was white, or had been when new. The edges were now a shade of grey, with yellowy marks. The screen had one of those adhesive protectors on, but it was slick with nicotine. He imagined some great ox of a bloke frowning as he exhaled clouds of noxious smoke over the device, jabbing at the screen with fingers clamped to a cigarette.
He opened the bottom drawer and lifted the false bottom. Hidden therein was a small Ziploc bag. Inside those were several identical devices. To anyone else, they’d look like standard mobile phone components.
Through his reading, he’d come to realise everything in creation had a rhythm. People had biorhythms. Animals had them. Plants had them. Crystals had their own. Mains electricity cycled at fifty hertz. Mobile phones transmitted their signals at bands between eight hundred and fifty, and two-thousand, one hundred Mhz. Cancer, he’d learned, occurred when the unnatural rhythms in the environment overcame the body’s natural biorhythms. Cancer, like most diseases, preyed on such weakened states. Cancer had its own rhythm, forcing cells to multiply too fast.
Energetics was the word for it. Unnatural substances -processed foods, drugs (yes, even caffeine), alcohol- all weakened the body’s ability to maintain its rhythm; its own refresh rate, if you like. Alter that rate, say by interrupting the cells’ natural rate with a high-frequency chip operating beyond the human auditory range, and the cells reproduced much more quickly. Malignant cells, such as those stimulated by the carcinogens this nicotine addict inhaled daily.
Life is a gift, one that ought not to be squandered so readily. All he was doing, really, was to speed up the inevitable. Loading the dice a little, so the gambler lost sooner rather than later. And when enough people lose, fewer people choose to gamble. He inserted the little gold pillow next to the earpiece, plugged the USB cable into the phone’s socket and launched the diagnostic tools. And while the blue ‘almost there’ disc span in the centre of the screen he poured another cup of tea.
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