They wanted their misery. They thought it made them good people.
He hadn’t left his apartment in six months, he guessed. He didn’t have to work much these days. There had been a settlement, among other things. He had made himself enough of a nuisance it was easier just to pay him, the store’s lawyer had told him afterwards, outside, in the parking lot with the courthouse’s shadow reaching across them. It wasn’t that much money, all told, but it was enough that he could quit his job and coast on it for a few years, maybe longer if he didn’t do anything stupid. He figured things would come to a head before it ran out, and then there would be more important things to worry about. There were a lot of traitors out there.
He had all his food delivered, and there was nothing else he wanted from the world out there. He’d seen enough of it. All those people taking up space, taking up air, wasting precious resources on their empty little lives. Ugly, sweating, covered with acne, too lazy to put on a clean shirt. It disgusted him. The delivery guys were supposed to just leave the food at the door but sometimes they rang and waited anyway. When this happened it was the only time he saw another person in the flesh. Brown, middle-aged, usually, muttering the here-you-go-thank-you-have-a-good-day script some app had taught them in a thick accent. It was never some college kid. They actually knew how to read instructions. He never had to see them. But these people, these people he did. He hated having to deal with them. He guessed they had wires in their heads. Most immigrants did, he had read. They got bagged at the border. They would send them to New York and Los Angeles and Portland and Boston and Baltimore and Atlanta in shipping containers rigged with special oxygen recyclers, then corral them into cargo vans with government plates and take them to black sites, nondescript warehouses and anonymous office buildings, places no one ever paid any mind to. That was where the actual procedure would be done. He had seen pictures on a Telegram channel; folds of skin and fat peeled back from the skull, three small holes in a triangle formation (this had esoteric significance, apparently, was necessary for ritual reasons, although he didn’t fully understand why). They would feed the wires through these holes, hook up receivers and transmitters, little microchips far more advanced than the kind civilians are allowed to play with. Once they have it all installed they can see through their eyes whenever they want, like tapping into a video feed. The ultimate surveillance system. There was evidence the wires could control their emotions, too. Electrical impulses that went to the right parts of the brain to keep them docile, like human cattle. That was what the real agenda was behind the ICE deportations, he had read. Spread the network throughout the world, stoke division, sow instability, influence local politics. Make sure all the right people were in charge before they tried it here, so there was nowhere to run. Even if you could make it past the border, there would be a special doctor waiting for you on the other side, and a remote-controlled government that was only too happy to take you to his office. Made sense to him, but still, better out there than in here, as far as he was concerned. If they were really so docile, though, why did they always look him in the eyes? It was like they stared right through him, like he wasn’t even there. He hated that look. He hated not knowing who was on the other side, if there was anyone there at all. He figured there must be. He figured he must be on their watchlists by now. He figured they must have a plan for him, for people like him. It made him want to do something. Something to show, definitively, that he knew what they were up to, and that he wouldn’t go along with it. But instead he just took his food and shut the door as quickly as he could. He made sure to never tip.