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‘Dum-dum, duh-duh-dah dum

dah-dadda dum-dum da-dah dah dum


dah-dadda dum-dum




His hand bangs on the bedpod wall.

10 years after personal control was outlawed, Tam Johnson still wants to smash his remote alarm off every morning.

Instead, he rolls over onto his left side and spits venom through his gritted teeth:

̶  Knowledge, STOP!

Knowing fine well it’ll just set her off.

Bloody squawk box.

̶  Good morning Everyman. I’m glad you’re enjoying this year’s alarm song. Dovely Lay was written by Chill Blizzard and features on Chill’s 1977 album Alphabet Gloop. It was rated 97.3% positive by the Knowledge Panel Board and voted ‘Morning Alarm Song Of The Year 2032’. Lucky you – you have 238 dovely lays left this year!


̶  Jesus, also referred to as Jesus of Nazareth, a first-century Jewish preacher and…

Tam was sure he didn’t think out loud. Who knew these days? But this one he can stop.

̶  STOP Knowledge, just stop!

̶  Yes Everyman.

That inane, robotic, perpetually cheery California inflection. Here she goes again.

̶  Everyman, you sound depressed. Please remember that it’s mandatory to submit your mood map to your employer within 30 minutes of waking each morning. Our auto doc can diagnose anxiety, depression and mood disorders with 54% accuracy within two minutes and print a micro dose within 23 minutes on your home dispenser. A healthy worker is a happy worker’.

̶  OK I’ll do it. I’m OK.

̶  It’s ok not to be ok. Here at Knowledge Life Integration Systems we monitor and regulate the life pods of over three billion workers worldwide and optimising mental health has been at the forefront of our work since 2028. We find that…

̶  Oh fuck off.

Tam slides out of his bedpod. It’s made easier by the fact that he slept in his tracksuit and the cotton polyester mix doesn’t stick to the perspex the way his body does. Night terrors, sweat and plastic walls. Not a good mix. Not like cotton and polyester.

On to the treadmill.

̶  Welcome to Real World Exercise. Where and when would you like to jog today?

̶  Dunfermline, foot of Townhill Road, April 2005.

̶  No problem, let’s go for the burn!

Everything in the ecru plastic life pod around him smokes and snaps like a 70s TV screen sizzling into life.

A whirr.

A bleep.

Birdsong and ambient traffic noise.

And he’s there. Kind of.

The image is grainy, and the colours bleached, but at least it feels kind of real. Realer than the life pod. He could choose to run along Seven Mile Beach in Negril, through the leafy streets of Paris on a breezy afternoon, or across crisp Central Park snow as his breath billows into the frosty air. Instead, he always chooses Dunfermline in 2005.

Along Halbeath Road and past East End Park on the left. Cars cruise past on their way to the big Asda or out onto the road to Edinburgh or Dundee. A security guard in a yellow high-vis stands at the big vehicle gates on the right of the football stadium and fiddles with his earpiece. Tam picks up pace and is fairly motoring along now. Past an old woman hunched over a tartan shopping trolley. She tilts her head as he approaches and smiles toothlessly through him.

Takes a left up Whitefield Road. This is a tough uphill gradient past Queen Margaret Hospital. Which is salmon pink and grey and there’s a farm on the other side of the road with some black and white Friesian cows lazily chewing the cud. Three are standing. Two are lying down.

Left again up Kingseat Hill and this is the toughest part of the run. The steepest part. But he keeps his head down and his eyes up, bending his body into the hill like Sisyphus rolling his rock. It’s always at this point that he looks up and sees him coming down the hill.

It’s him. It’s Tam  ̶  back in the day.

The Knowledge must have been recording in the area on that day and hadn’t updated the system with a newer version of Dunfermline. He never lets on of course, at least not externally. These bastards would pick it up.

He runs on and just slowly, slightly and almost imperceptibly looks in the eyes of his younger self as he passes, side stepping him even though he knows he could run right through. That would feel too weird.

At the top, he stops for a second at The Viewpoint. Nothing strange about that. Everyone who knows about this place stops here if they have time. And time is all he has now. Dunfermline cascades below him as its rooftops, parks and roads shine and burn in the sun like a golden garment from a Klimt painting.

Further up towards the horizon there’s the red Meccano blaze of the Forth Bridge and the glinting river below. The end of the run. This is where he always ends it. Hits the STOP button, old school style.

His life pod reappears in that familiar puff of pixelated smoke.

As he steps towards his Deep Work Zone, illuminated footprints light the way in front of him, always plink-plonking two steps ahead. It’s comfy in here. The seat is cushioned, and the roofs and walls are enclosed. Tight, efficient, cocooned. He can think here. This is where he thinks. For the company. The keystrokes you see, they record the keystrokes and verbalisations. Nothing is wasted. Nothing at all.

Half an hour till his Team Shoom call.

Might get a bit of banter. Something funny on the telly.

Something about the football.

Someone’s dog got pregnant.

How did that happen?

Another dog. A bad dog did it. Will you keep the puppies? Yes of course. The cute ones anyway.

Talk about targets. The old team chat. And bandwidth. Someone needs more bandwidth. Always. Then there’s the deliverables and pushing things through. Seeing it all through in the different projects. Making it happen. Touching base. And pulling together.

Or a memory.

Someone will talk about an old memory.

That is sometimes the best bit.

A memory that the Boss recalls is like a guide. No – a guided missile. It seeks out something in the team. Something to connect. Like:

Do you remember when we used to do that thing?

Ohyeswasn’tthatfunnywhenweusedto? Oh you!

You silly old sausage that was years ago that old memory.

But Pedro you probably didn’t do that?

There on the beach in Brazil, better things to do eh?

Keepy-uppies with oranges. Barefoot. Youdon’tlikefootball? Shut the front door. Are you even Brazilian?

Those old biscuits, those old Penguin biscuits, all chocolatey? P-P-PICKUP-A-PENGUIN! HAHAHA! TheybroughtthembackThePenguins. Yup. No, no that was something else, you’re right. Silly. Melt on the beach anyway wouldn’t they Pedro and get all sand in them it would ruin them. Better off without them I say. Damn Penguins.

People from all over the world. Amazing really. When you think about it. All connected, it’s like a mission. Moving forward, taking about things, hopping on calls, leaning into things. All sorts of exciting things.

The future’s bright when you think about it.

But Tam should really choose a new Shoom background. This is the thing.

Cheers everyone up.

Click the filter. Ah, Nice.

He feels like Hawaii today.