Subco - Short Story Inspired by Sandi Thom Song Lyrics
Sam awoke to find himself in a room that was empty apart from him and the bed. The walls and the door were all painted white and a solitary light in the middle of the ceiling was the only thing providing any illumination, no windows or cracks in the door. The strange simplicity of the room was doing nothing to help erase Sam’s feeling of confusion, he had no idea where he was or why he was there. Before he could remember anything the door opened and in walked a delightfully gorgeous woman.
‘Don’t worry about the confusion,’ she said as she came into the room and shined a light in his eyes for a second or two as she looked at them. ‘It will go away soon enough. In the mean time I’ll answer all the questions you’re about to ask. Yes you are dead and yes this is the afterlife. Your unremarkable, but well natured, existence on planet earth has earned you a spot in what you would call heaven. The reason you are so much younger than when you died is because here you get to live forever in your body, at the state your body was at its best down on earth, in your case you reached your physical peak at the age of twenty seven. Yes your family and friends will miss you and no there’s nothing we can do about that. I’m Somi, I’ll be your guide until you get used to this plane of existence.’
‘You’re Audrey Hepburn,’ Sam said, unable to take his eyes of her.
‘No I’m Somi, but here they make your guide look like whatever you want them to. If you’re going to be guided around the universe by someone, can you think of anyone else you’d rather be looking at all that time than Audrey Hepburn?’
‘Not at all,’ Sam said, staring in wonderment, then he reached up to touch her.
‘Whoah,’ Somi said as she gently knocked his hand away. ‘You were a good human on earth, but you weren’t good enough to deserve that!’
‘Oh I see, a look but don’t touch scenario.’
‘Most definitely. Your reward here is to be able to travel through the universe and time.’
‘A sense of humour isn’t part of this job, of course I’m being serious. All you need is one of these,’ she handed him something that looked like an Ipod. ‘With that you can travel to any part of the universe, at any time. Like I said I’ll be with you to begin with, until you get used to the device. I’ve already loaded our first trip, just press the green button and it will take you there,’ Somi added as she got her own device out and pressed the green button on hers.
‘Oh my God,’ Sam said as he ended up in a busy town centre with Somi. ‘Where the hell are we?’
‘I’ve started you off with something simple, this is planet Subco, inhabited by humans, you’ll find lots of things you’ll be familiar with.’
‘Oh yeah, there’s a MacDonalds, a Costa Coffee and a Primark,’ Sam said with wide eyed wonderment.
‘Yeah the humans here like their routines, they decided that in order to save time that it made sense for every town centre to have exactly the same shops. That way they all know where everything is and where they can get anything they might want.’
‘Makes sense I suppose.’
‘It does save time, and stops them having to travel to another town to see if they might have something different.’
Sam looked on at the people passing by. ‘They seem to all be wearing very similar clothes.’
‘When you can only shop for clothes at four different shops, then there’s only so many variations you can have. Besides again they decided it would make it easier and less hassle to own several copies of a few outfits and just take turns wearing them. Saves them having to think about what to wear.’
‘Oh I see,’ Sam said as he looked around at the masses of people, then his eyes were drawn to a car being parked. He blinked his eyes emphatically a few times on purpose, then stared at the car. ‘She’s parking that without touching the steering wheel!’
‘Yeah, they’ve taken sat-navs a step further, they just input their destination and the car drives them there.’
‘Wow, that’s a big jump from having a sat-nav.’
‘As with most inventions, once the original idea has been created, adding to it isn’t all that difficult. This one certainly makes driving easier.’
Sam walked slowly as he looked all around him. ‘All the buildings seem the same somehow, the same as each other I mean.’
‘Yeah they pretty much are, whichever town you are in, the buildings will look like these ones,’ Somi nodded gently as she replied. ‘It was much more cost effective to build these square buildings, all with conveniently sized rooms. They build their houses the same way, it’s so much easier to build houses when every company knows exactly what a house is supposed to look like. Makes the valuing of houses a lot easier too, just depends on the number of rooms.’
Sam watched as the driver of the recently parked car got out of her vehicle and made her way across the road. ‘Look at her, she’s not even looking at the road, she’s too busy looking at her phone.’
‘She’ll be using the road crossing app,’ Somi said.
‘The road crossing app?’
‘Yeah all phones are fitted with one here, it tells them when it’s safe to cross the road.’
‘Can’t they just use their eyes?’
‘They could,’ Somi said with a shrug of the shoulders.
‘Oh I can’t wait to get talking to someone from this planet, it will be fascinating.’
‘You’re not allowed to interact with the inhabitants, not until you’re a more experienced traveller. At the moment they can’t see or hear you.’
‘Oh I see, that’s definitely something to look forward to,’ Sam said then his eyes were drawn to a couple who walked into a restaurant, they sat down at a table that already had their meals served on. Sam looked through the window with a puzzled look.
‘They order their food online before they get to the restaurant, and they order a time, that way the food is there waiting for them when they get there,’ Somi didn’t wait for the question.
‘Wow, they seem to be super efficient at everything,’ Sam said. ‘Oh there’s a library, that’ll be interesting,’ he made is way over to the library, with Somi following him.
Once inside the library Sam made his way to the fiction section. ‘All the books seem old, most of them not in great condition.’
Somi nodded slowly. ‘Yeah that’s one of the big problems with this place, all the super efficiency and the uniformity have completely ruined the imagination of the humans. A new fiction book hasn’t been written for nearly thirty years now, some authors make a decent living from rewriting classic fiction and making it easier to understand.’
‘Really? That does sound awful.’
‘Yeah, it’s the same with music, no new songs written for years, only cover versions. Films continue to be made, but their either remakes or based on old books or even comics. When all the thinking and problem solving has been done for them, the humans lost that element of creativity. Making the same journey in the same way every time, buying the same things from the same places every time, never going to other places because they knew what was going to be there, all of these has taken its toll. They’ve made such an effort to conform and fit in over the years that eventually individuality has been virtually wiped out.’
‘Sounds like an extremely dour world. It will be interesting to see what sort of thing they have in the non-fiction section,’ he said and then made his way over to it.
When he got there a large proportion of the books were on the subject of speech therapy and advice on how to interact with other humans. Sam stood there shaking his head.
‘Yeah,’ Somi was nodding slowly again. ‘All the internet communications, the self check out services, the phone applications and the, completely anti social, social networks have also had a dramatic effect. The number of people developing speech impediments has gone through the roof and many humans have lost the ability to interact with others face to face.’
‘They may be more advanced than us in some ways, but I’d take earth every time,’ Sam said.
‘Oh was I not clear before? This is earth, a future earth, a few years after Tesco and Subway merged and then won the battle to secure naming rights of the planet.’
Fantastic music, thought provoking lyrics and great merchandise from singer/song writer Sandi Thom: http://tiny.cc/loveablelyrics
thought provoking writing, stories about the human spirit, morally ambiguous crime thrillers and opinionated articles: http://tiny.cc/reading2escape