I’m sitting in this coffee shop killing time, but feel like an ant. I’m by the window that faces northwest, so the sun is beating down this window as it sets. It’s probably an hour and a half away from sunset. I could check a website, lock down that time, but I don’t really have the desire to look it up.
So instead, I’ve turned it all around. Not metaphorically, mind you, just literally. Now my back faces the window, so I get a little spot of sun on my elbow, and on my screen. Otherwise, there’s just the sweat rolling down my face from my previous dip in the summer heat.
Now, I know what your’e thinking: Why didn’t you just change seats?
Well, for one thing, most other tables and chairs are taken, and all of the outlets are blocked other than the one I’m beside. And there’s nothing more annoying than sitting in that middle aisle of seats in a cafe, not near any outlet, and feeling like the whole cafe, and the rest of the world, is staring at you, at your work, and judging every move you make.
But that’s the least of my worries.
See, the other reason I’m not fond of relocating entirely is what’s outside the window, literally watching and judging our every move while we sit inside this semi-safe-zone of a cafe.
There are thousands of them on this block alone, like insect-eyes, watching every corner, behind every tree, rock, crevice. I don’t know if there’s an “unwatched” corner in this entire city. What used to be a prime location for filmmakers and the world of Hollywood has become a movie in and of itself, for watchers we’ve never seen, only heard…from a distance.
If you hear a watcher close by, in pursuit, it’s probably pursuing you, and you have no chance of telling the world what they actually sound like. We hear loud screeches, like the police sirens of old. But this is from a distance, at least three blocks away. Within that margin, you’re a dead person. You’ve done something out of the routine, beyond the cusp, and they’ve come for you.
So, why aren’t they after me, if I’m telling you about this?
They want me to tell you. They haven’t hired me, mind you. I’m doing this for my own health, out of my own “free will.” But they do like the mythology we’ve created around them. The world we’ve built up around these potentially dangerous watchers who are only doing their jobs, for the betterment of our species.
But are they part of our species?
Yes, the watchers are like you and I, only there are millions of them instead of thousands of them. We created them, in fact, mindful that everyone needed to be protected, from each other, from themselves. Watchers were invented to do a better job policing the world than the actual police, and from that perspective you could say they’ve been a success, the one successful invention we’ve ever made on the planet. Other than the wheel, which, let’s face it, ain’t perfect all the time.
When a camera breaks, you should see how fast it is replaced. Shiny and metallic and new, the replacement camera is swooped in by an Amazon Drone as though it was ordered weeks ago and they were just waiting for this moment to drop by. It’s surprising how much you don’t think they see, but they do see. They see it all.
And when you break a camera? And the watchers come for you?
I can’t answer that. There are rumors, of course, of imprisonment for life, with trials, of course. We’re not animals. Neither are the watchers.
But I for one have never seen these trials, and you’re likely to not have seen one either. The only ones who see the trials are the watchers and the suspects, folks like you and me who never think they’ll get to see one.
I’ve turned my seat around, but the sun keeps chasing this screen, as though trying to cover up what I’m saying. The watchers don’t control the sun, if that’s what you’re wondering. Sometimes it feels like they have it all, I know the feeling. But they don’t. The sun is still ours, the plants, the food, the coffee — good Lord, the coffee.
In this cafe, there is only one camera in the ceiling. I assume it’s a fish-eye lens, and it captures about 98% of the cafe. If it’s recording, or a watcher just watches, I can’t tell. But I’m hoping it misses the corner, because I’m going to move there in one minute with a friend of mine. We’ve been testing the watchers for months.
There are minor infractions they don’t see, or choose to ignore: Smoking, for one. Using a phone for a phone call is illegal, but playing a game is not. I’ve got a game ready to go on my phone, as soon as my buddy shows up. He’s an hour late, but that’s par for the course. He likes to test as many cameras as he can outside of our work. He says Main St. by Venice is actually a week point, on account of the cameras having been installed during the last road construction of 2017.
I tell him he’s full of it, and I hear a watcher cry out.
Could it be him?
Will he be able to send me a photo, a voicemail, or other indication of what the watcher is before they take him down?
No, instead he’s walked into the cafe and now he’s standing in the corner, waiting for me. A watcher will see me stand up and walk to the corner, but out of sight, out of mind.
The sun is now all over my screen, and I’ve got nowhere else to turn to hide from it.
It’s time to try out the corner, and test the watchers once again. If we succeed, I’ll come back to you.
***If you receive this signal, don’t turn back. SOS. SOS. SOS….