Our story really begins on a Fourthday, with a slight office mishap that wasn’t really a mishap at all but rather a calculated act of administrative anarchy. It would be only polite however, to introduce you to our protagonist, Robert.
Robert was quite simply Mr. Average. This was largely because he worked in an average job, in the rather average offices of Devlin Insurance, a subsidiary of Devlin Enterprises (along with Devlin Construction, Devlin Demolition and Devlin Reconstruction) owned by the far from average Devlin Brand. The other reason Robert was Mr. Average, was even more simply, that Average was his surname.
Robert’s home, as you may have guessed was also a rather dull affair, looked after by his not so ugly, charming or smart wife, who by some strange twist of fate was called Roberta. Along with their home, Roberta also cared for their two children, Michael and Michelle who, for all intents and purposes, in both personality and intelligence, were, well, how can I say, average.
It wasn’t always this way however. Back then Mr. Average was a myth - a name given to a measuring standard, a uniform ‘him’ that didn’t really exist. Following the big push of liberal economics and priority placed on individualism, there was a period where people were exploring self-expression, pulling in their fiscal selfishness and refraining from the pitfalls of a previous era’s promiscuity and pot smoking passiveness.
The event of Now however, and the unnatural disasters that came with it changed all that. When Planet was struck by the meteor of mediocrity there was enough fear, loathing and ‘security’ around to ensure that even the most derailed of youthful rebels would fall into the middle lane, which in itself had been thrown to the right a little by the collision.
Robert, who had been a bright young emissary of liberal punk values and Crasstafarian attitudes was no exception. The Bug, as it became known, spread like the most infectious of epidemics and soon in The During, Robert was the perfect case study for exhibiting all the symptoms.
He had become a file clerk.
When he wasn’t organizing the paper files of submitted insurance claims, he was allocating word processed letters to their correct computerised folders – a simple process of opening a new one for the when, where necessary, naming the letter with client and registration number, and saving it in the appropriate folder. This process would be repeated, repeatedly throughout the four hundred and eighty of Robert’s nine-to-five, bye-hun, hi-hun, administrative day.
Tens and some passed, Firstday to Fifthday indistinguishable, except for the spelling, and leaving nothing by way of inspiration for this once creative soul. The evenights thus proved to be as much a routine as their daylight counterparts: the news at six; dinner at seven; the eight movie and finally bed by ten and a half. Conversation at the table was as bland as the food upon it and the obedient, docile children did little to break the monotony, spending most of their waking between school and sleep, maneuvering pixels around to improve on beforeday’s score
Even the 2 days of the twixt no longer contained relief as all motivation and innovation seemed to have been filed with the claims, sealed in folders of days passed, never to be seen again.
On this Fourthday however, something changed…
That commencement, before Robert even woke up, something was very different. His eyes still shut, he noticed the blood vessels glowing in his lids as the sun shone upon them through the bedroom window. Roberta had, for some reason he could not fathom, forgotten to close the curtains. His usual six and three-quarter alarm had not woken him. Until it sounded, he simply lay there, awake, with his eyes closed, listening to the beat of his heart and the low hush of his own slow breath brushing against the back of his throat.
When the buzz of the bed-side radio did finally sound, he turned to face his wife and watch her as she came to life and reached blindly for the snooze button. Quietly he stepped out from the covers, kissed her on the forehead, gathered his clothes and slipped into the hallway to dress, so as not to stir her again.
As he passed down the landing he looked in on his children, still at peace, wrapped warmly in slumber, before he descended the stairs and stealthily left the house.
When he stepped from the front of the porch, he took in a deep breath, as if it was his first, and smelling the lavender across the street, opened his eyes wide to low lying clouds of purple as he felt the freshness of a beginning, rest with a chill upon his cheeks. He had lived in Milton Street for two and seven without so much as blinking an eye at what he now viewed in sheer awe as perhaps the most delicate and beautiful smattering of subtle colour he had seen.
Even when he walked into the office on the eighteenth floor of the Brand building he was somewhat elevated by the music he heard in the tapping of keyboards and crisp paper-thumbing. No sooner had Robert sat at his station when there was a loud thud upon his desk which should have ended his mental symphonies with an almighty full-stop. Period.
Brian, a colleague, who had worked there for the past four alongside Robert and whom Robert knew absolutely nothing about, slammed down an archive box before him with, “These all need categorizing and filing into the evidence section and the usual rejection letters sending to the claimants. There’s a lot to get through thisday, with it being Fourthday and all, so you’d better get cracking.”
Within this box were submitted documents from a wide array of experts on the Brand payroll that would refute the claims made by a bunch of other experts on the much smaller payroll of various other independent organizations. This was the point where money talked and qualifications, knowledge and general ethics walked. It didn’t seemed to matter whether you just lost your house in a bushfire, or your husband through the windscreen of a car whose model and type should have been retracted by the manufacturer for faulty steering – acts of god, if they were covered in your policy, were down to you not praying enough and the only fault to be found with the steering would be that found in the arthritic wrists which you didn’t but should have known you had.
The reason for the company’s success of course was not due to its generosity and willingness to pay out but rather an amazing ability to instill fear into even the most resistant of civilians in order to receive an enormous amount of extortionate premiums.
For some reason the box now positioned before Roberts eyes looked very different to the usual corrugated carton he had become accustomed to. Its shape and size were the same it is true. Indeed its colour was no different, nor was the smell of the mixture of paper prints and fibres that usually wafted in the dust as it was placed on the table. Thisday however it did not look like a container of several hours of menial work. Thisday it looked like all the proof that was needed to deny several hundred citizens, potentially millions of dollars in cash to replace their belongings, pay for their medical bills and rebuild their homes or perhaps even their lives.
Everything, Robert suddenly thought, that stood between the people, whose names were on those files, and the money that was rightfully owed to them was contained within this archive box. It was like a little room of cardboard walls that he gazed upon like a pathetic god, bound by laws laid down by Lucifer himself. Bindings it would seem that would be broken by the very enormity of the thought itself.
So blown was his mind, he knew he had to act upon it for fear of his head imploding in response to the vacuum left behind in simply letting it go! He picked up the box and walked directly to the elevator. Once inside he descended to the basement, casually walked to the incinerating furnaces, and threw the reams of fibrous fuel upon the flickering fire.
His eyes lit up proportionately to the files, dimming again, as they were reduced to ash. “More!” he thought to himself as a fiendish grin spread across his face. He headed back upstairs.
“I don’t know what’s gotten into me today Brian but I just seemed to burn though that one. Where’s the next one Buddy?”
Brian, a little stunned at Roberts speed, and friendliness, handed him another box from the trolley, “Now, err, slow down there big fella, you’ll put us all to shame.”
“And I’ll put you to the flames,” Robert thought to himself as he tapped upon the cardboard lid.
For the rest of the day Robert filed everything under F, taking care to space things out a little so as not to attract immediate suspicion. Thisday was his day. Not only had he generated a thought but he had converted it into something tangible, something that would make a difference – and this was merely the beginning.
That night Robert slept a different sleep. This sleep had pictures. What Robert experienced was something he had forgotten even existed. Robert began to dream:
With the deadlines of all those claims needing to be met by Firstday of next-dayset and notifications outlining the reasons of rejection having to have reached the hands of the claimants, it would become rapidly clear that any ‘refuting’ evidence had in fact gone missing. Consequently the company’s reputation, which was always under media scrutiny as it was, would be on the line and Devlin would have no other choice but to pay out every single claim to limit the damage.
As if this wasn’t enough, having paid the claims out would of course set a new precedent for all such claims in the future. After all, how could he pay out for all these people and then deny others in the future with similar circumstances. He would have no excuse. He would have no out. This would be the beginning of Devlin’s downfall. This would be the fall of Nero.
As for Robert, well, he would be hailed by all as a champion of the people, a far from average ambassador for every Mr. Average out there.
On Fifthday of course, this did not happen. No such injury was struck upon the Devlin reputation and no such payouts or precedents were made. Despite the files that burned and the ash that lay in their wake, Nero did not fall. Instead, Robert was called to the office of Michael Cathcart who was the assistant manager within the administration office and was questioned as to why exactly he had filed several boxes of evidence into the basement furnaces.
It was then explained that Robert’s actions had lead to Brian having to contact the entire array of experts and gather as many of the original hard copy documents as possible, as often the company just receives official copies. In addition he had to retrieve any missing documentation from the back-up tapes on the system, which hold the electronically scanned copies input from the records room, a process completed the day prior to the hard copies being sent to administration for filing by the likes of Robert. Not only that, but there was all the rejected claims letters that had to be compiled, written, saved and posted, requiring Brian to attend the offices on Second-twixtday and consequently having to be paid double according to the penalty award rate system, something which was completely unprecedented in Devlin Enterprises.
If ever he needed a huge thought to bale himself out, it was now but it appeared that Robert had used up all his huge thoughts in the beforeday. Deflated and somewhat stunned, he uttered no response and consequently was confronted with immediate dismissal. This in itself probably wouldn’t have come as too much of a surprise considering, but when you add that the twixt rate that needed to be paid to Brian was to be deducted from Roberts final pay and the fact that gross misconduct negated any entitlement to severance, despite two and two of service, it was a pretty bleak end to a rather bleak career history.
In the following, unable to secure another job now because of the circumstances surrounding the termination of his previous post in such a ‘reputable company’ and consequently being unable to support his family, Robert would lose his wife, his home and only have access to his children via twixtday visitation rights.
With nothing left Robert finally reached the inevitable conclusion that one day we all must face, only in his case, a little prematurely as HE took the only thing left that he had to lose.
It was several daysets later that he was found after Roberta finally realised that he hadn’t been to visit his children for three twixt breaks. When the police
broke into his apartment to discover the corpse, they couldn’t understand why, after hearing about the course of events that led to his demise, why Robert would be hanging there with such a smile of contentment on his face. If you looked hard enough into his eyes however, what you could see was the last lavender laced images that flashed through Roberts mind as the washing line choked him of his final breath, transforming him from dull and worthless file clerk into a beautiful dream