Wherein our narrator, a Paperman Westlake, recites his morning prayers, departs on a journey towards his vocation, is waylaid by mechanical failure, encounters Pal (a sullen brute), acquires alternate transportation, discovers the nature of his promotion, enjoys the luxuries of his new living quarters, and is met by an adjustor.

Every morning, during the federally designated period, every citizen of my nation recites The Prayer.

"We sing to ourselves in the songs of showers, every ringing drop a voice in the chorus of God. These are the songs that have been sung before us, these are the songs that will carry our memories into eternity. Our ancestors sang for us, sing to us still. For posterity, we will, as a nation, add our words. These are the songs that help to forget the burden of names and numbers. These are the songs that remind us life is joyful. We feel the tempo in our heartbeats, know the rhythm from the ocean, take the melody from our dead. These are the songs that drive our ambitions. Under hum and hum of florescents, we will, without fear, face the workweek and aid the prosperity of ourselves and our neighbors. We are never alone. We never will be alone. We are united by the songs we can never sing, but understand regardless."

The only Providence we know, at the heart of it, is Productivity. Every workday, we go to our cubicle churches and give ourselves for nine hours, lunch paid. We proudly drudge until retirement in hopes of the final reward we have always been promised: A Better Tomorrow.

In my head and not across my lips, during Recitation, I also pray to embody our nation's highest virtue: Complacency. I am not there yet, but I hope to be.


Today I am moving from one suit to another of the same fiber and fishbone. I am leaving my old skin behind to step into something completely new and exactly identical to my station before. The illusion of motion is the most important thing; a comfortable worker will outpower, outrank, outperform against all other departments. A steady pace is my reward for an honest life. Ours is a way that offers the joy of living without scars, without blemish, without accident or consequence. Command and concur allows all this and the annual expectations: birthday, holiday, nationday, promotionday. These are the milestones we meet with eager arms, time for celebration. We are moving further into our lives. We are successful.

Five ticys of toil without tardiness or absence earns you one Personal Use Transportation Machine, which most of us have shortened to "putt" out of respect for both wasted breath and company time. Before that, fresh out of Education and Training, you get four white walls, one window, one Manually Powered Transportation Machine ("mutt"), and the uneasy feeling that the long line to work will seriously cut into your productivity. My reward for more than twenty ticys -- that's forty-three-thousand six-hundred seventy non-overtime working time units of dedicated service -- is an apartment twenty-one stories above the city, with direct access to the garage. Every morning as I take the quiet elevator ride down, I smile to myself: every second in this efficient little coffin is proof of my value to my company, to my country.

The commute is automatic, thirteen hundred lotuus of there and back, no change in traffic pattern, blissful continuity. This is only part of waking up, as good or better than a reliable Up!Drink. We leave the rolling buildings of Providential Living Services, spend a good six hundred tuus on the straightway to Upper Coast City, part ways from the main highway, merge gracefully with Cross Corporate Parkway, insinuate ourselves into a parking space. Constancy in all facets of being provides the foundation for a virtuous and worry-free lifestyle.

The putt loses power just as I am entering the very south of Upper Coast City. There isn't even a noise, just an easy deceleration, a smooth journey between the other putts on the road, engine grinding down, brakes humming until the vehicle comes to a complete stop in the breakdown lane. The mere one hundred tuus it takes for the Upper Coast City Puttway commuter services truck to arrive is only a testament to how well oiled the machine is. This may be a deviation from normal procedure, but this is my golden society. Every contingency is planned for. Every angle is covered.

"What there seems to be the problem there?" The serviceman is hauling his mass out of his rig as I exit my vehicle. His descent from the cab is slow and practiced. The nametag sewn into his jumpsuit reads 'Pal.'

"I am unaware of the cause. I just lost power." I am fumbling for my Universal Identification and Reimbursement Card as I walk to the service truck, showing through multitasking that I am a man with no time to spare. I am an important cog without which the machine that our society runs on would seize and sputter. "Can we please hurry? I can't be late today."

"Well there, these things don't just happen there, especially if you did gone get your mandatory monthly inspections there." Pal makes it to the street and smooths a sweaty brow back into his matted, curly hair.

"I'm two weeks away from my next due inspection. I really can't be late today. It's my promotionday."

Pal's milky hand takes my card and guides it with a practiced motion into the rig's reader. "Well there, sure glad all the country's schedules shut down there on your big day." Pal's hand-gapped teeth flash as his smile pulls his upper lip into a quivering position below his bellowing nostrils. His watery eyes glaze between me and the reader display. Numbers flash across and Pal's smirk sinks like a submarine.

"Might as well be a national holiday there, old timer." Pal dials a code into the reader: 45!, HIGHER LEVEL TRANSPORT ARRANGED. "We'll have you on your way to your new office in no time there. Sorry for the inconvenience there." Pal negotiates my putt onto the back of his rig, never managing eye contact with me.

I turn from the road to ignite a cancer causing stress reduction device. As I turn back, a sleek black-matte cutt pulls up at my side, its canopy opening with a well-maintained pneumatic hush. The operator steps outside and extends a gloved hand. "Citizen Westlake, your transport has arrived. You may depart at your convenience."

"I'm sorry," I note the smoldering paper cylinder in my hand. "I thought it would take you longer to get here. Shall we go?"

"Not we, sir. I only have temporary corporate clearance to operate or travel by cutt, expiring upon delivery to you. This is your vehicle now." A white gloved hand beckons me to enter the vehicle.

"But I don't have corporate clearance. This is only my twenty-first active ticy."

"While sir has had the pleasant fortune of retaining his youthful looks through his years, it pleases me to assure him his clearance is of the appropriate level. Please, sir, I'm sure we both have important chores at task."

The interior of the vessel is velvetine, plush, underlit by an array of soothing tones. Friction is absent across the fabric. I sink into the operator's chair. "Can I smoke in here?"

"Corporate Control understands and appreciates its employees' need to unwind after a harrowing experience involving misanthropic mechanical behavior. Please keep the windows down."

My card's swift journey through the cutt's reader lights up a host of indicators, readouts, gauges, switches, displays around me that are all absent from my simple commuting machine. The canopy slides shut and I barely feel the effects of inertia as the machine rockets forward, toward the heart of my department. I extinguish my stress reduction device and lean into the chair. The least I can do for the corporation is keep their carriage clean. A Respectful Employee is a Well Rewarded Employee.


My invisible skin, my promotion, is not as I expected. The cutt flies past my normal sector, losing itself in a concrete labyrinth where buildings obscure the sky and lace themselves intricately over the roadways. This is the thickest jungle, further than I have ever in my whole life seen. Not a soul wanders the streets (as it is, there is barely enough room for the multitude of cutts and their sulking alien menace) and I've become rapidly disoriented after entering a number of passageways and detour routes. Whatever my new position, it truly must be more important than anything I had previously deemed myself capable of.

The cutt quicks into a tubeway and I find myself heading at great velocity in a direction I can only guess to be upward but soon the altitude smoothes out and the entire machine slows to a whispering halt. I barely realize that I have stopped until the hatch slides open and reveals an office larger than my living quarters. Sunlight streams in through the windows and skylight. Potted plants -- real, not textile -- hang throughout the room. It is the first time in my life I have seen flora in the city. From this corner office, I can see through smog-free crystal skies, can see out over the Great Coast Wall, can see the neverhalting expanse of blue beyond that I can only assume is the Atlantic Ocean. It is the first time in my life I have seen that, as well.

I take the walk across the formidable room, feet trembling as they sink soundlessly into the carpet. The desk is as large as a putt and, aside from the chair behind it, is the only piece of furniture in the room. Its dark oak finish shines in the morning light, the thing has the presence of an ancient beast, before the cola wars, surely. When I reach it, I trace my fingers along the edge. This was grown out of the ground and crafted into its purpose, not fabricated and hewn by machine. I am completely aware of how strange it is that a piece of nature, complete with knots, rough spots, other priceless imperfections, should feel so foreign. The grand chair accepts me as readily as the cutt. On the desk is a pen, a small corporate terminal, an envelope with only two markings: "To Citizen Westlake, concerning his promotion" penned in ink by a strict, bold hand, and a seal in red wax, a simple circle, unbroken, undivided.

I break the seal to read the note:


The note is unsigned, printed with the generic scrawl of ink printers, but I barely have time to wonder about the significance of the seal (far removed from the corporate insignia) before a shrill sound erupts from every corner of the room. I am startled beyond my capacity for a second: the only sounds since I had entered the room had been the cutt hatch sliding shut, the leather squeak of my chair, and a barely audible crisp as the wax seal broke. This is assaulting, and takes a few tuus of blind fumbling for a way to dispel the noise until it hits upon me that it is a call from the terminal. I activate it with a few quick keystrokes and the alarm silences. The sun goes behind a cloud as a visage appears on the windowless wall. Aside from basic features, it is formless and hollow.

"Citizen Westlake!" The voice that sounds from it resonates through my skeleton and fills my heart with trepidation. "Please report your status."

I swallow a ball of fear that has gathered in my throat and speak. "Paperman Westlake, reporting."

"Citizen Westlake, the committee wishes you to report on your current status concerning your recent promotion."

My right hand flexes into a fist involuntarily. "Well, sir, to be quite honest, I think this is all a terrible mistake. I should be in the outer corporate offices. I don't even understand what it is I'm to do here."

The face shatters itself in disbelief. "MISTAKE? There are no mistakes, Citizen Westlake, only fortunate accidents. You should consider yourself doubly fortunate, for you have been granted the opportunity, by grace of your honesty and analytical skill, to make something of your life. Do you understand?"

"No, sir, I don't. Honestly, I'd just rather things were the way they were yesterday."

"Citizen Westlake, they are not, but the committee understands that this is your decision. Therefore, we recommend you relay yourself home immediately. Most of us are in heavy conflict as to why you chose to come into work on your promotionday. END TRANSMISSION."

With that, the face disappeared, replaced by a conservative floral wallpaper design. The room brightens just slightly as the sun reemerges.


Whatever welcome sense of familiarity I am granted by the sight of my apartment building is dispelled immediately upon my arrival as the cutt bypasses the garage altogether and travels up the spine of the building to what I can only assume is my new domicile. The internal lights of the building flash by as I travel higher than I could've possibly imagined the structure to be. Does anybody really live this long to achieve this altitude of success?

The apartment I arrive at is a palace compared to my old digs. Appliance components blend with the surroundings, electronics sleep, humming. The furniture here is as sparse as my office, save for a couch in the sunken living room and a dining table in the far off corner. I walk to the table to discover a basket of fruit and sparkling alcoholic beverages. The attached card bears only the simple circle insignia and nothing else. Flustered, I throw myself on the couch and access the broadcast relayer. Sharp sound swells around me as the living room wall lights up and displays pictures! Moving pictures! I find a way to mute the display and stare transfixed as it shows an ancient city by the sea, neon lit and thriving.

I sit for hours just watching the images flicker in front of me when I am interrupted by a buzzing. I turn to my corporate terminal and see that someone with high clearance was requesting entry. I accept the request, turn off the broadcast relayer, stand to face the side door. It opens with a noise like a sigh and through it walks the most confident suit I have ever laid my eyes on.

"Paper," he says in a friendly, calculated voice. "Congratulations on your promotion, and welcome to the Invisible Class! You must have a lot of questions to ask."

"Who are you?"

The suit smooths his hands along his coat and offers one in greeting. I take it as he introduces himself. "Hi, Paper. I'm Citizen Johns Williamsbridge! Sorry to step on your holiday like this, but I'm your appointed orientation officer, and you're a very special case, so I wanted to see you face to face."

I look around the room, at the recessed lighting, the invisible appliances, the soft carpeting, the visual screen of the broadcast relayer. "What's so special about me?"

"Well, Paper, Human Resources has found a small glitch in your personel file, nothing too major, we just appointed you to the wrong station. Nothing to worry about, though: it wouldn't be fair of us to adjust you back to where you were, and review of your file showed an aptitude towards this job, which was vacant anyway, so congratulations! You're in!"

"In where?"

"This must all be very exciting for you, so I'm going to let you get on with your day. See you early tomorrow morning at your new post!" Another quick handshake and Williamsbridge is out the door, leaving me with more questions than he seemed capable of answering. I walk over to the fruit basket and remove a peach. I've never had fresh fruit before, either. An ill feeling passes through me as I bite into it, a chill running through my nerves as they attempt to bypass decades of programming, the naturally ingrained desire of my blood to strive for the simple life, but it passes as the juice from the fruit runs over the back of my tongue. I can live with this, I think. No one has ever said that Fortune and Complacency are mutually exclusive.