[Incentive, 4,460 words, Genre: Realistic Fiction/Horror]
I went to high school with the man. Back in those days I was as he was, nothing special. Just another student scribbling down notes in a notebook and taking lessons from a teacher that had already breached the stress level. I had my circle of friends, he didn’t. And because of that I felt confident in my own actions. Everything that I did, everything that I said seemed justified by the reaction I got from others. Maybe if there weren’t those people around me, I would have acted differently, thought differently about things. But I was how I was. I was a punk high school student with his circle of friends who went about making a mockery of the education system. There was nothing that I could do about it. It’s just how I felt. How most kids felt at that age.
The other kid who became that man kept to himself. There was something that I didn’t like about him. A hidden glint in his eye that told me that he was hiding something. Some hidden plan or secret that made me and the other kids nervous around him. Every time you would call him a name or attempt to berate him in any sort of way, he would just laugh and smile. Sometimes the little bastard would even congratulate you. Telling you that, ‘That’s a good one,’ or, ‘I’m sure you know about those sort of things.’ I mean what the fuck was that even meant to mean? Why would he react in such a way? His behaviour irritated me in such a way that one day I lost it with him. He laughed in his usual way about one of the jokes I made about his weight. Telling me that it was, ‘Another good one.’ I grabbed him by the collar of his shirt in the locker room and then pushed him up against the shelf of lockers. Then I started yelling at him, “Listen you dumb cunt! You think you’re special, none of us are special. We’re all the same. We’re all poor and our lives will all be shit. You have to start facing facts now. If you don’t do something about it, you’ll just be another statistic. Another piece of shit addict or something. It’s time for you to man up.”
Instead of taking me seriously or listening to what I had to say. All the guy could do was laugh at me. Right up against my face. Laughing his arse off. That’s when I laid into him. I started slamming his head into the lockers and belting him in the face. He didn’t fight back against it or anything. He just took the beating and then one of the teachers came in and broke up the fight, if you could call it that. He lead that guy to the nurse’s office. The guy did say one thing. After the beating that I had inflicted upon him, he called out to me as he was lead away, “I’ll remember you dickhead.” And that was it.
Exams came up and I didn’t bother him anymore. I was too busy partying with my friends and dating this girl to be bothered with any of that shit. But that guy, that guy buckled down. I thought he was a retard for even trying. Thought that he wouldn’t have the slightest hope in the world. We all sat the exams and did our best. After the exams my friends and I took a journey up the coast. We all knew that after this couple of weeks partying we would split ways. Some of us would go to university, some of us would do other things. I didn’t care that much at the time. I never was the smartest kid in the class. I just knew academics and the education system weren’t for me, I didn’t think much more about it.
Those couple of weeks spent with my high school friends were probably the best days of my life. By day we would surf and sunbake on the beach, and by night we would look for some local band that was playing in the bars and get pissed. It was fun. Two weeks of non-stop luxury. The day the results came out my girlfriend at the time was eager to find out about her results. She had always been a good student and I knew that she would do well. I had every faith in her that she would. The pity was that after this happened, we both knew what would happen. We would have to split up. It would be a mutual thing for both of us based on the fact that we both had different callings in life. We had talked about it plenty of times before. It was just one of those things that was inevitable. The day the results were announced, she brought in the paper with the enter scores. Then she looked up her own score. It was in the mid nineties, just what she was aiming for. Which meant she would be accepted into her first choice of university. I didn’t want to look up my own enter score. I knew it would be low, it was some sort of inevitable mark of fate in which I seemed doomed to behold. My girlfriend teased me about it. So in the end, I looked it up. It wasn’t half as bad as I thought. It was in the high sixties. I smiled to myself at that. I got that without even trying. Not a bad accomplishment, I thought to myself. There was someone else that I wanted to look up. Just for kicks. The guy that I had continuously given crap to through all those years. So I did. I was astonished to say the least. He got a higher score than my girlfriend. I didn’t tell her about it or talk to any of my other friends. I just put the paper down and went out to the balcony of the rented apartment and had a cigarette and a beer.
I thought about it for a moment and realized that that guy had beaten me that day. He had had his plan and his plan had come into fruition. I laughed to myself. I didn’t know that he was capable of such an accomplishment. I laughed and made a silent toast to him. Thinking that’s why he had been laughing over all these years. That smart cunt.
After those two weeks were over my friends and I all went our separate ways. We all had our separate plans. I didn’t pursue a further course of study. Instead, I applied for any job that I could get. I started applying for trades and service jobs in the newspaper. I didn’t have much luck there. One of my friends suggested that I get into bar work. So I went around to different bars in the city center of Melbourne and started handing out my resumes. They stated that I needed my responsible service of alcohol certificate and then somebody would probably take me. So that’s what I did. I did a short course over one weekend and received my RSA. Then I added that to my resume and continued handing out resumes all over the place. I got work in a bar in the city. I wasn’t a bartender, they told me they’d train me up for that sort of work eventually. But for the time being they had me going around the bar in the busy periods picking up glasses and washing them. Then making sure the constant cycle of glasses was routine and the service bartenders always had fresh glasses to serve to the constant stream of customers. During the off periods I would do work around the bar, cleaning tables and odd jobs that needed to be done. All bar preparation work for the service periods. And when that place got busy, it got really busy. I was rushing around the bar, manoeuvring my way through the crowds and making sure the bartenders had everything that they required. It was that sort of work.
Slowly, over time I gathered new skills. Some of the bartenders would talk to me and tell me different things about their jobs. My skills in the service area increased and every so often, during the busy periods I would start helping out with the service of drinks. During the less busy periods the bartenders started talking to me and helped me out.
I still kept in touch with my old girlfriend from high school despite the fact that we were both seeing different people. It seemed, as if by chance or happenstance, that guy who I bullied in high school was going to her university. She told me different things about him. He was beginning to get popular and well liked. It seemed that high school wasn’t for him, but the university was a different environment. People started to like him and pay attention to his ideas. It seemed that he had an extreme leftist ideology at his heart. It started winning over people from all around the university. I didn’t care that much, but the more I talked to her the more I realized that she could not help talking about him. I suppose I was the same in my own way, talking about the people who I was working with and the job I was doing. I told her to stop around the bar sometime and I’d see if I could get her a free drink. She thought about it, but declined the offer.
It seemed that life was getting like that. We were all growing up. Our roles and responsibilities in society were changing.
Around this time in my life, social media started making the scene. I had bypassed the MySpace phenomenon and now that Facebook had entered the scene, I decided to join up and reconnect with old classmates and things like that. At first it was great, I reconnected with old friends and made a few new ones along the way. We shared photos and stories of where we had been and what we had done thus far in the journey called life. But then things started to settle in. The initial dazzle of a world where you could instantly connect with one another wore off. Some people started to do things with social media that hadn’t been seen before. Or at least not by my generation. People would take to social media platforms such as YouTube and make semi-successes of themselves. Creating a whole new form of culture. Something that could only be described as a global culture.
The problem was that in a world where everyone had a voice or an avenue in which to distribute their thoughts and opinions. Only a few people were listened to or gained popularity. It was difficult to determine the different attributes of success of what made someone popular. Artists were growing frustrated that they weren’t receiving the attention that they felt that they deserved. It was a shit show. People grew embittered and disgruntled with what they were doing with themselves in their own lives. They just had to have a look at the computer or their mobile phone and see that their own lives weren’t living up to their own expectations. A lot of people became depressed. Social media had created a new brand of mental illness and social phobia.
People were being bullied online and groups of people picked on or isolated different individuals and like a pack of wolves, they devoured the cow. Some people avoided the online phenomenon altogether. But in a world where social media gained prominence and everything was done online, their lives were as estranged as those that were experiencing cyber bullying. Nobody could have predicted what contemporary culture was actually like. Although William Gibson’s ‘Neuromancer’ did allude to several elements of what actually occurred.
Looking back on everything, as it all occurred, I took it all in stride. It was just the latest technological development in human history. Unlike television programming, it allowed for a dynamic, in which communication was not only to the viewer or audience, but the audience or viewer to the performer. It created a toxic environment for the celebrities as they dealt with disgruntled fans. They weren’t exactly disgruntled with their performance or what the celebrities were doing with themselves, they were disgruntled or upset with their own lives. I suppose that element of society had always existed. However, for the first time in human history, you could actually view the population from those who were connected to the internet. It was catastrophic.
As time passed, I didn’t really take notice of everything that was going on. I just kept on focusing on my own thing. My own life, my work and relationships. By doing so I avoided having to think about the mind-fuck that was occurring worldwide.
Working in a bar or the hospitality industry, there was always a party for me to attend. Something that I could do, someone to talk to… Drugs were free flowing and so there was also always someone there to fuck. I was now a fully fledged bartender in the hospitality industry. The manager was training me up in cocktail service and I was slowly accumulating other skills. In my leisure time I read novels. My favourite genre was science fiction. My favourite author was Joe Haldeman.
Sometimes I would sit on one of those seats in the city central of Melbourne, near where I worked. I would watch all the people walking past with their different places to go. That’s where I would spend my time working things out for myself. Not about the meaning of life, but about how the world really was. How it operated and all of the things in-between. It was like the slow ticking away of one of those wind-up watches. Seeing all of these different people going about their different routines. The different people catching public transport and taxis to their various locations. Like the gears of a watch, they all worked harmoniously together somehow. It was like some grand extreme form of chaos, yet it was all in sync.
Over the time I spent watching the traffic pass me by, I figured different parts out about the world. Such as the capitalist incentive. Most people were dissatisfied with the work that they were doing in their own lives, but that was work that needed to be done. And the only way a society could get a lot of those people to do those sort of jobs were through the capitalist incentive. The capitalist incentive of a reward system based on currency. There were such things as danger pay and the greater difficulty of work that one had to do, the more the incentive. In the end it all came back to that guy from high school. The motivation that got me along these lines of thought. We weren’t friends on Facebook. But sometimes I would spy on his profile to see what he was doing with himself. He made these shitty memes that were talking about an equal society, about equal pay and better pay standards for the unemployed. He was always increasing in momentum and popularity. It was starting to get on my nerves.
Inside my mind, I would make arguments against his ideology. I considered it this way: if people weren’t forced into a situation of desperation, then the motivation to take on the jobs that needed to be done would become obsolete. And the motivation to create an elitist attitude wouldn’t be what it was either, that elitism, although torturous, produced some of the highest forms of art and entertainment imaginable. It was a difficult thing to admit, as disturbing as the world could be, but this was still the best of all possible worlds when we came to consider the planet had a population in excess of seven billion people. The world wasn’t as bad as he was making it out to be either. There were still social services and health care providers in Australia that made the living environment bearable. It was a much better place than some of the other parts of the world. But then you had countries like Finland that adopted a different brand of socialism. In the end the cultural influences created the society that we were all a part of by creating a mentality that we could all adopt in order to survive within our society. This latest influence of cultural creativity by the disempowered reaching a mass audience was having an odd effect on the world. It was a great age of disinformation. There were so many different brands of the truth existing that it left a lot of people confused as to what was actually going on.
I ignored most of it. But I couldn’t help myself from looking into that man from my high school and what he was doing with himself. There was hardly any effort put into his creation. Yet, somehow more and more people came to like it. The further along in time it went, the more serious it became. Soon he was creating events and the like for his followers. Meetings that he confirmed were of a communist allegiance. I felt like I was the only one disturbed by this fact. In the news they were always reporting on the communist state of North Korea and all of the problems they were creating in world politics. It gave me an ill feeling in the pit of my stomach.
What made matters worse, was that as time passed, the more attention that he got on social media, the less attention I received. And the most pissy thing about this was, I wasn’t even right-wing, I was still left-wing, but I was not extreme left-wing in my political thoughts. I acknowledged the need for social services and the like. Power to the people. I was always like that.
By this time I had saved up enough savings in my bank account to go and travel around the world. I planned my journey across the globe, quit my job and set off on my adventure.
I started off travelling around the Indonesian islands. I found out that you could rent a motor scooter with a passport and the authorities wouldn’t give you too much hassle. People warned me against the experience, stating that the traffic there was always a mess and there was always an accident to behold. Some random traveller getting their head squashed in a wash of blood and bone chips. I ignored the warnings and did my own thing. I would stop by different bars and get drunk at different scenic locations around the coast of the islands. It was fun. I would talk to different tourists and ex-pats who now found themselves living around the area. They had plenty of stories to tell. Most of them worked as ESL teachers or found other forms of work within the English speaking community that had developed there.
After travelling up and along the Indonesian archipelago, I went to Thailand. I rented myself a proper motorcycle and planned a journey travelling to India. It was fun, every moment of it was fun until I found myself involved in a road accident. I was caught in-between two cars and when I attempted to overtake both of them, one of them tried making a turn. This threw my senses off balance and I skidded across the road. I tore up my leg pretty bad and had to wait a while for an ambulance. That was the thing with third world countries. The mobilization of their ambulance and medical staff took a long time because the areas were so densely populated. I was rushed to hospital and luckily enough for me, my medical insurance covered the bills. But after that I couldn’t travel anymore. I had done myself a permanent injury. After spending a couple of months in the Thai hospital system, I was flown back to Australia for further treatment and rehabilitation. What had happened was disastrous, and my entire family was worried about me. But I arrived back home in one piece and everything went smoothly from there. Or as smooth as everything could be done with the injury to my leg. I took up a cane for walking assistance and found that I was not suitable for further employment. I couldn’t work in the bar anymore. I would have to take on some form of employment involving paperwork. But for the time being I was just happily occupied at home, watching television and taking things easy. The trip of a lifetime ruined, and the rest of my life permanently affected. I was pretty god damned depressed.
Some nights I would travel down to the supermarket and buy myself a bucket of ice cream, I would eat the shit like nobody’s business. I began to put on weight and develop slovenly habits. They put me on a disability pension and I started seeking mental health services. It was just the natural degeneration of myself, that nobody could stop after what I had been through. I was going through a lot of things at the time and I was always angry with others around me because of it. People, family and friends, started to avoid me because of my attitude. I started spending more and more time alone.
The state of the world was changing. The Americans were involved in some sort of economic war with the Chinese and then these advertisements started appearing on the television. They featured the guy from my high school. It was about the latest election. He was a political candidate for a Communist party and they were gathering momentum. They were beyond momentum now, people were taking them seriously. I could not believe the shit that I was seeing. That guy, that farkin’ guy from my high school. People were celebrating him everywhere. He was one of the youngest political candidates in Australian history. I threw the bucket of ice-cream that I had been eating at the television and then turned off whatever the hell it was that I had been watching. What the fark was going on!?
When I looked into it on the internet, I was even further shocked. My ex-girlfriend from high school was engaged to him. I could not farkin’ believe it! What the hell had happened? I had only been back from my trip for… What was it now? A couple of years, no three, no actually five. I had lost track of time because of my depression. And this farkin’ guy! I could not believe what was happening to this guy. It was unbelievable what the world was coming to. And worse still, there was nothing that I could do about it either.
I switched off from the outside world completely. I disengaged from social media, I disengaged from my family, the only thing that I did do was go to the supermarket to buy groceries. I was in complete shutdown mode. I still read some novels, but because of my depression I felt too easily distracted by everything that was happening around me. I could not believe what my life and the world had become. People told me that one day I’d get old, but not like this.
Then the election day came around. I went down to the local town hall to cast my vote. There was a lot of backing for the Communist party, they had probably received funds from the Chinese for their political campaign. I ignored everything that they were doing and cast my vote, for the first time, for the right wing party. Hoping that they could somehow fix the situation. I went home that night and bought myself a bottle of scotch. Drinking small servings and alleviating myself in the toilet at different intervals. I woke up the next day and found that the Communist party had won the election. I was devastated. For the next week and a half I didn’t leave my apartment, fearing what the outside world would look like and developing a severe form of anxiety.
Eventually came the day when I had to go to the supermarket for groceries. Things hadn’t changed that much, they were still developing and implementing social policies before the great changes could occur. There were posters up everywhere of that cunt from high school. I bought my groceries and returned home. When I arrived home, I found that my apartment wasn’t empty.
Inside, sitting on the couch and awaiting my return was that cunt from high school with two staunch looking bodyguards. My heart sunk and my mind cascaded with severe dread. I went into my apartment.
“Have a seat…” the cunt said as he gestured to one of my sofa seats sitting opposite from where he was sitting.
I hesitantly took my seat, “What the fark are you doing here? Don’t you have more important matters to attend to?”
“For you, I made a special exception. After all, we have both loved the same woman.”
I thought about it, “I suppose we have.”
“I told you I’d remember you, didn’t I? Remember that day… That day where you beat the crap out of me in high school?” The cunt’s voice rose, his temper elevating.
“Yeah, that was a good day. Probably one of the best in my life.”
“Ha!” The cunt relaxed and eased himself into his seat, “There’s something that I need to tell you.”
“We didn’t actually win the election.”
“What? What do you mean?”
“The Chinese stepped in. They rigged and arranged everything. Most people who voted as you did will be re-educated. But for you and some of the others, I made the exception.”
“Why? What happens to us?”
“You will…” and the cunt produced this hand gesture as if performing some sort of magic trick, “… simply disappear.”
“Wait, no! What the fark does that mean? What the fark does that mean?”
One of the bodyguards produced a pistol, complete with silencer, and emptied a couple of rounds into my chest. I gripped at my chest as I bled out. Knowing that these were my last moments I leant over and spat on the cunt’s face. He laughed at me as I did so; my feeble attempt was for naught. I collapsed on the floor and then my vision faded to black. The last thing that I saw was that cunt from high school in a fit of tears from laughter.