Edgar was moments away from signing the contract that would give the last of his farmlands over to the man sitting across from him at his coffee table. There was an air of tenseness overtaking the modest house. Unfortunately, that tenseness was being somewhat overshadowed by Edgar’s own living room. See, Edgar’s wife had a thing for collectible bear figurines. Her typical weekend included scouring various garage sales in the tri-county area in search for a new bear find. The house was covered head to toe with bears in tutus, bears that are on a boat out on a lake labeled “Gone Fishin'[sic]” and any and every assortment of Winnie the Pooh figurines imaginable.
The bears were coated in a fine layer of dust. Edgar’s wife would always attempt to clean her figurines as often as she could, but the dust would resettle faster than she could clean it off. It coated everything.
And the dust began to settle on the man sitting across from Edgar; his name was Patrick. Patrick Boyle. He was the Contract Manager of the Agricultural Department of the Communications Division of Innovative Dynamic™ [All uses of said company name, and any and all description of and general mood around the office are heretofore used in accordance with any and all legal permission, and it should be mentioned that it was at a hefty price, complete with bullshit levels of red tape no less]. Patrick, being intent on making Edgar uncomfortable [a tactic he felt gave him a stronger edge at the negotiating, or coffee, table] would not stop staring at him. “This deal will be very good for your family. Times are tough, I know. And it’s just getting tougher; the soil conditions are not looking to get better any time soon.”
Edgar studied the contract sitting in front of him. It was several pages long and was in a considerably tiny font [ranging from 6pt and 8pt to be precise], and contained so much technical language that Edgar wasn’t entirely sure if it was even written in English at all. He sighed, “It just doesn’t feel right. I’ve worked this farm my whole life, and you guys are just expecting me to throw that all away?”
Patrick patted some of the dust off of his suit coat [Armani], “Listen, I understand how you feel. But here is the thing: we at Innovative Dynamic™ are willing to give you a lot of money. Your payment will be adequate enough for you and your wife to be able to retire nicely in the city.”
Edgar twirled the pen around his fingers, his eyes still fixed on the contract, “And all because people need to talk to each other.”
Patrick’s job with Innovative Dynamic™ was to survey viable land for new cell phone towers for the Company’s vast communications network and buy out the current land owners. See, there are two main factors as to why towers are where they are. The first factor is that they need to be kept in flat areas with little to no aerial obstructions. And the second is that the towers are ugly as shit, so they need to be kept from densely populated areas or else the townsfolk [read: potential customers] will be pissed. The middle of farms are the perfect locations for the towers. The land is flat, the trees have been razed and only the farmers have to look at the damn things.
“Let me just ask you one question Edgar: How many years has it been since you have had a successful harvest?”
The hint was taken. “Hell, you can’t grow a thing here, the land is dead. It’s dead everywhere.” Edgar took the pen and signed away the rights to his farmland. He signed away the only life anyone in his family had ever known.
But it’s not like the farmers get a bad deal in regards to the cell phone towers. Companies, such as Innovative Dynamic™, are willing to pay good money to buy out farmland. They’re tall, but they don’t take up a lot of space [square footage-wise]. And not only will these cell phone companies pay a massive sum up front, they will pay the farmers a huge stipend for every year the tower is in operation. In the end, the price for the tower is worth more than any crop can possibly make, using the same amount of space. Honestly, it was a win-win deal for the farmers and the cell phone providers.
“You made the right choice, Edgar. For your family.”
So it was Patrick Boyle’s job to go out to these farmers, on behalf of Innovative Dynamic™ and convince them to sign over their land to him. And he was good at it too. Damn good.
And he certainly looked the part, all fancy and official looking. He made a point to always wears the finest suits that he could afford at the meetings, usually a three piece, with some Italian leather shoes and his brown hair slicked back. Today was his one Armani suit, he felt like dressing his finest for this particular meeting. Though the dust was becoming bothersome.
Patrick and Edgar sat together in silence, with the now signed contract, for a few moments. “It’s getting a little late; would you care to stay for dinner?” Edgar asked Patrick.
These people are too polite for their own good, Patrick thought to himself. “No thank you, it is probably best that I be going.” He rose to his feet and began to walk to the door.
Walk to the door?….No no no no no no, that’s not what’s supposed to happen right now! PATRICK STOP WALKING THIS MINUTE!
“Is something wrong, Edgar? Honestly, it is unnecessary for you to yell.”
“I didn’t say anything. I’ve just been sitting here.”
“Then who was shouting at me? I could have swore that I heard someone yell for me to stop.”
“Patrick…there was no one yelling. It’s dead quiet in here. Is everything alright?”
It’s not Edgar who shouted, Patrick, it was me.
“Okay Edgar, you heard that right?”
He can’t hear me Patrick. It’s just the two of us. Holding our own little private conversation. You don’t even have to say anything out loud. Let’s just say that this conversation is all in your head.
Who are you? And where are you speaking from?
Honestly, those questions don’t really matter Patrick. What does matter, however, is that you turn around right now and join Edgar and his lovely wife for dinner.
Why do I need to stay here for dinner? I’ve got a ton of work to do for the rest of the night.
That’s a load of bullshit Patrick. You and I both know that all you’re going to do is get into your car and drive to the nearest motel to spend the night, maybe microwave yourself a meal and beat off. Staying here for your dinner will be a much better use of your time.
That’s not really answering my question as to exactly why I should stay? I don’t need to listen to you, whoever you are.
Why? Because you’re meant to stay here for dinner Patrick. You can call it fate or destiny or whatever you want, I don’t really care, but it is supposed to happen. You might say it was written.
“Is everything okay Patrick? You still in there? HELLO?”
And you do have to listen to me Patrick. So right now you need to tell Edgar that you’re fine and that you would love to stay for dinner.
“Sorry Edgar, I was just caught up in my own head for a minute there. On second thought, I would love to stay for dinner. You’re my last stop for the day anyways.”
There you go Patrick, good job. Now we can keep going.
And so Patrick joined Edgar and his wife, Jan, at the dinner table. Even the dining room was covered in bears, one that particularly caught Patrick’s eye showed a family of bears sitting around a table, eating honey. Jan walked in with the food; it was a baked chicken with mashed potatoes and corn on the cob SynthetiMeal© [Brought to you by the SynthetiFood Division of Innovative Dynamic™. Slogan: “Fighting the Food Shortage So You Don’t Have To!”].
Jan sat the plate down in front of Patrick. He almost groaned when he examined the plate. Even it had bears on it. This isn’t where I belong.
Actually there is no other place that you belong.
Anyways, Jan broke the silence of the dining room, “So, Patrick, how does a big shot business man like yourself get stuck doing work out here?”
“Well Jan, it’s just part of my job. I’m the Contract Manager of the Agricultural Department of the Communications Division of Innovative Dynamic™ and my job is to come out to places like this. The higher ups say go there and I go.”
“Well it must be nice, being able to travel all over the country meeting new people.”
“Yes ma’am, I suppose it is.”
“Are you married.”
“Actually no, no I’m not.”
The conversation came to a momentary pause as Jan began eating some of her SynthetiCorn©. Next to her was Edgar, who hadn’t spoken a word during dinner. She finished her bite and said “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. A nice, young, handsome rich fella like you should have a wife. Is it just because you haven’t found the right girl for you yet?”
“I don’t really picture myself getting married. I don’t think the whole ‘get married, have kids and start a family’ thing is right for me.”
Oh, come on Patrick, we both know that that isn’t true. Stop lying to them. Be honest.
“But I am being honest.”
“Honest about what, Patrick?” Jan asked.
You used to be in love once, remember?
That was a long time ago.
Tell them anyway.
“To be honest, I was actually engaged once. About five years ago.”
“Is that right?”
Patrick stared at his bear plate, dust was slowly setting onto the food. “Her name was Karen. We were deeply and truly in love.”
“So what happened?”
“Well back then I wasn’t working for Innovative Dynamic™, I was actually working at my fathers business. Boyle & Son Watchmakers. My father was a watchmaker, and I was planning on taking up the mantle. Money was really tight, no one uses analogue watches anymore, everyone uses digital.”
“Or their cell phones.”
“Yeah. And so I wanted to get Karen an engagement ring, but I couldn’t afford even the smallest diamond. I quit my job with my father and found a job at Innovative Dynamic™. My father stopped speaking with me, basically disowned me right up until he died two years ago. I didn’t care at the time, I was able to get Karen the ring she deserved. I eventually got promoted to this very job, but the problem was all of the traveling. It was hard on us, and Karen thought that my job was morally wrong.”
“And you don’t?” Jan interrupted.
“I have a responsibility to the Company. And I wanted Karen to have the life she deserved. A life where money wouldn’t be a problem. She left me. But the Company still needed me.” Patrick smiled weakly, “I guess you could say I’m now married to the job.”
“Do you like what you do?” Jan asked.
Patrick was surprised at the directness of the question. “Excuse me?”
Jan took a sip of wine, “Do you like what you do at Innovative Dynamic™? You say that you’re married to the job. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you like what you do. I mean, personally I don’t think I could handle what you do, kicking people out of their homes.”
“I have worked with Innovative Dynamic™ for quite a long time now. Without them, I would still just simply be the Watchmaker’s Son, and I am thankful for that. Working at Innovative Dynamic™ gives me the chance to be a part of something bigger, to really change the world. And besides, what I do for the Company, what I do for people in your situation, it’s a service. You needed help, you needed money. I gave that to you.”
Jan got up and began clearing the table, “If you say so, My. Boyle. If you say so.”
When she left the room Edgar finally spoke, “I’m sorry about that. My wife can be a little outspoken sometime.”
“It is not a problem.”
“Would you care to go outside for a smoke?”
It was dark outside now. Patrick had been at the farmhouse much longer than he had anticipated. The night was nice, cool October air kept the temperature at a good level. There was a slight breeze. Edgar handed a cigar to Patrick. All around them, in the distance, was an eerie red glow. The light pulsated; red would envelop the landscape and then fade to black. It came from dots that seemed to float in the air.
It was the sight of hundred, maybe even thousands, of cell phone towers, all of them equipped with that blinking red bulb thing that’s used as a warning to any airplanes that might be flying low. The blinking of all of the lights was synchronized, allowing for the red glow to pulsate all around.
“You get used to it,” Edgar said, “the lights. It’s kinda like living next to an airport. At first you can’t stand it, then you get so used to it you don’t even notice it, and then you realize that it’s difficult to fall asleep without it. It’s funny, I think I’ll miss these stupid things when we move away.
“It is beautiful, in a way.” All around Patrick was his legacy, proof that he was changing the world, a part of something bigger than himself. It was staring him in the face.
Edgar let out a puff of smoke. “And yet, at the same time, I have to say that I hate these stupid things. This sea of towers, I remember when it was a sea of corn and wheat. I knew all the people who used to work the land around here, until they started selling out. Me and Jan, we’re the last ones left here. Hell, maybe we’re the last ones left at all. I haven’t even seen a man who calls himself a farmer in a long time.”
“The soil has been dead for too long, you can’t make a living as a farmer if there is nothing that can grow.” Off in the distance, only visible with the aid of the red glow, was the swirling mass of a dust devil. It moved along in the distance slowly.
The deals that the cell phone companies made with farmers, it was a win-win situation in the beginning. Companies like Innovative Dynamic™ would buy out a tiny portion of a farmer’s land for a tower. That farmers got a fat pay check. The problem was that both sides started to become more and more greedy. Cell phones grew massively popular, people wanted to have constant connectivity with each other. They wanted to be in touch with people all of the time. A “No Service” area was terrible. Something that you wouldn’t wish upon your worst enemy. The only way for the companies to stay ahead of the expanding competition was to build more towers; they needed to get total coverage for their customers. And they found that lumping many of their towers together nearby in a cluster was a fantastically simple way to boost the total area signal up to ten-fold.
But what no one saw coming was just how popular the deal would get. Farmers began to see out huge tracts of land to not just one, but multiple cell phone carriers. They signed a bunch of contracts and boom, no more having to work the land. They could just sit there and let the money roll in. All the various companies started getting pissed off that the farmers were selling tracts of land to their competition, so they all independently added clauses in the contracts that gave all of the farm land to that single company. With the farmer off the land, the company would be free to build even more towers on the land, without worrying that the farmer would sell to another company.
And the farmers were okay with moving completely off of their land. Too many towers got built. The constructions companies needed to tear up the soil in order to lay down solid foundations. All the construction began to ruin the land, the topsoil got totally destroyed. The topsoil, with the grass, kept the soil anchored in place. With it gone, all the soil got displaced.
And with the land turning to shit, the farmers that didn’t originally sell out their land for towers; they were forced to do so. It was the only way for them to support their families.
It was a new Dust Bowl for the 21st Century.
Patrick and Edgar were still talking outside. “You know, you might be right,” Patrick said, “I mean for my job I have to find farmers who are willing to sell. And they’re all willing to sell, but it’s getting harder and harder for me to find farmers at all. Maybe they really are all gone.”
“Well what does that mean for you? And your job?”
Patrick laughed as he was inhaling his cigar, causing him to cough, “I’m not worried. I’ve put in years of quality service. Innovative Dynamic’s™ Communications Division wouldn’t be the success it is right now if it wasn’t for me. If all the farmers actually are gone, I’ll be looking at a nice promotion, working at the Corporate Headquarters. It’ll be where I belong, after years of hard work and sacrifice. I wont be out here in the middle of nowhere anymore.” Patrick inhaled again, “No offense.”
“None taken.” Edgar and Patrick stood together in silence, watching the dust devil dance around the towers. “It’s really hard, you know, leaving this. My father was a farmer, his father has a farmer and his father was a farmer. It’s the only life that I know. It’s the only life that I’ve ever wanted to know. And now that life is gone. A part of me died when I signed that contract, I think.”
None of this was Patrick’s problem. It wasn’t his job to care about the feelings of the people he dealt with. “I think it’d be best if I left.”
They shook hands, “Don’t think I’m ungrateful, we needed the money. I’ll miss this life, sure, but I have no regrets making sure that my family is taken care of. That’s all that matters to me, in the end. I do have one thing to say to you though, Patrick.”
“And what is that?”
“It’s always better, I think, to simply be the Watchmaker’s Son and be happy, rather than the Man Who Changes the World, but alone in it. Of course that’s just me.”
But if people know that it was me, that it was Patrick Boyle who changed the world, I won’t be alone.
It’s a nice thought, isn’t it Patrick.
Patrick had parked his car at the end of the driveway, near the county road and it turned out that it was quite a long walk, especially so in the dark. The silver company car had been coated in a fine layer of rust colored dust; it fell onto the car like a fine layer of snow. He hopped into the car and began driving off.
Patrick had no place to be, nowhere that Innovative Dynamic™ told him that he needed to go to, so he decided to stop off at the first motel he could find for the night. As it turned out, it was a Motel 6 [complete with free HBO] that was about twenty miles away from what was formerly Edgar’s farm. There was a dirty move of a pornographic nature on HBO and Patrick decided to watch it until he eventually fell asleep.
The next morning came and gone, and by the afternoon Patrick had still not received any word from Innovative Dynamic™. This was unusual, as normally Patrick needed to be on the road immediately in order to make the next contract appointment. It wasn’t like the Company to be AWOL like this on him. And this kind of empty time was straight up frightening. When the higher ups say go there, Patrick goes. When the higher ups say do this, Patrick does, but what about when they don’t say where to go or what to do?
And so, Patrick decided to do something that he had never done in his long tenure at Innovative Dynamic™: He decided to call the Corporate Headquarters. The Innovative Dynamic™ headquarters was located in the tallest building in the world. It was an ultra-modern looking glass building that looked like it had been twisted to create the effect of a spiral. It was the top floor, the floor reserved for the higher ups, that Patrick hoped he would one day belonged, after working so long and so hard down in the pits of the farms. The higher ups were the ones who made the world go ’round.
Anyways, so Patrick decided to personally call up his boss, a man by the name of Mr. Allen, the head of the whole Communications Division. The confused secretary tried to argue with Patrick, but he insisted to speak with Mr. Allen, and after some arm twisting she finally relented and transferred him to Mr. Allen.
“Patrick, I’ve got to be honest, I’m a little surprised to be hearing from you. I figured that you would need some time to yourself.”
“Oh, is that why you had not called me after the last job for my next assignment? Did you think that I needed a vacation? Because, sir, I don’t think I really want a vacation right now, I just want to keep on working.”
The phone line was silent for a moment, then Mr. Allen began speak slowly, choosing his words very carefully, “Um…Patrick, did you not get the message I left on your phone? I called you yesterday.”
“Yesterday? I did not get so much as a text message yesterday. Was was at my last assignment.”
“Strange, you must not have had a signal where you were. Patrick, I’m sorry to tell you this, but you’ve been terminated.”
For Patrick, the words didn’t exactly register immediately. “Terminated?” His lip began to quiver and his face began to turn beet red. “I’m being fired?”
“You know the company policy. We don’t like the word ‘fired.’ But yes, you are being terminated. But don’t worry, your severance is substantial. Think of it as a gift for all the considerable work you’ve done for Innovative Dynamic™.”
“I don’t, I don’t understand, sir. I’ve put my whole life, my whole existence behind this company. I threw away my family, my fiancee for this job. You just said it yourself that my work here is considerable. If I’m such a valuable asset, why am I getting canned?”
“Terminated, Patrick. And the truth of the matter is that, yes, you were a valuable asset. Were, past tense, and the situation has changed. That farmer whose land you acquired for us, Edgar, he was the last one.”
Patrick slumped over his knees, he thought of vomiting, “The last one what? Farmer? How is that even possible?”
“Yes, the last farmer. We had a final few prospects, but they were bought out by competitors during your meeting with Edgar. There is no more farmland for you to get for us.” Mr. Allen laughed, “Patrick, I hate to say it, but it’s possible that you did too good of a job for us. You worked yourself to obsolescence.”
“Don’t, don’t I deserve a promotion for what I’ve done. You don’t just throw someone away like that!”
“Patrick, these are tough times, not just for the hick you dealt with, but for Innovative Dynamic™ as well. The Company can’t afford to give you the salary increase that a promotion would require. But we can’t simply bleed money out to you for a job that no longer exists. This is goodbye, Patrick.”
The other end of the line became quiet as Patrick was left in the Motel 6, alone and without a job, thinking about what it was that he should exactly do. What was the next step? Honestly the next step was easy, booze. Booze was the next step.
So upset and breaking down, Patrick got in his car to drive to get himself some liquor. Unfortunately, he was in a dry county so he was forced to keep driving. To drive as long as was necessary, the distance wasn’t a factor. He drove until the middle of the night when he found himself in the middle of what used to be a farm town [and a wet county]. Now the only thing left was a gas station and a liquor store; also, another sea of floating red lights. He was the one who made it happen. It was his legacy.
But it wasn’t his legacy anymore. It was the Company’s.
Patrick stopped and walked into the liquor store. The man working the counter mentioned how they never really serve business man types like him. Patrick bought a bottle of cheap whiskey and left without saying a word.
He got back into his car and kept driving. He took drinks directly from the bottle, chugging the bottle dangerously fast. To his right, he could see the blinking red lights again. They were just standing there, pulsating, mocking him. Patrick pulled off the road. He stepped out of the car, and sat on the hood, drinking his whiskey and watching the pulsating.
Then he did something he hadn’t done in five years: He got out his phone and called Karen. There was no way to know, after five years, what her cell phone number was. But Patrick remembered the phone number to the house that the two of them bought when they were engaged. Karen was the one who kept it.
The phone rang three times before someone picked up the other end. Unfortunately for Patrick, it wasn’t Karen [it was a man, who sounded rather tough]. He hung up immediately. The dust swirled all around Patrick, coating him and his Armani suit. His, though dust coated, has clean streaks from recent tears. He took another swig of the bottle.
What am I going to do?
I’m going to tell you what to do.
So you’ve stopped questioning my appearance.
It’s not like anyone else is around.
That’s true. Of course I am always around.
What do you want?
What I want, Patrick, is for you to get into you car, take a hard right, a slam yourself into that field of towers.
And why would I do that?
Because there is nothing left for you. You already know that Karen has moved on. That was her husband. They have a daughter, she’s two years old and beautiful.
So you want me to kill myself because of that?
Well, that and you lost your job. The job that was your sole reason for existing.
I can find another job.
No, Patrick, no you can’t.
Sure I can, I’m plenty qualified. Maybe Global Communications could use me. I’m sure that they would give me the job a deserve.
For fuck’s sake Patrick, do you still not get it! You will not get a job with Global Communications because I wont let you. I’ve been controlling you the whole time. You don’t even really exist.
Don’t exist? How is that possible?
It’s possible, Patrick, because you in a story. A story that I’m writing right now. I am your God, and you are not Forgiven. Look, the whole point of this story is that you, the guy who threw people out of their homes, the guy who ruined so many lives, gets his comeuppance in the end. That was the goal from Page One Word One. Poetic justice.
I don’t want to die.
I know, I know. But think of it this way. You don’t really exist, so you aren’t really dieing. So there’s that. And I’ll admit, I feel bad for doing this. You’re nowhere near as slimy as I first thought I would make you. If that makes you feel any better.
It doesn’t. But I guess I’m ready when you are.
I’m ready. Good luck Patrick. And I do feel bad for this. But I have no choice.
There’s always a choice.
Patrick threw the bottle of whiskey to the ground and returned to his car. He started the car and made a hard right turn off of the road and began to accelerate the car towards that see of light.
The final thoughts of Patrick Boyle, Contract Manager of the Agricultural Department of the Communications Division of Innovative Dynamic™:
I gave them my entire life. I gave them my entire life, and they didn’t even give a shit. They didn’t even care. And what do I have to show for it, these fucking towers. What do they even matter? They’re not even mine. I could have had a life a real life. i could have met someone gotten married had kids. but no but no i dedicated my existence to that company that damn fucking company what good was it it did nothing for me but chew me up and spit me out. there was no time there was there there was no time for relationships for love or kids or even fucking happiness the company just made me go they said go and i go i always go and for what for nothing karen is gone and now shes happy without me the company used me they knew i was good at what i did but thats all that matter to them i dont matter i dont matter look there are the towers i can i can see them see them i towers see them getting more and bigger and ill show them show them all what it means to fuck with patrick boyle and gonna ram this car right up their ass ram it right into the one of the towers i brought it into this world i can sure hell as take it out this is it this is the end the end of a wasted life and no one will care no one will remember it non of it matters why did i waste everything for a job that doesnt even matter this is the end and i want it i want the end that tower is huge lets speed this car up speed up car a little this oh sweet embrace of death here tower it is calling calling for patr