Tag: work in progress

Compulsion 1

In the not-so-distant future…

Chapter One



06:00. Get up. Get moving. Get up.

Carl flung back his covers. He swung his legs to the floor.

Get moving. Slippers on. 

His feet found them and he stood.

06:01. Go now. Get moving.

Into his master bath he went. Straight to the toilet to do his business. 

06:04. Shower. Shower time. Start shower.

He flushed his waste and started the shower. He disrobed as the water heated up.

06:05. Get in. Hurry. Get in.

Stepping into the shower, he went through his routine.

Hair. Shampoo for hair. Face. Wash face. Arms. Left and now right. 

And so on, working quickly from top to bottom, rinsing himself as he went.

06:10. Conserve water. Feet clean. Rinse. Out. Conserve water. Get out.

He shut the water off before the eleventh minute could tick. He could feel the clock in his head. He could feel the seconds pushing him forward, each task more important. Each moment as heavy as the last. 

Dry off. Dry off, head to feet. Dry off. Dry. 

Towel on rack. On rack. On rack.

06:12. Groom. Time to groom.

He stepped in front of his mirror. It did not have time to fog. He combed his hair and his short beard. His beard was such a time saver.

06: 15. Dress. Must get dressed. Must be dressed. Dress.

Comb down, he stepped into his closet. He donned his Monday suit, just as grey and bland as his Tuesday and Wednesday suits. His Monday tie in the Monday shade of blue.

Somewhere in the back of his mind, he heard his wife, Jenny, moving about her routine. Hers was ten minutes behind his. No war for the bathroom space. 

06:23. Kids. Breakfast. Move now. Kids and Breakfast. Kids. Breakfast. 

He stepped into the hallway to find his children on schedule. Laura, seven, and Carl Jr., five. Prepared for the day. they were in their breakfast routine. They made it to the stairs in the correct order. Everything as scheduled. Laura first because her room was closest to the stairs. CJ second. Carl followed them down.

Breakfast was fortified cereal. Real-Cow brand milk. Infused orange juice. The chewing was methodical. Twenty chomps and swallow. Twenty and swallow. Drink. Jenny joined them. Twenty chomps and swallow. Twenty and swallow. Drink. 

06:43. Dishes in sink. In sink. The dishes in the sink. Put the dishes…

Laura moved first. Then CJ. And Carl. They stacked their dishes for the cleaning service. Jenny was finishing her meal when the family lined up to kiss her cheek before the day began. In order. Always in order. Carl, last in line, kissed his wife on the lips, timing it so that she had swallowed but had not yet begun drinking. This contact was important between spouses. It was built into the routine. 

06:45. Wave to kids. Tell them you love them. Tell them you love them. Wave and say-

“Bye guys. I love you,” Carl said and waved as they headed in the opposite direction. 

“Love you, too,” they replied in unison, Laura taking her little brother’s hand and leading him away.


06:56. Stop at crosswalk. Stop at red light of crosswalk. Look up at billboard.  Look up. 

Carl had plenty of seconds to take in the billboard’s message. The advertisement for Real-Cow brand milk assured him that no cows were used in the processing of this milk-like product. It was, however, packed with vitamins C and D.

06:57. Cross street. Watch step and cross street. Go.

Carl did not look at the people around him. He knew they were there, but had no reason to look. He could hear them. He could smell them. He could see them out of the corner of his eyes. No one more than glanced at anything save where their feet were taking them. These were Carl’s people, his neighbors. His routine did not include them. His routine excluded them, in fact, and theirs did the same to him. It was efficient. The world was more efficient now.

07:02. Enter tunnel. Down steps. Watch where you’re going. Down the steps.

07:03. Buy paper. Buy newspaper. Buy the newspaper from the machine.

Carl stopped and placed his thumb on the vending machine’s scanner. It dinged, and the door opened. Carl took a paper from the stack and closed the door just as someone else approached with their thumb ready.

The station was a silent flock of humanity. He merged with those awaiting the green train to downtown. He stood behind the same man he had stood behind for the last thirteen years. He did not wonder who stood behind him, but had it been in his routine to check, he would have noticed the same woman standing behind him every day for those same thirteen years. Their programs were synced, though they had never spoken. They would never speak. There was no cause for interaction.

The train pulled to a stop. Carl stepped onto the car and headed straight for his seat: 34B. It was not assigned, but this was routine. He sat just as his the person in 34A got comfortable. Timed just so. They did not get in each other’s way. 

07:12. Open the paper. Open it and look at the financial section. Straight to the financial section. Straight to the-

Something caught Carl’s eye as he flipped the pages.


The big bold letters of the text indicated that he was not the only one disturbed by the news. He quickly scanned the article, noting the statistics first. He was a numbers man. There had been a ninety-nine percent decrease in reported crime since the app had been adopted so wholeheartedly by the population. This new spree of theft, vandalism, assault, and even murder was threatening to lower that percentage to ninety-eight.


He turned the page.


07:48. Get coffee. No sugar. Coffee, black. Say it. Coffee, black. Please.

“Coffee, black. Please,” he said to the clerk outside his office building. He took the cup and scanned his thumbprint on the cart’s reader. He stepped away as another thirsty patron to stepped up. 

He took a sip of that hot, bitter drink, and wished for sugar and for a nice elevator ride to his floor. He headed for the stairs. This was Jenny’s idea, the healthy routine. They had integrated it together. They would schedule their meals to provide exactly the correct nutrition for their daily needs, and they would take the stairs. No deviation. No chance for that. Carl found solace in the fact that he had lost nearly twenty-five pounds. But he did miss the sugar. 

07:56. Say hello to the staff. Say hello and smile. Smile. Smile.

As he made his way to his office, he greeted every face in the cubicle pool. It was the morale-building routine recommended by a consultancy some years back. His employees had each implemented their versions of it as well, and every face turned to his just as he was about to say hello. They smiled in return before settling into their workday.

He got to his desk just as Eveline, his assistant, stepped through his door with his to-do list ready on her tablet. Carl sat, flipped the power to his desktop monitor, and sighed. It was the one time of day that he did not have anything running through his mind. Scant seconds between sitting and booting up the app.

Just as the Compelr logo faded and the interface came into view, his internal clock synced.

08:00. Program day. Eveline has list. Program day as dictated. Program day.


“How many hours of the day do you waste?” the commercials asked, whispering through the bone conduction implants that were all the rage for the newer generations.  “How many minutes do you spend thinking about the inconsequential? How much further along in your life would you be if you had the wherewithal to focus, to do what needed doing and to learn what needed learning so that you could be the person you wanted to be? What if there was a way to set goals and make sure that you had no choice but to achieve them? What if you could look back and be proud of yourself, having no regrets, nothing left on the table because you’d done it all? 

“Now introducing Compelr. Manage your life down to the second. Harness your potential. Be smart. Be fast. Become the best version of yourself.”


The rest of the day goes just as scheduled. Every day goes just as scheduled. Carl worked his numbers, harnessing by-the-second data collected from billions of users around the globe. He met in person with the partners and explained his charts and graphs. He ate lunch at his desk: a spinach wrap with hummus and lab-farmed turkey. At 17:00, he stood, made his way out of the building – making sure to say his goodbyes, of course – and walked straight to the station. 

His seat on the evening green train was 19B, and his focus was on his foldaway tablet and the notes from his meetings. He took his time scanning them over and over again.

At home, he found the children doing their homework. Later, they would play cooperation and hand-eye coordination games on the simulator. Carl got to work cooking dinner because it was Monday. When Jenny got home, she gave him a kiss on the cheek, as per the instructions on his apron, and then she took a bath before dinner: her Monday night relaxation routine.

After dinner (twenty chomps, swallow, drink), Carl spent exactly thirty-one minutes and forty-one seconds in conversation with each child. They gave their reports on their day, listing exactly what they had learned and how they would apply it to their next day’s studies. Carl asked them about their hopes and plans for the future. Which routines did they think they would like to try next? Laura was dying to run the tomboy program and join the sporting league. CJ had his eye on becoming an astronaut.

Carl and Jenny put the children to bed as a unit. This was important. Cohesion was important. Tuck, kiss, leave the nightlight on for CJ, just the door cracked for Laura. And then Jenny went about her business as Carl got ready for bed: pjs, brush teeth, waste evacuated.

His head hit his pillow at precisely 21:00.