In a near hollow building Operators naked with fright caught sight of an approaching caricuture. Chimes rung as the hour was up, sparks jumped between cylinders catching the air creating light where there was once darkness. They all worked interacting via their self taught language - a dialect from Catalan. A language between them and the outside world, for this was how they spoke to life, real life. For they were all unreal. One by one Operators carefully knelt, then bowed, worshipping their macarbe realm: going from strength to strength, from weakness to weakness, from personality to personality.

First off, she looked at me. She looked hot. I wanted to go over and sit down next to her. Our eyes met, she hesitated but continued to rub makeup into her face. All over it. I thought she was cute.

The gurgling rumbled. Cisaer spoke in a monotone, and bored most people he met (and knew). The voices from the alleyway uttered an unusual high-pitched gibberish, which only they knew the answers too. The gurgling continued to rumble and Cisaer was getting stressed.

I slowly built up the courage to go and say hi, how you doing? But, I stopped halfway – just before she noticed. I wasn’t planning to be made a fool of. Not today anyway. The café was half full, half empty. People swept in and out as quickly as I’d built up and lost my courage. My hands were damp, I began to sweat (a little). Without thinking, I ordered another cup of tea from the passing waiter. One sugar, milk.

Cisaer wanted to go home, he needed to rest. He had been working overtime, filling in for his fiancee Claire, who also worked at the complex albeit in a different sector. There are as many humans as there are sectors, wondered Casaer. I wonder why that is? Looking into his console, the room swayed under the rumbling, the walls switched patterns, colours, and depth. It was almost lifelike. The odour glands pulsated, giving off a gaseous steam every couple of seconds or so. Cisaer caught a glimpse of the Main Controller Twilight who looked puzzled. They both had the same thought process going on. What is happening on the outside?

Gulping down the cup of tea, I felt slightly relieved and subsequently sighed. I thought: it’s now or never. I must go and speak to her, at least make polite conversation. She seemed like a friendly person, smiling as she dabbled with her makeup box, happily sitting there in a world of her own. She does look good I decided, my type too. Thick brown hair spilling into her face keeping its shape which drooped down her back. Slim figure and eyes to die for. But it was her mannerisms that caught my attention – the way she strolled in and suddenly electrified the whole room.

That’s it, I’m going over.

Code red. Twilight looked frightened, beams and strobes flickered and spat at all the Operators, Cisaer continued stabbing signs, symbols, and actions into his console. Bloodly thing he thought, they’re still using an out-of-date version. At his old place of work they kept up-to-date with all the N series: his console used to speak. Twilight lost his temper and was throwing darts, shapes, and globes at his underlings in an attempt to increase their speed. They all thought – in unison – it will not make us work faster you cretin! Twilight’s bell rang, it was the man at the top. He swore, and broke another globe. It shattered. He was about to cry. He picked up the humming receiver. “Yes, Twilight here at your service” “What is going on?” The man at the top shouted. “Your gracious, we are trying to resolve the issue as fast as possible, you will have to bear with us until we…”He was cut off. “You do not speak to me like that, I want this fixed now, do I make myself clear?” “Sorry, your gracious, forgive me, we will fix the problem now” The beam parted, and the receiver stopped humming.

I nearly knocked over a chair as I made my way across the smoky café. She saw me from the corner of her eye. She fumbled about with her purse; she must be about to leave I thought. I took up the chair opposite her. I said hi, how you doing? She blushed and told me she had had a busy day. I was never very good at this type of thing, but I think I did all right. She laughed, at times, to my jokes. We spoke for nearly ten minutes, time seemed to fly by, she didn’t appear to want to go (yet). We continued speaking. I bought her a coffee. Two sugars, black.

Twilight battered Casaer with an onslaught of questions, trying to find an answer to this every present dilemma. Should they continue throwing fuel into the fire or shut off the N series and hope for the best? There was no way to know. Casaer, with the most amount of experience and even though he banged on and on, was the best Operator to ask. Twilight knew this and continued his questioning: When will you know Casaer? Is the problem area down the alleyways? You said you heard a rumbling today? Where did it start? Are the glands excreting? And on it went. Caesar did his best to answer all the questions, stressing that releasing the hounds could be disastrous. Bored by his monotone - it could put anyone to sleep - Twilight fought on.

She drank her coffee with sweet elegance; I was humbled by her kindness. She had two jobs, one in a charity shop and the other in a restaurant. Her eyes grew on me, I slowly began to feel fond of her, wondering if she felt the same way about me. It seemed like she did. There was no way to tell. We spoke at length, and about many different things, she liked to go to the cinema, shopping, usual stuff I thought. We were getting on well. I ordered some more drinks. She was thirsty, me too.

The hounds from the basement were finally unleashed, Twilight himself gave the direct order against Casaer’s wishes. The man at the top knew nothing of this, having known, events might have turned out differently. Twilight ran around panicking, smashing more globes: his office a shrine of broken glass and other clattered ornaments. The rumbling ceased. Casaer’s console finally made sense (at least to him). Things started to return to normal. Or so it seemed.

Her eyes lit up, we both smiled. I didn’t know her name I thought, I had not bothered to ask her. Should I ask now? I took my time and found the right moment. I asked her, so what’s your name?

Something appeared in Casaer’s console. What the hell is this? Oh my God, we are receiving communications directly from the outside. His heart fluttered, his pulse raced. Time appeared to stop. The console whispered it started to speak. It said “My name is Claire.” Casaer typed back “My name is Casaer.”


Afterword by the guy in the cafe a.k.a The Protagonist

We eventually got married, settled down, had kids - two. I was pleased I gathered enough courage to go and speak to her, I suppose it was meant to be.

Afterword by Casaer

I later found out that Claire, my fiancee to-be, left the complex, settled down, married, with a guy from the outside. I never knew his name.

No ones knows how she did it? Some say she made friends with the voices from the alleyway, others say she bribed the man at the top. Who knows...

Afterword by The Narrator

The end of the story could have been different. On the one hand we had Casaer (who lived in the brain of the protagonist), and Claire (who lived in her own brain), who was a schizophrenic and was thus able to travel between different sectors of her brain. And was therefore allowed to escape into the outside.

Me? I like my tea with one sugar, milk.

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