2022
May
17

Short Story Finalist – Riley

The Day Technology Took Over

The alarm clock buzzed at 5am as Jim was suddenly woken from a deep sleep. He wished he could roll over and pull the sheets back up. Looking out the window at another cloudy day, he sighed. Picking up the cleanest work shirt he could find off the floor, he ignored the button that was missing at the waist. Despite the aroma of his instant coffee and a new layer of Lynx down his chest, he could still smell last night’s pizza coming from the kitchen bin.

He had started working at the Electronics factory almost 25 years ago, after a farming accident made him leave his farm. As the time passed, he had seen more and more developments in the robotics industry. At times he questioned why things changed, and not always for the better. The factory was always pushing staff to come up with new technologies, at any cost. He was not comfortable with the feeling of greed in a competitive world. As the maintenance man, he tried to just keep his head down and do his job without saying a word.

Every morning he would take his lunchbox down to his dingy workshop in the basement of the 55-storey building and hang his hat and coat on the same hook, each and every day.

For the last few weeks, as he walked through the concrete corridors, he had been getting a gut feeling that something wasn’t right. Storeroom B is where he took all the incomplete droids that needed reprograming. As he walked past the doorway, he could feel them staring at him like a mad bull. He usually thinks nothing of it.

As he logs onto his computer to check his job list for the day, he realises that the networks have been going slower and slower. On this particular day, after waiting five minutes for his worksheet to download he gets fed up and decides it’s a good time for a Gatorade in the tearoom. As he walks past the broom closet, he can smell an awful stench coming from behind the door. The smell reminded him of a time from his farm many years ago, when drought had taken over the district like a blanket of sorrow. His mind flashes back to dozens of cows he had to put down, one bullet at a time. He opens the door and out falls the body of a young man that he recognised from the programming department. His body mangled and twisted like a ball of string. His mind raced, how could this have happened? Who could have done this? Unable to calm down, Jim starts to hyperventilate, getting flashbacks of his farming accident over two decades ago. Taking deep breaths, he pulls out his mobile from the pocket of his overalls to make a call. He has no signal. The WIFI is down too.

A feeling came over him; he wanted to vomit. But he needed to get help. Jim, as quietly as he could, snuck out of the control room, hitting is head on the overhead pipes that stretch across the ceiling like a spider’s web. After working in the factory, he knew the corridors like the back of his hand. Making his way to the supply room to arm himself with whatever he could find.

He grabbed a backpack, stuffing rope, a bag of fertiliser, a cordless drill and a bottle of diesel, as he ran towards the exit. Jim made his way to the ground floor door, only to find them locked from the inside. The key holes blocked with a metallic liquid.

He could hear screams coming from the assembly line, Jim needed to think fast. As he turned the corner an Android lunges out towards him, his eyes like laser beams, brightly blinding his vision. He ducked as a blade swung above his head. Fortunately for him the Droid continued towards the server room, determined to take over the network.

Jim realised now that he was alone, and help was nowhere to be found. These Androids needed to be stopped before they gained access into the server room, and ultimately gain power over the grid.

He remembered from his farming days how volatile the combination of diesel and fertilizer was. He needed to do something drastic at this point to wipe out this Android with a developed intelligence. He threw the bag of fertilizer at the droid as it was ripping the metal door off the server room. The grey powder coated the robot like a snowstorm. As the Droid turned towards Jim, he threw the bottle of diesel, and then dove for cover behind the filing cabinet.

As the diesel reacted with the fertilizer, a massive explosion blew the Droid apart, scattering its components all over the room. Jim climbed out from under the debris of twisted metal to take in what almost had happened.

He limped down to his dingy workshop, scooping up his hat and coat off the same hook he had used for the last 25 years. With his lunchbox under his arm, he made his way to the outside of the building. Turning around to take one last look, it was then he decided to return to the farm, to a life much simpler.