I was walking down the warehouse collecting parcels with the new system. The Glasses make everything easier, icons telling you what to pick up and where. A book from section D65, some shoes from section E23. HDMI cables from section B12. An arrow tells you the fastest route through the warehouse, and tells you how long it should take. You do it.
Its not good if you take longer than the system says, your supervisor gets a warning. Too many warnings and you have to go the supervisor’s office for a chat. The supervisor tells you to walk a bit faster, maybe you should spend some time at the gym after work. The company pays for it.
You can also use the Glasses in the gym. There is a programme of exercises specially designed for warehouse staff, personally adapted to your weight, body mass, weight of the parcels you usually handle. The system measures how well you are doing in the gym. It’s no good if you don’t do as much exercise as the system says, your supervisor gets a warning, you catch my drift.
Anyway, I was walking down the warehouse doing the usual. You don’t know what this place is like. There is no logic to the way all this stuff is arranged, or at least no logic that you or I could understand, but a logic that the system can understand. It takes into account what kinds of stuff people are ordering, from where, with what type of delivery. Shoes and books and magazines and toys and tablets and games and cables. It looks messy and confusing, and this is why the company like the Glasses so much. It simplifies things for us as we go around picking up stuff. All those neat icons, arrows, and messages, and the bloody timer too.
So, I walked past [Redacted] in section Z64, he wasn’t moving. He was just looking at one of the shelves, standing there, as if they had switched him off. I thought maybe his Glasses had crashed. With the Glasses, you never see anyone standing around anymore. You are always on the move, you know that timer. [Redacted] had a funny look in his face. I was doing ok for time, I put a good trot on at the warehouse after all that time in the gym, so I stopped for a moment, and asked [Redacted] what’s up. Maybe the system had confused him, he is a bit older than other people at the Warehouse.
I also felt like having a quick chat, I hadn’t talked to anyone in the whole day. Just me, the System and all this stuff.
For a moment, it was as if [Redacted] couldn’t hear me. He just stood there, looking vacantly at whatever junk was sitting in front of him in the shelves of Section Z64. Then, it was as if he had woken up from a daydream, he finally saw me. He smiled, and he said:
“Chris, I think I have finally figured it out. There is no-one out there. All of these parcels we are picking up from the shelves and putting in the vans, they are not going anywhere, they are going to other warehouses where other workers like us put them in shelves for other workers to pick up. There is no-one out there. This is not a delivery centre. This is a training centre. Not even for us, but for the machines that will replace us. This is why they measure everything that we do, why they record everything that we do. We are just showing the system how to build better drones. Well, I will show them, I will show them all right.”
He suddenly had a very intense look in his eyes. It really weirded me out. You never see anyone with an intense look in their eyes in the Warehouse, maybe because they are distracted by the instructions from the System, overlaying everything they see. It really weirded me out, I didn’t know what to say. The timer in my Glasses had gone from green to amber so I thought I better get moving. I told [Redacted] that I had to shoot, maybe see him at the gym later (now that I think about it, I don’t think he ever went to the gym).
So I got going. I was in Section Z76 when the screaming started, that is something else you never hear at the Warehouse, the Warehouse is usually the humming of the aircon and the nothingy music they play in the speakers, the wheels of the trolley wheeling away. Definitely not screaming.
But this time there was screaming, and thudding, and a wet sound. You know what happened next. Perhaps I should have stayed with [Redacted], spoken to him, perhaps noticed the axes and the knives and the razors sitting in front of him, in Section Z64.
[Record of Police Interview with Chris S., 2 days after the incident]
Neugeborene Nachtmusik’s self-titled album in Enfant Terrible contains many different kinds of darkness. The oleaginous darkness of an ecological armaggedon, the fractally decomposing darkness of nocturnal woods, the electronic darkness of an invisible servo-powered algorithmic fist just before it crashes your digital mirror. It is pretty damned great and you should get it when it comes out in April.
Neugeborene Nachtmusik – Kino Sputnik
As a bonus, here you have another song that revels in the dual-uses of technology, as a tool for mass-destruction, oppression and empty consumerism, but also as a device for transformation, rebellion, and dancing. It is as good as it gets, so enjoy.
Cabaret Voltaire – Kino (12” mix)
As included in The Original Sound of Sheffield 83-87.