Prologue: Taking Leave (Project Atlas)

By Isaac Sampson:

I am writing this to be saying that I am quitting my job. Or, to be more precise, I am writing to quit my job with my current employer. I will continue to be a journalist, but not one that is forced to omit the truth because of the corporate powers that be — the ones that currently own this newspaper. For my dedicated readers, this is nothing new; but for those who don’t regularly check this column, you may be surprised to learn that The White Post is indeed owned by a massive corporation. These folks — Petracorp — own sports teams, own television networks, have their own thinktank in Washington, own publishing companies, telecommunications companies, and have their own senator. Yes, folks, you heard me: their own senator. Regardless of their representation in government, these media conglomerates acquiring newspapers disrupt journalistic process like you wouldn’t believe — I’ve been told many times to edit my anti-corporate stance from my articles, and have had to comply, or risk losing my job. I’ve tried, time and time again, to get the word out to people that these media giants are dominating our culture, but have been shut down — I’ve had to edit those paragraphs into pro-corporate statements. What does that make me? A shoddy journalist, for sure, working in a corrupt system. The basic premise when you come to work for any of these so-called “news agencies” is that, if your views don’t reflect that of the corporation, they won’t get published.

At the same time, we’re forced to report on whatever will generate the biggest influx of readers or viewers — and, consequently, the biggest influx of money. I’m still shaking my head over the 3 mind-numbingly boring days that I had to spend covering the murder of a 10 year old girl in Kelso, Oregon (yes, I’m preparing for the ridiculous amount of hate mail that I’ll get for saying that) while, on the other hand, the government passed a bill that violated the rights of the honest man once again — deeming it necessary that we can be searched legally without a court order if there’s “probable cause” that we’re an anarchist, or a socialist, a communist, a fascist, an anti-war advocate, a libertarian, or whatever other bunk they lump other the label “enemy [sic] of the country”. Yes, they can now lawfully seize (read: arrest) you based on evidence that you don’t like where this country is going they gathered while unlawfully watching you at your job. Yes, I feel bad for little Polly Opham, but her death, no matter how brutal it was, took our attention away from something much bigger and worse: the erosion of our rights, all in the name of preventing another attack like the famed 44 attacks in London, and the wave of “terrorism” that’s spread throughout Britain. Any rational citizen would rather listen to a story on the government’s corruption, but we can’t call it that due to our corporate ties and the corporations’ ties to the government. What do you think would appeal more to the psyche of the country: the awful, wretched story of a girl brutally murdered by her brother, or some random “security bill”? Of course, the former. And instead of doing my job and telling the people that that bill is an outright threat to our security, ironically, these guys make me collect evidence at a crime scene like all those stupid crime dramas on TV, trying to be Sherlock Holmes, without the cool factor. (continued on page A5)

“Can you believe this guy, Maddy? He’s such a liar: he chose to work on the Polly Opham case, and didn’t tell us about –” a young man, probably in his late 20’s, pen in an ear obscured by his shaggy brown hair said, a slightly tired look on his face.

A woman, about the same age, with a sharp, straight nose accompanying an equally sharp and straight jaw, turned to him, and finished his sentence, “…that hopeless paper, The Watchman?”

Both their eyes lit up, his dark brown, hers a brilliant, sparkling blue, saying at the same time, with wry smiles spread on their faces, “Ah! Power! Again!” as if they were expecting each other to know exactly what and when they would say something. They, after long companionship, had found themselves to be equal in mind — and would consistently agree with each other so often that one could probably win the lottery before observing a conflict of opinion between these two. Both had long aspired to be journalists, both had went to the same college, both had went to the same graduate school, both got a job at the same newspaper. An onlooker could surmise that simply by living their own life, that person was living vicariously through the other. Eric was Madeleine; Madeleine was Eric. They went through life as if they were connected by an invisible rope — whenever someone did or said or thought something, the other would surely follow in the footsteps of the first.

“And this bit about being an honest journalist! Hah! This man lied more than any I know, to us, to Sam, and there he declares his little crusade for truth in journalism? He was a jerk to us — putting us down, saying that we were always in our little bubble, while he did nothing but stay in bubble and put on his tinfoil hat and cry government conspiracy at every turn? And when he wasn’t doing that, he was criticizing anyone who held a higher post than he did — just because they had power.” Madeleine said in a tone of condemnation, taking a swig of her latté, and placed it back on the conference room table with a sigh of satisfaction. She absentmindedly put her hand in her great curly mass of shimmering brown hair, and twisted her hair around her finger, going, and going, without a care, without focus.

Eric broke the silence, saying in a quiet and dejected tone, as to not let Madeleine hear him — but still looking in her direction, convinced that she’d hear him anyway, “Don’t you think it’s a bit ironic though — I know of a few people who pick up the Post just to read Isaac’s column and reports, thus raking in the cash for the corporate demons that Isaac so hates. His looney brand of political opinion clearly resonates with the insane — I mean, that bill requires that those who are going to search people have probable cause, so why distort it — and Petracorp has to appeal to those people in an effort to make cash. So, Isaac was probably not fired due to his… interesting demographic, we’ll say, that he appealed to. But, now that he’s off writing for his own newspaper that’s doomed to fail, maybe he’ll realize that the corporations are a huge help for getting a readership. Now everyone’s just going to dismiss him as a looney.”

Madeleine looked at him, studied him for a moment in indifference, and wryly said, with an arrogant tone of self-assurance, “Does it need to be said?”

Eric responded in kind, smiling at her, “No. Of course you agree.”

* * * *

Alex Whister, a brilliant, if idiosyncratic 29 year old, looked up from his newspaper and saw a person standing at the entrance to his cubicle. He was lean, with constantly moving — and fearful — eyes, and probably weighed too little for his 6 foot tall frame. The lines that made up his face were rounded, and, somehow, lacked definition, making him seem extremely plain, though the workings of his mind were anything but. He finished his work two hours early every day, but didn’t clock out then — he liked to go home when everyone else went home, at 5:45, so as to not draw attention to himself. He sat at his computer, looking up quotes of famous authors and philosophers. In fact, his only decorations around his cubicle were handwritten quotes that were attached to the cubicle wall via thumbtack. His favorites, to be sure, were the famed “proverbs for paranoids” coined by Thomas Pynchon in Gravity’s Rainbow. They were pinned on the ‘cube’ wall, penned in bold permanent marker directly to his left:

“1. You may never get to touch the Master, but you can tickle his creatures.
2. The innocence of the creatures is in inverse proportion to the immorality of the Master.
3. If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about answers.
4. You hide, they seek.
5. Paranoids are not paranoid because they’re paranoid, but because they keep putting themselves, fucking idiots, deliberately into paranoid situations.”

He regarded them with irony, wondering whether he was paranoid just because he identified with every single one of the quotes. He heard a sound, off in the distance, and turned to fact the person who was speaking to him.

“Alex, I was erm — reading your analysis of our profits of the quarter and it appears as though you’re missing page 13?” the speaker said with both pity and contempt. She focused her eyes on him, as if trying to see into his mind, guessing what his excuse would be.

“I — I -I’m… sorry. I’ll… get that fixed straightaway. Sorry for being a failure…” Alex said, with not a hint of the self-pity that she expected to find in him — but a trace of self-loathing. His body language told the tale: he seemed extremely angry at himself — his shoulders were raised tightly, and his fists were clenched. He took a deep breath, paused for a second, and met her gaze as reluctantly as one would accept an order to stare straight into the sun. He said nothing, as if telling her to move on, to spend her lucky time on earth talking to someone who was worth something. She looked him back as if she understood, and proceeded back to her cubicle.

He subconsciously knew that he was very good at his job — that’s why he was still employed — but he equated every misstep he made with a massive failure, something that would get him fired. Quite simply: he disliked himself because he wasn’t perfect. Though he did everything with gusto 97% of the time, he spent his life as though he expected that imperfect 3% to shine through every single time, without fail. This made him avoid taking any risks for fear of rejection: he was so sure that he’d fail that he refused to do anything other than what he got paid for, and even then, he thought he should be unemployed.

He looked back at the proverbs for paranoids. He read the fifth one again, and laughed. You fucking idiot, he thought to himself. You deliberately put yourself in these situations where you can fail. If you stop doing anything, you won’t fail…

  1. thebeadden

    Oh, Leap! I’m hooked. I read this through my surfer and had to come tell you how much I enjoyed it.

    I can’t wait for next Tuesday!

    You know, the anticipation will keep me up thinking at night, just knowing I cant flip the page and keep going.

  2. Me too. Compelling characters; nuanced descriptions; building suspense. There is a tinge of unreality, or perhaps superimposed reality, which makes me want to read further so I can get on solid footing with the story. I suspect, however, I’d better not expect to do that any time soon. 🙂

  3. so much for writer’s block! 😉

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