BLANK WHITE CYLINDER
By Mary Wright (me)
It was three hours before, that Frank Diaz woke up to have his preparation of the day.
The blank white cylinder rose up from its hiding place in his bedroom’s dark wood floor, with a sound of buzzing bees, and a ding as it reached the height of his neck as he sat on his bed, feet dangling off the side.
“Frank. Diaz. Confirmation?”
“Yes,” replied Frank, scratching his ear, and yawning, knowing that the next thing would allow him to have time to do so.
“You are to go over what you will say today. You must be informed that every word you say now will be all the words, and there will be no extras allowed, except for the usual speaking fillers of uh and um…..”
“I am aware,” Frank said, sighing.
“So you are going to now be informed of all the people you will run into today, and you will plan on what you will say to them, one by one.”
“Of course,” Frank replied. Often in his dreams, and in his thoughts, he remembered vaguely a time when he was able to be surprised at what he said to someone, or surprised that he would run into someone he wasn’t expecting. With time being planned out for him beforehand, there was no more of that.
“You will first run into your boss, who will tell you that you are fired.” the cylinder intoned. Like rising water, the cylinder suddenly changed from white to black, charting its progress in its preparation, much like a loading bar on a computer, only vertical.
Frank groaned, and felt a spectacular pull in his heart to just hide under the covers and go back to sleep. But there was none of that. The cylinder would just wake up again. He had learned this the hard way about a year or so ago, when the technology had first been installed in his home.
“I would reply,” began Frank, “with ‘This must be a joke’.”
“Your boss will say,” the cylinder replied, in his boss’s voice now, “This is no joke, Diaz. Pack up your things before I kick you out of the building.”
That was the most creepy part, Frank reasoned. That the cylinder, while predicting the future, could also pick up the voice tones of everyone he’ll meet as well.
“Then, I would say, ‘Okay’,” Frank said, “and pack up my things and leave, and go to the elevator to bring me to the ground floor.”
“Good.” the cylinder said, “and then you will meet a guy in the elevator, who will ask you out for a drink at the local bar, Bart’s Watering Hole.”
Hm, Frank thought, maybe this knowing-the-future thing is a positive sometimes.
“I’ll say,” Frank said, ” ‘ That sounds nice. I’d love to.’ ”
The cylinder’s level of black rose a bit. “Then he will say, ‘My name is Luis.’ ”
“Then I’ll say,” Frank took a deep breath, ” ‘Frank.’ ”
“Then you both will go down to the ground floor, and he will grab your hand.” The cylinder continued, “And an armed gunman will shoot him and he will fall to the ground, taking you with him.”
“Damn it,” Frank whispered.
“He will have a serious head injury, which, eventually will result in his death.” the cylinder said, then paused.
“How long is eventually?” Frank asked.
“Thinking…..thinking…….a few hours.” the cylinder finished.
“Is there anything good today?” Frank asked, knowing that this was an override to the system, that it could make the 3-hour process turn into a half-hour long one.
“Thinking……thinking……based on your past results of what you think of as ‘good’, I can report that everything will not be……good…..today.” the cylinder intoned.
“Damn it,” Frank yelled.
“I do not recognize that command -”
Frank reached under his pillow and pulled out a rifle.
“Cyl?” Frank asked, “Give me a speed round of what will happen today.”
“You will get fired, your potential date will get shot in the head, the vending machine will eat your last dollar, and while you are sitting on a bench, a child will come up and kick you in the shin and laugh because it’s funny.” the cylinder said, in a chipmunk voice, “And to end the day, you will go up to the roof of a building, and jump off of it because you can’t take it anymore.”
Frank sighed, “Well, if that’s how today ends, I guess I can last the day.”
“Glad to hear,” the cylinder said, transitioning back into a normal speed voice, “it.”
What the tech guy didn’t tell Frank when the cylinder was installed, was that sometimes, not everything turned out as predicted, no matter how bad it all sounded.
He learned this when, six hours later, getting out of the elevator with his potential boyfriend, he got shot in the shoulder instead of his date, and he was the one in the hospital.
So, it was the hospital vending machine that actually gave him a little bit too much change, and the hospital child in the next bed that laughed at a joke he made.
And it was the hospital roof, that in fact, he saved someone else from jumping off of.
When he finally got out of the hospital, he took out his rifle, and shot the cylinder, and it screamed and sparked, and seized for digitized breath, and finally went silent.
Frank slept through the whole next day, with his new boyfriend, Luis, next to him in bed, holding his hand.