Read The Code of Happiness Online

Authors: David J. Margolis

Tags: #coming of age, #mystery, #supernatural, #psychological, #urban, #belief system, #alienation, #spiritual and material, #dystopian sci fi

The Code of Happiness

BOOK: The Code of Happiness
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The Code of Happiness

Published by David J. Margolis

Smashwords Edition

Copyright 2015 David J. Margolis

 

 

 

Smashwords Edition License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment
only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people.
If you would like to share this book with another person, please
purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading
this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your
use only, then please return to your favorite ebook retailer and
purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of
this author.

 

 

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places,
and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or
are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or
dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

 

The Code of Happiness

 

 

A black heart-shaped box lies on pristine fir floors,
the red ribbon of love uncut. Jamie stares through the window, mind
removed from the present. He's almost stellar in a pair of
acid-washed jeans and open linen shirt, then he breathes, the
tightness against his belly. He undoes the top button. Pop. There
it goes. Much like his life. The end of his twenties. Waiting for
change.

 

His nostrils flare. Incense snaking through the air
again. Always the incense. He watches evening light flicker across
the ‘designer Zen’ apartment while Lisa sits cross-legged on white
rippled sheets waving a burning lavender stick to catch his
attention. She's not expecting it though, but more predictably she
watches him open the window. Rain splatters against his skin. It's
worth getting wet, worth it to escape this. Lisa pulls on a thin
black sweater, her Latina eyes demanding a response.

 

Words finally escape Jamie's lips.


I'm not after the
ordinary.”

Lisa processes as Jamie adds, “And nor are you.”

An incoming call rings and, as is customary, neither
pay attention to it.

“And this is what I am to you? The ordinary?”

Jamie averts her dark eyes but has to look one last
time before he shrugs, “Works both ways.”

In Lisa's face there's tacit agreement and to neatly
underline the point the call rings off.

 

 

He sits alone on the bed listening to Lisa shower.
The sound is soothing. Better to listen than partake. He turns on
the flat screen. A late night chat show and some whacko blathering
about personal transformation. Jamie stares into oblivion as the
show changes subject to the new economy. It produces an inner
smile, the two things that don't apply to him. Lisa's voice on
automatic breaks through, “The garbage can is full.”

 

Outside by the dumpster he catches sight of a man
turning a corner as if he were watching him. The city's littered
with snoops and trawlers of trash. The urge to give chase and pin
back the man pulsates. He thinks better of it, unaware it might be
growing maturity that's checked him, and throws the garbage into
the gray container. The machine crunches and compresses the waste
to a mere fraction of its original size. It fulfills the aspiration
of the corporation's logo written on the side,
We have too much
to recycle
. On his return to the apartment he watches Lisa fix
her face with precision. She notices his watchful eye. He's
curious, superior and, as her features disappear, more digitized
than real but all he has to say is the dumpster divers are back.
Lisa mimics his earlier shrug, her face now resembling a porcelain
doll. The facade strikes a chord with Jamie. It's impenetrable.
That is until it flickers. Lisa is a holographic image, and she's
replaced by descending words:

 

Your Free Trial is Over

Thank You for Playing

Did You Score as a Boyfriend?

Click to Find Out

 

Another failed attempt. Jamie clicks a button and the
message changes.

 

Working to Bring Happiness to You

XXLI –
the unpronounceable corporation

 

The words vaporize. The bedroom changes. Less
designer. More gray. More prison than Zen, although Jamie often is
unable to discern the difference.

 

*****

 

A stream of men and women who've eradicated their
facial features flow down sidewalks below the city's concrete and
glass towers; it's a world of black and gray. They communicate at
hyper speed through Nano devices embedded into their hands and
heads. Their ability to stay connected overrides the monotony of
the environment. It's connectivity that keeps them alive, proven
for years now. One bestseller professor after another in their
ninety-second spots concluded content is irrelevant as long as
action is taken to connect with one another. And so life flows.
Jamie, still in acid wash, wanders with them. It's no matter he
stands out because he's ignored, and the anonymity feels a dream,
and not knowing if he's awake or asleep is an accent of
pleasure.

 

Sirens ring out followed by two loud booms. In unison
people look to the skies gauging the pollution. It's still within
them to make judgment calls. The result though is the same, as
clear masks big enough to cover their mouths and nostrils are
attached allowing beta-oxygen into their bodies. Jamie naturally is
without a mask, forgotten at home.

 

Jamie presses his face to a glass window. He doesn't
know why he does this, perhaps it's the coolness of touch or an
unknown need to grab attention. On the other side are postings for
minimum wage jobs, his specialty of software technician reduced to
the extent a chimp could do it—and they probably would if they were
cheaper to care for than functional human beings. Jamie raises his
gaze to be greeted by bright blue eyes. They beckon him to enter
but such direct eye contact intimidates. He retreats down the
street and heads across to the older part of town to a coffee shop
filled with fellow twenty-something’s and the once-hopeful wiling
away their hours.

 

Eyes are upon him once more. The time anxious wanting
his spot at the bar. He refreshes
the metro,
a wafer thin
electronic newssheet. The main headline and picture about the
disappearance of five people remains the same but the side stories
of far-flung wars and talking dogs update. None of it sticks. Those
blue eyes have made an imprint that can't be deleted. His
imagination processes them as glowing larger than their eye
sockets, a mystery begging him to return. A shrill ring outside
disrupts his flow. Jamie glances to see people pulling off their
masks; it’s safe to breathe again. He looks at his empty coffee mug
and wonders how much longer he can justify sitting there.

 

Back on the street he nabs a flyer without
acknowledging the woman handing it to him. He should. Her smile
morphs to daggers, and if he were paying attention at all, he would
notice he's the only person to receive one. The waifish character
clad in black vanishes into the throng unseen. The flyer has the
same effect on Jamie as it fleets through his mind. It's a free
preview for a movie no one's heard about. Fit for waste he chooses
to scrunch the flyer into his pocket when faced with a garbage
can.

 

The blue eyes are talking. “I didn't think you wanted
a job.”

“It's what everyone wants, right?”

She offers him a variety of candies from colored
bowls on her desk. “My happy pills,” she says. Jamie feels half a
smile. He hands over a card and she swipes it granting her access
to details of his life. The data fills her screen. “I see you have
seven years of experience. They only want two. I'd say you're over
qualified.”

“I need to pay the rent.”

“Understood.”

“What's it for?”

“They're secretive on the details.”

Jamie knows what's coming.

“It's the unpronounceable corporation. I see they
bought the last company you worked for.”

“And fired ninety percent of the staff.”

The blue eyes detect resentment. It's time for her to
make a judgment call, put her knowledge to use, why she earns the
bucks. Proceed or find another candidate. She finds compassion for
the troubled man before her. “It won't count against you,” she
says, “it's only been six months since you left.”

“Fired.”

“Doesn't say that on here.”

Jamie's drawn to her eyes ever more. She gives him a
moment, a chance to say no thanks, then clicks a button. “Okay.
Request for interview sent.” Jamie feels the efficacy, the lack of
choice clamp on his soul, knowing it's not what he wants to do but
clueless as to any true calling. A void lies ahead and it bites at
him. Does one thing lead to another or to the same? He gestures to
the candies, “What is your favorite?”

“Strawberry,” she says. She takes one, making sure
Jamie sees the ring on her left hand.

 

At home he plays Demon Keeper on the holograph set.
He changes roles between Cavalier, a heroic swordsman and Gustav, a
yellow demon who wants to be human. To switch it up he recodes
Cavalier to become a tougher opponent. Dodging super swords,
catfish bombs, and missiles Jamie's still able to reach the cave of
inner sanctum with ease. Recoding again, his true challenge is to
beat himself. He reboots and in a lightning move severs the head of
his opponent. Food is a can of tomato gruyere soup, amusement is
self-mockery. He talks to the severed head,
Wanta join me
Thursday at the Bristol? It's free... No? Not even when it's free,
huh?

 

*****

 

The grubby Bristol reeks of old porn movie theatre. A
handful of people are dotted around the plush red velvet seats.
Jamie finds the perfect spot equidistant from everyone else, and
sitting down releases a plume of dust into the rafters. It's a
hole. Who would come here? His thoughts have moved from suspicion
to judgment in rapid time. A guy shuffles past and plonks himself
down next to him. The plan of waiting until the last minute for the
ideal seat is undone. Jamie can't get over it, the whole frikkin’
theatre and the douche chooses this spot. He sees enough from the
corner of his eye to determine the douche is white frizzy hair
munching popcorn. Looks like the whacko from the late night talk
show—hard to tell without staring. The douche, picking up on
Jamie's annoyance, moves a few seats down.

 

Life reaches a new nadir. The movie resembles a bad
wildlife documentary from fifty years before. It's as if the zebras
are bad CGI renditions. Jamie covers his eyes and swears. He looks
around. No wonder it's just the lonely and bored. He picks himself
up, his shadow flaring across the screen. No one cares. He's
shoulder-first through the sticky doors to the foyer and is met by
the sound of an unattended popcorn machine cracking kernels into
life.

 

He pushes the door to the outside world but it holds
firm. He tries the next one down. Same thing. All the doors are
locked. He fails to see a reflection in the glass but feels a tap
on the shoulder.


Not your cup of tea?”

Jamie turns to see the woman who gave him the
flyer.

“Po,” she says.

He's still a sentence behind, “Is it anyone's?” His
tone is unwise, but Jamie continues lost in a mist of red. “Can you
let me out?”

Po's about to spit razor blades. No, she doesn't want
to let
him
out. However, she's answerable to another
authority and unlocks a bolt as their eyes remain fixed on each
other. She smirks and fake chews gum as she tackles a second lock,
and a third without even looking. Jamie's about to move
through.

“Na ah.”

Yet another lock. Po wrestles with it. Jamie can't
tell if she's kidding or not. Either way it's long enough for the
guy with the white frizzy hair to lurk behind them and spook
Jamie.

“And what is your cup of tea?” he asks.

The white frizzy hair extends his hand. Jamie
recognizes him; it is the whacko from the chat show. “I'm Ray.”

Jamie doesn't introduce himself, it's obvious they
know who he is—and he'd thought he'd kept his cyber life to a
minimum.

 

There's a kindness in Ray's eyes, his presence
disarming old school personable, his face weathered from the
journey life. He hands Jamie a card. It's an offer of one free
dental clean, no appointment necessary. Jamie's confused.

“Dentists?”

“Compliments of the sponsors. They're the only one's
with enough money to support the arts.”

“Oh, that's what it was.”

“If you looked at teeth all day, you'd want to be
involved in something creative.”

“I'd want it to be good.”

BOOK: The Code of Happiness
11.91Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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