They trial the Chronoemotive Emphasis Field Generator in Melbourne over the space of a week. With society more and more saturated in entertainment media, the younger generations knowing almost nothing else and showing escalating signs of a fundamental inability to deal with life as it is, some bright spark came up with the idea of enforcing dramatic timing on the universe at large. Wouldn’t everything be more meaningful and exhilarating if the world fell into slow motion just as you were turning around, and you know for certain the reason it is doing that is something momentus is coming up on your shoulder – your ex-boyfriend, the most beautiful woman in the world, a speeding bus, just to name some examples.
It’s a stupid idea. Despite huge protests and intense lobbying, the generator is switched on.
My life is condensed into a brief montage of getting read for work, going to work, sitting at work, going home, sitting at home, going to bed, on repeat. All the curious quirks of my routine dismissed and the trivial but important details of my unseen life cut out from the timeline.
When the generator is turned off, I stumble off balance, and dare not move for the disorientation of my time sloshing about and making me nauseous. I’m half way to the train station. I don’t remember walking this far. I don’t even remember leaving my flat. Those were irrelevant details cut and edited from my week as being boring and unnecessary.
It isn’t the nicest realisation I’ve come to.
Crap, what day is it? Am I even going to work? Maybe I’m not going to the station, maybe I’m going to the shops for- what? I don’t know. I wasn’t present for all the meals I ate during the week. I don’t know what’s in my fridge.
At work they’re all atwitter. From one I hear of a near-miss in the car, how her vision became close and jerky with claustrophobia, until suddenly everything pulled out and she knew, from the sudden wind up and how swiftly everything about her moved, what was going to happen, and slammed on her brakes. The motorcycle sliced through the intersection without a sideways glance.
From another I hear of stress and pressure, how everything zipped about like bees on cocaine, and she couldn’t keep up or understand what they were saying and nothing was in her control, until a friend walked over with a cup of coffee and a smile, and the chaos was reeled in and the world resumed its normal pace.
Everyone has a story. I zip my mouth shut.
They’re quick to announce the results of the trial – that the field operates only as the person affected allows it to. That is; if you live firm in the assumption, that you and anything that happens to you is important, centre of the bloody universe important, then the scale of chronoemotive emphasis operates at a high ratio, working its way into smaller and smaller details and thus giving fine and dramatic highlights to your daily life.
If you don’t consider yourself, your actions, your impact on the world to be relevant, then the generator tends to overlook the minutiae and condense the narrative of your life down to the larger earthquakes, with one cramped montage filling the time between such occurrences.
Clearly not designed to benefit the insecure and introverted.
We give your life meaning, the ads on TV and the posters in the stations pronounce.
No, you took away the ability to give myself meaning, I counter, but no one is listening.
The next trial is a month long. Even my visits back home, catch up with friends and violent invisible emotional meltdowns are relegated to the montage, the long, drawn-out, painful montage showcasing my pointlessness.
I am granted one moment of ‘meaning’, and find myself standing on the corner of Spencer Street, waiting for the lights and watching a tram swing around the tracks. Half a glimpse of a blurred face in the window, and a jolt of recognition. The lights change, the crowds around me walk and I stay on the corner, watching the tram pull away, already doubting my eyes. Then I’m gone again, back in the montage.
This time, when they turn it off, I’m standing in front of my own door, keys in the lock. I don’t know if I’m coming or going. The sudden snap of true time returned to me is like off milk and rotten eggs and sledgehammers. I fall over, dizzy to the point of vomiting, and so pathetically grateful to be going through every horrible second of every agonising minute, in order of appearance.
Instead of changing my opinion of my life and role in the world, the generator cements it. Here is proof of my irrelevance. Can’t argue with that.
Later that day I receive a rare phone call. Where are you, she asks, curt.
I’m suppose to be somewhere? I’m lying on the floor, still recovering, marvelling at the seconds filing by neatly.
Yes, we’re going on the ferris wheel, remember? We organised it last week over dinner? You know, when everything went slow-mo at dessert and Chau came over and introduced himself. You do remember Chau, right?
I don’t remember Chau. I don’t remember dinner at all, but I don’t tell her that. I don’t feel well, I say, and it isn’t a lie. She’s hangs up, shrugging my condition off with indifference. Apparently Chau is with her.
Then that dinner, whatever it was, was deemed meaningless too? By who? I wouldn’t have thought so, but then again-
After some further fine tuning, they announce the trials a success. While there are some people adversely affected by the field, response has been overwhelmingly positive, especially regarding the number of soulmates discovered due to slow motion cues kicking in. The date for permanent activation is set.
The day before the generator is to be turned on for the last time, I pack my bags.
“I can’t live like this,” I say.
“What will you do?”
“I don’t know.” I don’t want to leave Melbourne. My friends are here, my family is here, and I love this city, but they will mean nothing if I cannot reach the through that enforced montage of pointlessness.
“Where will you go?”
“Somewhere where I can find meaning, I suppose.”
The generator is turned on.