Chris has written more than 300 flash fiction/short stories. Working Vacation was 21st out of 6,700 in the 2016 Writer's Digest competition.
Progressive Technologies Inc
To continue reading Parts three through five, visit my profile page.
That afternoon, the attendant they called, Mr. Matthews, came into the control room when Benjie’s and Chesa’s shift had ended.
“We’re ready to leave.”
“Yes, sir. Just give me a moment while I log the time into the computer.”
“I mean we’re ready to leave the company. We’d appreciate some help accessing our bank accounts.”
“Oh, well, this goes beyond my responsibilities.” Mr. Matthews made a quick move for the door. “Let me get my supervisor. He may be able to help you.” For the first time in years, the attendant left without the two tagging along behind.
“That was reasonable, right?” Benjie was chewing his lower lip.
“That he’d want to consult with his superior about letting us leave? Of course.”
A few minutes later, a man with no hair and a pot belly entered the room. They recognized him as the blond-haired man who had handled their personal affairs when they were younger.
“So, you are ready to leave the company. Have I understood correctly?”
“That’s right,” said Benjie. “When you had us sign those papers, you said we could leave anytime we wanted.”
“I brought those papers you signed.” He laid the sheets out on a table. “I’m afraid there has been a misunderstanding. Here you can see the terms of service. It says the company, and only the company, can end your service here. Neither of you, as an individual or as a pair, has the right nor the privilege to end this business relationship.”
“What?” Chesa grabbed the paper she and Benjie had signed eight years before. “This is outrageous. Maybe these so-called contracts were enough to fool two twelve-year-old children, but we’re adults now. They’re probably not even legal. How can you keep us here against our will?
“That’s simple, little lady. Because you said we could.” He took the paper from her hand and put it with the others.
“Look, little man.” Benjie was not a skinny twelve year old anymore. He was short like his father, but the gym had been good to him. He had a powerful build. “I am not asking you. I’m telling you to go find whoever is necessary to get this resolved. We are ready to leave and we need the cooperation of the company.”
“Young Benjie,” the bald man used his juvenile name as though he was still a little boy, “please go out for the evening without your usual escorts. Go and spend as much as you like doing whatever you want. This night is on Progressive Technologies. We will talk more about all of this tomorrow.”
Chesa and Benjie returned to their private quarters to prepare for a night on the town. When they met in the hallway outside their rooms, Chesa handed Benjie a piece of paper. “What’s this—”
Chesa put her finger to her lips to silence Benjie.
He read the note to himself. Do you think they can hear us talking now? Can they hear us talking when we are sleeping? Benjie pondered the question. He hadn’t really thought about it before. He nodded that he understood they shouldn’t discuss leaving the company.
They walked on a boardwalk along the river to downtown, holding hands and laughing under the golden lumination of gas lights..
“Thank you for being such a good friend all these years.” Chesa looked into Benjie’s eyes and glanced over his shoulder. She gave a slight nod of her head in that direction, then a wink.
Benjie took both her hands, spun around, and pulled her to him in an embrace. He was now looking in the direction she had nodded.
A man Benjie had never seen before was leaning against one of the gas light poles looking at his cell phone. He glanced up and locked eyes with Benjie. He feigned disinterest and moved away from the pole, walking past them with a nod and a good evening.
The next morning, they lay side by side on the twin beds in the control room. Their bodies slept.
Benjie was walking in a dark corridor of his brain he had not been to before. He was searching, but he wasn’t certain what he was looking for. The corridor ended at a door. It was locked. This is my body, my mind, my brain. Nothing can prevent me from passing through this door or any door. He tried again, and the door opened into a room of unknown dimensions, but he could sense the walls. The darkness and silence were like two blankets that deadened sound and vision. This was the place he had been seeking.
“Chesa.” He was greeted with silence. “Chesa, it’s Ben. Come to me.”
“Ben? Can you hear me? I’m here...wherever here is.”
“All I know is we are far from the wires they implanted in our brains. We can talk freely here, maybe even when we aren’t sleeping.”
“Then let’s talk. How are we going to get out of here? They’re watching us night and day.”
“We’ve been providing these people with what they've wanted for eight years. But what do we really know about the company? Maybe we can learn things that could help us escape.”
“I don’t know, but it would be nice if we could take a look around the facility.”
“You mean after we wake up?”
“No, I mean now. They feed everything that this company does into our brains. There must be a way to access that information.”
Before them, a rectangle, like a large window, began to glow.
“What do you want to see?” asked Benjie.
“The control room, where we’re sleeping right now. I want to know this is all real, not a dream.”
The window darkened for a few seconds, then the control room appeared. Benjie and Chesa were looking at their own sleeping bodies lying on the beds, side by side. Chesa, the Chesa on the bed, moved her arm over to the other bed and grasped Benjie’s hand.
“Did you just do that?” asked Benjie.
“Yes. Now it’s real.”
Benjie, the Benjie on the bed, squeezed Chesa’s hand. “Yes, it’s real.”
“What should we look at next?” Chesa held Benjie’s arm and pulled him close.
“I want to see the office of whoever is in charge of this facility.”
The window darkened again and brightened to reveal a woman with red hair sitting behind a desk. The man with no hair and a pot belly whom they had spoken to in the control room sat opposite her, facing the desk where steam rose from one cup of coffee.