The Apartment

Posted on: October 5, 2016

The rickety elevator reached the ground floor with a noise reminiscent of the carriages on the train station. Afra stepped into the elevator and pressed the button for the eleventh floor. The elevator started moving upwards with a mighty sound.

Zahir sat at the edge, with his legs dangling pondering about what sort of work would he have to start looking for in the coming days. He had come across the abandoned, naked building while walking on the western fringes of the city that was once known for its skyscraper-studded skyline.

The door moved with a crashing sound. Afra walked into the room with a view that even the best penthouses could never afford.

"I managed to get enough food for the next two days. We just need some hot water to heat it up", Afra said while putting down the bags on the floor.

“Did you get enough rest today Zahir? My work was deadbeat. I had to transport some goods from one end of the city to another. The pay wasn’t bad. It was enough for food at the trader’s place.” She sat down on the deteriorating couch and started fiddling with her screen.

"Why don't you go and get some hot water from the people at the top floor like last time, if you don't feel like going down all the way." Afra knew Zahir hated the topic but she was in no shape to do anything after a day’s work.

"They might not let me in, Afra. I messed up their computers last time when I tried connecting my devices to their network."

"They don't know it was you."

"Who else comes to this building anymore? Have you noticed anyone around? It's obviously one of us that tried connecting to their network."

Afra sat down on a couch, torn all over the place. "What do you think they have up there exactly?”

"I'm not entirely sure, but they do have a strong satellite web connection. I worked for them a few times before you came here. They would ask us to code stuff in an extremely modular fashion. It was a bit difficult to make sense of the overall aim of what they really wanted us to do."

"What made you stop working?"

"I didn’t. They just stopped asking people to work. That's when the others started leaving the building. I waited long to see if they would hire again. They are very different than us Afra. They can’t seem ever to be satisfied.”

* * *

The night was cold and dark, but the sound of the sea crashing into the shore put both Afra and Zahir to sleep. There were no sounds of distraction tonight.

Zahir woke up and took a quiet walk to the elevator, then ran down the staircase. The ground floor was empty except for the sleeping dogs. He picked up his bike and rode to the nearest light post. There were some bodies huddled together under the light. He approached them, switched on his storage devices, took out his screen, connected to the mesh network and started syncing data on the storage devices.

The older unmarked data would be removed to make space for the new stuff, so he quickly reviewed all the older batches he had marked for deletion. It took close to twenty minutes for the data to get synched.

Zahir started westward toward the abandoned building. On his way, he stopped at another spot and synced some more data.

While climbing the staircase of the building he took note of the fact that the top floor with the furnished apartment was not drawing generator power. The silence of the generator was rare.

"Afra, sync your devices, I have fresh batch data." She woke up at his request and took out all her storage devices from her bag and started switching them on.

"Did you manage to go through last week's data?" she asked, while reviewing her existing data on her screen.

"Not really. Most important thing I came across was news about establishment of some sort of a socialist state in the north."

"Okay. I'm going to review what you got today. You can go to sleep if you want," said Afra.

Zahir laid down on one of the mattress and turned towards the dark sky as he fell asleep.

Afra's storage devices blinked the green lights as the network completed syncing with Zahir's. She started going through the data. There was a ton of video footage, some low res, some hi. She started sorting the videos by geo-location. Nothing interested her much. She entered the directory containing news pages, articles, and reports. She quickly did an analysis of the text and found that Masdar was trending heavily in the news.

The city-state of Masdar in the west had sustained some sort of carbon footprint attack. The news suggested that unknown groups or individuals had let massive oil spills burn in the desert within the territory of Masdar. Masdar had lost large amount of its wealth in blink of an eye as its carbon footprint soared. In a news connected to this incident she read about rogue groups profiting from the carbon trading speculative market.

Reading these pieces stirred something in Afra. She woke Zahir up, "What is it exactly that you would code for the guys up there?"

"I don't know Afra, it mostly had to do with a lot of number crunching."

"What kind of numbers?"

"Various sorts. Sometimes I only worked on trade histories of essential commodities, then I did menial work like cleaning, reviewing weather data every day, and some other days I did server maintenance. It wasn't always coding precisely."

“They must have access to data that the street meshes simply could never have right?” Afra couldn’t help but think about all the reports she read throughout the night. They always seem to have fragments and nothing more when collecting data from street meshes.

She held Zahir's hand and told him "I'm going to work for them, whatever menial work it may be."

Before Zahir had the chance to respond, she fled up the staircase and knocked on the door of the apartment. It opened.

"I want to work."

Written by: Debarun Sarkar
Photograph by: Matthew Wiebe

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