Written by Stephen Schelling
The young man fidgeted outside the conference room door. He adjusted his poorly knotted tie and tried to smooth his wrinkled suit. He took a deep breath but choked on a little bit of spit that went down the wrong tube. He began coughing uncontrollably when the door opened. A much older man of muscular bulk and distinguished grayed hair glared at him.
“Mr. Cooper, we’re ready for you,” Mr. Shkrill said sternly, and then turned and went back to his seat at the conference table without waiting for the coughing Mr. Cooper to enter the room.
The door bumped Mr. Cooper as he shambled in. The briefcase he had gotten from Goodwill had nearly busted open from the door hitting it due to the briefcase’s broken clasps, which was probably why it was at Goodwill to begin with. He found himself at the end of a long conference table that sat six businessmen on either side, whose twelve heads – including Mr. Shkrill’s – turned in concurrence as he entered and set his broken briefcase on the table’s end.
The men wore suits of varying colors and patterns with different colored shirts and ties, but for some reason they all looked the same. A thirteenth man stood at the opposite end, the overhead light creating a nimbus around his head. He wore neither a suit nor a tie. In fact, he was wearing black jeans and a plain, black T-shirt. The stark contrast unnerved Mr. Cooper, knocking him further off guard.
No one spoke.
“Quickly!” Mr. Shkrill suddenly admonished. “We are busy men.”
“Oh, okay,” Mr. Cooper said fumbling with the briefcase as he opened it. He pulled out a strange, rectangular object and some papers. He began to count out thirteen copies but was interrupted.
“Don’t give us papers. Just tell us. Now.” Mr. Shkrill was terse.
“Well, it’s…it’s a device,” Mr. Cooper said holding up the object. “It’s my device that I came up with that can meld with the human body and enhance every aspect of life.”
Mr. Cooper paused in expectation but only received silence. He continued.
“It, um, allows you to communicate with others anywhere in the world, any time of day. There will be no more need for knowledge because everything can be accessed instantly. It will entertain. People will want to buy a new model every two, three years.”
“Why would users buy a new model?” Mr. Shkrill asked all the questions.
“That’s because it has planned obsolescence. You see, it’s designed in such a way that after a few years it will work slower and the components – or the device itself – are likely to break, so the user will have no choice but to get a new one if they want to continue using it.”
“Why would users continue to pay for it?”
“Well, simply, it’s a drug. It affects users on a molecular level by creating endorphin highs, similar to what a heroin addict feels. Users become addicted to it. They need to use it more and more each day.”
“How do we install it on the user?”
“They’ll do it themselves. Users will carry it everywhere, but they can shift and move it around different parts of the body as needed. It’s a small device, but it has the capability to be larger and heavier so that, over time, with newer models, users can become used to the increased weight and size.”
“Are there any other benefits?”
“It can be used as a tool to spy on the users to track their activities and purchasing habits. Basically, every secret thing they ever do can be recorded and analyzed. You can use it to control people.”
“Who would ever willingly agree to such a preposterous thing?”
“That’s easy. Simply provide an incredibly long release form full of legalese for every user to sign to give up their rights.”
“Why would they do that?”
“Nobody likes reading. Especially as time goes on and the device grows in popularity, reading will go down. Device purchases and use will go up.”
Mr. Shkrill looked to the man at the opposite end, Mr. Trabajos, and then back to Mr. Cooper.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Cooper, but your vision is too narrow, and your device just won’t work for this company or humanity. Thank you for your time. You are dismissed.”
The dejected Mr. Cooper, surprised by the sudden discharge, gathered his papers and prototype and put them into his broken briefcase. He held the clasps shut as he walked out the door. The thirteen heads silently watched as he disappeared into the world beyond the conference room. The door shut.
“What do you actually think, sir?” Mr. Shkrill asked. “Are we going to steal it?”
“You can bet your golden parachutes we’re going to steal it,” Mr. Trabajos answered. “I want you to steal all of Mr. Cooper’s research and work, disgrace and discredit him, and ensure he will be living on the streets before the week ends.”
Mr. Shkrill nodded his head in assent as he walked out the door to assemble a team and complete the directive. The remaining eleven heads swiveled back to face Mr. Trabajos.
“What should we call this device, Mr. Trabajos?” one head asked.
“I am taking suggestions at this very moment.”
“How about the Wonder Box?” suggested one head.
“Under the Skin?” suggested another head.
“Life Enhancer?” suggested yet another head.
“Good ideas, but I already have the answer,” Mr. Trabajos said. “It will connect to the body on a molecular level, so we should name it as such, but it should also evoke something from the past so the sheep of the world can understand and relate to it.”
“What is it?” various members of the eleven heads asked in clamoring anticipation.
“We’ll call it…the Cell Phone.”
“Marvelous!” the eleven heads shouted in unison as their bodies’ hands clapped.
Mr. Trabajos didn’t smile. He raised his knuckled fist to his lip and schemed.
Stephen Schelling is a writer and teacher, a pickler, and an Eagle Scout from America with a B.A. in journalism from Marshall University.