"The Mesmer Guild"
A caged lion. His socks were soaked with sweat. Perspirations added stink to his cheap 500 Euro suit. He buried his head in his hands, ruffling his hair up and down, clawing at the skin of his temple.
This man had just lost his job.
He suddenly looked up, eyes ablaze with blood. Like so many others before him he broke out of his gray cubicle to turn, to run, to kill.
Only to be knocked down by something hard. Corporate Security came at first sign of imminent violence, indicated by his rising body temperature, heart beat, and perspiration.
"Motherfuckers....." he moaned as his hands and feet were restrained and drugs were injected into him. He never had a chance to land a punch.
That ancient fight-or-flight response never had a chance to consummate its primal designs.
He heard the sounds of weeping, he felt the heat of warm bodies near and around him. He could not form a coherent thought - anger was everywhere; anger was pain. He presently stopped his efforts and fell back into the intimate blackness.
Over and above him, voices were speaking.
"Patient Hendriks Johnson appears to have contracted in his childhood a rare case of Water Trauma, Subclass V. This makes the treatment of the Karoshi Syndrome difficult and therefore, expensive. We will proceed with the Standard Treatment covered under his insurance policy"
A flash of light. Hendriks heard the sound of an alarm clock - *the* alarm clock, the one that he heard every morning in his own bedroom. He felt the heaviness of his eyelids, the coldness of the air, and the warmth of his wife's body next to him. He tasted the french toast, spread with organic butter, washed down with farm milk.
Onrush of pain! Layers upon layers of different textures and noises. With a heightened state of awareness, Hendriks felt even his sweat glands slowly secreting. He could feel his heart - *saw* his heart picking up speed.
A flash of light. Hendriks felt the warmth of his wife's embrace. He felt the pleasure of gulping down a big dinner with his boys. He watched the summer night sky outside with stars so beautiful and radiant he could not take his gaze away. Blackness filled his consciousness, he was without form or thought. He was grateful for the blackness, he was thankful and content. He wept.
Awash with the feeling of contentment, Hendriks was once again a small child in a most comfortable and watery place. He was growing smaller and smaller still.
A heavenly voice proclaimed "When you reborn from this womb again, you will have no more anxiety, anger, and violence. You will be a content, calm, and contributing member of the society."
A flash of light, and Hendriks' eyes opened without premonition. His eyes tasted water. His jaws were a cavern of silent scream. Hendriks jerked up with crashing force. Once. Twice. Three times. His body convulsed. "Motherfuckers!!!"
They sent Hendriks Johnson home a broken man suffering from Karoshi Syndrome - a term first coined in late Twentieth Century to describe Japanese corporate employees who died from work-related stress. Karo-shi literally meant "Overwork-Death".
Karoshi Syndrome now generally described any of the myriads of mental sicknesses resulting from the human-corporation interaction - the natural response of the mind resenting being dwarfed into a mere cell of a greater collective.
The dawn of the age of corporations began with the titanic shifts of labor forces globally at the beginning of the Twenty-First Century. Initially known as "outsourcing", these dramatic reorganizations of extremely large international corporations swept the globe like a storm of the gods. Corporations trimmed, pruned, and cut away all but the most competitive organs - in the process reshaping the boundaries of Labor-Capital landscape as surely as Colonialism reshaped the boundaries of sovereign nations.
As the great oscillation of labor forces began to damp down, human societies were at long last given the time to evolve and adapt. The "survival of the fittest" axiom now permeated every aspect of corporate, and therefore socioeconomic, decision-making.
Because the treatment failed, Hendriks was all but permanently disabled. His mind protected itself by creating a mental barrier between itself and the outside elements. He would never again function properly in this society and hence, was no longer necessary to be sustained.
A broken man. Clothed in rags and sitting by the sidewalk. His face was snarled, his eyes unseeing and half-closed. He was ignored by all passersby. A beggar did not last long in these days of efficient society, and he would soon disappear and be forgotten. He was already forgotten.
Inside his mind, a small light remained - one of a small child, terrified and cowering. Hendriks Johnson hugged his knees for warmth and found none.
A stranger stopped and took notice of him. His eyes held an interested glint. He considered for a brief moment. Then he spoke to Hendriks. "What is your name, old man?" If he had heard the stranger's question, Hendriks gave no such indication. "What is the one thing you desire the most?" the stranger asked, bending down to look at Hendriks' unseeing eyes.
The stranger spoke.
"Your ears, they hear your heart's wish -
open your ears and you will hear what your heart desires.
Your eyes, they remember the sweet memories of your youth -
free your eyes and you will see what your heart desires.
Your tongue, it never stopped loving that golden nectar -
speak again, old man, and you will get what your heart desires."
His eyes widened, Hendriks' mouth drooled and he sat unmoving. That small light in him again recalled his mother's womb. His nostrils once again felt the drowning reflex. He jerked his head up, gasping for breath.
"Your heart." the stranger impressed firmly. "It is strong - you *will* survive the swim to land." He bent closer to Hendriks, and whispers "Remember what your heart desires."
Hendriks closed his eyes. Slowly, he knelt forward, hands burying his face. Breathing now slowed, he steadily rocked his body back and forth.
At long last, he raised his head slowly. "To live, sir. To live."
Smiling, the stranger turned and started to walk away, his long ash-white hair twirling behind him.
"Wait! Wait! Wha - what is your name?" Hendriks pleaded.
"I am Lan. Now go and cherish what little you have, for the Day of Atonement is at hand."
======================END CHAPTER 1=======================
Lan walked. I wonder what's it like to live to that old? He passed a public euthanasia booth and saw a tall man in business suit entering it. Man, I really hate this place. He scratched his forehead, brushing aside ash-white hair. Every morning, it's the same routine. It's like a jammed harddrive.
He entered as the gate to Yale Corp opened and closed, scanning his retina. Did I bring the Compact Disc? Might've left it in the player, hmmmm. He stepped on the transit-way which hummed steadily. Lan's mind wandered absentmindedly to the faces of other members of the Mesmer Guild. There was Shawn, an upstart with considerable skills but lacking in experience. Miriam, who constantly proved herself to be a pain to any sort of rational theorizing. Ned the most senior, who always held a sort of mixed respect/distrust toward Lan. Respect of my skills and distrust of my visions. Lan mused as he stepped off the transit-way and walked toward his 10:30 classroom.
It's amazing, actually, that me and Miriam get along at all, what with her from I.I.T. and all. That lot can be downright condescending sometimes. I wonder if her boss has any idea she's consorting with the enemy.
Well, here we are again.
Lan steps into the classroom.
A gray and sterile classroom, with students in business suits. White shirt, black tie, and Navy Blue jacket. They were listening to music.
"Like Frankie said
I did it my way.
I just wanna live while I'm alive.
It's - my - life."
Lan paused the Compact Disc Player.
"Here's an allusion to Frank Sinatra, who was a professional singer from U.S.A. He was considered one of the finest vocalists of all time, renowned for his impeccable phrasing, timing, and style."
Lan paused, looked around the class.
"As we went over last week in class, the name 'U.S.A.' was used as an acronym for 'United States of America' - a nation entity organized as a federal republic in the last century. Approximately spanning the Geographic Regions 77,78, and 79. Not that far from here, really, about 3 Regions north and 3 Regions west from Salvador."
He took the Bon Jovi Compact Disc out and placed another Compact Disc into the player.
"While 'It's My Life' was released in the year 2000, the Sinatra song 'My Way' was released in 1960 - a full two generations prior. The recurring theme was, of course, the social force known as 'rugged individualism' which we are investigating this week."
A student raised her hand.
"Pardon me, professor. But my classmates and I were wondering, why is it that you went through the trouble of special-ordering the Compact Disc Player? I am sure digital files of these music exist in the University Library system. Are they not?"
"That's a good question Gina. I personally own quite a number of these Compact Discs, or 'CD's' as they were called in the old times. I always think it's important to recreate as much of the environment as possible so that you can learn to understand and exploit these social phenomena. The primary aim of this course is to show that even though these social forces no longer ostensibly exist, they are still affecting consumer behaviors today."
Looking into her eyes with an amused glint, he pressed the "Play" button.
Sinatra was in the air.
Hendriks Johnson was no longer crippled. Running hard, he sprinted past half-remembered streets and corners. He was breathing hard, his damped black hair flailing about. He was looking for his house.
Where is it? Damn!
"Where the hell is it!" Hendriks cursed out loud.
The images were so vivid - his wife Anne, his sons Pedro and Matt, sitting around the dinner table. He could still smell the pork chops, washed down with Coke. He blinked hard. Where did I live? I can't remember the faces of my neighbors. I can't remember what my house looked like.
Hendriks slowed gradually to a stumble. Images again assaulted his mind - images with sound and feel, too real to be forgotten. He sat down again, unable to keep from shaking. He hugged his knees close to him.
"It is every citizen's right to use the Euthanasia Booth."
A heavenly voice said emphatically, amidst joyful procession of uplifting music.
Hendriks' eyes opened without premonition. He started to scream, hands covering his ears and falling on his back. Trying to physically shake off the emotional weight of that voice, Hendriks punched the ground with his fists. Once. Twice. "God damn! No! No!" He sobbed. "No. It can't be. It can't be."
"Remember what your heart desires." An whisper in Hendrik's ears. He slowly opened his eyes, seeing nothing but watery whiteness. He sighed.
"My heart is strong." Hendriks said. "I *will* survive the swim to land."
Very lowly, he stood up from the ground.
Lan was dancing. His *ginga* slow and close to the ground. As if rowing an oar, he swung one arm back while stepping hard backwards, then tilting his head, swung his other foot in the opposite direction and stepped forward.
Stepped back. Swung left and forward. Back. Right and forward. Back. Hypnotically his body waved in the rhythm of the music. The CD player sang.
"Paranaue, paranaue, parana.
Paranaue, paranaue, parana."
Swinging to the left, Lan kicked his right foot out and spun his entire body in a circle.
"Vou dizer minha mulher, paraná."
(I go to tell my woman.)
Stepped back. Again kicked and drew a perfect circle in the air with his right foot.
"Capoeira me venceu, paraná."
(That Capoeira has won me.)
Stepped back. Lounged forward with both hands on the ground and both foot kicking up. His white hair twirling, he spun on the ground with one hand and came down with his legs crossed on the ground.
"Paranaue, paranaue, parana.
Paranaue, paranaue, parana."
A flash of white. Lan jumped and spin-kicked with his left foot then right foot. Another jump and doule-kick and he summersaulted backwards, both foots together tracing a semi-circle.
"É Capoeira Brasil!"
(Brazil, this is Capoeira!)
=======================END CHAPTER 2================
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