MONDAY: Emotion Sensors

BY TOM O’BRIEN

Copyright is held by the author.

WORK, AS usual, was endless niggling things. Then the lights went out.

“Stay still,” came a voice across the floor. Ama. Ben hadn’t known anyone was there.

“Motion sensors. No signs of life.” She kept her voice low, as if that mattered.

“Emotion sensors,” he said, screen lit, moving only his lips.

His phone, face down, glowed to announce a message.

“We’re undercover. The building doesn’t know we’re here,” Ama said.

“A heist movie.”

Ben’s hand cramped around the mouse, hoping the phone wouldn’t ring.

“Spy movie.”

“Shipwrecked.”

“An island made of desks and chairs.”

“Remember pretending the carpet was the sea?” Ben asked.

“We pretended it was lava, and you couldn’t step on it.”

“My sea would have cooled the lava,” Ben said.

“Missed a trick,” she agreed. 

The phone repeated its announcement, hovering on a ring of light.

“There’s a plane over the city lights. So much more to see,” Ama said.

“Different, in the dark,” Ben said. The phone disappeared into the black desk.

“But if you move your head the lights will come on and there’ll be nothing except your reflection.”

“Profound.”

“It’s a new genre. The Desert-Island-Lava-Spy-Heist-Philosophy movie,” Ama said. 

A clanking in the corridor announced Beatriz, the cleaner. There was a moment where Ben felt the world turn. He was sure Ama could too, before the cleaner bustled in, music buzzing from her earbuds. She yelped a Portuguese swear word when the lights flickered on, seeing Ben and Ama sitting as if in darkness.

“Nice not seeing you,” Ama said, gathering her handbag.

“Nice to be unseen,” Ben answered, turning his phone over. The message was “Working late?” from Ciara.

Ben listened to Ama leave, and Beatriz when she’d emptied the bins. 

He turned his chair toward the window, examining his reflection and the surrounding office until the lights clicked off, when he disappeared, leaving a view of the city and beyond that, home.

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