Accelerated Mediocrity

Felix Daedalus was sitting at the side of a hospital bed and thinking. He was thinking about the infinite possibilities that stood before his unborn son, whilst simultaneously blocking out the screams that were bursting from his wife’s mouth.

“A teacher?” thought Felix.

“Admirable, but futile.” he countered himself.

A volatile voice interjected, “FEEELIIIX!”

Felix did not respond.

“A banker?”

“Wealthy, but morally suspect.”

“A politician?”

“Positively reptilian. No. ”

The pained voice again, “FEEEELIIIIIIX!”

The scream this time was enough to break the membrane of his thought cycles. Felix picked his gaze from the vinyl floor and hung his eyes in the direction of the child bearing woman on the bed. Felix’s wife was still screaming, but he couldn’t decipher the sound, nor what it signified. He understood she was in pain, but what was she trying to say? Did she have a suggestion for the child’s future profession? Did she want a glass of water? Did she want an epidural? A water-birth? A girl?! Felix began to panic at all of these possibilities; his grip tightened on the chair; a film of sweat protruded from his brow, and his skin erupted into a brilliant burgundy.

He did not know what to do or what to expect. Felix’s eyes flicked around the room trying to identify something that would pacify the anxious thoughts that spiralled around his head; music would. Amidst scrambling for his laptop, Felix had spilt his coffee. He paused for a moment and watched as the cruel brown pooled around his feet and then winced anticipating a scolding rebuke from his wife, the doctor and the nurses. None came. Forgetting about his careless actions he threw open the lid of his laptop, dragged the cursor towards the Musicfy application and rapped at the mouse button. As the application loaded and presented Felix with an infinite selection of music, a silence settled. Amongst the noiselessness, Felix thought hard about what music would best extinguish his anxieties. Nothing immediate came to mind and this troubled him more.

Noticing a playlist entitled “Giving Birth”, that was recommended exclusively by Musicfy, Felix no longer needed to think; he clicked play immediately. Deep piano sounds trickled from the speakers and dripped sparingly around the room, violin stokes caressed the dead air and soothed the apprehension. A saccharine voice joined the instruments and whispered

“You can do it.”

Attuning his ear, Felix listened harder to the syrupy melody and waited for another motivating utterance. More words oozed forth,

“Keep trying. Push for it.”

Felix nodded in automated agreement and felt instantly better. He could do it. So could his son. So could his wife.

With the anxiety now in its death throes, the panic dulled and some semblance of purpose made apparent, Felix unlocked his attention from the laptop and music. Turning his head to where his wife had been he saw a swarm of medical staff jostling around her bed, a consultant’s voice rose above the throng and said “Don’t give up!”

Felix jumped to his feet and bellowed

“You can do it, darling. Keep pushing!”

The sappy voice again drew Felix’s attention, “You can do it. Keep trying. Push for it. Take it, it’s yours. The new Musicfy premium super subscription: the soundtrack to greatness. “

The violins faded out with the advert’s narration and a triumphant mewl punctuated the silence between the playlist’s tracks. At this precise moment in time Felix was aware that the whimper was his new-born child, but he couldn’t help but stare blankly through the window to his left. A car-park. The playlist resumed with Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines. Felix exhaled through his nose as if disappointed by the song. How could he be? It went platinum in 9 countries and had been selected specifically, by Musicfy, for this situation. A grey Vauxhall Corsa drove past the window, momentarily obscuring his view of at least another 14 Vauxhall Corsas — one of which had a set of novelty eyelashes attached to the headlights — parked in his line of sight.

If you can’t hear, what I’m tryna say
 If you can’t read, from the same page
 Maybe I’m going deaf
 Maybe I’m going blind
 Maybe I’m out of my mind

Robin Thicke crooned on.

The huddle of nurses were now facing Felix in a uniform fashion, almost regimenting themselves in line, like they were anticipating a photograph. Their ranks were quickly broken. The attending doctor parted the score of medical staff facing Felix and presented him with a new born baby; a boy. Felix held the child with scepticism and gazed into the child’s beetle black eyes. The new flesh was red and stained with an off colour fluid; it hung loosely from the meagre frame that scaffolded it. The new born wriggled in its father’s hands and screwed up its face in clear discomfort, and Felix, for the second time this afternoon, did not know what to do.

The baby cried.

“Typical”, chortled the new father.

Felix, still very uncomfortable with the crying child, thought of his wife, she would know what to do now. Her maternal instincts would instantly be galvanised and the child would be nurtured and, more importantly, pacified. Felix now had an excuse to look away from the directionless bundle in his palms. He lifted his head towards the doctor, who was still standing in front of him, and let habitual pleasantries override the grimace that had crept over his face during the staring contest he had just endured with his child.

“He’s probably best off with his mother now, doctor.”

The doctor looked confused. His eyes began to flit around the room, looking briefly at everything, except Felix. Words were not the doctor’s forte.

“Mr. Daedalus,” the doctor croaked. “We thought you knew. Wasn’t that why you were…”

I feel so lucky
 Hey, hey, hey.
 You wanna hug me
 Hey, hey, hey.
 What rhymes with hug me?

 “You’re wife, she died during child birth.”

Robin Thicke had anesthetised Felix and his only response to this terrible information was to ask himself “what does rhyme with hug me?”

The doctor rubbed his own shoulder and looked at the floor as if anticipating some outburst of emotion from Felix. None came. Felix instead asked a question,

“How long did you spend at medical school?”

And another,

“How much did it cost?”

And another,

“Is the job rewarding?”

And one more,

“Is your salary satisfactory?”

The doctor could not quite express the glut of conflicting emotions that were spinning around his head and simply stood, back slightly arched forward, with his mouth hanging agape.

“Mr. Daedalus, er, my career is”, the doctor searched for the right words, “irrelevant right now.”

“Oh, I’m not really that interested; I just wanted to know some basic career truths. You see I’m not sure what my son here will be when he grows up and he needs to be fulfilled. A doctor is a good profession, right?”

Still confused by the conversation, the doctor tried to ply together some half respectable advice, for Felix was clearly dealing with the grief rather badly.

“I, yeah, um, suppose, but…”


He can be whatever he wants to be…


“…the trouble with the medical profession is…”


…just 12.99 a month.


Felix had trouble attuning his ear to all of the auditory stimuli that had been swirling and swarming around in the airwaves: voices, advice, adverts, heartbeats, award winning music, truth and misplaced motivation. Yet amongst the incompatible jigsaw sounds, he found what he had been looking for; he had found the piece despite the puzzle. The child could be whatever it wanted to be, and with this hand-me down realisation Felix began to cry.

5 years old

Summer was always motivating factor in Alex Daedalus’ life. It was an excuse to display himself to the physical world, present his grand aspirations and validate his existence. Even as a child Alex would take sunlight — and all the eyes it brings — to show off his strength and overreaching impulses. Quite often Alex would choose to enact these displays of relative grandeur in front of his father, Felix. One such act occurred on a fevered 8th July. 
 The day of the 8th was hot. The heat clung to the clammy skin of tourists as they trawled the cliffs of Dover. As a child himself Felix had hated days out like this — to Dover’s cliffs in particular — as he could never recall a single interesting event to have ever occurred there. Yet now as a widowed father, the visions of childhood boredom had been wrenched away by the pull of conventional adulthood and he now assumed that the chalky zenith of Dover was how to entertain a child.

Alex, like his father before him, saw little worth in the cliffs. He walked with a languid swagger, next to his father, along the peaks and troughs of the cliffs, occasionally flitting his gaze towards the English Channel. The absence of cloud announced the raw sky — blue and painful — and the point of horizon inflicted a white laceration between the channel and it’s waterless counterpart above. The severed blue caught Alex’s attention and the white scar that cut across the scene pulled his eyes and held his glance for a second — he felt his retinas burn hot and he slammed his eyelids shut. White spots rallied in the black behind his eyelids and they looked like mourning stars. Swinging heavy and hurting. There was something about the vista that made the boy want to open his eyes again, to endure the needles of heat and let the white consume his vision, but he was a boy of 5 and the prejudice of youth came careering back to filter the natural beauty of the scene through a sediment of naivety, innocence and complete disinterest.

It was 12pm now and the heat was beginning to make ripples in the air. Ahead of Alex were many other fathers and sons and mothers and daughters, all distorted by the visible temperature; their forms in constant minute flux. All of these day-trippers seemed apathetic to their surroundings. They all mimicked each other — loose limbs, lolling heads and inconsequential trajectories. Their only concern was putting one foot in front of the other and continuing along the cliff. Alex and Felix were no different. They too trod in the footsteps of the families in front of them and they did not falter.

Following the procession of tourists, Alex walked with his father for what seemed, in the child’s eyes, like an eternity. He was bored and sweating profusely, yet seemed determined to equal his father’s desire to continue along the cliffs, even if he didn’t quite understand why. He needed to prove that the heat and numbing surroundings would not deter him from matching his father’s desire to keep moving. 
 Alex turned his head left towards the channel again, but the blue that had momentarily piqued and then impaired his interest had been replaced by a towering billboard. It rested on the cliff edge beckoning those who had noticed it to read the bold lettering printed upon the whitewashed canvas.

The font had been accosted by the billowing heat and was forced to wrinkle and dance before the eyes of the motherless child. The question that had first entered Alex’s head had been why is the text moving? And why did things undulate in the heat? Yet the boy felt that this question would not impress his father and sought a different line of enquiry.

The sentiment on the billboard seemed to taunt Alex. “A stone’s throw?” he pondered — could he really throw a stone all the way to France? His understanding of distance and geography was superficial given his age, but the notion of throwing something all the way over to another country was something he felt would impress his peers at school and, more importantly, his father.

“Dad, is France really only a stone’s throw away?”

Felix looked a little confused, but noticing the billboard he chuckled lazily and confirmed for his child that it was indeed quite close.

“Could I throw a stone to France then?”

The question took Felix by surprise. He wanted to tell his child bluntly that it was just an exaggeration, an advertising technique, and no-one, even an adult like himself, could ever hope to throw anything that far. Despite the truth, Felix was hit by a pang of guilt. Guilt gave birth to panic.

You can do it.
 The voice that had made Felix so assured and so upset, in the hospital, 5 years ago echoed without warning through his mind’s ear. Felix reconsidered the advice he was about to impart. He decided he would tell his son a lie. A motivating lie. A lie that would hopefully mould Alex into a driven, ambitious and confident man; someone who could do whatever he wanted.

“Of course, Alex. You can do anything if you put your mind to it.”

And that was that.

Felix thought that this may help Alex take up the shot-put as a sporting pursuit; a path he hadn’t really considered for his child before. An image flashed through his head as he stood looking at his child atop the cliff.

A 24 year old Alex was poised meditatively at the centre of a grand stadium. A wall of eyes ran 360 degrees around him and their focus drew blood like syringes, they all wanted a part of him, a single drop that they could call their own. He was their darling donned in the striking red, white and blue. Camera flashes exploded and screams of inspiration forced the ground to quake with incentive. Floodlights drowned the lone shot-putter in an inescapable glory, whilst the stewards mutilated their faces with grotesque smiles of encouragement and his coaches looked onwards with optimism. This is what Alex had been waiting for, this is what he was born for, this is the path that Felix had carved for his son and he was proud. Alex looked to his father in the crowd and nodded with a knowing glance and his father returned it, he too knowing that this was the apex of his parenthood. Alex disconnected his eyes from his father and scanned the floor around him for the stone, the heavy object, the shot-put. It was in an odd place, a few paces behind him, which made him turn awkwardly and reach with an uncomfortable strain. He managed to secure his thumb and forefinger on the sphere and rolled it towards his now twisted body. He picked it up near his foot, untangled his torso and set his stance ready to throw. The sinews of his muscles strummed hard beneath the lycra of his bodysuit as he practised the motion of his throw.

Arm extended. Arm retracted. Squat. Stand. Throw. Arm extended. Arm retracted. Squat. Stand. Throw. Arm extended. Arm retracted. Squat. Stand. Throw. Arm extended. Arm retracted. Squat. Stand. Throw.

Alex readied himself for the final throw, the throw that would prove his worth and satisfy his father — the showstopper. As the young athlete’s arm heaved forward his muscles reduced to the size of a boy’s and his poise and practised form vanished. The rapturous crowd dissolved into disinterested families and the grand structure of the stadium melted into green grass, blue skies and tangible heat

Felix was no longer looking into the future. Reality re-established itself with such a benign violence that the helpless father had no choice but to watch as his son cast a rock over the cliff edge.

A gentle breeze gave the father and son a momentary respite from the heat and the movement of air brushed a rustling sound through their ears. Alex turned from the cliff’s edge and looked longingly at his father expecting some sort of praise for his show of strength or consolation for the failure to reach France with his throw. He didn’t mind which, but neither came. Instead, Felix drew a breath, tensed his shoulders and looked into the white scar of the horizon, without closing his eyes. He’d never looked this intensely at anything in his life. It hurt.

The tide was out and a thick scream rose from the bottom of the cliffs.

Felix knew.

Alex had only ever heard such cries of terror on shows and films via Netfilm, the ones he wasn’t meant to be watching. Alex bypassed the parental guidance quite often and consumed TV that was meant to be scary or for adults, but he was bored by them most of the time. However, he had watched enough to know that the connotation of the scream below him meant something serious, horrifying even. The boy was young, but he wasn’t an idiot and he knew that his action had caused a reaction, a bad reaction that would overshadow his valiant efforts of throwing stones. Alex felt a warm and sickly feeling gurgle in the pits of his stomach. He was stuck in perpetual cycles of anxiety, unable to process the gravity of what may have just happened. He could only focus on the slow rise of heat that was leading towards his eyes. It was inevitable that this feeling would reach his eyes because he did not want to look over the edge, he didn’t want to look at anything ever again and he wished that he’d let the incision in the sky blind him moments earlier.

Alex stood helplessly as he watched his father adjust himself so he could peer over the edge. Felix strained his neck and squinted to make out a huddle of people below, they looked like ants; wild, terrified and helpless. As they scrambled below, Felix noticed some droplets of water fall from his face towards them; he tried to catch them to stop yet more objects plummeting towards the already panicking crowd. He didn’t know whether it was sweat or tears.

25 years old

Felix never took Alex back to Dover. The anguish and guilt that had etched themselves into the very face of those cliffs had endured; no amount of erosion could remove the despair that had ossified there. Over the next 20 years Felix had absorbed much of the guilt from his son and reassured him, constantly, that it was not his fault. The father still maintained that his son could be whatever he wanted; he still maintained that his son would be a success and he still maintained that his son would benefit from ubiquitous and semi-delusional encouragement. Often, during his adolescence, Alex would reveal his aspirations and dreams to his father and they would be greeted by the same worn sentiments of rudderless encouragement. You can do it. As a result, Alex began to believe that achievement in any aspect of art, sport, business, or music was just a formality. He grew to consider the endless sprawl of specialties that he could immerse himself within as boring and entirely worthless.

Alex once thought football was his game, but after scoring a goal during a P.E lesson at school when he was 12 his teacher had told him that he should keep playing and that he could go far; he didn’t need to be told, he already knew. He once took up the guitar at 16, yet retired his involvement with the instrument after he managed to play Deep Purple’s Smoke On The Water on the top string, after watching a tutorial on VidTube. He also once sold his father’s old smartphone to an impressionable kid at school two years below him and considered himself a real mogul. University came calling at 18 and he decided to read English at a redbrick institution, despite having never fully finished reading a novel and having completely missed the point of Robert Frost’s The Road Less Travelled. Alex liked the idea of literature and the idea of great ideas, but rarely engaged with them. He had a way of sounding like an authority when writing, but beneath the verbose execution of his prose lay a shallow grave of fragmented misconceptions — twisted, sickly and blind. He graduated with a 2:1 without actually ever finishing any of the set texts; he relied upon the academia and online summaries to form his arguments and then passed them off as his own. He thought that he had won because he could do anything he wanted to, write whatever he wanted to.

Since graduating Alex had been forced, economically speaking, to get a job stacking shelves at his local Brightspot supermarket. He wanted to be a writer or a director or an artist or something because he thought he had something worthwhile to say, he was just waiting for the right time for inspiration to strike. It would eventually happen. The motivation had to come, he didn’t doubt that.

It was a Sunday and Alex had been stacking tampons on the health and beauty isle at Brightspot. He looked at the review panel on the shelf and saw that this particular section had been up-voted 66 times. Alex dropped the box of Uplift: Energising Pads that were held awkwardly in his hands and tapped at the touch screen on the edge of the shelf face to view the comments left there.

Excellent product. Ensures that I’m ready to attack the day and leaves me feeling very positive. Nice product display too, kudos to the staff.

3 up-votes

I really feel as if these products would benefit from a little more energy — they help me feel on top at that time of the month, but I tend to lose drive mid-afternoon.

6 down-votes
 — — — — — — — Reply:

How can you say that? Have you ever actually had a period? This product is the best! I feel on top of the world when using them.

34 up-votes

Uplift: Energising pads are the one!

10 up-votes

Alex wasn’t really reading the comments as they had little to do with him, but he found himself still swiping his finger upward and letting the banal sentiments wash over him. He felt oddly comforted by his voyeuristic involvement with anonymous opinions on women’s health products and felt the need to add his own to the roster, despite having never used a tampon, but he didn’t. He didn’t because he thought of Shakespeare and Shakespeare would have derided anyone who had any involvement with such trivial interactions. Alex told everyone he loved Shakespeare, and Shakespeare would have hated Brightspot and their social media integration, he would have hated the people that left comments about tampons, he would have hated the people who stacked tampons and he would have hated the consumer market. Possibly, probably.

A buzz crawled down Alex’s leg and he reached into his pocket to feel the whir in his hand. It was the Brightspot standard issue Brighttab. A Brighttab was given to each member of staff and acted as an internal smartphone that enabled each user to access the store’s social media intranet. It was compulsory for each Customer Motivator to use the device to update colleagues, management and customers on all of the great work that was going on in store.

The buzz had signalled an update from the manager of the store — Bertha Smith — a detestable woman who did very little in the way of management. She had uploaded a picture of herself on the way to work in her new hire-purchase Mini Cooper. Her seismic face filled the frame of the picture whilst her lips bulged into a pout. The concentration of make-up on her face was enhanced by a Valencia filter and it made her look scorched and synthetic, willow eyelashes hung precariously over Bertha’s eyes and the £47 blow-dry that she had just received, via an “emergency appointment”, forced her hair to balloon beyond the borders of the shot. Hashtags streamed above the upload:

#attacktheday #humpday #motivation #onedayyoucanbelikeme #aspire #goforit #youcandoit # bae #blowdry #valencia #managment #marilynmonroe #youcanthandleme

Alex felt very little whilst observing this picture. He tried to differentiate this image from the other 58 his superior had uploaded in the past month, to the Brightspot intranet, but he really couldn’t see a single variation. Much like the cloned selfies that Bertha uploaded on a near twice daily basis, the management routine that she followed was repeated precisely minute by minute and day by day.

Usually, Bertha would splurge her way through the automatic doors of the store and trot past the withering husks of Brenda and Julie, who stood behind the sundries kiosk, without a second’s acknowledgement. She would then march forward and run her over-ripe fingers across the fruit and vegetables that filled the shelves along the first aisle and stop, without fail, at the artificially sweetened aubergines — her favourite. She would stop at the aubergines, not because they were her favourite, but because she had left a manager’s review regarding the enhanced vegetable 2 years ago. Bertha would stab at the shelf’s comments interface and scroll endlessly towards her review, then read her masterpiece over 5 times, check the up-votes (68) and nod with satisfaction before shuffling into the store’s warehouse and finally her office.

The door to her office was unassuming. The grey, windowless ply-wood feature assimilated seamlessly into the flaking plaster of the warehouse wall and was barely noticeable, aside from the aluminium door handle that jutted awkwardly out. Upon entering the small office space, a jarring concoction of perfumes would effervesce around the nostrils and cohere to the back of the throat, tainting the olfactory senses of anyone unfortunate enough to have been contaminated for the remainder of the day. An unused IBM computer sat un-amused on an Ikea desk. It had been encrusted with plastic diamonds and its monitor defaced with glossy pictures of Bertha and her cronies on various drunken nights out. Instead of a keyboard there lay three Brighttabs all of which had Bertha’s store profile open, ready to be endlessly scrutinised and pawed over by their owner. Crawling around the walls were pink feathers and garish ornaments that were pressed with words such as “Live”, “Laugh” and “Love”, they all seemed to build towards the back wall of the office were a grand framed selfie of Kim Kardashian hung immovable. The painted contours of her face pointed towards a pair of bubbling lips — voluptuous and spiteful. Obscuring her cleavage were huge block letters that read:
 I’m selfish, impatient, and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I’m out of control, and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best. — Marylyn Monroe

At the foot of the picture Bertha would sit on an ergonomic office chair. She basked in her haven, doing little other than preening into her front facing camera and monitoring the store’s social intranet. She often described her office as a “motivational beacon”, a place where she could encourage herself to be the best she could be and hope that it would rub off on her staff too.

It was 1 pm and Alex walked along back of the store peering down each aisle. He noticed that the customers were often standing still; their actions were ignorant to their surroundings and to their unpopulated shopping baskets too, as they poked mercilessly at the shelves’ review panels. The internal monologue of the shopper seemed to be more important than the act of shopping itself and the sapping desire to acquire public gratification for their unfiltered opinions trumped all.

A screech of feedback perforated the ambiance of the store. Alex jolted in surprise and wrenched his eyes shut hoping that it would block out the cries of digital dismemberment. What followed was a nasally expulsion of sound from of the store manager.




A cartoonish giggle broke the flat vowels sounds of her voice.


A pause.



Alex shuddered, he had heard the same sentiments over and over and over and refused to understand how anything that came out of that woman’s mouth could ever be considered encouraging, especially the insipid giggle. He felt that his degree was being wasted working such a menial job, with clinical morons directing his every move and attempting to inspire him with frail sentiments of benign hope. The Daedalus boy had been encouraged all his life and he thought it was time to try his educated hand at it and beat his manager at her own game. Alex heaved out his Brighttab and quickly searched for “literary inspirational quotations”, the resulting search yielded 1,290,000 entries. The shredded wisdom of Fitzgerald, Twain, Orwell, Shelley, Lennon, Obama, Luther King, Dean and Einstein was patched together on the screen in front of Alex’s eyes. The de-contextualised and misrepresented words of encouragement filled the young man’s head with visions of greatness, the tangible greatness achieved only by the immortalising power of the meme and mass sharing. Alex saw, not half a metre away from his eyes, the font of inspiration, the end point and the pinnacle of artistic vision, but he was wholly blind to the void that lay, like lurking punji sticks, beneath the trappings of creative accomplishment. His vision was something he treasured but the blinkers of encouragement had been fused, with white heat, to his eyes since that day at Dover. You can do it. Alex held his forefinger for second over a Twain quotation that read:

The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.

And he pasted the words as an update onto the Brightspot intranet and added the hashtag #happyshopping and pressed post.

Alex was now 3 hours into his 8 hour shift and his neck was aching. The ache flirted with the occasional spasm which directed the lad’s neck into a sharp tilt of 30 degrees. Alex was perplexed by this involuntary movement but soon forgot about it as he hung his neck further still to view his Brighttab and check the latest updates. It had been 4 minutes since he had checked the Brighttab and 7 minutes since he had posted the un-credited Twain quotation.

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

Alex Daedalus (Customer Motivator) says:

The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why. #happyshopping

34 up-votes


Wow how inspiring — did you think of this?

— — — — — — Reply:

Alex Daedalus (customer motivator) says:


1 up-vote

This is the reason I choose to shop at Brightspot — always on point.

I was going to buy a pack of 3 bananas but this made me re-consider and buy 5.

I want to work at Brightspot!

— — — — Reply

I am gonna be a fucking Astronaut!!

Alex had never posted an update before; he thought it was beneath him, yet this time he felt he needed to present his vision, his awareness, his idea of greatness, like a severed head in front of the shoppers that slithered around Brightspot. Beyond the latent desire for gratification Alex thought little of the words that he had posted, he knew that they were inspiring and people seemed to respond to them but he only wished for his manager to see how quickly he could garner approval. He wanted to see that rubber woman combust with envy, he wanted her to collapse at his feet and he wanted her to be stirred beyond the confines of her squat little office.

Alex had hit the mid-point of his shift and it was time for a break. He cut the lethargy in his movements and broke into a scurry towards the refrigerators where he found himself scanning the vacuum packed sandwiches. There was an unsettling speed to his movement that had caused some grumbles amongst the elderly shoppers. An aging couple, with a combined age of 152, were hovering with an indolent rage around the reduced price fridges. Alex snapped his gaze towards the source of the discontent and anticipated a lecture from the couple. He instead found that the greying duo were no longer tutting at his overzealous shopping technique; their disapproval had instead gravitated towards the shelf they were perusing.

“Can you believe this shelf doesn’t have a touchy review thing, Gerry?”

“It’s a bloody disgrace, Jean. A muzzle on free speech!”

Alex knew that he had stared at the couple for a second too long. He anticipated a meeting of awkward eyes and a frosty interrogation regarding the missing review panel.

“Excuse m-“ was all the old woman could enunciate before Alex had scuttled off towards the canteen in the warehouse of the store. He hadn’t even been able to buy a pulled-pheasant and beetroot sandwich to eat on his break, but he had managed to up-vote it and bring the total stats to 27853 up-votes and 346 down votes; this was a pleasing transaction.

Alex sat himself down in the canteen and the tungsten bulb that illuminated the space conjured a luminous haar. The yellow gloom clung to the objects within the room and simultaneously highlighted and obscured. The stainless steel sink rippled between vivacity and stagnation, the metal caught the fog of light and sent arrows of white towards the on-looking eyes of the Daedalus boy. Alex quickly closed his eyes. You can do it. He opened them and saw that the brightness had dimmed; sauce covered forks, bent knives and discarded food lay in the shallow basin. He cast his gaze to the floor and saw a troop of ants jostling around a small pile of sugar between feet. He was closer to the edge than he had ever been.

“Ohhhh Alex, my love”, came a stringy voice from the door “come to my room please. I’ve got something I want to talk to you about…” the voice trailed off before Alex had had chance to pull his focus from the sweet mandibled ants. Bertha was waiting.

As Alex approached the door to his manager’s office he felt a strange pang of excitement. He checked his Brighttab before he entered and noticed that his update had now reached 90 up-votes; the excitement spiralled into euphoria. Bertha was sure to be envious — that was certain. Alex had only managed to open the door a jar before it slammed itself back into the frame. A voice penetrated the ply-wood and exclaimed “WAIT…for me to say you can enter.”.



Alex opened the door and took a deep breath, accidentally inhaling the chemical haze of perfume that hung around the room. He clapped his mouth shut and tried to expel the invading particles through his nose. In doing this, the expression on his face began to grimace and his eyes swelled as he tried to compose an air of aloofness in the presence of his illegitimate superior. Alex noticed, despite the onslaught of scented air stinging his eyes, that Bertha had positioned herself beneath the grand portrait of Kim Kardashian. She reclined back on her ergonomic office chair and tried to cross her right leg over her left, the nylon of her pant-suit made a low squeal under the stress of the movement and made their wearer slowly rescind the action. The manager instead decided to simply clasp her hands together and construct a stony pout as if she were posing for a renaissance portrait of her own; Kim would have to do for now.

“Alex, I’d like to talk to you about your SRPI.

Alex half nodded.

“Your Social Retail Performance Index. You know the thing were the computer assesses your impact on the store’s social interface? I don’t really pay much attention to that thing as I usually keep an eye on people via my own store profile, you know?”

Alex, again, half nodded and began to open his mouth to ask a clarifying question, however, he was made hold his mouth in the pre-vocal phase were his mouth’s resemblance to a crude children’s cartoon was simply too much to ignore, except, Bertha did ignore her conversational faux-pas and continued to create speech like sounds at an alarming rate.

“I really think that managing and supervising my workers’ store profile on a more personal level and not letting some machine monitor you is a very effective ways to help you guys reach your potential, you know? I mean aspirations are high, 4 colleagues liked my picture today. Motivation breeds motivation. If I aspire, you guys are inspired. You know?”
 Alex knew the picture she was referring to and it had failed to make an impression. He half nodded.
 “Well my inspiration has clearly had an impact on you, as both the computer and I have noticed how much of a great effect you’ve had on the store social intranet today. You’ve created lots of customer interactions and our store is leading the national store trends. This is the first time we’ve ever topped the chart. So well done, Alex!”

Alex quarter nodded.

“You remind me of myself at your age, you know?”
 Bertha was 29 years old. Alex reminded himself his own age, 24. Alex tipped his head ever so slightly forward in acknowledgment.
 “So we’d like to offer you a promotion, you know? You’ll become a CSS, a Customer Social Supervisor. Congratulations, Alex.”

Alex took a moment to reflect. Whilst he had watched this woman discuss her management style, laud his potential and offer him a promotion, he failed to register a single shred of irony in her delivery, and with this realisation came at once an incredible feeling of resentment. Alex had, whether he had noticed or not, bore the brunt of an aimless crusade of motivation throughout his life. This crusade had dismembered the vision of both Bertha and Alex; they could not see anything but incentive. Their paths aligning in such a way reminded Alex of a lecturer discussing the tragic trajectory of characters in the Shakespearean canon. One of the few incidents Alex recalled in regards to Shakespearean tragedy was how funny the death of Cleopatra’s handmaid was in Anthony and Cleopatra; grief does not seem like a fitting ends for anyone. The discussion on tragedy and its conclusions eluded him, however.

Alex hated Bertha and Bertha didn’t really think about Alex all that much. They were different, but the privilege of enjoying and accepting the rusted motivation of their perceived superiors had led them to this point; together. A job offer was on the table, one that would have no real significance on the lives of either of the two Brightspot employees, and despite Alex’s shallow grasp on tragedy he acknowledged that something about this exchange was wrong.

You can do it.

Alex stood a little dazed and thought of how hard he had thrown that rock all those years ago at Dover, he thought he could have perhaps thrown it a little harder and then remembered the wind blowing into his ears and how bizarre it felt after hearing the scream from the bottom of the cliffs. Bile rose from Alex’s stomach. He stood shaking his head, at an increasingly panicked pace, and quickly grabbed the glitter blasted waste bin from under her desk. He vomited a little. His body was heaving with such vigour, yet the product was little more than a phlegmy string of yellow and brown matter. A small lace of it clung to Alex’s lips, he forced air through his slightly open mouth to try and sever the viscous vomit that hung there; it flew into the waste bin and slapped against the base. Lowering the bin from his mouth Alex said simply, “I decline.”

Bertha, now with added sympathy in her eyes, looked slightly disappointed.

“But what about that motivational update you posted? ‘The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.’ You could find out why here, you can be whatever you wanted to be”
 The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.

The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.

The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.

The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.

The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.

Twain’s wisdom swam around Alex’s head and it bound itself to his organic circuitry; rhythmic and free it leapt about his consciousness. Grabbing his bland pallet the stolen words catapulted razors of marauding verisimilitude towards Alex’s opaque vision and they crafted wounds of clarity.

Alex grabbed his manager by the neck and spun her round in her ergonomic office chair so that she faced the monolithic picture of Kim Kardashian, he pushed her forward towards the glass framed cleavage and misattributed quotation and hammered her face into the picture in one liberating motion. Bertha had squealed momentarily on impact but had ceased to move since smashing through the frame. Peeling away Bertha’s face from the picture, Alex noticed broken glass fall from shallow incisions in her skin; they tinkled and fractured as they hit the floor. He grabbed the collar of Bertha’s blouse and pitched her back into the sitting position on the ergonomic office chair. He looked at her face, decorated with vermillion and twinkling glass. It reminded Alex of a girl’s A-Level art project at school, she’d been studying Lucien Freud and Damien Hirst. He used to feel very intimidated by that girl.

Looking again at the blood and shards on Bertha’s face, Alex heard all three of her Brighttabs buzz in unison to his right — someone had liked her inspirational selfie. Alex considered feeling guilt or grief but he no longer needed to because he could now do anything. He could do it, you know?

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