Intellectual Theory or Feel-Good scam? Lydia Trethewey’s deft hand offers more than a subtle swipe in this near future fiction for the Gibson Bigend Contest.
The Cult Of Hard Work
By Lydia Trethewey
“Wake Up, wake up, wake up,” the vagrant muttered to himself as he paced uneasily up and down the platform.
Katie heard him briefly as the faint warbling of the sweet-voiced singer faded. Plonking down on the cold steel chairs she brought up the woman’s bio on her wrist, navigating with the deftness of somebody born into rather than adopting a technology. The tiny black words marched like ink stains across her pale skin, projected there from the smooth blue band. The singer’s name was Katie too, though she was born on the other side of the world in Austin, Texas. Her drawn expression lingered ghost-like over Katie’s pulsing veins.
“…climbed a mountain, at 86! Now the rest of us really have no excuse…”
In her moment of pause the Ear had reverted to the most popular channel, Hard Work News. It wasn’t really called that – it had some inane name, PopClock or something – but since the Cult of Hard Work had burst forth as a bona fide intellectual theory Katie had adopted the less flattering name. She scrolled her wrist and found another of Katie’s songs. Whimsical melancholy flooded her brain from the Ear.
The train was late. Again. The Innate Timepiece burrowed into the lateral intraparietal area of her brain hummed anxiously. It seemed absurd that trains could be late in this day and age, when everyone had an IT. It was an experience of time that couldn’t really be described or quantified; she knew what time it was the same way she knew how to breathe or make her heart pump.
“Wake up!” cried the vagrant in a sort of muffled shout, gesticulating erratically.
Katie tried to act like she didn’t notice. She was scrolling the Cult of Hard Work homepage now. A bespectacled woman and grey haired man stared out confidently, unsmiling.
The Cult of Hard Work didn’t happen overnight. It’s been a long drawn out process, starting with a few lucky successfuls. The old rags to riches story – only now so pervasive that people have forgotten that there’s a difference between a person’s potential, and their opportunity .
Katie nodded fervently. It was like this singer, this other Katie. According to her website she recorded all her songs below a bowling alley. The asking price for a digital copy was 60 cents. She probably had people tell her that to make a living from her music all she needed was to work hard. Life didn’t work that way though.
The vagrant was calmer now, sitting shoeless and cross-legged. He had a tin can and a hand-written sign that read Spare a Coin for Silence. Katie stepped past him and onto the carriage, pretending not to see.