News of the State | Samantha Lee

News of the State

Samantha Lee

The Fake News Real Fiction Award

News of the State

Oscar pushed the revolving door, coffee in his right hand, his face dropping as he entered the building whilst others stared mindlessly into their phones, lining up for the elevator. Another day in the office.

His desk littered paperwork, he lay his laptop on the piece of desk he could see, tilting it to one side given the clutter underneath it. The men on either side of him stared at their screens, typing, clones all doing the same job. Creating news.

Another headline had landed on his desk. “The North invades the South”. Here goes, he thought to himself. His fingers crawled across the keys, spiders weaving webs. Following suit. It beat yesterday’s article on the most recent celebrity to get butt implants or the one after that about which couple is now in splitsville. He also wrote the heavier stuff, “judge orders rehabilitation for man without phone.” He stopped to pause every now and then, looked at the others, until their manager would walk by and he’d adopt the same glazed over expression.

“We print the news,” his boss had said when he first got the job. “You get the headlines and you write the news.”

“So the reporter will email me the details?”

The man chuckled, “no, you write the news.”

He swallowed. His new boss frowned at him, threatening. Oscar didn’t quite understand, but the nerves in his stomach turned. Better to stay silent.

Everyone was now silent. Perhaps not even capable of free thought. Minds controlled by the news agencies. Each were a slave to their devices, a fly within the web, unable to survive without them.

Oscar made his way back to the lobby. The day already proving to be too much. People peered into their phones, not looking up, scrolling through their Facebook threads, twitter feeds. An article appeared with the headline “Australia next!” Eyes widened, coughs stifled. Serious thought was taking place. Oscar ran circles in the revolving door. No one noticed. He tried again, this time quicker. A small gesture to see if anyone was noticing. He stepped out. Made it back to his desk. Continued typing.

He clicked into another document. “Man attempts to start a revolution but no one notices.” He’d publish it anonymously on one of those illegal sites and hoped people would see it. “This morning, a man illegally ran circles through the revolving doors of News of the State headquarters to get attention.”

His boss appeared in front of him as he switched to the other document, his paragraph on the invasion colourfully described as one of the many current threats on the western world. Scare them into submission. Dumb them down. That’s what they’d always done before.

“I need a word with you.”

Oscar closed his laptop and followed him to the lobby where the revolving doors swung round releasing people into the building. A colony of ants working towards a common goal. Two police officers stood in front of him.

“You’re under arrest.”

“What? I didn’t do anything.”

“There’s CCTV footage of you running through the revolving doors. That’s illegal.”

“It’s a revolving door!” He wished he’d managed to write and post his article but the police were too quick for him. His small act of defiance was the only one the police had seen in months. The internet was supposed to give people tools to create, have a voice, but all they did was consume.
“And we saw what you were writing online.”

The system couldn’t be fooled, its web sprawled in every direction, spiders waiting for prey. Cameras in every doorway, on every screen, surveillance peering through the small cameras on every smartphone in the world. How did he think he could go unnoticed?

Fake News Real Fiction AwardSamantha Lee