A Glitch in the Matrix

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A Glitch in the Matrix

A Carol Highsmith photo of the Seattle Music Project by architect Frank O Gehry.

Mr Williams stormed up the road, grabbed the gate and slammed it on his way into the garden, ignoring the fact that the fence had turned into a wall and the gate from metalwork to plain wood: He was beyond caring about or even noticing such trifles.

The house rocked to his temper-banged front door (once he would have cared what the imaginary neighbours thought, in his idyllic little world but not today, oh no – with it and him coming apart at the seams!

He grabbed the phone and angrily dialled the helpline, somehow controlling his rage enough to let fly when another human being came on the other end of the imaginary communications device (In reality these were all links in his mind).

'At last! Mr Williams of number ten, Tenterdown Gardens here and I'd just like to give you a piece of my mind about your –'

'Your call is important to us,' the supercilious, robotic voice intoned, interrupting his train of thought. You are thirty-ninth in the queue and an operative will be with you as soon as possible.'

Mr Williams made himself a coffee and steamed away, almost as hotly as his drink. When had this started, he asked himself and why hadn't he noticed the symptoms sooner, as his H34B Matrix unit went up the creek? Oh the bliss of yesterday....

The alarm rang. Another beautiful, warm, sunny day. He looked at his still sleeping wife. Ah, so gorgeous, so young, so willing and so unreal! Martin looked at the clock. 8.03. The subtle changes that should have told him something was wrong, hadn't registered yet and he would dismiss them when they did as St. Paul had, when asked if he was a friend of Christ's. Time didn't so much stop as instantly jump forward, like a train lurching about, when it had to put on its brakes, move, put them on again and crawl into a station slowly because it was held up by signal lights. It was only seconds at first but then it became minutes and soon it would be undeniably hours, yet he would still try to reason it out. Eventually the evidence would be so overwhelming that he would be well and truly overwhelmed by it but for now it was underwhelming in the extreme.

He got up, brushed his teeth, had a shower and shave, then waited for his lovely Stepford wife to make him breakfast. Then off he trotted, catching the 8.33 to London. Even though he had a Matrix unit, Martin still needed the buzz of the city, if only in his mind. Stocks and shares, buying and selling – that was his dream job, literally.

'Miss Johnson, bring in the Wimbledon files.' How he'd longed to say that like some self-important idiot and here he was, a genuine self-important idiot, now. 'Oh, and bring me a coffee' he added.

How splendid everything was and how splendidly everything worked (or at least that was what he thought, up until then...). 'I feel like Candide, in the best of all possible worlds,' he thought to himself, 'by that wonderful playwright, Bertolt Brecht! Hold on, that's not right – Thoreau? No, I know that's not right, either!'

Already the cracks were starting to appear, inside and outside his head. He picked up a pen, which instantly turned into a pencil. 'Oh dear, clumsy me. Must have picked up the wrong implement!' He hadn't, and hadn't realised, either.

And so the day went with him, blaming his memory, his cack-handedness – anything but the breakdown of machinery, including the technical link to his own mind. The trip home was a disaster as he felt more and more like the person Lou Reed sang about in 'A Walk on the Wild Side.' He was a she, then a black, a white, a yellow and in fact every colour under the sun and in-between. The train became a bus, the bus a tram – then a string of bicycles (How could anyone concentrate on their Times crossword, under such intolerable conditions!?!). Next it became like a Francois Truffaut film – day for night, followed by every seasonable and terrain change possible. Was that New York as a skyline just then? The desert, the sea, an ice cap – Mars? All of this in double, treble Dutch as the inner confusion matched the outer chaos.

'Stop, stop all the dancing' by The Hollies, ploughed through his mind as a plea to whatever was causing all this madness, this mayhem and then, like the rain, the cacophony started to ease off, until finally he reached his pseudo-home and garden gate...

'Groundhog Day? I hope not!' he thought to himself.

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