the

PINK

SQUAD

By

MATTHEW

SENKOWSKI

Unusual color for a tough neighborhood.

UEB; the Unemployment Employment Bureaux; an initiative to unite man and machine towards a unified goal. The mutual cooperation for a more stable future. Or for those less familiar with the layman, the greatest accumulation of credit for the littlest degree of effort.

             Although it can be considered unconventional. People are paid today not to have a job, and every person is successful, even if they do not agree. This city houses millions and preserves a sanctimonious harmony with all of its affiliates. Autopia, the place where placement compromises purpose. A governmentally ordained authoritarian initiative to secure morality and sanctity by eliminating purpose.

            Drugs have complete illegality amongst its citizens. With its fair share of urban legends and so many weary superstitions. There is a reputation that Autopia has a hidden narcotics police squad. A pink posse of drug enforcers. A super secret group of pink agents. Yet some merely believe that they are only a spook story local parents tell their children at night before bedtime.

            A skyline scenery of clouds gather around massive white towers. Enormous skyscrapers bound together to form a metropolis. An enormous power centre standing most tremendously as UEB headquarters. Providing placement for a congenial human and automaton coexistence.

            Al Lallander walks the basement filing corridors. Cubicles standing meters high with a moderate mechanical system of maintenance. Alit displays of categorical button-work hold his attention. With tendency to be alone around these parts, his imagination could run wild. While examining a file badge gleaming with metallic numerical encoding, he imagines a tiny corrosion cell arguing with a negative entropic counteractive; a tiny fistfight and eventual swordsmanship display, soon a gang battle, finally eventual self destructive mass genocide. He closed the file. Placing it back to the appropriately alphabetized, chronologically organized filing cabinet.

            Al wondered about the last time he had a drink. All those years ago his father would import rural wine vats from a faraway grape plantation. With a sigh, walking further along. He stopped at a workers report filing cabinet. Looking through his glasses, rubbing a smudge across the thin lens and opening another file drawer marked; Displacement Workers. He selects thirteen random files and heads slovenly towards the elevator.

            It is standard company practice to research and maintain current placements. The workers records of present people whom have a position and also those who continually await approval. Al fidgets a handful of files and watches the sub-basement sections pass through to ground level.

            The express elevator doors peel apart, Al emerging, blends with the ensconce of mechanical assistants. Neat and tidy people, discourse placements, as they are called, men and women who walk about apparently busy. Men with shiny bald heads, women with long lustrous hair, handling reflective document holders. Carrying cases, often completely empty. Mostly, a discourse person has the duty to walk around and look important, but actually serving no distinct purpose. Quite built and expressively attractive, clean suits, sharp demeanors.

            It is a charge to those similar of Al’s aesthetic, short, naturally balding, and bespectacled, to stand as much more significant than those who are athletes, beautiful, or well off. The smooth mirror briefcases reflect a calm emptiness that no document could ever corrupt.

            Al noticing a gimpy bookworm type named Rita. Her placement was as an impatience server. The duty to search for those who appear frustrated or unhappy and aid their place with questions and comments. They had never actually spoken. Something Al was quite proud of. He passed Rita by, admiring her grey dress.

            Many transparent tubes connect the vast sub-complexes and multi-hues of UEB headquarters. Al crosses a travel conduit and sees an entire fleet of demoralizer units. Cognizant machines whom sit upright, spread across hectares of space. No pauses, or breaks, every moment, they write upon obsolete machinery. Automatons with the shape of men, writing away their existences upon typewriters. An act of cybernetic genius, whose sole purpose is to exercise the machinery it can replace. A horizon of them.

            The containment wall allowed Al observation. These machines who bridge the empathy of human and robot, existing with no purpose, yet an example of exercise. Al considered them sympathetically. Their duty as intelligent automatons whom write upon archaic technology alike a living calculator forced to use some abacus. Electronic emotions reel and temper at the fine details of this shoddy existence. Their duty to serve as only examples of useless activity.

            Similar to the demoralizer machines are their human counterparts. Demoralizers who live and breath, having two specific functions, half of them litter and loiter, the others, moralizers, clean and regulate, but a respect maintains, because they serve an organization, placement.

            Faith of religion has no association here today, with material possessions meeting regulation requirements. Eventually, long ago, specific trees were selectively targeted, and whole species met extermination. The only trees that remain have considerable detriment, such as weak cellular structures, a brittle and diminutive persuasion. Intellectual genocide at the behest of selective resource targets.

            Paper is now practically a thing of the past, although available, the rich reap those benefits. Al passed a man with a mug of coffee, recognizing his demoralizer status and watches as he spills it with purpose. The moralizer would soon follow no doubt.

            The problem with problems as our dictator claims is that history dictates a majority of problematic occurrences. With the governing bodies want to purge history of these unnecessary facts, half truths, and full out lies. Swift removal of all undesirable elements and constant conditioning is now mandatory. The dictator made mention that randomness, accidents, and natural selection, play too strong a part of these social fabrics, and should have limitations. So with those limitations; art, dress, photography, drugs, and pastry, no longer have any place amongst this expanse of peace.

            The walk from records to maintenance was often fraught with diversion. A great many beautiful people exist with no function, yet some reach a designation of disorderly. A disorderly is much like a demoralizer, but more restive. They seem to fail with less purpose, more accidental. So instead of spilling a cup of coffee with purpose. They would more likely stumble and knock over a discourse person. A disorderly often has an orderly to follow them, shorter, uglier, pudgier, to clean their messes, and solve unforeseen accidents.

            As an orderly and disorderly chase each other around through unnecessary sections of plot level three. Al notices Douglas Grubelmayer with a snappy fit of clothes and sharply reflective briefcase. Al got him his position, refraining to ask about business. Al was never much of a leader type. They pass each other by. Al is solemn once more.

            Through the foyer of draft practitioners and copy clerks. Al observes the dark central dividing line, the light grey color scheme lightening and whitening towards the corners, and its bright beaming shadows. Sheila noticing him, a fit and attractive woman of her mid forties. Very much a worrisome type, with her flirtations and interests in Al’s affairs, quite a concern.

            “What’s up Al?” said Sheila.

            “Nothing.” said Al.

            “What’s the matter? You sound depressed. Come with me, I have something to show you.” she said, leading him away to a shadowy corner with a bright white paintjob. Her purse swinging with motion, she parts the flaps, showing a pack of cigarettes. He looks her in the eyes, blankly. Sheila’s stark raving happiness causing his libido to flutter for a short while.

            “So what do you think? I know they’re dangerous, it’s so exciting. I had one last night, it

was amazing.” she said.

            “It was, I’ve never had a cigarette, I always wondered how it would taste.” said Al.

            “Oh, the taste, but how it feels is so much more…” she says with a beeper signal notification from her purse. At the behest of her authoritative superiors, she receives orders to report to sentiments diffusion section immediately. They part ways, Al looking about nervously.

            Privy to some minor misdemeanor was not how he preferred to spend his Tuesday mornings. Another files circulator, Courtland Van Weisener, passed Al, en route to their approval desks no doubt. It was no small feat but they both share a similar duty. Very similar, and quite necessary for the function and security of this state of being.

            They are both placement approval secretaries, what this means is, their job is to permit model applicants, usually young men and women, with designations. Al and Courtland decide with judgement and care whom should do what when they begin as placements. A firm understanding is; each model position holder, neither works, nor does not work, for the bureaux.     If those who apply show hesitation at the demand of this, they are filed away, and await approval later. Courtland being the one who approved and trained Al. Courtland does not look much different, except perhaps pudgier, older, and quite demeaned.

            Arbitron, or the voice, as many call it. Alerts the entire complex, that any strenuous demands are undesirable. It is a characteristic of all people who hear this, that the thrill of success has to have a balance of complacency. So each person acknowledges their duty to follow the rules and obey the voice, “Take a break everyone, your pleasures are being controlled.”

            Just as Al sits, he rocks gently, for his own peace of mind. He checks the items atop his desk. The dust vacuum suction hole gasps, which startles him. Although it drew air constantly, he noticed it could act suddenly at his arrival.

            The files rest and await their submission rituals, a thing Al quite enjoys doing. Al’s applicant beacon aglow, with a young man of his late teens approaching. Al unsure of being ready. Changing his mind at the boy’s appearance. The kid looking kind of sharp.

            The young man seated himself. With a plucky round face, fair hair, and brown slacks. They remain quiet, while the boy observes casually and sees Al’s identity sign.

            “So your name is Al…” and concluded Lallander as a disjointed mispronunciation, “Is that French?”                  

            “No, it isn’t luh-lander, it’s Lallander, English, like lal and her.” said Al, continuing, “So immediately the matter of discussion; you can be granted a placement here at UEB, if we both can conform a unified attitude of compliance. Our service in conjunction with the rules and regulations of this state is as follows; though you collect credit, we encourage you not to actually work. Anyone who might be granted placement acknowledges their status as equals in support of the state. Though there is a hierarchy of importance bestowed upon certain placements. We are all equally unique, and we each have demands that are not great, but as a model UEB placement there are always challenges. I now ask you, that you tell me about yourself.”

            The boy speaks of his history; rich family, satisfactory school achievements, somewhat intelligent, single. A healthy voice and a pleasant demeanor. This is the kind of person fit for a UEB placement. Someone with a removed view of poverty and degradation. A strong history of financial support. Al could sense this boy’s place, selecting an apprentice unemployment position.

            An attempt to get Al’s attention. Sheila waved from across the room, holding her purse forth, and shakes it with a gesture of invitation. A slight sense of obligation, the paperwork as an essential diversion. He reacts with waves, politely, to go ahead without him.

            Through the corridors that weave and arrive Sheila at her eventual destination. A dark alley between building sections carrying along towards a laneway with sunshine and hardly any traffic. A perfect spot she secretly chose with care. Long had she thought to try this.

            She lit the cigarette, a single breath inwards, blowing out a breeze of smoke. Her senses reel with pleasure. A majesty of emotions that rush to escapist ideals. An ironic embrace, when death tempers life. She breathes in again, exhales.

            Thoughts drift to kinship, her husband, hobbies, patterns, and she looks towards daylight where the street awaits. A lifestyle celebrated amongst the darkness.

            At the edge of the laneway, a figure bolted across. A dash of color, and a brief hum. She questioned if it was her imagination. A recreational drug fantasy, but ignored it. All those spook stories about pink people, and drug enforcement.

            Almost every little girl hears the story about a group of pink people who hunt and seize those guilty of smoking, but that was an urban legend, it had to be. Nobody ever said they saw them genuinely. It was a myth. A spook story, something to get children to brush their teeth, nothing more.

            The last breath of smoke. She ditched the orange tip cylinder. Grasping hold of the door handle bar. Attempting to open it, yet the door remained shut. She shook it with a tremble. The door gave no leverage, and she heard humming once more. She turned, looking along the dark path. Her steps sound loudly, hesitant to continue. The ominous silence failing to distract her from a surge of nervous energy. Heart beating wildly on the approach of street’s edge. The walls carry to a pinhole dot above, and her view of the street broadens as she steps into the light.

            Sheila, with nearly no time to react. Heard a distended screech of burning rubber. A vehicle with a dime stop vibration. Snarling to a halt by her feet. Side panels part, revealing a gloom of void.

            A pink hand, fingers of full extension, grasps her, along with many others. She screams, her clothing cinches. She lifted from the ground, landing inside the van. With a firm shut of the grey panel doors. The van roars, its engine revs, a foot hit the gas. It screeches away with heavy careens amongst the wholly white landscape, turning through a narrow pathway, and gone.

            The day of work complete. Al driving his white ramshackle jalopy through to the

mid-level earners urban sprawl where he lives with his wife. Immediately beyond city limits, immense complexes, similar to those basement filing cabinets. Some new with lustre and verve, others decrepitly old, passed by. Some of the nicer estates appearing alike historical museums or grand art galleries. They are actually vacant, and constantly kept clean. They serve more or less as an example of something man is not meant to strive for.

            The flutters of octane combustion engines. All which seemingly endure some state of disrepair. Metallurgy and mechanics a thing of the past. Most every item one can purchase presently has a distinct feature of imperfection.

            The light regulation transmitters, black and red garbage can shape signalling devices, permit Al his drive home. Although actually functional garbage cans, they have morality scanners that identify and target any person guilty of non-littering. Orderlies and moralizers require messes as a means of survival.

            Much to the chagrin of automatic machine part manufacturers who build assembly line apparatus. Mass quantities built by human hands, of which could technically replace them amass as some enormous collection of intimidation. If the yearly gross manufacture were to be suddenly activated, it could replace every industrial sector worker three times. It seemed that constructing one’s own automatic mechanical replacement was seen as a character building exercise.

            Al passed through a turning lane, cruising along the street. He viewed towards the setting sun. Where beyond loomed his shadowy apartment building. His home, a tenth story bungalow. Passed down through generations of his wife’s family. With hunger, he thought of Karol, who usually activates the food preparation machines about this time of night. Although, with the idea of Sheila’s cigarettes, there is a consideration about visiting some illegal den of meal supply. Restaurants, he remembered they’re called, with a rebellious peer through the driver’s side window.

            A well dressed man walked along. A black knee length jacket, bowler hat, walking cane, and jet black vinyl briefcase. Al recognized him as Horace Wily, neighbourhood legend. Sells stairs, made to order steps, and staircases, bunches of kinds. Thought a long obsolete market item, elevator factories happen to be his best customers. Al passes him and notices his short nasal bridge and pointy submarine snout. The jalopy sauntering further away, angling along a cement funnel parking corridor. He parked in his sub-basement spot. Left the grey expanse of lot, entered an elevator, thinking of Horace. A dozen or so levels pass. He knocks upon the door, and Karol with an answer.

            The water fixtures plunk with sappy rust color residues. Her clothes look like something someone else would wear. Karol was always a loving wife, but rarely, if ever, Al thought he could do better. More often than not, it was he who could do no worse.

            The pasta puller jammed part way through the kneading process, with a dense block of dry wheat flour buckling around a twirling hook, stalling densely against the steel frame as an immense brick of dough. It was times like these that reminded him that he was curious to never have smoked. The kitchen hums with an assortment of mechanical objects. A kettle whistle merges with the sounds of an old tomato purée gizmo. The kitchen, capable of impairments, had a strong history of self preservation, but it could also have a temper to. A kitchen timer dinging loudly. Al checked the fridge, barren of any ornaments, except for a single dry cleaning receipt, fastened by an assuaging pain relief ointment smudge.

            Al shed his jacket, monitoring the visual display screen and thought to ask Karol about her day. They chat a few brief moments. He places his hands upon her face. Kissing her for all the loneliness. With their bond of secret words, shared away from autocracy, confidently. He sat upon the chair of white synthetic leather, with simulated crinkles and lines of age. He watched the screen with alterations of puzzle pieces that morph and blink.                                                                                                                                                                                        

            A smooth stream of tea pours into their cups. Karol placed one gently near his hand. The frothy swirl of milk merges as a tan broth. He smelled a bitterness, tasting it as sour.

            “What’s the matter with the tea?” said Al.

            “It’s not tea, I bought some nori today, seaweed. I thought I would make something special, do you like it at all?” said Karol.

            “Nori, you know I get seasick. You didn’t have to go and get all experimental on me. I’m a simple man, with uncomplicated taste, when I get home, I expect a cup of tea.” said Al.

            Karol quietly gathers their broths, walking to the kitchen sink, and disposes of them. The pasta puller with groans between intermittent calms. Karol looked through the plastic faceplate. Her dark eyes and sandy blonde hair reflect. Through the vague transparency, a look of broken pauses. The house lights brighten for a merest of moments. Sparks flash brightly beyond the white plastic encasement, the pasta puller dying.

            She joining Al and watching the monogram tetris show. A few minutes of silence. They chat about the broken pasta puller. Al dissuades her from calling a repairman or freaking out, electing to view the problem himself, yet he waited for a time. Changing channels to the spiral station, alit with hypnotic and vague layer diffusions.

            “What’s say I go get us a bite to eat?” he said. She barely thinking to respond, “Yeah, that’s what I’ll do. Something mysterious, tasty, legal, the full nine yards for my lemon pie.” Al dresses once again, “Now don’t you go trouble yourself, if the power goes out again, just stay still, and I’ll be back soon.”

            Al stood between the threshold, “So long honey.” he shut the door, his footsteps carry aloud along the broken floor tiles. The stairway door adjusts with creaky hinges. Karol thought very little of his choice to leave. The electricity died, she sitting alone in darkness.

            Urbantown, a maze of bridges and ductwork, cascading around a dilettante section of city. Houses next to a man made chemical pool, about the size of a lake, but with years of cross contamination, it has become a healthy active ecosystem, capable for swimming.

            Al drives past rusty garbage can fires. The sky pitch black with not a single star to be seen. The immense sky scrapers, white with luminescence, and standing tremendously.

            A fire seemed to have torn through a dilapidated section of town. Although the surrounding blocks feature some stunning facsimile townhouses, either barren of occupancy or quaint abode of some quiet tenants. Few if any electrical lights burn active presently. Al, somewhat dim of these lost streets, sees a sign of white letters, reading; the tenderfoot.

            He parked the white sunbeam worn economy car near the yellow marble brick building. Walks a few steps, nervously looking about, with no others to mention. He passed through the door, hanging crookedly, seeing a bar. The lone bartender awaited polishing a glass.

            “Quite the weather we’re having, not sure whether to drop anchor or set sail.” said Al.

            “What are you having?” said the bartender, his features at the brink of some dead end crossroads, bald, clear eyes, white shirt, black pants.

            “Oh, not too sure, kind of new to this, what are you serving?”

            “What you see is what we got.”

            Al noticed a single bottle of malt whiskey, sitting alone, lit by an amber cross bulb, “I’ll have a glass of that whiskey, hard back, no ice, I’m a big boy.”

            The bartender pours Al a glass and watches with pleasant persuasion. Al grasped the glass, brought it to his face, “Bottoms up.” and drinking it. A pink light revolves by the broken payphone, between bathroom doors which pour a flow of men and women. They wear pink vinyl costumes, with head extension crowns, a foot taller than normal, whistles blowing.

            Al slipped from the barstool. Ran to the door. In awe at the sight of his car, a pair of pink squad members are fitting it with a brake boot.

            Al ran away in the opposite direction. The whistle blowing a deafening shriek. With a thought of Karol, entertaining an idea, the fugitive lifestyle, rebellion members, husband and wife insurgents. Immediately he dismissed the concept, rounding a street corner and seeing a grey service van evacuating another half dozen or so pink squad members.

            A slight embarrassment of having such loud whistle blows possibly alarm any of the neighbouring community members. Al winced and scowled while running full force, destination unsure, with only the single desire not to get caught as his heading. While passing through a four way intersection, another man of similar circumstances leads a long string of pink squad members through the adjacent roadway. Some of his pink squad members join the pursuit of Al.

            About five minutes later, Al reached a bridge. At the middle point of elevation, atop the massive arc, he looked to see dozens of pink men and women, fiercely driven of pursuance. Al gazing at the chemical bath of purity, reflecting the white authoritarian mould of structural assembly. Al standing upon the guard rail. Looking with faith downwards, imagining a life of rebellion. Abandons his placement, broken pasta pullers, tetris television, nori soup broths, and jumps.

CONTENTS