A Life Seen Through A Television Screen

Winner of the Vortex Competition.

If you were a slave, but you didn't have any chains on your legs, no master to worship and no chores given to you. How would you know you were a slave? How do you know you aren't one already?

This is for the Vortex Competition, a tale of what the world really is. Once you are able to see the chains that bind us all, what will you do then?


1. Act I

"Sensors have detected that you have shut off your television set," an electronic voice came from the white ceiling above. "You still have seventy six minutes of viewing left for today, please state the reason for interruption."

A boy sat at the end of his bed, TV remote in one hand, and a one-way mobile phone in the other.

"I just found out my Grandpa died," he said, still in shock.

"May I suggest the state bereavement twenty four hour help channel?"

"No," he said, "I just want some quiet."

"I shall mute your television set for no more than thirty minutes. Please resume viewing."

A flash then illuminated the small room as the large wall hanging TV set came back to life. Visions of happy people in a dance club of some kind dominated the boys view, they were laughing and drinking a particular beverage. The advert went on for another two minutes or so, in utter silence, the boy watched on through glossy eyes. An attractive actress on screen then pointed to the boy and beckoned him to join her and her equally attractive friends. Presumably to enjoy the sparkling refreshment of the alcoholic drink. The boy felt sick looking on.

Finally the advert finished, but another one came right after it. More smiling people. More happy faces and fun times as they sold their own personal brand of individually tailored merchandise. The boy kept watching, his mind elsewhere, thinking about his Grandpa. But the flashing images of the happy attractive people in front of him kept diverting his thoughts. 

He wanted to cry, to remember the fun times he had with his Old Man, but he couldn't keep a thought long enough without it being torn away from him by the jumping images in front. 

"Just turn it off!" He yelled finally.

"Sixty eight minutes of viewing is still required. It is inadvisable to stop viewing. Continue viewing?"

"No, turn it off now," the boy said, his anger rising.

"Sixty eight minutes will be added to tomorrows schedule," the humanless voice came again. "Is this acceptable?"

"Yes! Yes just turn it off." 

The room went dark. The boy slumped back onto his plain white bed, and stared up at the ceiling. He knew what happens now. Monitoring. 

And sure enough roughly a minute later a small green dot at the corner of his ceiling, close to his equally plain white door flashed on.

A vibration shook through the boys hand, resonating from the small one-way mobile phone. The boy knew what it was, he didn't need to read the text to know what it was going to say. But, he thought, they'd know if I didn't, and if I don't read it, the texts won't stop coming.

He flipped the phone on, the light burning his eyes before they had time to adjust, and he read the text.

"To Thomas Briar, No. 352/JJ. You have refused to watch your full quota for tonight. A total of 68 minutes and 36 seconds will be added to tomorrow's schedule. Tomorrow's viewing will last for 248 minutes and 36 seconds. This is your first warning. Monitoring will last for 72 hours commencing at 8:47pm today."

"Shit," he said, throwing his phone down onto the thick carpeted floor bellow, forgetting about the camera that was now watching his every move. 

Now with the peace he wanted, he had time to himself to lay in bed and think about his Grandpa. A man he hadn't met many times, but whom he found more of a connection with than anyone else. 

With these thoughts, Tom fell asleep. 

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