Aphelion Issue 293, Volume 28
September 2023
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The Man Who Turned Himself Off

by Dave Weaver

"Said my baby likes it when I do that, do that thang, says she likes it when I..."

The jagged words of the rap song hack-sawed through his consciousness. Findley tried to block them out, tried to concentrate on the report he was writing for Jenkins, the report his boss needed on his desk by two for his meeting, the report that he still couldn't get the latest figures for because Tigwell from Accounts kept blocking his calls and the site was down anyway and, and, oh god, he'd be in the shit this time, this time was his last chance, the other's were just warnings but this time... What would he tell Judith, what would he do if...?

"Said my baby likes it when I do that, do that thang, says she likes it when I..."

Findley stood up slowly from his desk and walked into the corridor. The radio sat perched halfway up the painter's ladder. "Excuse me, would you mind..."

The man ignored him. Findley reached out a shaking hand to it.

The guy looked down, his brush dripping cream paint in spatters on the plastic sheeting. "I wouldn't do that mate. We got permission from management."

Findley did it anyway. Slowly he turned the plastic dial until the din vanished and there was nothing but static. It felt good doing it, empowering. The static calmed him. He wouldn't have done something like that before today, but today was suddenly different from all the other days. It was as if a mist had finally cleared before him and he could see his way at last. He walked back to his office as the decorator shouted abuse and re-tuned to the rapper. Somehow Findley couldn't hear it anymore.

He typed a last line on the report and took it to Jenkins. Jenkins read it without speaking until that final line. He looked up at Findley, his expression perplexed.

"Where's the rest of it, the latest figures I asked you to get?"The expression hardened to anger. Findley felt the familiar sickening clutch of panic in his stomach. "What does this last sentence mean?"Jenkins flapped the paper like a handkerchief waving him farewell. "It's just a row of bloody figures from ten to zero. What the fuck are you playing at Findley? You've been warned about this..."

In his head Findley raised a hand to a small plastic dial. He turned it anti-clockwise and Jenkins' voice faded away until only a scratchy static was left. He began to feel calm again as his boss' face reddened; the man rose from his desk to wag a finger but Findley didn't care anymore. When the static had reached a pleasantly modulated pitch he turned and walked away towards the car park.

"Why are you home half way through the afternoon?"He couldn't find words to answer his wife.

"Oh my God, not again! You haven't let it happen to you again have you?"

As Judith continued Findley noticed that she'd had her hair done. It was some kind of frothy perm that didn't suit her. It must have been quite expensive. She had on the two piece suit she'd worn to her friend Terry's wedding that summer. Terry's new husband was a bank manager, his wife had told him that again and again. She always dressed up when she went to the hairdressers with her girlfriends. She hadn't worn the two-piece again until today though. It made her look a bit fat to be honest. He hadn't mentioned that before she went to the wedding. Some husbands would have done.

As she began to jab him in the chest he reached for the little plastic dial. When the static had reached a pleasantly modulated pitch Findley turned and walked upstairs to lie down on their double bed. He got up a little later to pull the curtains shut and noticed his wife was in the room with him, her mouth opening and closing like a goldfish, the finger still jabbing at air. He couldn't make her go away so he lay down again and closed his eyes. A while later he was alone. Then he heard the front door slam. That broke up the static for a few moments, shaping it into spiky shards, but he soon had it straightened out to a nice rhythmic pulse again; like water. He imagined a sparkling river at sunset lapping over rocks, a gentle breeze through the trees and the cry of a kingfisher. He was the only one there to hear it.

Findley slept. He awoke into darkness and slept again. It might have been day the next time he opened his eyes, it was difficult to tell without getting out of bed. His stomach felt knotted up but he used the dial to tune the hunger away. Now it just felt empty. He liked that feeling. It had a certain purity to it, a sense of being unencumbered. He wanted his head to feel like that as well. There was a lot of stuff in there that he didn't need. Next to the plastic dial he found a square button marked 'delete'. He reached a finger to push it and immediately felt more space around him. He pushed again then kept on pushing.

The room was full of people when next he awoke. He tuned their babbling voices away as they strapped him to a stretcher and tilted him down the stairs. There was a flash of neighbours' faces then he was being jolted in an ambulance. He knew it was an ambulance because that was the label his mind gave it. The word annoyed him though; it was clumsy and ugly. So he deleted that too.

Findley sat in a chair in front of a row of people around a long table with jugs of water on it. They opened their mouths to silently read from plastic files of paper. They glanced up at him then nodded at each other. Findley was taken away and put in a small room with a bed and a cupboard and a chest of drawers. After a while these things began to get in his way though. Their names took up space in his head so he deleted the names, then he deleted the things as well. That was better.

The white room they put him in was very soft. He liked that. The man in the soft white room liked that. But the whiteness was still too... there.

The man reached to the plastic dial in his head and turned it until the whiteness had shrunk to just a dot. Then he turned it again.



© 2011 Dave Weaver

Bio: Dave Weaver is a graphic designer living in St Albans. He is a member of the Verulam Writer's Circle. Dave's 'Finding Uncle' short story was published in Hert's University's 'Visions' anthology. His most recent Aphelion appearance was Field Disruption, June / July 2011.

E-mail: Dave Weaver

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