Monday is the new Friday
rating: +15+x

by LAN 2D


‘Breaktime.’ Funny word, isn’t it?

It was the word that reappeared in my mind every second of every minute of every day. I had thought of it so much that the word lost all meaning, becoming just a string of strange, nonsense sounds that bounced around my hollow skull.

“Please continue moving forward towards the breakroom.”



Sometimes, I remembered what it could mean. Not that I’d ever know from experience, but the occasional whispers of a better future seemed to contain that same meaning. A completely unattainable future, mind you.

“Anyone caught attempting to cut in line will be sent to the back.”



‘Time-off.’ This one’s interesting. Similarly, it’s comprised of two words, forced together to create a new one. Yet for some reason, those two words are connected by a singular line, as if they could be separated any second.

“Please continue moving forward towards the breakroom.”



There it was again. Nothing had changed - not the announcer’s tone of voice, nor the static feedback of the microphone. As always, the queue mindlessly shuffled forward. No one really thought they would get to the end; those that claimed they would were either stupid or delusional. I wondered where I was on that binary, perhaps both, perhaps neither. The fact that I had thought about it meant I must’ve been less so than others.

“Anyone caught attempting to cut in—”



I tuned out. No point listening to the same thing over and over and expecting something else to happen. The only difference in that endless line was who gave up and who continued. In some way, the choice to exit the queue took more courage than choosing to stay. Again, I moved forward.

Generally, I liked to think of myself as unique — special to some degree. I wasn’t saying I was the next Oznir, of course, but what else did I have besides my ego in that queue? A tall, stocky worker stood in front of me, what I assumed was a tall-ish, sturdy worker behind me. I also remember being described as ‘tall’ and a ‘worker’ sometime in the last century. See what I mean? I was in my own bubble, where the air inside was made of self-assured confidence. Without it, I would suffocate and most likely die.

I listened to the meaningless chatter coming from the workers who weren’t in the queue. I couldn’t hear the exact words, but I knew they were mundane. Forget what I said earlier. Imagine sitting defeated on the side of the road, watching lookalike workers pass by forever. That was a comforting thought; at least I was in the queue, at least I knew I was going somewhere.

“Hey, you!”

‘Me?’ I would’ve thought, if I had cared to listen.

“You, with the red hat.”

For the first time in however long, I made a movement that wasn’t shuffling forward — I turned. A person in standard worker uniform was sitting on the floor to my left, their hands behind their head and their legs crossed.

“Are you talking to me?”

“Yep. I don’t see anyone else with a hat around here.”

“Oh, yeah.” To be honest, I had forgotten I even owned a hat. “Sorry, what do you want?”

“Come out of the queue and I’ll tell you.”

“I can’t leave, I’ve been here too long.” Yeah, I couldn’t leave. After all, I wasn’t like them, I had principles.

“It’s always the same with you people, sunk cost this, depression that. When are you gonna learn to accept that you’re stuck here and there’s nothing you can do about it?”

“No need to be rude.”

“Sorry. I thought you’d be different.”

I turned back to face the front; there was no point talking to this person. I knew everything they would say. Everyone here fell into the same stereotypes. I was the contemplative, wishful thinker, the annoyance on my left was most likely the insecure rebel. I just had to keep moving forward.

They let out a sigh. “Fine. What’s your name?”

I wasn’t going to answer. A feeble way of gaining power, I admit, but I had made up my mind I wouldn’t leave the queue.

I felt the worker behind me move, so I did the same. In my peripheral vision, I watched that worker on the side of the road, that failure of a failure of a person. They couldn’t even queue correctly. I shifted my attention to the worker in front; even by thinking about them I was giving them more thought than they deserved.

The speaker blared. Forward once more.

Though… what did they mean by ‘different’? Of course I was different. They said it themselves, I had a red hat. For a second, I stood on my tiptoes, peering over the near-infinite cascade of workers. Head after head poured down the valley, continuing for what seemed forever. Yes, that confirmed it, I was special, at least in one way.

Out of the corner of my eye, they stood up and walked towards me. I might as well talk to them, I had nothing to lose.

“Worker in the red hat. What is your name?”

They had asked me that before. Perhaps out of boredom, I tried to feign ignorance.

“I… I don’t remember, it’s been too long.”

“Oh please, stop being dramatic. You've only been in that queue three days.”

I made up a name: “Istva—”

“Actually I don’t want to know. It’s more fun that way.”

Again, the queue moved forward, so I copied.

“Come here a second, we’re moving.”

“And I’m not. If you want to talk to me you’re going to have to leave the queue.”

But I wasn’t going to leave the queue.

“Hmrng.” A groaning sound came from somewhere on their face. “I can tell you aren’t going to leave. Unless…”

It didn’t matter what they said — I wouldn’t be convinced. They couldn’t have chosen a more ineffective angle of persuasion.

“Remind me again, where does this queue lead?”

I was simply entertaining them, I could stop at any time. “The breakroom.”

“Have you ever been there?”

“…”

“I thought not.” They walked forward until they were parallel with me. “I have. It’s not worth going.”

“This line doesn’t exist for no reason.”

“You’re right, there is a reason — it’s just a foolish one. How many people lining up right now do you think have made it to the end?

“I don’t like to think about it.”

I wasn’t lying. Thinking about the workers who managed to weasel their way into the breakroom made my vision blur. They had only made it there because their superiors let them out before the rest of us. If I had designed this world, I would reward those that deserved reward and punish those who tried to make it above everyone else through pure luck and desperation. But I hadn’t designed this world, the Company had.

“Of course not. And how many years have you supposedly missed your opportunity? How many years have you stood by, passive to the reality of your situation? Are you listening? You’ll never be one of those people.”

“You don’t know anything. The chances are the same for every worker, I don’t even know what you’re trying to achieve by talking to me.”

“The same as everyone else.”

“Oh yeah? What’s ‘everyone else’ trying to achieve?”

“An escape from this place.”

“What kind of answer is that? You can’t escape from a place that doesn’t hav—.”

“No no. I don’t mean literal escape. I’ve seen you do it. I know your type. You retreat into your mind, coming up with all kinds of excuses to make the world seem more interesting.”

“That’s not…” I couldn’t fool myself. “…what’s your type then?”

A smirk formed, “I have my own methods. Come out of the queue and I’ll tell you.”

I looked down. I wasn’t going to leave the queue.

“I can get you to the breakroom if you want.”

I cast my eyes upwards and stared at the worker.

“Nice try. It’s not happening.”

They sighed once more. “This isn’t going anywhere. I know, I’ll just prove it to you. Once you’re convinced, feel free to leave your self-imposed prison.”

I was surprised by their assertiveness, but not enough to change the neutral expression I prided myself on keeping.

“Give me your hat. I need it.”

I hesitated, then removed the hat from my head and handed it to them. My hair was immediately exposed to a slight breeze, perhaps caused by the millions of exhaling workers behind me.

“Cheers,” they said as they donned the red cap. The front had a gold embroidery with the Company’s name spelt out in large letters. Good riddance.

“I’m gonna do something. When I do, I want you to fill the gap.”

“What?”

A shake of the head. “You’ll know what I mean.”

They moved closer, taking large strides as if measuring the perfect distance. Larger steps now; almost running towards me.

I had to shout, they were going to hit me. “Wait what are you—”

I closed my eyes and braced for impact.



But none came.

I slowly opened them. The worker who had previously occupied the space in front of me was lying sprawled on the ground to my right. Their face and torso were covered in red clay dust from falling on the earth. Fortunately, they were uninjured, but that didn’t explain why they were pushed down— Oh. We looked at each other, unmoving. Shit. They rushed upwards, clambering towards the queue and I was suddenly aware of the worker’s words. Close the gap. Somehow, they were already on their feet, soon to be reunited with the line. I barely had time to react.

“Hold on—”

But it was too late. All it took was a step forward and I had severed the connection. Whatever feelings they had about their place in the queue, whatever thoughts, stewing for day after day and year after year, were now purposeless. I felt a pang of regret, but the feeling of power that came after far outweighed it. I had subsumed them, their whole identity reduced to nothing. There they were, standing, shell-shocked, mouth-agape. But what came next? On my hypothetical throne, I forgot the reason I was even here.

Ah— the worker. The one on the left of the queue. The one with the red hat.

“Oooof,” they breathed out. “I almost fell on the wrong side, and you almost lost your place.”

“What now?”

“You ask too many questions for someone that refuses to act.”

“…”

“Hmm. Now, we simply wait.”

They were looking directly past me, so I turned my attention to my right. The worker had started panicking, pacing back and forth, rubbing their hair. As the queue mindlessly shuffled, they walked in parallel. I felt no sympathy for them. They had no more right to be in the line than the next worker. Like them, I was but a victim of circumstance, pummeled by punishment after punishment, never to be given any sanctity, never to expect any either.

But of course, in the moment, no individual could accept such a thing. Over the next few minutes, I watched them devolve into desperation. First pacing, then fruitless bargaining with members of the queue.

Red hat piped up from my left: “Ay, no cutting in line.”

They stopped for a second; I could practically hear their brain working in overdrive. After doing mundane tasks for millennia, who could blame them? They raised their eyebrows; they realised the solution was what started their problem. They spun, and charged at the queue head first.

The line exploded. Like a tear in a muscle, the workers desperately tried to repair it. They scrambled towards the queue, but all the while, the perpetrator continued to blast the line with holes. A cycle of chaos ensued, consisting of a slam into the line, a stumble, then repeat. They had forgotten their original intention — to renew their place in the queue — and were now actively working against it.

The original instigator hung back, watching the carnage. The one in the red hat. Interesting how my perception of them had changed since giving them it. I could see why they chose me to talk to; even the slightest difference in clothing made them stand out.

By now, the rip had spread, moving forward along the queue like a line of falling dominoes. Other workers soon realised that it was impossible to regain order, and so they started to resent it. The queue was no longer split into those in it, and those out of it. There were now those that opposed the chaos, those causing it, the indifferent, and those that hadn’t realised yet. Both of the latter groups were decreasing drastically as the virus retraced its steps back up the line. Soon, I was flung into a frenzy; the mindless shuffling had become mindless violence. I tried to move, but I was stuck inside a crowd of workers. I couldn’t leave the queue.

“All workers please return to an orderly queue formation. Non-compliance will not be tolerated.”



The speaker blared from within the speaker tower. Whichever security member inhabited that post now had a full birds-eye-view of the conflict. It must’ve looked like a war between ants, our dull red uniforms writhing in the dull red clay. But like ants, we didn’t listen to the speaker — we could barely hear it over the shouting.

“All workers return to the queue immediately. Security will be called if non-compliance continues.”



An empty threat. A few workers dressed up in security outfits could do nothing against the raging horde occupying the valley. I had started to enjoy the mayhem. I exclaimed in gibberish, pushing people out of the way as I made my way down the valley. ‘Come at me,’ I thought in the direction of security. With red hat long forgotten I was absorbed into the growing disorder, a passive observer no longer.

Past a hundred workers, I saw a flash of green wearing a red hat. Had security been dispensed with red hats, or had they gotten their hands on a high-vis jacket? Fighting my way through the vibrating mass of workers, I found enough room to catch my breath and collect my thoughts. Security was on the ground, in the mess. No speaker announcements had happened for however long; the tower must’ve been unoccupied. My vision rested on the tower summit, shrouded within the haze. A green and red flit was scaling the wooden struts, soon coming to a rest at the top.

I suddenly became aware of their plan. This insanity wasn’t the end that they’d been pursuing, it was simply a distraction. A conflict on the ground meant a guardless tower, and that meant an unguarded speaker system.

They stood, a bright blur on an endless red background. The microphone was held up high above their head then brought to their mouth, as if they had conquered the world.

And then the speaker blared.

“Due to their inability to follow queueing instructions, all employees previously queueing for Breakroom 2737.D must immediately return to their duties.”



Not a soul moved.

“Non-compliance will not be tolerated. Remove yourself or security will do it for you.”



I commended them for the impression, but that tactic had already failed. Vague threats wouldn’t do.

A deep breath was heard over the speaker system, and this time, a soft voice came out.

“You have demonstrated a complete disregard for the Company’s interests, which, by definition, are your own. You are but a cog within a cog inside a machine larger than comprehension.”



Another breath.

“The Sovereign of this realm has been alerted. Do not fret, you will all be punished equally.”



And for a moment, there was silence.

‘I should’ve given red hat more credit,’ I thought, as the mob erupted. A fear-driven hysteria overcame every worker but me. Their impression was decent at best, yet it didn’t matter; the Sovereigns were mentioned. To us, they were whispers — Gods, whose purpose arose from consuming our permanent anguish and suffering. To them, we were nothing.

To invoke their name, even by offhand reference, was to strike a desperate, primal fear that ran through the blood of every worker. They were above the Company, they formed the very essence of our reality. And so, the workers fled like a storm, trampling each other in a rush to escape, in a final attempt to show their obedience. Most of the security members were collapsed on the ground, some injured, some unmoving, some with their heads caved in. They wouldn’t die though, not that it mattered.

I was alone now. An empty wasteland surrounded me, but even in the smog, the breakroom was in sight. I wandered down the valley, walking on the rudimentary path pressed into the ground by a million million footsteps. Thoughts of a worker with a hat were absent from my mind, I was focused on my one goal.

The walk felt solemn yet distanced, as if viewing the aftermath of something I hadn’t been there for. It didn’t matter though. I had been thinking that more often recently. The dismissal of my own thoughts and opinions as meaningless came naturally to me. But I was wrong. It did matter. Upon my path to what could’ve been the gates of Heaven, every step brought me closer to enlightenment, to the time that I had been looking for. I had waited years for this moment, I wouldn’t let it be dismissed that easily.

I hopped over the final member of security, their green jacket torn to shreds by the mob. Here it was. The door to a small, grey, windowless building. It was less than majestic, with scuff marks on the frame — but the metal knob still shone with light.

This humble door was the key to my salvation. The real escape.

I lay my hand on the doorknob and turned, witnessing the light shine through the crack.

‘It’s a wonderful word, breaktime,’ I thought to myself.

But perhaps I was just being dramatic.

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