The way requires no action plan — things happen and paths are suggested. Forces at play are many, consequences incalculable. Who can say where a butterfly’s fluttering wings will reverberate or if a billionaire drone delivery king will pay to kill? Knowing is not necessary or possible. Just follow the way. Like water, go low.
In this spirit, I head for the Rainforest Roundtable, a themed meeting room in the Clubhouse. Candy Cane, my SKI teammate and the daughter of billionaire Big Daddy Cane, wants to meet. My MoreCorp not-boss has already ordered me to obey any command she may have, threatening form filing with MidCorp managers or worse if the girl's unhappy.
The door to the fake forest is painted a glossy textured green to look like moss. The handle is a brown plastic branch. Inside, birdsong and rainfall are piped in on discreet speakers. The small cube is covered in imi-ivy and redwood treetops are painted on the ceiling. But the perspective’s off and it’s as if we see the trees from above — I can’t tell if it’s quirky design or idiocy, a total failure to convey the view from inside a real forest.
Underneath an awning of artificial flora is a fake tree trunk table — a very old growth judging by the painted rings. I sit in a plastic tree stump like the seats Wolf and I rolled in from the woods across the creek to our cabin, deliberately keeping mind empty, waiting.
Finally Candy Cane rushes in wearing silken tektites and carrying devices, bags, boxed lunch. “Hey Ellipsis. My mani-pedi and zeni-beni therapy starts soon so let’s get going here!” She arranges her stuff on the table and puts her brown hair in a ponytail, emphasizing the wide face and shoulders. Sitting on a stump, organizing lunch — chopstix, N0 cal drink, cardboard bento of sushi in a dragon shape — Candy exclaims. “Oh no!”
I jump up, alarmed. “Oh no what?!”
She sadly inspects her meal, complaining, “I hate when they make these fat." She looks at the sushi in disgust and gets up as I, relieved, take my seat again. “Be right back.” After a few minutes Candy makes good on her promise, returning and slamming the door so that the soothing music skips to a storm setting (like the kind the west is waiting for, the kind that comes no more). Over the sound of pelting rain and booming thunder, she shouts, “DIDJA GET THAT THING I SENTCHA?”
“Yes. I did get that thing you sent me. But it was jumbled or something, gibberish.” She looks perplexed and I shout.“GOBBLEDYGOOK! NO GOOD.” Suddenly the music gets soft again. I switch to almost a whisper. “A sys-glitch or a tek issue, not you.”
“Yeah. No. Not me.”
“Maybe me,” I offer.
“Yeah. Probably.” Candy Cane flips open a device with one hand and types while using chopstix to eat with the other. She stuffs fat dragons in her thin lipped wide mouth, swigging N0 cals.
Have I misjudged her? She’s a master multi-tasker!
Candy addresses me again. “So sounds like you know no stuff so this sync already sux. So how about you fix the file and do knows prose and we’ll meet again soon. And make it great. Like my daddy says, ‘Put in your all and you’ll never fall!’”
“Ok, will do,” I reply, standing, poised for escape. “I’ll ping.”
It’s the end of the workday. Wolf and I leave MoreCorp, driving an hour from Silicon to UnCorp, which is another world, otherworldly, with its real forest. Worried, I say little during the ride. He asks what the meeting with Candy was about and I reply that it’s a mystery, as if joking. But I really don’t know, so it’s probably no laughing matter, not if people are really disappearing and the drone delivery king has something to do with it … which, come to think of it, why would he?
When we get home, I sit at the creek, reflecting. Far from everyone, from Silicon, the way suggests itself. Like water, flow, go to the lowest place. Bowed down then preserved. Bent then straight. Now more than ever I must be mindful, as a sloppy moment can easily kill a whole campaign and I no longer know what’s at stake. Maybe money, or nothing, or my life.
The next day, back at the Clubhouse, I check Candy’s mail again, inspecting the file she sent. Fine. Now I can see that it’s writing, sort of, and that knows prose — although one of The Arts Old eliminated from public education — is still a valuable skill. Or is it a liability? I guess I’ll find out soon enough.
Candy’s memo makes no sense but there’s no tek issue. It’s just her no-prose coupled with severe unkeyboardination, which is a common problem since the jet-black keyboard featured in the Colored Pills reboot vid became so popular. Now kool kids type with no key designations, limiting the comprehensibility of their communications enormously. For example:
PROCONPROP - v 11 - Hyoomen Musheens
We kreeayt. Musheen koading eluminayts junk 2 of 0 purrfek lyf hak. Bot wots peeple dewing? We cood Nooans. Granoolur endurstond. Dada peepul musheens. But we gut da beet. Dans difrd drumrs. Dats stori. Peepul. Aha! An ibrow.
I focus all my powers of concentration and interpretation on this brief work of genius until I discern words. It seems to be entitled Human Machines and I think what Candy means is that people tell stories, thus doing more nuanced text reduction than artificial intelligence, or machines … Unless I’m giving her too much credit, which Wolf says I do with human intelligence generally.
After redrafting I ping Candy. Soon her avatar flashes on my screen, responding. It’s an image of her in a tight red and white striped dress and thigh-highs, looking like a giant candy cane no one would lick if her daddy wasn’t a billionaire drone delivery king. She’s feeling cryptic.
CC: OOO not OOP
Candy then promptly sends a calendar invite, scheduling another sync for when she is not Working From Home or Out Of Office or Out Of Pocket — that is, not WFH, OOO, or OOP. WTF, right?
Anyway, we meet again soon. Rainforest Roundtable, round two. This time, Candy’s already in the imi-ivy confer-klatch waiting for me, a device displaying her draft on a screen on the woodsy wall. We nod in greeting. Today the speakers play hooting bird and wild beast calls and low rumbling thunder, which is strangely soothing. I settle into a stump, glance up at the treetop ceiling and then the wall screen, saying, “I liked your storytelling angle.”
Candy looks mystified, like I’m speaking Hebrew. She scrunches up her nose and replies, sounding just like her writing — totally amazing! — saying, “Let’s do something that advantage by more than vendor analysis hierarchical approaches. Right?” She looks nervous, searches my eyes, desperate, suddenly small.
That is when I finally realize. Holy smokes! It hits me so hard I almost topple off my plastic tree stump. Candy Cane keeps quiet to hide a severe case of I-don’t-get-it-ness! Like way worse than mine. Is that even possible? I coax her. “Just tell me a little more, so we can, like, massage the ideas a little.”
“I super heart massage!”
“Yes,” I encourage. “That’s good.”
“Yeah!” Candy is into it now, enthusiastic. “So stories are humans. Narrative nuance, y’know, so, like you said, or I said first and you fixed the words. And also people do dances to different drummers so people can do that?”
“Aha!” I pretend to understand by quoting her conclusion back to her. "An eyebrow."
She agrees. “Exactly!”
“First, you do more. After that I’ll handle it.”
“Ok,” I say, feeling as low as only the places water goes.
“Yeah, deep dive,” Candy advises. With that, she snaps shut device, collects goods from desk, and departs, saying, “Great talk.”
WTF! I sit, stunned, listening to thunder and parrots and screaming beasts, breathing deep. But soon my meditation is interrupted by the next duo scheduled to use the room. It’s Ampersand Matrix, my not-boss, meeting with Eclair Turner, the Team Liaison. I quickly rise. “Hey guys, just clearing out.”
Ampersand asks, “Everything ok?”
“Yeah,” I lie. “Everything’s awesome!”
“Awesome,” he repeats. “Really looking forward to seeing what you do with Candy. Oh and I’ve got something else to talk to you about.”
Now what? My heart stops. I freeze in the doorway, gripping the plastic branch handle, a dear deer caught in the headlights. Or is it a hunter’s sight? “Sure, of course,” I finally reply. “When?”
“Let’s sync up back here in just a few minutes. How about that,” Ampersand asks. “Sound good?”
“Great,” I say, dismayed. It seems there’s no escape from this fake forest of plastic trees. Not for me. Not for now.