Your Early Morning Freewrite
There was no way into Bentham’s room. No one had a key. There was no secret door or code. Not a soul knew where it even was or that it even existed. Bentham was to themselves, and was not to everyone else. A sympathetic person would wonder if they were lonely but, they would be wrong. Why? By their assumption that Bentham was human.
That was the point though, putting the finger on the weaknesses of mankind. Sympathy, narcissism, solitude, all the things mankind is born shackled with and grapples with till their death (another anxiety), Bentham, in its hidden ways, provided a service of connectivity for the world writ large. The country (like the world) as being like the individual, but much larger and easier to examine in Bentham’s mind.
For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
Bentham knew this. They were designed to exploit this face, the opposite reaction being not a surprise to them because they were never surprised. If they could though, Bentham, hypothetically, would be amazed at how willing they were willing to give freedom up for the sake of a false sense of comfort.
Newton has yet to be proved wrong.
Bentham’s room — it could have been anything really: a Starbucks, Target, fake hotel or apartment always under construction, a gas station, or your small mom and pop shop — was positioned in the center of every city in America. Why? Sinister interest. At least, that is what Willey Boetie believed.
Willey was the top of his class at MIT specializing in computer engineering. His mother and father were child psychologists. Of course, that made him a child psychologist by proxy. Before he ever attended MIT, high school, or even grade school, he saw patterns in nature and thus, us. There was a code of conduct woven between the moralities of skin and soul that, every day, was slowly being integrated into the exponential uptick of technology. Kurzweil gave a date but from the perspective of a machine, dates and times were irrelevant. An update was, or it wasn’t.
There was no remincining of what one once was if dealing with decimals.
“You need to understand that Bentham was made solely for the vested interests of the powerful conspiring against a wider public interest at large,” Willey pleaded every night to the only bartender that would listen to him. “You must feel it, don’t you? You must…”
Jim, the bartender, his face slack, his eyes vacant, his soul reformed, took Willey’s favorite bourbon from the rack and readied him a double in a low-ball. He wore a loose-fitting vest around his gaunt stomach. All Jim knew was what was in front of his face. He didn’t believe in ghosts, in conspiracy theories, in the government secretly watching behind the tiny cameras on everyone’s laptops. Jim couldn’t see it. To him, seeing was believing. People could talk all they wanted at him (hell, it was a bar) but no one was ever going to convince him of anything Jim couldn’t rest his eyes on.
“You’re always talking to me about this Bentham,” Jim groaned, “But you never bring him in.”
“Him?” Willey gasped. “Who said it was him?”
Jim stared as the dark amber liquid clashed against the ice cubes. In that violence, they felt an obligation, but for what, the bartender didn’t know. He was blissfully ignorant and complacent, yet somewhere inside of him, they thought they heard screaming. Willey took his glass.
“Bentham isn’t a someone,” explained Willey. “It’s a machine.” He brought out a large black notebook and dropped it on the bar. “Let me show you what I’ve been working on…”
The bartender waved him away. “I got drinkers that need to get drunk, Willey. I don’t have time for your research. Call me over when you need another.”
Disheartened but never defeated, Willey was struck by a vision after hearing someone say beside him, “Al’s seeing.”
Bentham is circular, Willey wrote, An iron cage, but it could be anything, glazed, hard, stone, brick, it doesn’t matter, whatever convinces the eye — a glass eye of unknown size. Then, the Prisoners in their Cells, occupying the Circumference — Bentham the Center. By Blinds, and other contrivances, the Inspectors or software are concealed from the observation of the Prisoners: hence the sentiment of a sort of invisible omnipresence. The whole circuit reviewable with little or, if necessary, without any change of place. Bentham does not have to move, be seen, or make their full presence known because no one asks.
The head of Willey’s pen suddenly broke from the pressure. Ink spilled over his words. As he thrashed, grabbing napkins and what not to clean up what he could, he noticed a young couple snickering, filming him on their phones.
“Stop that!” Willey shouted, gathering his things and springing up to his feet.
As he fled out the door with the couple laughing, a bowed, hangnail shadowy figure slid from a booth and followed.
“You seem invested in this little game you’re playing,” the figure whispered to Willey before he turned down an alleyway.
Willey jolted and nearly jumped into the street.
“Who are you?” Willey murmured. “Were you listening to me?”
“Listening, watching, observing,” the figure said. “Keep pulling on the string. There’s a whole ball of yarn on the other end.”
The figure glided past Willey and into the alley, dissolving into the darkness of night. There was no shape to the figure, just a pixilated, shifting form. Willey hesitated to follow them and within that moment, whoever they were, vanished into the coming fog.
Willey was about to go inside to tell Jim about the figure, when he nearly crushed a thin key card on the ground. He quickly picked it up. Moving it toward the light, he saw it belonged to someone named Shani who, Willey couldn’t believe, worked at Target.
“Target?” Willey whispered. “Could Bentham be there?”
Mitchell Duran is a writer of fiction, poetry, and non-fiction. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University. He has been published in Black Horse Review, Drunk Monkey, The Millions, BrokeAssStuart, and more. He lives in San Francisco, California. Find more work at Mitchellduran.com