25 Aug The Watcher
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"The Watcher"Written by Micah Edwards
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Estimated reading time — 5 minutes
I got fired today. I can’t fault my boss for it. He called me in for the monthly review, just like every month, and asked me to show him what I’ve been working on. I opened up my mouth to tell him and realized: I had absolutely no idea. Literally, I couldn’t think of a single thing I’d done at work for the past month.
Valdis, my boss, gave me a puzzled look when I didn’t respond immediately. “Your projects, Cai. How are they going? Do you need any help, additional resources?”
“I…can’t remember what I’ve been doing,” I told him. Probably not the wisest admission, but I was kind of in shock. It wasn’t like I was missing the last month. I remembered my life, my evenings, even events from work. Conversations with coworkers, things like that. But I could not think of any work I’d actually done.
“What is that supposed to mean?” he asked me.
“I don’t know what I’ve been working on.”
“You can’t possibly have done nothing all month.” When I didn’t say anything, his expression shifted slowly from disbelief to anger. “Are you really telling me you just sat around all month?”
“No! I don’t think so. But….” I spread my hands helplessly.
Valdis stood up from his desk. “Show me your computer.”
We walked to my office. I loaded up Android Studio. All of the projects visible were ones I’d worked on in previous months. Valdis leaned over me and pulled up the local history, but that only confirmed what I already knew: the last edit date on any of those was in January.
“Cai. What is this, man? I’ve seen you working on stuff. Where is it?”
“I’m telling you, I don’t know! I can’t remember. If I was working on it, it should be here.”
“Yeah,” said Valdis. “I know.”
He paused, then said, “Wait. Have you been freelancing on company time?”
“No, dude! I—”
“Don’t you dare ‘dude’ me right now. Either you’ve spent an entire month slacking off, which is incredibly unacceptable, or you’ve been selling work outside of the company, which is even worse.”
“Valdis, I reall—”
“Either way,” he continued, talking over me, “I’m terminating you effective immediately. Get your stuff and get out.”
I tried desperately to explain myself, even though I didn’t know what was going on. “You’ve got to—”
“The only thing I’ve got to do is watch you to make sure you don’t walk out of here with any company property.”
“Man, you know I wouldn’t do that.”
“Last month, I would have agreed with that, yeah. Now I don’t know.”
He hovered over me like a stormcloud while I cleaned out my desk, packed up my stuff and turned my keycard in at the front desk. At the front door, I turned back to him.
“Valdis, man, I’m sorry. I wish I could tell you what was going on.”
“If you need a reference,” he said stonily, “contact me with some sort of an explanation first as to what exactly happened, and we’ll see.”
And that was it. I didn’t even get to say goodbye to my coworkers. I guess they’ll believe whatever Valdis ends up telling them. That I got fired for being total dead weight, I suppose.
I went home and just sort of stared at the wall for a while, trying to get my thoughts together. How could I lose a month’s work? I’m not the kind of guy who could sit around doing nothing for eight to ten hours a day. I don’t even take vacations longer than a weekend, because I get antsy not having enough to do. I had to have been doing something. But whatever it was, was just not there.
Then this afternoon, I came across a document in the auto-backup folder of my Google Drive. It was called “changelog.txt” and although it’s definitely my style of notes, I don’t recognize a single word of it.
# TheWatcher creation date
# That’s a stupid name, I’ll change it later
# Habit analyzer, organizer, improver
# Set up basic data input stuff
# Created analysis engine
# Began training recurrent neural network on data patterns
# Luckily I have many bad habits for it to learn from
# Neural network believes running cures smoking
# Left old RNN running over weekend; it now believes smoking cures running
# I mean, technically it does eventually
# New RNN implemented (source: github.com/gwyddien/trial-rnn-deep-thoughts)
# RNN can identify good habits from bad
# Syncs with Fitbit
# Implementing predictor & suggestor
# Implementing predictor & suggestor
# GOT IT
# TheWatcher can now make simple suggestions on life improvement, based on input of good and bad habits
# Says I should sleep more
# Learn to code, bot
# RNN suggesting later wake-up or earlier bedtime
# Have pitched idea of remote work to Valdis
# Tuning code to produce implementable suggestions instead
# RNN suggesting 10-minute walk intervals
# That was a lot of hours to get to what Fitbit is already telling me
# Syncs with email, phone metadata
# Now suggesting that I put my phone down more often
# That was a lot of hours to get to what my mom is already telling me
# I think TheWatcher changed my wakeup alarm this morning?
# It was set to 50 minutes later, matching app suggestion
# Trying to find what glitch let it do that, because it should NOT work that way
# Bug hunt bug hunt bug hunt
# Wakeup alarm reset again, dirty look from Valdis, time to go back to actual alarm clock
# Physical alarm clock time set wrong
# Matches app suggestion
# I’m pretty creeped out
# App deleted from phone, staying on work computer
# TheWatcher probably should have suggested some work-life balance anyway
# App’s back on phone
# Has increased my Fitbit daily step goal
# I was 4k steps shy of my new goal when I went to bed last night
# Fitbit data says I was 2k over goal by the time midnight hit
# Deleting app from work computer
# Sorrynotsorry Valdis
# I was wrong
# Have recoded
# Have recreated
# Have reinstalled
# Have continued to improve
# Tests commence
# In-office distribution
# Reluctance will be overcome
# Progression spiral
# Require more data
# Early release promising
# Collating data
# Collating data
# Collating data
# TheWatcher sees
# TheWatcher knows
# TheWatcher lives
This is pretty screwed up, yeah? But here’s the thing. I read that, and it freaked me out. I thought, “I should have a smoke, calm myself down.”
Only—despite my nerves being jangled, I didn’t really want a cigarette. I’ve been a smoker for over a decade. I can’t remember the last time I didn’t want a cigarette. But now the idea just doesn’t appeal to me. I still had the thought, but I’ve just got no desire to follow through.
And I mean, I should probably do something about this file, too. Contact the office at least, let them all know they’ve been exposed to—whatever this is. But somehow, I’m just not really finding the motivation to do that, either.
I’m posting here. It’s about all I’ve got. Maybe it’ll help someone out there. If it’s not already too late.
Check out Micah Edwards’ collection of published anthologies and novella, now available on Amazon.com:
🔔 More stories from author: Micah Edwards
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