“Sometimes it seems like whoever's arranging the soundtrack to my life is watching the wrong thing.”
“Do you really think that?” I looked up at Holly, my interest piqued. “I get that too. All the time. Currently the tune playing through my head’s some sort of endless Mariachi music. It’s been stuck on that for two weeks and it’s definitely getting old.” I closed my eyes and tuned into it for a moment, willing it to stop. Or at least change to another track. “What’ve you got?”
My friend frowned, listlessly stirring her cream into her coffee and looking nearly as tired as I felt. “I’ve currently got Billy Joel and ‘Uptown Girl,’” she began. “Although I’ve also had ‘River of Dreams’ for half the day. But it’s never complete tracks. Just random sections intermixed with Madonna’s ‘American Pie.’” She shot an agitated look up toward the metal ceiling where we all imagined the Playlisters lived. “The Madonna track’s a new addition today. But it’s never the verses; it’s always the choruses looping round and around all the time.”
“That must be awful. I thought I had it bad.”
We both shuddered, both thinking of how it used to be before the Governors decreed that mental sound-tracking would be a cool idea, suggesting it would reduce public dissatisfaction overnight. “Just like being a Hollywood film-star in a screenplay of your life.” That was the way they sold it to us. And we voted it in. Almost unanimously. Or at least that was what they told us.
That was three months ago and now everything had gone horribly wrong. Of course it hadn’t helped when the ‘Keep our Minds Quiet’ protesters had sabotaged the transmitter pylons, saying it was a way of introducing mind-control, but at least we’d had a regularly changing soundtrack all the time. Instead of this.
“So what can we do? Do you know anyone upstairs who can speak to a Playlister? You being a Government officer and all?”
I gave Holly a long measured look, then looked quickly around. “I shouldn’t say this,” I said, warily shaking my head. “But I’ve heard the Governors are organising an attack to seize control back. Some time real soon.”
There was a sudden muted thud and the table between us shuddered, the surface of Holly’s coffee rippling from the concussion.
And then the music stopped.
“Thank goodness for that!” Holly blew out a long breath, closed her eyes and slumped back into her chair. “Now what? Are we back to how we were before?”
“I’m not sure,” I said, counting out the seconds under my breath. “I think there’s an auto-restart sequence. It could come back in a few seconds. In three, two, one…”
The background carrier tone returned, swelling to full volume. One single high-pitched tone. Non-stop. Endlessly.