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Series No. 02

The Old Guys Sleep Tonight.



On the other side of Tokyo bay, or a bit off from that to be precise, bunch of old guys (tend to go to bed early) were already fast asleep in their cells (but then, about 20 of them may simply be dead, but oh well, no one will find them for another couple of days anyway,) with just the staircases brightly and meaninglessly lit. Within the usual scorching heat, no signs of human activity. Just the numerous air conditioners with their low frequency hum, creating a dull moan that shakes the whole city.

These days, night and day are crystal clear cut around here. Evenings, the old guys watch TV in their cells. In the night, they sleep. In the daytime, they watch TV, converting food into wasted energy and excrement. No one cares to be productive or anything. When they get bored, they look out the window. What they see there is the same old cell city continuing forever. Or maybe they care to watch the vehicles on the transportation artery, reminiscing perhaps the value creating activity that they too used to be engaged in. But in an hour or so, they get bored with that, and goes back to the TV.

And in the early hours of the morning, and only then, they come out and hang around, in flocks, watching stuff with their unfocused glassy eyes, without actually seeing anything. They just watch. Stare. Gaze. What's there to be watched, what ever moves are watched. Even us. Before you know it, all around, as far as the eyes can see, every single one of these old guys are staring at you, with those huge storage tanks and communication towers and road works (beyond there is another cell city) in the back ground, or from the windows of their cells. Expressionless. Emotionless. Scary. But they only watch. Do nothing. They don't even seem to remember what they saw. A Kyrgis guy was killed here. Many of these people must have watched it happen. No witness turned up.

Many people just keep watching TV, though. They hardly ever get bored with TV. The idea of getting bored with TV is simply not thinkable for many of them. Research on human response against visual stimulus have come a long way, thanks to Hollywood movies, MTV, Japanese animation and mangas of the last century. Almost every desire and emotion can be controlled by a combination of simple visual patterns. White triangles behind a slit. Cleavage. Wrinkles. Motion blurs. Raw color subtitles. Angle between the dashboard and the wound. Numbers. TV today looks like a fast forward history of abstract painting, or a long shot of the same landscape aired forever. When you are deranged enough to walk around these quarters during daytime, usually it's all quiet except for the Air conditioning hum, but once in a while, the whole area bursts into laughter. For exactly 10 seconds. And then they die out. Same TV, same channel, same time, same laugh. On the screen, just some subtitles.

But it's night now. The old guys sleep tonight.

And even in the morning, the city as usual just goes on and on and on and on, with numerous cells everywhere. A bit north along that artery, there's a new imported labor district, where the feel is decidedly different. But that's another story.

So it's all morning now. Temperature comes down a bit. TV hasn't started yet, so just wait and see. Soon, the old people will swarm the place. Hey look. The precious crop of youngs being treated with care, rounded up and raised, soon to become a virtual slave of the elders (and join them in the long run.) Over there. That place will soon be surrounded by numerous olds, exposed to numerous eyes.

Huh, she said. That sucks.

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YAMAGATA Hiroo (hiyori13@mailhost.net)