The Electric Man

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I flick switches and press buttons.

It’s a simple job, to say the least.

I sit in my chair, looking over my console, and when one of the lights turns on, I flick the switch beneath it. When the light turns off, I flick the switch back up. It’s such a simple job, anybody could do it.

And when I say anybody, I mean anybody. I never went to college. I dropped out of high school. To everybody I’ve ever known, I’m nothing. There isn’t a person on this planet who thinks I’m capable of any more than flicking switches and pressing buttons.

A light turns on. I flick a switch.

One of these days, I’m going to see a light turn on, but I’m not going to flick the switch. What then?

I didn’t care in elementary school, and my teachers said that it would hurt my future. I didn’t care in middle school, and my teachers said that it would hurt my future. I didn’t care in high school, so I dropped out.

The city can only generate so much power at a time. Each neighborhood, each skyscraper, each meaningless little building, needs a little share of the electricity. But if we let all of them use as much electricity as they want, there wouldn’t be enough power to go around. That’s where my job comes in. Each region of the city is represented on my console, represented by a stupid little light bulb.

There are two settings, low and high. By default, everything is set to low. If one region of the city starts using more power than it’s been provided, it needs to be set to high, and get a larger share of electricity. The region’s light turns on on my console, and I set that region to high by flicking a little switch.

A light turns on. I flick a switch.

It’s not instantaneous by any means. A building wakes up in the morning, and the employees turn on the lights in their offices. The electricity channels through, but maybe there isn’t enough. The lights are dimmer, the computers take longer to boot up, the microwave isn’t quite as powerful. My console tells me to send them more power, so I flick a switch. The lights get just a touch brighter. The computers pick up speed. But it isn’t enough that anybody would really notice if I were a bit slow.

And what if I didn’t flick the switch? What if the skyscrapers come to life, the suburban neighborhoods start their day, and I decided not to answer that tiny light on my console? At first, nothing would happen. But then as I wait, more and more power gets expended. Now it’s noticeable. The light bulbs are getting dimmer. Maybe something won’t even turn on. The region doesn’t have all of the power that it needs.

One of these days, I’ll let it happen. One of these days, I won’t flick that switch.

They said that I wouldn’t get anywhere. They’ve said it to me all of my life. But I didn’t care. I skipped classes. I ignored homework. I abandoned my pursuit of college. I got a job sitting in front of a console, flicking switches and pressing buttons.

They said that I was nothing.

They were wrong.

Here I sit, before the controls of an entire city. Here I sit, thousands of people within my command.

A light turns on. I flick a switch.

Maybe it will be tomorrow. Tomorrow, I’ll come to work and watch the lights turn on. I will not flick the switches. I won’t touch anything. I’ll wait for the city to come alive, and I won’t let it.

There’s more to this console than just the switches. Nobody told me about the other buttons, the plugs, or the cables. But I know what they do. If I unplug my console, I unplug light itself. Everything for miles would abruptly shut off. The city would cease to be.

And nobody could stop me. I could turn off the world.

They said that I was nothing! They said that I was nobody! Teachers, parents, acquaintances! They looked at me like I was a pitiful little boy, with no future, with no present. Then what am I now? Look at what I’ve become! My job, my nothing job of flicking switches and pressing buttons, is all of the control you’ve ever dreamt of. I own this city. I could pull a plug, and this place would crumble in my grasp.

A light turns on. I flick a switch.

Maybe it’s the last switch that I’ll flick. Maybe it’s the last little light that I’ll answer.

Now who’s nothing? You’re all nothing to me! I could destroy you! I could stop doing my job, and you would all be begging to me! You would beg to have your precious homes back, your precious jobs, your precious electricity! And I could say no. I could bring this city back two centuries if I wanted to!

I am the power. I am the power that turns the lights on in the morning. I am the power that keeps your tools alive. I am unstoppable. I am invincible. I am a god. You think that I’m nobody? You think that I’m pitiful!? You’re wrong. I am the force that controls the city. I could destroy you with a flick of a switch. If I were to disappear, if I chose to stop, the world would stop with me.

A light turns on. I flick a switch.

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