David liked driving forklifts. He was the best forklift driver Constructech had. He never missed a pallet, and things alway got where they needed to go, in one piece. Working on the new SuperEnergy plant had been a particular treat for him. So many important and delicate pieces of equipment needed to be brought in, and David took care of them all. Not one one load was dropped, misplaced, or forgotten.
It was this fact, above all else, that had allowed David to keep his job after the new Awakeness tests came out. IQ was a thing of the past. Awakeness tested for a person’s awareness of themselves, and their surroundings. Construction companies now wouldn’t take anyone with an Awakeness lower than 85 points. Workplace accidents had dropped significantly.
As David lined up another pallet for pickup, George the foreman sauntered over to him. Ever since receiving his score of 107, George sauntered everywhere.
“Watching the plant activation tonight?” George asked, leaning against the side of the forklift.
“Wasn’t planning on it.”
George snorted like he wasn’t surprised. “You didn’t even know it was tonight, did you, Davey? It’s a revolutionary power plant that’s going to change everything. The whole world’s watching.”
David shrugged. He didn’t like being called ‘Davey’. “Won’t change that much. All I know is, they’re still going to need forklifts and people to drive them.”
George shook his head, giving a small snort of laughter. “Sure thing, Davey. That what you’re gonna do with the rest of your life? What was your score? 53?”
“Don’t see nuffin wrong with it.”
George chuckled again and patted the side of the forklift. “You have fun.”
* * *
Michelle added another line to her article, then flicked back to the live news feed that was covering the SuperEnergy power plant launch. She watched with fascination as a team of scientists explained the mechanism behind the revolutionary tech to a poised and polished reporter.
Finding the quote she was after, Michelle switched back to her article and kept typing, the rest of the interview still playing through her headphones.
A hand tapped her on the shoulder, causing her to start. Michelle pulled out her headphones and turned to Sarah, her coworker.
“Sorry, what was that?” Michelle asked.
“You’re watching those scientists blabbing about the power plant, aren’t you?” Sarah asked, nodding at Michelle’s screen. “Haven’t you seen that already? It’s been playing on repeat all week.”
“Yeah, but it’s still interesting,” she argued. She could tell Sarah wasn’t convinced. “This power plant is going to change everything. New, clean energy. Do you know what that means? We can stop destroying our environment, for one. And with the money we save on moving away from fossil fuels we can start making a real difference in other parts of the world.”
“Feeding starving children, yeah, yeah,” Sarah waved her down. “This is a magazine, I heard the PR speech.”
“It’s not just PR, this is something that could really help people. I’m thinking of asking for a transfer into World Issues. Don’t get me wrong, I love Tech reporting, but don’t you think it would be amazing to go to Africa or Asia and really see what a difference SuperEnergy makes?”
“You know you sound like an ad campaign, right?”
Michelle shook her head. “You just can’t see it,” she said quietly. Awakeness scores were meant to be private, between a person and their employer, but everyone seemed to know everyone else’s anyway. Sarah had scored 94, just enough to keep her in the media industry. Michelle’s score of 128, she knew, was one of the highest in the office.
“Look,” Sarah said, “I just wanted to ask if you have those figures for last month’s reports.”
“Sure.” Michelle pulled up the file and emailed it to Sarah, giving her a nod once it was sent. They weren’t supposed to judge others based on their scores, but Michelle couldn’t help but think that if Sarah had scored a little higher, she would be more open to the possibilities the power plant proposed.
Putting her headphones back in her ears, Michelle went back to her article.
* * *
Jack knocked back the whiskey, then tapped the bar top for another. His eyes drifted up to the large screen, hanging from the wall, that displayed the news on the countdown to the power plant’s activation that night. The only talk that could be heard in the bar was about the plant. It had drawn crowds greater, and more diverse, than any world cup final. Anyone who knew a thing about the world, or wanted to look like they did, had tuned in.
Everyone except Jack.
“Hitting those pretty heavy, aren’t ya?” the bartender said, pouring Jack another drink.
He took a swig of the dark liquid. “I doubt I’ll regret it in the morning.”
“Ya never know. Ya might feel different if you’re passed out on the floor before the plant goes live, and ya miss the biggest event of the century. You, know, they say this plant’s going to change everything.”
Jack gave a humourless laugh, staring into his drink. “Going to change everything? You know, you might actually be right about that.”
The bartender gave him the kind of smile teachers reserved for idiot children. “Well, world events ain’t everyone’s cup of tea.” He moved back along the bar, closer to the screen.
“What if I told you that your world event would end in disaster?” Jack said, taking another sip of his drink.
“Come again?” the bartender asked, returning to face him.
“The power plant. It’s going to fail.”
The bartender gave an awkward laugh. “Why would say a thing like that?”
“Because I’ve seen it.” Jack stared into his glass, now empty again. “I’ve seen everything.”
The bartender laughed again, his smile faltering when Jack didn’t join in. “They’ve tested it. All those scientists.”
“They missed something. They’ll switch it on and the core will collapse. The whole facility will detonate, and the fallout will cover half the country.”
The bartender watched him silently for a few moments before leaning over the bar. “Ya telling me this is some Awakeness thing? What was your score?”
Jack smiled coldly. It always came back to the score. He knew what he knew, and people had never believed him, now he had a number to wave around, and suddenly his words meant something. “212.”
The bartender backed away, his eyebrows drawing together in an expression that Jack had seen too many times when he told people his score. It was one part disbelief, one part awe, and just a little bit of fear.
“Should we run?”
“There’s really no point.”
“Why are you here?” the bartender asked, looking Jack up and down. “If you knew this was coming?”
Jack lifted his glass, looking through the bottom like it was a magnifying glass. The cut crystal broke up the world beyond into distorted chunks.
“I told you; I’ve seen it all. What the world becomes. What we become. Not everyone gets to pick the way they go. Might as well end with a bang.”
The official countdown began and giant numbers flashed up on the screen. Jack put his glass down and headed for the door.
“Where are ya going?” the bartender called.
Jack looked back over his shoulder only briefly. “To watch everything change.”
He stepped outside and climbed the fire escape to the roof. The city sprawled out around him, and at its edge, stood the power plant. Jack took a step up to the edge of the roof as the countdown hit zero.
He never saw the explosion. No one did. There was a city, and then there simply wasn’t. For the briefest moment, there was nothing. And then the fire came.
Challenge: A score – somewhat similar to the IQ – called “awakeness” has been established. It represents the general understading of oneself, others and what happens in the world. Write about something from three different perspectives: someone with low, medium, and someone with high awakeness level.