Film: Total Recall
Time of death: 44 minutes, 11 seconds
The day starts quiet, the day starts slow. I wake from a blissful dream where I’m floating in space: space with oxygen and I can breathe. I’m weightless and smiling. My head is fizzing from the heat. The thermostat’s been broken since we moved in. My wife likes it hot. She says it reminds her of Malibu, where she grew up. I can hear Ella’s listening to some angry, thrashing guitar. This usually signals her mood change from teary and hateful to angry and hateful. I pull myself out of bed and head to the shower.
My wife is lounging in the bath. Her greatest luxury is to have a bath first thing in the morning. The frivolous trappings of a housewife. I smile at her, her two playful breasts are bobbing in and out of the suds. Don’t ruin the ravine between, I think to myself. She looks up at me, pausing the television and taking a swig of red wine. Frivolous. She barely looks at me. I ruin her luxury with my ablutions as I pee endlessly, loosening my morning dishevelment.
Then it dawns on me.
I’m on nights this week.
I’m too old for this shit.
Get your ass to Mars, they told me. You gotta get your ass to Mars, or you’ll get left behind. Jobs down in the ‘green’ were welling up. The airport securities union had been on strike for a few years, after scientists had developed Johnny cabs to work at departure gates. ‘More jobs for humans’, we said, and we striked. But we couldn’t survive on the lowly union subs we received. Food was expensive, air was expensive, my wife wanted a third breast implanted. Times were tough. So I got my ass to Mars.
My wife was the easiest sell – cosmetic surgery laws were more relaxed on Mars. My daughter refused to give me an easy time. She bawled, she screamed, she kicked and she refused to talk to me, right up until the removal men came round with their hovering tea crates and packed up our lives to relocate us to Mars. She looked at me as we loaded a box labelled ‘Ella’s dolls’ on to the truck and said, ‘Dad, I hate you for doing this to me. I hope you die.’ She was calm, understated, almost malevolent, like it would be by her hand.
I was too old for this shit.
I ask my wife what time it is and she tells me it’s 5 p.m., MMT. I smile and close my eyes as I let the lukewarm water of the shower shiver me as it hydrates my poor air-conditioned pores. I make a passive-aggressive comment about her using up all the hot water, again, and she makes a passive-aggressive comment about her boredom, and I make another passive-aggressive comment about our hateful daughter and she makes a passive-aggressive comment about her pocket money, and then we’re at 2–2, so we silently call it a draw. I slip into my uniform, crumpled on the floor where I left it a mere six hours ago. My limbs are wet with exhaustion, cold and I am unappreciative of the red glow outside our window.
Breakfast is dinner and I can afford myself a slice of last night’s pizza. Headphones in, I head for the transit train. I listen to some pastoral soundscapes inspired by Martian carvings, I flick through a paper from the ‘green’ from two days ago and my mind wanders around a lot. Reminders of war, famine, death, pestilence from the ‘green’ makes me feel better about this new life here. I think about sending my brother an email, telling him to ‘get his ass to Mars’.
I get a phone call about some new high-alert security protocols that have come down from the top. Some dick called Richter, a Cohaagen heavy, is throwing his balls about. There’s gotta be more to life at this. I’m too old for this shit, I think. I close my eyes and try to reimagine that feeling from my dream, that weightlessness. You can never replicate dreams in your waking closed eyes. They always seem forced. I’m trying to get off the phone with my section leader but he’s giving me the unnecessary details of protocol, i.e. the ones I already know. He has the ability of making everyone feel like a slacker. With his over-explaining and disregard for subtlety. So I’m trying to rush him off the phone, because call waiting is displaying my wife’s name and she doesn’t respond well to being kept waiting beyond the fourth ring.
‘Hello,’ I answer tentatively, knowing there’s no way she’s not going to be pissed off. She tells me that she’s withdrawn money from our account and she’s heading down to the green for two weeks.
‘Two weeks?’ I ask.
‘Two weeks . . .’ she responds.
She says she misses her family and wants to see them. But I know the real reason. She likes a particular brand of cereal and you can’t get it up here on Mars for love nor bribery. I know she’s going back to stock up. I know this because she tells me so. She’s so predictable. Maybe a third tit will make her nicer, I wonder idly to myself, then panic I’ve said it out loud during a quiet bit in our conversation. I feel like the whole transit train is looking at me so I end the call. Two weeks. Two weeks. Two weeks of bliss. Two weeks of … mmmm … I could head out into town, check out the strip bars, see some real three-breasted girls, see what the fuss is all about. I could stay at home and try and find my daughter’s diary, see what the little shit’s problem is. I could do anything I want.
At the security entrance for work, Winston looks up at me and says I look like hell. I complain about working nights and he laughs knowingly. He buzzes me in. The locker room is empty. Maybe we really are on high alert. I’m putting my music player and lunch in my locker when my pain-in-the-ass boss bursts in, screams at me for being late (I’m not – I’m always fifteen minutes early for my shift) and orders me to my post. This guy coming in, Quaid, he’s dangerous, I’m told. Richter wants him alive. I snort and take my sweet-ass time locking my stuff up.
My boss’s walkie talkie crackles. There’s a new shuttle just disembarking and Harry’s on lunch. He looks at me and I complain that I’ve still got ten minutes of me-time. I’m off the clock. He calls me all sorts of names and threatens to fire me. Richter must be leaning on him. I shrug and head to my post, not before laughing about it in the toilets with Winston. Winston hates everyone.
I’m at my post, with my boss and Leonard, who never washes his uniform, and we’re watching everyone come through. It’s Leonard who picks out the redheaded lady with the yellow coat, but it’s all three of us who express surprise as her robot head comes off. We really didn’t see that coming.
My boss, star outfielder in our softball team, is the one who catches the head.
‘Get ready for a surprise . . .’, it says smugly.
I close my eyes, pretending I’m floating in space.