Iris Dusk, that’s my name and I’m a “plist” and have been for nearly five years. For you country folk and the wealthy set, a plist is what we city folk call people holding multiple jobs, you know, multiplists. Anyway, I’m just a 2.5 gal right now, which means I got 2 F/Ts, or full-time gigs, and a half time gig. I’d like to be a triple gal and I’m working on that, but so far, nothing’s landed.
It’s tough, you know, what with the recommendations and the employment checks they run, but I’m feeling pretty good about my chances of getting that third full-time gig. My CV is in with about a dozen headhunters and I got some feels already from some of them. You can tell the feels are out because your boss comes around and starts talking about you with the supers cuz the headhunters have come sniffing. This is of course a delicate time for a plist. The boss could drop you and that makes life harder, or he could hike your pay. For me, though, jobs one and two are okay and the third one is just a P/T gig so I should be able to move on from it pretty quick.
Getting that third job will actually be great, because I hate my half job. It’s a packer job and it’s brutal coming at the end of the day.
My first job is east, it’s a call center and I try to get folks to buy different things. I’m pretty sure most of what we sell is crap and every once in a while I land a dissatisfied customer on my call list, who lets me have it, but it’s an easy gig of just sitting and talking, data entry.
My middle job is a bit rougher. I maintain autos and I’m on my feet shift changing out lubricants and batteries. It’s a dirty job at times and I’m pretty sweaty but it pays the best of my gigs. The last one is the one I hate.
As a packer and I grab items from the bots and stuff them in boxes and ship them to folks, mostly like me who don’t have time to shop for anything so they order it delivered to their doorstep so they can grab and go. This job just takes it out of me, even though it’s just half time. You’re just on your feet all the time, bending, pulling, lifting and boxing.
I’m on my way to that gig now, but I’m going to need fuel. So I drop into the street counter between the garage and the Get-It-Now warehouse. I hit my usual button and the server, like one of them pro ball players making a no-look pass pulls a tray from the kitchen window and slings it so the burger, fries and pickle slide right in front of me. She’s doing something on her phone, so she’s probably working two jobs at once. Much respect to her. My power shake is the next thing she slides to me.
Anyway, I cram the burger in my face like I have countless other times, and then shove some the fries in after and wash the lingering elements of the meal down with the shake. I scan my mobe and give the lady a tip and I’m trotting back into the stream of other plists on their way to the night shift.
“Iris!” the supervisor calls out as I register my mobe on the time clock. “Iris you got the Tykes today.”
I start swearing as I walk toward the Tyke-side of the warehouse about how I already done three shifts in there this week.
“Yeah, and you’re the only one that hasn’t screwed up in there, so boss wants you in there,” the supervisor says.
I’m not sure of the supervisor’s name, because we get a new supervisor about every other week as they get promoted or fired. This one has been here for almost two weeks, so maybe I should figure out who he is.
I’ve been calling him “boss” and “Buddy” and he seems okay with either of them.
The Tyke side of the warehouse is for rich folks, you know, tycoons. Here are the big and expensive items and you gotta not only move fast but be clean and neat. Which is hard to do coming from a garage.
I wonder as I strip out of my garage jumpsuit to work in my boxers and undershirt if the the bosses are sabotaging me cuz of the headhunters. Because if I do poorly, get a discipline letter, then I can kiss any decent third job goodbye and maybe even lose one of my other jobs. I put my steel-toes back on and slip on the latex gloves they give you to help keep things clean and then I grab my first Tyke order.
“Just four hours, Iris. You can do it,” I tell myself.
It goes quickly and I fill a ton of orders. There’s towels for one place up state. A freaking kids bicycle I had to assemble, lots of orders for tech of all types. A damn heavy bathtub, which for a little person like myself, is hard to move, but I get it done.
I finish my last pack and I realize I probably had a record fill day for me. I peel off the gloves and notice the thumb on one of them is ripped. I examine my thumb. It looks clean, so probably all right. Too tired to be scared anyway. I clock out and get back into my overalls.
I gotta grab some sleep but won’t have time to get home. Buses don’t run this late and the subway is too far away to get to in time. So I head to a sleep shop around the corner. It’s a no frills place. Just drawers and you gotta set your own alarm because if you go over your allotted time, they charge you double and this place, like al the rest of them uses faulty alarms.
I get a drawer and jump in. I can get three hours and still have an hour to kill before first shift. I close my eyes.
A siren goes off and the drawer slides open.
I snap awake like I always do and sit up. There’s the attendant and he’s not pleased.
“What’s going on?”
“We don’t serve the terminated,” he says with loathing. “Get out.”
“I’m not inert, I’m a 2.5 gal,” I protest.
“Not any more,” he says and smiles. He’s missing a few of his uppers.
I get out of the drawer and I pull out my mobe and sure enough, I see the three red notices in messages.
I got termed from all three almost instantaneously.
The attendant starts pushing me out and I let him while I scroll through my messages. Yep, there it is, the head hunters were dumping me, too.
I’m outside now and it’s cold and still a couple hours before sun. I scan the messages from my employers. Call center termed for questionable character. Garage, termed for unreliable character and finally, the warehouse. Yep, it was the warehouse that did me in. Termed for pollutant to Tyke order, a Class 1 violation at that job and therefore immediate termination. I see what happened. My building’s super, a guy named Hock told me about stuff like this.
One job likes you, but not enough to raise you up, so they keep you down by slamming you with work and then terminating you with a Class 1. That triggers other employers to drop you because if they keep you, it affects their service ratings with customers. But the rub here is that the one that termed you for the Class 1 really wants you to be dependent on them so they offer you your old job back for a probationary period. And, because they’re your only option, you take it.
I had been skeptical of this when Hock told me about it. It had never happened to me before, but sure enough, it was clear as the termination notices this exactly what Get-It-Today did to me. And now they were offering me my job back at a penalty rate. That’s a rate where for every mistake you make, you lose a percent of your pay. And if you make it through the probation period, they give you your old wage back.
It sucks because now that I’ve been termed by three employers and got that Class 1 deficiency, I can’t get the good gigs. It’s like being new off the bus.
The wind whistles down the street between the buildings and some people spring across the street trying to goldbrick it at another job while at lunch. I look at my mobe again and tap out I accept to the offer from Get-It-Today. They want me full-time but I got six full hours before I start.
That’s six hours to try and leverage out a new job and get off the probation at Get-It-Today. I sigh. I was so close. Oh well, gotta keep hustling.
I jog down the street and finally hit the subway. I got credit to ride the tubes and my place is right on top of a station and if I’m lucky, they haven’t changed the locks on me.
Thankfully, my building’s super is super lazy. He’s only got the one job and he’s only 72 years old. He’s a real talker, you know, the kinda guy that never shuts up while he’s doing stuff. He’s also a story teller I guess. Said back in the day, his dad grew up and his folks only worked one job each. Must have been a Tyke, I said at the time, but he said his dad’s family wasn’t rich at all. That they were workers just like us, just one job.
Sounded lazy, but I didn’t say anything at the time. I mean, how do you expect to make it big, make the big dough like that. You gotta hustle. I don’t know exactly how Hock has just the one job, but maybe it’s because he’s all alone in the world. No wife, no kid. He says his partner left him because he refused to work more than one job.
Well, sometimes you get paid by the lazy, they say. Thankfully, Hock has not changed my lock and my mobe opens the door.
I entered my flat. Sighed and set the alarm, 22 minutes. That’s all I had time for. The clock would be ticking on me to get another job, or Get-It-Today would own me for three months. The probation period That’s a set back I can’t afford.
I closed my eyes and the nap was over in a blink.
Now I had to find the work. I scanned the jobs I kept up on but quickly realized with this Class 1 I’d have to start over. I was heading towards being stuck when I heard someone knock on the door.
“Hock?” I called out.
“Yeah,” he responded.
“Well, come in, you know I’m about done.”
Hock swung open the door. He was almost emaciated and his white curly hair glowed in the interior lights. You would expect a guy like him to shuffle around, like the other old-timers, but he had a bounce in his step.
“Well, I see they got ya,” Hock said.
“Yup, but I’m working to get out of it. I’m gonna go get another job. Maybe start over, I guess. Better than letting them get one over you.”
“They got more than just one over on you kiddo. They own you, like they own everyone else. I been trying to tell ya.”
Hock is the only guy I let call me, kiddo. He’s so old I don’t know that he remembers my name, so I cut him a break.
“Hock, don’t start on me again. You might have lost faith, but I’m sure I’m gonna make it. Others have.”
“Yup, just enough to keep the herd thinking like you. But those that make it, they get chosen. They get ‘mentors’ they get a hand up, even if they don’t recognize it immediately. Somebody funds then. Somebody likes them and gives ‘em a promotion, sometimes whether they earned it or not.”
“And now, you know what they’re’ doing to all you folks who call yourselves plists. They got your competing for jobs against each other which means they don’t got to pay. They can get rid of you at any time. And they all cooperate. Sometimes they don’t even know they are cooperating. You know, they asked me to change your locks. But I figured I’d give you some time.”
I know I should have thanked him for this, but I also felt a deep sense of disappointment in him for not doing his job so I said nothing.
“So where you looking, kid?”
“Oh, I got some experience at the docks, maybe there.”
“Need a clean history. You got another ID?”
“Of course not.”
“Hmm. You know, I heard about a guy who is hiring for a special gig. It’s a bit time consuming, he says. So you can only work that one job.”
I raised an eyebrow at him. “Sounds like a scam.”
“No, not a scam, though it might be dangerous. You want the info?”
“Sure, got nothing else, where is it?”
“The Old Market.”
“Oh, no way. That’s all scary stuff down there. They do some weird experimental stuff on people and animals.”
“Today’s weirdo is tomorrow’s Tyke,” Hock said repeating the old mantra.
I admitted the truth of this and got the details on the job from Hock.
“Now, if you don’t mind, I’d like a bit of sleep.”
“Sure, kiddo,” Hock said and left my room.
I got up after a couple hours of rest. Been a while since I got that many winks in a row. I had slept in my clothes, it was the only way to do things, but I realized my kit was still dirty from the prior shifts so I slid out of it and pulled out fresh duds and slipped into those. I grabbed my mobe and off I went. Closing the door behind me, I wondered if Hock would get around to changing the locks, but I realized I didn’t have anything in there of real value so no loss if he did.
The subway didn’t shoot all the way to the Old Market District, so I had to up-ground it on a bus over there. When I got off the bus it was full morning. Light shown down into the big square which the two story brick trading house dominated on one end. Small stalls of various venders were set up in no particular pattern all over the place and plists, termed and even some Tykes walked among the stalls hunting bargains.
Hock said the guy I needed was actually in the trading house building in a corner room.
I walked up the short, but wide stone stairs and into the cool buildings. Lighting wasn’t great in inside but I figured out where I needed to go.
It was spooky in there. I heard some groans behind some of the doors I passed and screaming machinery behind the doors for few others.
One door flew open after I passed it.
I turned and saw a woman, about my age, with wild hair and even wilder eyes standing there. She just stared at me and I at her. Then she backed up into her room and slowly closed the door.
I stopped at the door marked A 28 and looked at it. A hand-drawn sign proclaimed, Egg Drop Ltd.
I didn’t want a food job. It’s the toughest gig to hold. Why would Hock send me to this. He didn’t say it was a food job. He just said they were looking for people with a brain and who liked to work.
Oh, well, you know what they say about the termed and choices. So I opened the door.
It was a surprisingly big room, but with not much in it. There was a foldable table with the matching foldable chair right next to the door and a couch and a coffee table at one end of the room. There were no decorations any where.
In the center of the room was a huge polished white, for lack of better description, egg. It was the size of a small car and looked completely solid. Around the egg was a tangle of corded wires that ran into a podium where a control box sat.
I couldn’t see anyone in the room, so I walked around the egg. There were four blue glowing ports indicating wireless connections near the bottom of the egg.
The door to the room swung open and I turned to see a young man wearing a lab coat with welders goggles dangling around his neck. He was carrying a bag of food and a drink.
“Hello there, are you here about the job?” he asked casually, like people just walk in to his room all the time.
“I think so.”
“Who sent you?”
“Oh, excellent. Well that’s fine. Let’s get started.”
“Don’t you want to scan my mobe. Get my CV?”
“No. Hock only would recommend you if you were good. So, are you in?”
“Well, what is the job?”
“ You’ll see. Let me start by way of introduction. I’m Thadeus Rule. I’m a scientist and I’m self-funded and this egg is going to change our world and the lives of millions.”
“And how’s it going to do that?” I asked walking around the egg.
“Are you familiar with time dilation?”
“If I say no, do I not get the job?”
Thadeus laughed. “Of course not. I need honesty. You’ll need to tell me what you know and what you don’t know for us to work together. But I gather the answer is no. So anyway, time dilation is at its core a difference in how we experience time in relation to a set of factors, such as velocity and or gravity. For example, if you were to jump on a rocket and travel at a high rate of speed you’d experience time passing more slowly than it does here on earth. Likewise, if you are near a stronger pull of gravity, time would slow down for you while it would be faster here on earth. You follow that?”
“I think so.”
“Okay, here’s the thing. You look like crap.”
“By that I mean you’re a typical plist. Not enough sleep, too much caffein and other stimulants to keep you up and working. But what if I found a way to get you eight hours of sleep every day in just one hour.”
“You’d be a scam artist or magician.”
“No, just a brilliant scientist. I think what this really calls for is a demonstration.”
Thadeus went to the control box for the egg and tapped a button. The egg made a hissing sound and it split open with the top of it lifting up and revealing a sort of nest like bed inside with a variety of electronics placed all around it.
“Get in,” he said.
“I don’t think so.”
“Look, if you want to work for me this will be better if you try it out so you understand what’s happening.”
“Well what’s going to happen? What do I do in there?”
“You’re going to pay me to sleep?”
“Just this one time.”
I admit my heart rate was up a bit as I looked into the egg. “What’s it pay?”
“Heavens, no it’s 20 per hour.”
My heart rate jumped a bit more, then settled down. “This isn’t weird stuff is it?” I was thinking of a friend I had who had contracted a job for a ridiculous sum who ended up in the hospital drugged out and never the same.
“Nothing weird. You’ll see.”
“We contract this?”
And he pulled out his own mobe and tapped it on mine. Instantly, my mobe recorded that I was employed at the rate of 20 per. I couldn’t believe it.
“Well, get in there.”
“You got it, Thadeus.” And in the egg I went for my first drop.
“Here’s what’s going to happen. I’m going to shut the egg. The lights will glow softly and you’ll feel and hear the airflow in the cabin. The lights will slowly dim and as they dim you will begin to feel the drop. Don’t worry, it’s supposed to feel that way. What I need you to do is set your mobe’s alarm for four hours. Ok.”
“You want me to sleep for four hours in this thing?”
“Yes I do.”
My heart rate was back up again. But then I thought about the jobs I had to look forward to with that Class 1 penalty and the years and hours of work it would take to recover to just the point where I had been and so I gambled. I laid down and got comfortable in the egg.
“Ok, let’s do this.”
The egg closed and everything was as he said it would be. The lights began to dim and I did feel this weird sensation of being dropped downward slowly but as I got lower and lower, I felt lighter and lighter. I closed my eyes and slept.
I snapped awake when my alarm went off. Wow, four whole hours of sleep. I felt good. Then the egg cracked open and the lid raised up and there was Thadeus.
“How do you feel?”
“Rested. So what did you do for four hours?”
“Only one hour.”
Thadeus held up his mobe displaying the time. I looked down at my mobe, which was four hours ahead, now.
“I don’t understand?”
“Here’s what happened. You slept for four hours in the egg while only one hour passed out here. Simply put, we manipulated velocity and gravity inside the egg to the point where you experience four hours of time while outside of the egg, only one hour passed. Time is faster inside the egg than outside it.”
“Yes, I think so.”
“So what do I do now?”
“Well, now you learn how to operate the board and monitor it and to fix any systems that go down. Then, we will be open for business next week. And the great thing about this is that you and I can get all this work done in 23 hour shifts and still get a good rest.”
I laughed. I couldn’t believe it. This was going to make a killing and so was I. And to think I owed it all to Hock, my lazy super.
A dystopian future with hopeful possibility at least for one “plist”. I liked the challenge of the “in medias res” technique of using future slang we’re not familiar with.
I was researching multiple job holders for another novel I’m working on and this just sort of came out. Iris was originally Irwin, but I got her wrong in the first draft and had to go back and change her to Iris. It happens that way sometimes. I also ended it there but the story could go on a couple different ways, like most things. Thanks for reading