This is a story I wrote in 2017 about perception, called ‘Filter’.
Lucy walked into the body corp meeting full of optimism. She’d just asked a guy out, which was a monumental leap for her. It felt good to take control. And he said yes, so great! She had climbed the stairs two at a time despite having short legs, and the fact she was gasping for air at the top was unimportant. She thought she masked it quite well in fact, as she straightened her back and pinned her shoulders into a strong, cohesive and unified formation designed to project confidence and ease with oneself. Lucy picked a seat and went straight to it.
Sitting down, she noticed Dean scratching the web between his thumb and forefinger. It looked really itchy. She thought about the time she pitched a tent in North Queensland and didn’t pull the door’s zip fully down. The next day was an itch carnival! Perhaps she could offer Dean a few tips for soothing creams.
Last year Lucy inherited her apartment from her Grandmother. It was the only way she could afford to own property. The timing was in nobody’s planning but she rationalised that being the owner probably held more positives than negatives. The negatives included a wet splotch on the ceiling expanding into an empire above her bookshelf. Lucy’s books were precious; they had been passed down through generations. So, despite the fact she generally let life run its course, today Lucy felt sufficiently armed to air her concerns.
Dean readjusted himself in his seat, crossing one leg over the other.
* * *
Maggie and her colleagues get on swimmingly and they work cohesively as a team. She feels like a part of something great and going into work is a joy because of them. The evening before, her boss had sent staff a rushed email notifying them of a meeting. “9am SHARP tomorrow morning” it read. She felt the capitals were almost certainly directed at her because she had been struggling with her punctuality for the past two weeks. She used to be habitually on time, but recently her neighbours had been arguing every morning between 3 and 5am. These interrupted sleeps had been leading Maggie to fall asleep at her desk. It felt like an ominous omen that she had to be woken during the staff meeting to be told there were going to be job losses.
That evening, Maggie walked into the body corp meeting having just got off the phone with her Dad. She called him for some comforting words, but he ended up making her resentful. He reckons that she can’t be blamed for sleeping on the job and that it’s not a symptom of systemic behaviour. For Maggie, this only highlighted her predicament. It shouldn’t even be an issue in the first place. “SHARP” in caps doesn’t leave much room for interpretation. The thought pressed on her mind. “SHARP... does it get any more blunt?”
After sitting down she read the agenda. It appeared they were discussing the cleaners. Next up was leakages and then noise complaints. Maggie thought about how they could almost be considered the same thing. She caught Lucy staring at her; her face reminded Maggie of that girl off Teen Mom. She thought about how she’d rather be tucked up watching Teen Mom instead of being at this meeting. Now that she thought about it, her neighbours’ arguments could easily feature on that show.
One of the panels which directs the heat pump’s heat was malfunctioning and making a clicking noise as it did so.
* * *
Dean’s last two weeks had been hell. It started with him forgetting his wedding anniversary, which is an experience he would not recommend. He usually did things by the book but somehow managed to misplace the “Guide To A Happy Marriage” manual, somewhere beneath the pile of bad decisions he kept in the corner of their room. So to make it up to his wife he bought her some flowers. She loves irises, but as he came to find out they require persistent watering and his wife didn’t care for them much considering the circumstances. He was trying to care for these flowers and his marriage at the same time, but his enthusiasm was dripping like a tap that hasn’t quite been fully turned off.
They had been routinely arguing every morning before she went to present her 6am talkback show. So when he accidentally clipped the doorframe stumbling into the meeting, he felt it was pain piled onto his accumulating angst. It hurt - actually it really hurt - but he felt he had to mask it. He cast his eye around the room and everyone seemed to be here. Except bloody Maggie. She was always late to these things. So disrespectful of everyone’s time, so self-serving. Everyone gets here as soon as they can, so they can leave as soon as they can, he thought. Lucy coughed and Dean thought it was one of those expectant coughs that highlights a stagnating situation.
The meeting got underway, and the body corp representative started going through the points on the agenda. Together they discussed the rubbish bins and the cleaners. Maggie finally walked in and slammed the door. Dean felt the look on her face said that she didn’t give a shit.
The conversation turned to leakages. Dean’s scratching evolved into a methodical, rhythmic, pressing of the flesh.
* * *
The fly needed a place to stop between scurries. It landed at a perch underneath the heat pump. Getting to the wall was treacherous, but the reward was immense. The fly sat contented and warm for the moment. It observed much shuffling. Beings standing up. Pointing. Waving. This perplexed the fly. More to the point, the fly thought it weird these beings weren’t cleaning their hands constantly. The noise in the room got progressively louder. The fly perceived extra moisture around the being at the front. This greatly intrigued the fly. Although the landing looked bothersome. Getting agitated, the fly flew off and got caught in the heat pump’s air stream for what felt like a glorious eternity.
* * *
The brain was exasperated. Perhaps it’d be more appropriate if it wasn’t flipping upright the images sent from the eyes. Of the millions of sensory triggers available, it could only process 40 and it was having trouble choosing. A lot of the information wasn’t matching with the connections it had made previously in forming its knowledge network. The situation seemed urgent; it was going to have to fill the gaps. The brain scanned through its library of biases and sent signals to the outposts to react accordingly. Despite having not been updated in a while, it was confident that the library was still as trusty a mechanism as it had been in the past. Using information acquired from the library, the brain detected a threat and it went into emergency mode. The signals went out: “Make palms sweat!”; “increase breathing to heavy!”; “tense muscles!” The reactions were performing well so far, as it intended. The brain was about to make the knees quiver when it sensed the threat had eased. It signalled the outposts to lay down their arms, and they followed orders immediately. All vitals appeared to be functioning normally again and the stations were restored to their previous states. It appeared to the brain that the whole deployment was for nothing.
©Callum Campbell, 2017