Text Line

The messages come through fast and often. 

They cascade down the monitor, black characters on a white background divided by light grey borders. Names, locations, requests — musical or otherwise. 

New texts slide in at the bottom, bumping through the queue of new album spins, talkback requests, or lonely conversation. But sometimes one pushes its way into the queue, though, pushing those above and below it away.

The format the same: name, location, request. Often a summery number. Dancey with bass but for a car without aftermarket speakers.

These intrusive messages come from thousands of kilometres away, where the clocks are sixty minutes behind. An engineer in production had raised it as a curiosity. Impossible, he’d said. 

No one thinks much of it. Just daylight saved, the timeliness of communication maintained. The shift restoring the interstate balance.

The engineer had gotten curious back when the little machine was in the open. When it sat by the mainframe to keep cool overnight, running without stopping.

They say management found him, the box pried apart, the interior blue light flooding the small room. They say they withdraw him to a quiet office and presented him with a buyout and a waiver. 

No one else has had the same offer. We all keep our secrets now. The system works.

The engineer believed we could do much more with the machine. More than just moving questions and answers and titles. He was likely right. 

They say he took the money and the waiver and his key. They must have forgot to ask for everything back. A simpler time. When little blue lights hid science’s secrets. 

That was the last day anyone remembers seeing the box.

But it must remain plugged in. It still works.

Shifting messages across time, always arriving when they mean to. 

Every so often there are calls for help on the text line. Single words appearing for a moment before they’re lost in the deluge.

I often wonder who would beg a radio station for help but that thought is always fleeting.

Like remembering something I’d already dismissed an hour ago.