New Normal

The memories began haunting me after I came of age.

Sitting at the edge of the river, scraping clay and discarding small stones. My fingers tracing a square, then three dots across and down. It felt good, to push in each of the pits. There was no sound in my ears. There should be something.

I hummed, tone resonating in my throat. It felt like home. One of the others glared at me with suspicion. I wiped away the square covering the small divots. Idle foolishness could wait, there were vessels to be made and water to be carried in animal skin pouches.

I would collect things that made no sense, but felt comforting.

Scraps of leather, squared and stitched with sinew. I wrote my name on a block of drying clay, resting it on the wooden table. It was at the far edge, where those entering could read it. This soothed my soul. I would spend whatever time I could sitting at the table, stacks of leather squares and small dried leaves arranged in a grid.

Sharpening a stick at one end, I wrote in the clay. I had no words, just muscle memory of motions I’ve never made. I fell into a rhythm, stacking one sheet of clay upon another, wavering lines with a special symbol at the bottom. I squinted, trying to understand.

The loops and curves formed a pattern I found pleasing. I practiced this often.

The sunrise and moonrise came and went. Many seasons passed, working the herds and walking the river. Spearing fish and cooking meat on the fire. The others, their names are lost to me. Words in my head pushing back against my simple life. I’d run in the rain when I couldn’t sleep. Feeling anxiety over words, over things in my mind.

“Meeting”, “Action Item”, “Deliverables”. I mouthed them in turn and felt some peace. The others were scared, not understanding my need to gather skins and leaves, to square the edges and stitch together with sinew. They stared with disbelief as I gathered clay, made squares and stacked them on my .. “desk”.

The elder came, one time to my room. My Off.. offfer…office?

He wore the ceremonial robes and somber look. He was here to cast out the spirits in me. The strange words that I could not escape, the sounds I made to others that frightened them so. Waving his arms, skin wrinkled from many suns. Chanting an appeal to the earth spirits and the sky.

The words, unbidden, leaping out of my mouth – interrupting the ritual. “Give me a status update”. The elder stared, stomped his feet and left me alone. There was nothing more he could do. It felt good to speak, although I didn’t know the sounds. As every day passed, more things clouded my dreams.

Bright lights, beeping sounds. Females in strange clothes walking on shoes with sticks. My hands, reaching for a black rectangle. Lifting it to my ear, hearing the soothing tone. Pushing grey squares, sounds from each press. Red lights flashing on and off in a column to the right.

It was important, I felt important. The words became clearer, after some time. I’d wake up in the dead of night, taking a sharpened stick to write in still-damp clay.

“CEO”. The lines looked strange yet familiar. I wrote my name and put them after. This was right, this was just.

One morning I woke, walking out of my room. The communal fire was cold, blackened logs and scattered ash. They had gone. Nothing but holes where stakes had been, supporting animal skins for shelter. I was outcast, judged by those that didn’t understand.

I could still fish and eat. I gathered fruit from the trees. I made small pots out of clay.

Every morning, I sat at my desk. Watching the sun rise, sharpened stick in my hand.

I had a meeting, but no one would come.