I walk, walk, walk, walk; my headphones – as always – plugged in to my ears.

            I arrive at my office building. I open the door, having entered my security code to unlock it and so that they know I have arrived, and I walk again, up the stairs to my office.

            I sit at my desk and switch on my computer. I drink the regulation glass of water to keep myself hydrated during the working day – more will be provided on a regular basis throughout the day. I eat the piece of fruit that has been provided for me, and I am grateful for all that I receive on a daily basis, all that keeps my body in perfect condition for all that is required of me. I am forever grateful for all that is done for me.

            Others arrive in the office. We have individually allocated time slots to ensure that there is no congestion on the roads. I do not quite understand this, as most of the cars have been taken off the roads and people have been allocated work within a five mile walk of their homes to help reduce emissions and ensure the population remains fit and healthy. It is not my job to understand. I should not be thinking about it. That is not my function. They know better than I, which is why they are in charge.

            I do not speak to the others, and they do not speak to me. I do not know their names, and they do not know mine. Conversation during office hours is time theft, and is not tolerated. Everything we need to hear, we hear through our headphones. There is no need to converse with one another. We each have different functions, therefore we have nothing to discuss.

            I receive my instructions for the next task through my headphones. I do not need to worry about forgetting what I have been told, as the message repeats every five minutes until I confirm that the job has been done, after which the next task comes through. This continues throughout the day until I am free to leave.

            I am given a healthy, balanced meal at some point during the day, when it is detected that my body is at the optimum point for digestion. Again, I am grateful for what I am given. They decide what we eat, because they know best. They have done endless hours of study to determine what would be best for us; therefore there is no need for any of us to worry about anything. All is done for us, and for that we are all grateful.

            I am eventually told that my tasks for the day have been completed. I do not know what time I leave, as that is unimportant. What is important is that all of my tasks have been carried out as required. There is no reason to have a clock within the office. The work must be finished, therefore the working day does not finish until it is all done. I walk back down the stairs and unlock the door with my security code, which lets them know I am leaving.

            I walk, walk, walk, walk; my headphones – as always – plugged in to my ears.

            I arrive back at home and walk inside. I am given sustenance, and told that I am required to go to bed now, as there will be a lot for me to do tomorrow. I must ensure that I get a full eight hours sleep otherwise my mental capacity will be diminished the next day. I get undressed and climb in to my bed. The lights switch off. A tone plays in my earphones, scientifically proven to induce sleep.

            I sleep.

I wake up.

            I shower and get dressed.

            I am given breakfast, which is – as we are told – the most important meal of the day.

            I walk, walk, walk, walk; my headphones – as always – plugged in to my ears.

            I arrive at my office building. I open the door, having entered my security code to unlock it and so that they know I have arrived, and I walk again, up the stairs to my office.

            I sit at my desk and switch on my computer. I drink the regulation glass of water to keep myself hydrated during the working day – more will be provided on a regular basis throughout the day. I eat the piece of fruit that has been provided for me, and I am grateful for all that I receive on a daily basis.

            I receive my instructions for the next task through my headphones. Except, something is not right. I do not hear speech – I hear sounds. Strange sounds, like the tone that sends me to sleep, but different. The tones come through at different pitches, rising and falling, not at fixed intervals, but they are of differing lengths. They are not harsh tones, they are soothing to my ears. I do not know what it is, but I feel as though I have heard it before. As I listen, something moves within me, like a long forgotten memory stirring to life, a repressed emotion breaking out from wherever it has been buried. The tones are swirling around in my head, resounding pleasantly in my ears, they are –

            Music! That’s what it is called! I knew it meant something to me, but I could not think what it was. Music – something we have not heard for so very long. Music.

            Tears spring to my eyes as the beauty of the music flows through me and I experience the pleasure once again of something long forgotten.

            I am in a dangerous place now. Music is not allowed. Music is too expressive, too liberating, too individual. But now that I have found it, how can I let it go again? I do not want to ever let it go again. If the music continues in my headphones, I will no longer be able to hear instructions that are given to me by them. I will not be able to fulfil my tasks for the day. I will not have a purpose. I must be careful.

            I quickly wipe the tears from my eyes and bravely risk a glance over my shoulder to see if any of the others look as though they may have been affected in the same way as I have, if they are hearing music too. They are all sitting still as usual, faces forward to their individual screens. Either they are better at hiding it than I, or I am the only one.

            I think I am the only one. I am different now.

            I turn back to my screen and try to look as though I am doing something that I should be doing. But I do not know what I should be doing. I do not know what I have been doing over the previous days, weeks, months, years… It is like I have awoken from a trance. I have been alive, but I have not lived. I do not know what to do. I do not know what to do. I suddenly feel as though I have free will, and I am scared, and I am excited. But I am more scared. If I am found out, I do not know what they will do to me. Being different is not normal. I no longer want to be normal.

            I sit facing my screen, my ears still being filled with the music. I am beginning to hear shape and substance to the tones, the individual sounds having been crafted together to create the most wonderfully textured sounds. Tears come to my eyes again, but this time I let them fall. It is strange, but nice, feeling them slowly glide down my cheeks. It is nice to finally feel anything at all. But what can I do? I do not want to draw attention to myself, but I no longer feel that I can sit in front of this screen. I cannot pretend for long. I simply cannot.

            I hear a tapping sound which confuses me.

            I look down and notice that my hand is moving, tapping on my desktop. It is beating out a rhythm in time with the music. I want it to stop, but I am unable to control it – the music is rippling through my whole body now, taking over, consuming me. I feel something drifting up my throat, another strange sensation, and a noise comes out of my mouth:

            ‘Ha ha ha!’

            What are these involuntary noises that I am making? I feel my mouth twitching. The corners turn upwards, stretching outwards, curving my lips into a crescent shape. It is very peculiar, but not at all unpleasant. Though I do think I am starting to lose control of myself, both mentally and physically. The noises come out of my mouth again, despite my worries:

            ‘Ha ha ha!’

            I can no longer help myself.

            I look over my shoulder again. Some of the others are starting to take an interest in me. They are looking at me. Their faces are blank, expressionless, but they are looking at me. This is not a good thing. This is dangerous. This is worrying.

            I stand up. I do not know what I am doing, or what I am about to do. More heads turn to look over at me. My indecision is making me nervous. It is so long since I have had to make a choice that I am not even sure I know how. All I know is that I cannot just stand there in the middle of the office. I force myself to move.

            I stride purposefully towards the door to the office and walk out on to the stairwell. Everything looks and feels so different with the music constantly playing in my ears. At the bottom of the stairs I pause for a moment. I must enter my security code to leave the building, but once I do, they will know that I have left. There will be consequences, I am sure of it. But I can no longer be caged, I can no longer be a drone. I have to take the chance.

            I key in my code and the lock on the door clicks open. I push the door and walk outside. I breathe in the air, and it smells different somehow. Perhaps I have just never smelt it before. I cannot remember. I look up at the building I have just walked out of. It is so grey. So dull.So lifeless. I am sure that it always was, but now I feel as though I have a different perspective on things. I can see for the first time.

            I walk, walk, walk, walk; my headphones – as always – plugged in to my ears.

            But it is no longer because I have to have them plugged in; I want to have them plugged in. I need to hear the music. I am afraid that the music will stop and will never come back. I have to keep listening, just in case it is the last chance I ever get to hear it.

I arrive back at home and walk inside. The place seems so bare and empty. I have lived a barren existence to date. But the music playing in my ears helps. At this moment, it is all that I really need.

            I sit down on the bed, wondering what to do now, and what is to become of me.

            Now that I have liberated myself, there is so much I could do that it overwhelms me. I lay back and look up at the ceiling. I find no inspiration there. I close my eyes and listen to the music, examining each and every tone that enters my ears for some kind of meaning. It is there, somewhere, I just need to find it.

            A sudden banging rudely forces its way over the top of the music. My eyes open and I am briefly confused. Then I remember I am looking at the ceiling still. After a moment, the banging repeats itself. I realise that it is coming from my door. Someone is banging on my door. It can only be them. I should not have come back here, I realise, but clearly too late. Despite my freedom, I still followed my constant routine of coming straight home after finishing my working day. It is a programme that cannot be easily overwritten, it would seem.

            I do not know what to do, again.

            The banging starts again.

            They are not going to give up and go away. I am going to have to deal with it.

            I climb off of the bed and walk to the door.

            I open it.

            They are standing out there, outside my door. Three of them, in their suits, faces as serious as death. The man at the front of the three suddenly smiles at me, like we are best friends. I do not have any friends, so I know that we are not.

            He says: ‘Good morning.’

            I do not reply. I do not wish to be rude to him, but I do not know what to say. I do not remember the last time that I spoke. I do not know if I will even be able to speak. In some ways, I am desperate to speak to someone – anyone – but I do not know what to say. I have been freed. I do not know what I can say to him without giving that away, though they must already know, otherwise they would not be here. They do not turn up at just anyone’s house.

            He says: ‘You are probably scared right now, not sure what’s happening to you.’

            I do not reply.

            Another of them walks over to me and takes my headphones out of my ears. I flinch involuntarily as the music disappears and all that I can hear is silence. The man who stole my headphones puts them in his own ears. He nods at the first man and then puts the headphones back in my ears, where they belong. I feel a huge sense of relief as I hear the music continue. I felt empty when he took the music away. I felt as though I was there, but not there, like I was in a limbo state between two different worlds.

            The first man says (I am not sure if the other two can speak yet): ‘You are hearing the music. That’s wonderful.’

            I know it is wonderful, but I am not yet sure where he is going with this, so I continue to remain silent.

            He says: ‘It means that you are special. You’re unique. You have been specially selected. Not everyone hears music, you know.’

            I still do not know where this is going, but I am beginning to get very interested. He is talking very positively, and I am starting to think that perhaps I am not in trouble after all. He has told me that I am special, which I had hoped that I was.

            He says: ‘Come with us,’ and holds out his hand like he is expecting me to take it.

            I look at his hand, but do not take it. I take a step forward. He smiles again, encouragingly. I take another step forward.

            He says: ‘You won’t be needing these anymore,’ and tries to take my headphones.

            I duck away from his hands as they head towards me, stopping him from taking them away. He holds up his hands defensively, as though he thought I was going to hit him.

            He says: ‘Okay, take it easy. It’s not a problem – you keep hold of them for now. I know how hard it is to adapt to life away from those. It takes time.’

            He smiles again and walks out in to the hallway outside my door. He looks back at me, waiting.

            I look around my house once more. It is really nothing more than a room. I am not losing anything by going with him. Perhaps they will be able to help me make all of the decisions that I need to make now that I am able to think for myself. Perhaps they will be able to help me understand what is happening. They have been so good to us all, really, providing for us anything that we need from them.

            I nod at him, the first real indication that I have understood anything that he has said to me. His smile cracks open wider, and he holds out his hand again.

            I walk out in to the hallway and join them. I close my door and we walk away together.



They take me in their car. It is a large black vehicle. Perhaps the emissions have been reduced enough that they are able to drive cars like this again now. Or perhaps it is just a privilege of being them that allows them to do so.

            We eventually pull up to a large building. The driveway leading up to the house is very long, at least half a mile, so the building is tucked away from the road, and you would not know it was there unless you knew what you were looking for. Parked at the front of the building, we all climb out and walk inside. It is beautifully decorated inside, with the finest luxuries – artworks, marble, antique furniture. The beauty of the house around me, and the beauty of the music inside me combine together to make me feel at ease. I look around in wonder, gaping at my surroundings. I cannot quite believe what I am seeing. It is all so wonderful.

            I suddenly realise that another sound is clashing with the music in my ears, like two pieces of music are playing at the same time. I cautiously take the headphones out of one of my ears. Music is playing inside the building. I take the headphones out of my other ear, and all I can hear is the music within the building. And it is just as beautiful as the music that is coming from my headphones. I hand the headphones to one of them, who takes them without a word and stuffs them inside his jacket pocket.

            I wander around, looking and touching and listening and admiring, and I cannot believe just how special I must be to be given the chance to experience all of this. Then I think back to the others, sitting in the office, where I was such a short time – yet a lifetime – ago. And I feel sad. Briefly, I feel sad. They should be able to see and experience all of this, I think to myself, but then I remember that I am special, and I have been chosen. They have not been chosen. I have earned this, somehow, and I deserve it.

            The talking man says: ‘Shall we?’ and indicates towards a room to the side of the grand entrance foyer that we are wandering around.

            We all walk towards it, and he holds the door open for me. We step inside. Someone closes the door behind us.

            He says: ‘Take a seat.’

            I sit down in a leather chair, sliding backwards until my feet can barely touch the floor. They all stay standing up, watching me.

            He says: ‘You are lucky to have been chosen. There are only a few who have ever heard that music, and now you can count yourself amongst that special group.’

            My mouth stretches upwards and outwards again, smiling. I am still not sure what to say, or whether I should even say anything at all. I decide it would be safest and easiest to keep quiet for the time being. I will know the right time to talk.

            He says: ‘We don’t know where that music has been coming from. It just started one day a few years back, and we have come across someone like you every few months. Someone special. Someone chosen. We don’t yet know why any of them – any of you – were chosen, but we’re working on it.’

            I had thought that they had meant that I had been chosen by them, because they thought I was special. But if I was not chosen by them, who was I chosen by? If they do not know, I have no chance of finding out. Now I understand even less than I had done previously, and that was difficult enough. He is still smiling at me, though, so perhaps they want my help to work it out.

            He says: ‘We would like to borrow your headphones so that we can examine them, if that’s okay. In the meantime’ – he picks up a different set of headphones from the table beside him – ‘we would like to give you these new headphones as a gift from us. Wearing these, you’ll be able to listen to music any time you would like to, without worry.’

            I am thinking that I was never worried, but I want to help them, so that they can help me. I smile at him and gratefully take the headphones from him.

            As I put them in my ears, I hear him say: ‘We wouldn’t want you hearing anything that didn’t come from us.’

            Then I hear a tone in my ears, like the tone that used to send me to sleep, but harsher, and I manage to say, too late: ‘Please, no – ’

I wake up.

            I shower and get dressed.

            I am given breakfast, which is – as we are told – the most important meal of the day.

            I walk, walk, walk, walk; my headphones – as always – plugged in to my ears.