Winston felt trapped by his job. He felt trapped by the four walls of his home. Most of all he felt trapped by routine. He wanted to travel, to experience all the things he had seen on TV, particularly on Drone TV.
Drone TV was his favorite. It was his savior. It was his eye on the world.
Winston got home from his job at The Office, locked the door and settled into his favorite chair. He checked the world zones. He wanted something exotic, something educational. Three hundred drones currently buzzed around the great pyramid at Giza. He loved Egyptian history. He took a spin on the highest drone, the one that a movie director might call “the establishing shot”. Winston felt high, literally, as he watched the Great Pyramid fall away beneath him, only to have it zoom so close that he could taste the dust on the capstone.
It was beautiful.
He wondered what was going on in the slums of Simolandia. He tuned in. He had been fortunate enough to witness a murder on one of the poorer streets last month; he was one of only seven people in the world watching at the time. It was a lucky break, but he was there, he saw it live. Live! Of the eleven thousand drones streaming through the night from the poorest state in Brazil, he’d been watching the right one at the right time. But truth be told, Winston didn’t even care for the glamorous stuff. He was happy just to ride along the dangerous darkened streets. It felt like a personal journey, and he loved the feeling of floating through the air like a ghost, omnipresent and living and breathing the poverty, or the history. He loved the lack of commentary, the lack of script and dialogue. No directors. The twelve billion drones currently circulating the planet were on random routes within certain sectors. Everything was spontaneous. If you closed your eyes for a moment you might miss something.
Drone TV was fabulous. “Where Do You Want to Go Tonight?” That was their slogan and it was so, so true. The planet was covered. Almost. Tonight it would be.
Winston looked around at the drone hovering over his shoulder. He felt a sharp pang of discomfort, but it soon passed. He returned his attention to his screen.
Tonight was a special night. The last, the absolute last, of Earth’s uncovered territory would go online. The President of the United States would welcome thirty drones into his home, and office. The last bastion of secrecy was about to fall. It was going to be hot. Everybody would be watching. The internal workings of the world’s superpower would be laid bare to the world’s populace, as had everything, absolutely everything, else.
One hour and the globe would truly be covered. It was an exciting time to be alive. Winston glanced again at the drone hovering over his shoulder near the ceiling. The number nine was lit up in red numbers along its base.
Nine people, thought Winston. Nine live feeds. Winston didn’t really understand it. Why anybody in the world would want to observe his boring life puzzled him. But tonight there were nine people in the world following him.
Each to their own, he thought.
Most nights the feed counter rested at zero. He was alone in his room. But recently these evenings had become rare.
Winston began to feel he was being watched.
Not in the literal sense, because he was being watched: by nine people, but in the other sense, in the sense of purpose, or, in other words, an absence of randomness; as if someone were watching him for a reason.
His mind wandered back to a conversation he’d had with a colleague recently.
‘Hey Winston, did you read bout the new phenomenon called “pre-zoning”?’
‘I don’t really read much anymore.’
‘Ha, yeah well anyway, one guy tells all his friends to watch drone number, I don’t know, 763221, because he’s worked out its pattern or location and he wants to make a name for himself.’
‘A name? How?’
‘By killing and raping an old lady live or something. I don’t know. Anyway, this particular drone’s numbers skyrocket just before the crime ‘cos all his buddies are tuning in. Crazy eh? Some people.’
‘Yeah, some people,’ Winston said.
He looked at the drone in his room: twenty-seven people tuned in. Winston began to sweat.
There was a knock at the door.
Oh God, thought Winston. Thirty-one.
Winston got his shotgun and loaded it. He pushed his glasses higher on the bridge of his nose, but they kept slipping down.
Thirty-three. The knocking came again, more forceful this time.
Had he locked the door? He thought he had.
The door handle rattled. Winston looked at the drone looking at him. He blasted it to pieces with both barrels. He would face re-education for that, but right now he didn’t care.
The knocking stopped.
Winston reloaded his shotgun and opened the door. The hallway buzzed and flickered and shed shadows, but, as far as he could tell, was empty.
An idea struck him. He rushed back to his computer and brought up North America, and then he touched his own grid, then narrowed in on his district before clicking in on his neighborhood. He was looking for anything unusual, anything shady. Now, all he had to do was to find a drone outside, or even better, inside the building. Drone 5687763 was coming up the fire escape. It buzzed through the drone door high up in the fire exit and entered his very floor. He sat in on it, watched through its eyes. The hallway was clear. The drone flew down and past his open door.
Open door. Hadn’t he closed it?
Winston spun around.