‘Like a Dog’ by Hotline Boca

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You open your eyes. You sit up alone in bed in your shitty beige cell inside the larger, shitty beige cube. You’re accosted by social media pop-ups on your screen, Weibo, Twitter, and the like. It’s all shit; you shovel / scroll to the bottom. Here are the serious notifications, the ones with implications for IRL. They loom ominously near the top of your Gmail, prioritized by Google’s busybody AI Butler. He knows you’re unemployed so he puts the emails related to work toward the top without being asked.

“Thanks.”

You’re already two months behind on rent. The landlord is threatening to throw you out on your soft ass if you can’t start paying in at the minimum, which dropped again this month. The minimum drops almost every month, lower and lower than the depths of hell. Every time it drops, the interest rises; some fucker’s got this game figured. The landlord’s last correspondence says that if it were up to her, she’d give you more time, but she can’t fudge your payments anymore because of a new accounting system and that you must pay in something.

“Okay.”

Lower down the list is loan debt – the GoogleU email glows red like the eyes of some predatory serpent poised to devour you. For a moment of fancy, you imagine a flashback to equatorial Africa where your ape ancestor narrowly avoids being bit by such a snake. It makes you sick in the pit of your stomach. Google requests a “Read” notification; you consent. The text is the usual threatening scree; you owe Google bt4920K and you must start making the minimum payment. Failure to do so will result in automatic enlistment into a mandatory debtor job. This is a relatively new phenomenon, passed by a bipartisan majority of Democrats and Republicans, lauded by businessmen as the best thing since drug testing for welfare. Debtors are moved into Debtor Campuses, where they can work off what they owe – the largest two are administered by Amazon and Google. Inside, you’re put to work based on your skillset and earn credits; you can apply your credits toward improving your accommodations, gaining new skills to get better jobs to earn more credits, and, of course, paying off your debt.

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