Goat Game

by Kathryn Li profile

2021

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Number of Reviews: 9
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Kaemi's IFComp 2021 Reviews, October 30, 2021
by kaemi
Related reviews: IFComp 2021

You live in a city and it’s expensive to eat and it’s expensive to get around and it’s super expensive to live even though your apartment is a bathroom stapled to a bed but you’re glad at least you have it because when you went looking for places at your price range you were shown a room with a shattered window glass all over the floor and the guy said oh don’t worry we’ll repair it and there will be five people who live here and if you sign the lease today I’ll give you ten percent off rent um um um so you showed up to another place that looked like it was condemned and when you called the landlord who said he’d show you around he said the visit was cancelled as if he didn’t even know who you were but you have only a few weeks to find a new place and you feel like the walls are closing in in the way your smile overwrites when someone asks you how much you like living in the city oh you live in the city how is it what a wonderful opportunity there is so much to do in the city and i visited it once and we just loved it yes yes it really is a nice place i enjoy it and maybe at some level you do enjoy it even though most nights you come back from work with a paycheck that seems by the deductions and the work expenses to shrink each period and you should save money and go out less and everyone loves all the things to do in the city and really a ticket costs that much and maybe you should save by eating less but food is often the only pleasure you genuinely feel like the one moment you as an animal are satiated you like to eat but the food you’re eating is fast food it’s trash full of salt and fats and you don’t know what and your health is declining you don’t quite feel like you used to but you just like if you could just order a pizza several times a week that’s all you want is just to cuddle up and feel physical pleasure so that you’re not just sitting there alone in your room bathed in your phone’s blueglow staring at something in the darkness something in the darkness is more alive than you and knows more about you than you and night after night you converse with it this ambient hum there’s always the hum the hum of traffic night and day cars whining through your dreams and the hum of the grumble and whinny of the bus and the hum of chatter and the trains and the airplanes and the elevator and the bike bells and you once got out of the city and what shocked you the most was the suddenly earpopping veinquelling quiet.

““I really like Aegis-Liora,” you say. “The weather is nice and there’s interesting things to see…I could imagine myself staying here for a while.” / “Wow. I never thought you’d become so comfortable in the city! I’m glad you’re finally starting to like it. What have you been up to?”” Oh, just joined a new biotech firm: “Running programmed simulations all day is not the life you would have chosen for yourself”, but then again neural networks get a billion iterations and you’ve just this one and anyway this firm is great, you’re doing fine, you’re not even terrified or frustrated when your boss singles you out, more just kind of depressed, and anyway you kind of agree with him, maybe if you’re good enough he will like you: “Tobias is right; your proposal still has a long way to go. But the day will come when he decides there is enough room in the department’s argevan budget for a new funded project, and you are determined to be the first person he thinks of.” Everything is fine. Your boss asks you to follow them into the basement: “If the upstairs elevator resembled a crystal box, this one would be compared to a rusted cage. It clearly hasn’t been maintained in years; as it lowers you into the earth, its flickering light skims over the rocky surface of the elevator shaft, just barely illuminating it. When the elevator stops, you find yourselves on a suspended walkway.” It’s good like that’s fine this is a startup, gotta disrupt the industry, gotta be dynamic, everything is fine, just remember that your coworkers are not your friends and you cannot confide in anyone and just keep your head down and everything is fine and it will all work out and you really just need at least a few years for the resume then you’ll have the bargaining power to get a more comfortable situation and “Below you is vast rippling shadow—a shallow lake. The surface of the water is draped in a grid of stars, each purple point a ripening gem. It extends in all directions until the cave walls carve it a dark, jagged hem … / “Where is everyone?” you whisper. The faint outlines of dormant machinery hang silently above you; this cave is devoid of sound except for the low, distorted echo of faraway chambers.” And you’re not really sure about your company’s business plan, you think maybe, I mean you know we have to make a profit and all but “there’s no denying how unprofessional this setup is compared to the rest of the lab. You wouldn’t trust the machinery to stay attached to the ceiling if you had to work here every day. The air is tolerable for now, but the accumulated fumes from these argevan colonies could easily suffocate you given enough time.” But what are you going to do? Tell people? Who? “Your cousin Miriam is like an older sister to you. You could tell her anything. But you haven’t been yourself these past few weeks, and you couldn’t bring yourself to pick up the phone when she called, no matter how many times she tried to reach you.” Why would you choose to humiliate yourself by showing the mess you’ve gotten yourself into? This is all standard industry practice, every business is like this: “The underground employees have been trying to unionize for years, but every time they show signs of getting their act together, the company steps in to purge their leadership.” And besides you’re only “a lowly research assistant” so you have nothing to say about the company’s strategy, you’re just here to clock in and clock out and have an apartment and food and the hum.

“The lab is on fire. Most of the building is obscured by dark billowing smoke. The helicopters circle the scene, trying to put the fire out, but at this distance they look so insignificant, like flies hovering around a wounded creature. The smell is making you sick.” Um. I don’t know I don’t know I don’t know. “Under normal circumstances you’d never contact a stranger for advice, but from the way Miriam describes her, Rebecca seems to know her way around tough situations. I’m sure she would know how to respond to something like this. You find her number and send her a text” and get the heartswallowing reply: “who’s this? miriam’s cousin?” Oh god, oh sorry yeah, sorry, I was just wondering, but um thanks, never reach out to anyone, never reach out to anyone, it’s all just super embarrassing, everything is fine, you can learn to love being alone, and “As you go through the motions of your old morning routine, however, you feel that things are starting to return to normal” and “You read the signs hovering above the mass of protestors. PROSPERITY IN AEGIS-LIORA IS A LIE. YOU TOOK OUR HOMES FROM US. YOBEL IS BLEEDING OUR CITY DRY” and “we are an institution. We follow procedures, and we come to rational conclusions. We do things the proper way. Sometimes we have to make sacrifices for the greater good” and “Wait, don’t I need to renew my lease by tonight?”

It’s okay, it’s okay, you’re okay. “You nod slowly, letting his words sink in. “That sucks,” you say. “Well. At least we have these sandwiches.” / “Seriously,” he says, taking a bite. "Eat your sorrows away.”” Your friend asks you why you first moved to the city.