Amos Mallory was –I’d been told- an eccentric; a creature of particular habit and routine, whose needs were simple, and simply met.
I’d been working at the Silverlink Retirement Community Complex for less than a year before I was transferred to the E-Wing; that was where the luxury suites were. Silverlink was no ordinary nursing home; no musty hovel where the sick and elderly were left to die in a dirty room smelling of hot piss. No, Silverlink was a state-of-the-art retirement facility; a complex panoptic building of silver tubes, glimmering metal and dynamic sun-activated solar-smart glass windows.
Silverlink was a place where a client’s every need could be met before they even realised they needed it. Sensory pads were worn on the skin to monitor their blood pressure, heart rate, body temperature, perspiration rate, everything. These pads would not only alert the nursing staff in the event of an emergency –such as an elevated or arrhythmic heart beat- but would also change the very environment of the room to suit the clients’ needs. If they were too hot, the room temperature would decrease; if the client became tired, the solar-smart glass windows would dim, coaxing the client into a gentle sleep.
In the E-Wing, each room was fitted with an interactive monitor screen, a meal dispenser, and automatic cleaning and waste disposal facilities. The client’s individual dietary needs –and their personal tastes- were carefully used to create custom dishes which would not only provide them with all of their nutritional needs, but were also delicious and varied. These meals would be delivered piping hot through the specially designed pneumatic tubes, placed upon the table, and then consumed. After two hours, the table would open up and take whatever remained away to be disposed of.
Routine cleaning occurred via a series of automatic machines each day, they would remove any dust, litter or waste from the room through a system of small vacuum tubes placed strategically under the carpet and in the walls, in combination with a series of small robotic components that ensured that the sanitation levels of the room were upheld.
Even the bed sheets were changed daily, this was done through a simple system fitted under each bed that measured the weight of the mattress, and –determining that nobody lay upon it- would remove and dispose of the bedsheets, and flip the mattress.
The system had been designed to be robust and efficient; minimising the room for error through human intervention –and most importantly- ensuring clients were given the independence, solitude and freedom they so cherished. Silverlink was a place of technological excellence, allowing the elderly to live out their days in dignity and comfort.
Amos Mallory had been something of an enigma, and one of Silverlink’s top priority clients. He was not a sickly man –in fact- his needs were very easy to meet, however, it was essential that they were met, every day, without fail.
He was a very wealthy man, and had been a prodigiously intelligent computer programmer. He had –it is said- created a computer program known as Divitiae. It was not entirely clear how exactly Divitiae worked, but rumour had it that the program monitored trends, patterns and anomalies in the stock exchange and bought and sold stocks and bonds accordingly. This –it was believed- was how Amos had amassed his fortune.
Like many enigmatic men before him, he had a number of peculiar habits. He ate every morning before sunrise, at 5am on the dot. And every day he ate the same breakfast: two organic ladyfinger bananas, a free range boiled egg, and two slices of fresh brioche with unsalted butter. He did not consume caffeine, and each morning with his breakfast, he’d wash down his arthritis medication with 250ml of cranberry juice. He did not eat or return to bed again until late in the evening.
His room –he had said- was to be kept at strictly 16 degrees Celsius from 5am to 10pm, and then rise to 17 degrees thereafter. This seemed like an extremely low temperature, but Amos had insisted that the cold aided his concentration by causing blood to rush to the vital organs, such as the brain.
He seemed to wear the same clothing each day; a red velvet tracksuit over a white shirt. When I’d had a chance to inspect his clothes, I’d realised that he had this same outfit multiple times. I dared not enquire as to why he wore this particular outfit, chalking it up to one of his many eccentricities.
Upon his admission to Silverlink, he’d made a particular point that he did not wish to be disturbed unless absolutely necessary. Tenderly, we’d informed him that in order to comply with health and safety standards, it was essential that a member of staff checked in on him once a day. Reluctantly, Amos accepted this, but added the condition that he did not want to be spoken to unless he initiated conversation.
Some of the nursing staff believed that Amos was just yet another grumpy old man, but I knew that it was his program –Divitiae- that made him paranoid and irritable. I heard talk about how people had been trying to buy the program from him for years. Failing that, they had begun to resort to hacking attempts, and even physical theft of the Divitiae software, but no attempts had come to fruition.
It was said that other software developers had offered hefty sums to anybody who managed to steal the program; even Amos’ own children had attempted to steal it, after which, he’d written them out of his will and disowned them entirely.
Despite the technological excellence of the Silverlink complex, Amos was less than impressed with the features, describing them as ‘crude’ and ‘unreliable’. I imagine that this observation was to be expected from somebody with a profound knowledge of programming. He was reluctant to wear the sensory pads, claiming they were faulty and uncomfortable to wear.
Despite his minor complaints, we were instructed to take great care of Amos, as he paid extra money every month to ensure that his room was kept secure. Gladly, we had obliged. With cameras fixed in his room and around it, Amos was monitored almost continually. His permitted guest list was empty, in fact, he’d decidedly said that nobody was to visit him, and nobody –aside from the nursing staff during mandatory visits- was to enter his room without his explicit permission. A protective rail was put up close to Amos’ door in order to deter other guests from approaching.
After my transferral to E-Wing, I’d been given specific instructions to monitor Amos, which I did dutifully. The job was relatively easy; I’d sit and watch him through the camera from the safety of the security room; he’d spend hours sitting at his monitor, keeping an eye on his Divitiae program. He’d stay there from morning to night. From behind him, the monitor glowed in a dark green hue; I often wondered what could possibly transfix him so intently to the monitor.
His heart rate, body temperature and other vital signs remained healthy, rising and falling throughout the day and night, as would be expected.
Each day, around 7pm, I’d walk down to his room and open the door. I began by simply popping my head in, which he’d simply ignore. Then, as the days progressed, I’d step entirely into his room. His attitude was entirely indifferent; nothing seemed to detach him from the screen, to which he was resolutely fixed.
Eventually, I would enter the room entirely and pace gingerly towards the back of his head, trying desperately to get even the slightest glimpse of the Divitiae program. I’d try to poke my head around his and see what he was hiding, but to no avail. He seemed to hunch over the monitor in such a way that only he could possibly see it, and to invade his privacy would only lead to me being removed from the crucial position of monitoring him.
I knew I’d worked too hard to get to him to fail at the final hurdle; after working so hard to get this job, after finally being transferred to E-Wing and being put in charge of monitoring Amos Mallory. Nobody would suspect a thing. Soon that software would be mine, but only if I could get into his room at night without waking him.
One night, I watched as the solar-smart glass windows began to dim, and the LED-lights dimmed with them. Amos sat still at the monitor, his dark silhouette against the light of the screen, until it switched off automatically, as it did every night at 10pm.
In just one hour, it would be time to act. Earlier in the day, I’d switched his evening medication for a light sedative, one which would put him to sleep long enough for me to enter his room, steal the Divitiae program, and escape without a trace.
I switched off the camera in Amos’ room; it showed nothing in the darkness of the room after 10pm, so if anyone were to see me hunched over the monitor after this time, they might sound the alarm. I rigged the cameras outside of his room to play on a loop which showed nothing untoward, and made my way towards the room.
Quietly, I punched in the security code, slipped the key in the lock, and crept inside. Tip-toeing towards the monitor, I fumbled for my torch.
As light flooded the room, I reeled back, falling down as I did so. Amos sat at his monitor, hunched over in the same way as he had been earlier in the day.
I spluttered, rising to my feet, apologising for the intrusion, and desperately trying to scrape together an excuse. There came no reply. At once, I steadied the torch and proceeded towards Amos, who sat so rigidly in his chair. I reached out, turning his chair around.
His face, hands and body were entirely desiccated; his skin was taut and dry, and had taken on a jaundiced hue.
The Divitiae program had been running automatically, building up his fortune and paying for his accommodation, whilst the faulty sensory pads had transmitted the same data over and over again. His meals had gone uneaten, his bed had gone unused.
He’d been dead for months.
© JC Axe 2017