It was a rainy afternoon and Elaine had got home not long before, when her communications station announced an incoming call. The caller’s name was not familiar but they were listed as employed by the same company as her.
She connected to the CS and suddenly she wasn’t sitting in her own home anymore, but in an unfamiliar office. Cream walls, brown and grey furniture. A plant in a corner.
She didn’t recognise the woman sitting at the desk and smiling at her.
“Miss Smith, thank you for taking this call on your own time, I hope you are well?” the woman said. Elaine nodded as the woman continued without a break: “My name is Erika Longhi and I work with the HR department. I would like to talk to you about your request for the IT Office to check on your connections for breaches?”.
Elaine was taken aback. Why was HR picking up on this?
“IT has been conducting a week-long review of your online activity, the Spaces you used, and a general review of our connection to the CS” the woman said, pretending to read from a paper something she clearly had memorised.
Elaine waited, saying nothing.
The woman was looking at her, smiling a polite smile.
“They found nothing” she eventually said.
Elaine was speechless.
The two women looked at each other in silence for a while.
“This makes no sense” Elaine said. Her voice was shaky.
“This is what we all thought” the woman said. “These investigations usually take between 24 and 36 hours. Our technicians spot the unauthorised access, trace it to the person’s connection point, source their id information and pass to Community Safety. The reason why they spent a whole week on this is because they couldn’t find any breaches.”
“So this man works here?!” Elaine asked, now worried. If he worked for the company he could be close, she could walk past him in the corridors without knowing, she might find him sitting in her office chair one of these days.
The woman was taking a long break, studying her before answering. She seemed to be making up her mind about something, about her.
“We think nobody actually contacted you, Miss Smith” she said in the end.
Elaine felt a familiar feeling of dread in her stomach. She held her breath. All the blood in her veins seemed to have stopped flowing and was just dragged towards her feet by gravity, while her hands suddenly went numb.
“No” she said, and her voice sounded whiny even to her ears.
“There is no digital trace of anybody interacting with you in any of the situations you mentioned” the woman said, her voice sweet but firm.
“No no no” Elaine said. “That’s impossible”
“There was no access to your Space when you were exercising. We checked the meeting you said this person breached, and the system had no data about any other person being in the Room apart from the ones who were supposed to be there”.
Elaine could not speak anymore. Her throat had closed and she couldn’t swallow her own saliva.
The woman waited a bit longer. Some real sympathy had appeared in her frown. Sighing, she said: “Miss Smith, we consider you should restart your therapy sessions”.
Elaine bowed her head.
“I know it must have been very difficult for you in the past” the woman said, reclining in her chair now, her hands in her lap. “But it’s undeniable therapy worked for you. You have an inspiring success story, Miss Smith. It must be hard for you to find yourself in this position now, but think about it as a momentary setback”.
Elaine could not look at her. She could barely breath.
“You will get better soon again, I’m sure”.
Breath Elaine told herself. She felt like crying.
“We have arranged a course of therapy for you, I will be sending all the information you need to you soon.”
Breathing in, I am aware I’m breathing in Elaine said to herself.
“If there is anything we could help you with, please don’t hesitate to contact me, Miss Smith”
Five things I can see, Elaine thought but she could only see her legs and feet, and the floor.