They never gave us a memo before the cameras were installed. Tall post of aluminum with a few domes facing different angles at different intersections. They were not there one day, here the next.
Then, while our attention was on those, they install ones on the buildings. On different corners facing different directions. But these, these are different. They have red orbs glaring through bulletproof shrouding that glisten in the waning moonlight. I shrug and walk down the path. I wonder if this is the mother spider, coming forth from her cocoon after birthing all those baby ones. The ones that face different angles at different intersections.
Every couple of days, this peculiar camera on the corner of my building keeps evolving. It grows parts, appendages. There’s a rectangle that looks like the remote control we used in 1998. Thick, long, and cumbersome, it’s mounted to the brick somehow.
The next thing I notice is an ambient hum. Is it a warning sign? A hiss to stay away from the nest? To keep walking in different directions? It could be a whisper, too. Saying, “Hey you, I’m watching.” And at that moment, I want to slap a progressive candidate’s sticker over it but I don’t have a ladder or a motive.
It’s normal now, the humming, the evolutions. I hardly notice the next one. An antenna, that protrudes from that rectangular box. Now, it’s some sort of spore, growing from its host. I imagine walking through some radio waves and how I should approach the walk from a different angle. I see a feral cat darting from the bush to the grass and laugh. “I should name it some time,” I say. I look into the cloudy-red eye of the dome. “I’ll name you Al.”
Al keeps on upgrading. My bedroom is adjacent to it so it can’t see me screaming in my pillow at night. At least I don’t think so. Even if it could, I’d put on a show. Really kick my feet, flail my arms. Just another night, another b-roll for them. I wonder if Al can see that Acura that hasn’t moved in two months. Why they won’t tow that piece of shit that’s been left to rot on flat tires and a broken windshield. Maybe it needs to evolve, too. Maybe it just needs to pay the rent. Maybe it’s tired of going in different directions. I sure would.
A week later, Al has babies. One is on the eave by the door. One is on the fence around the dumpster. One is on the lamppost where Building C and D meet. Al has doubled in size. More spores, more antennae, more remote controls. The cat seems to have vacated the bush. Well, the bush is all gone now. There’s a sign there with a picture of a big grey box. ‘Coming Soon’, it says in bold yellow letters. “I guess Al’s father is moving in,” I say, waving at them all since we are all basically family by now. I stand there below Al, ask it about its day, its kids, et cetera. It hums. I feel it zipping through my ears and then they pop. I smile and go inside.
I wake up the next morning and there’s quite a commotion. Al’s father did indeed move in and it is very loud, throbbing into the brick like a pulse. I gaze at the last remaining tree and I see Al’s babies on every thick branch. In the parking lot, they are all over the Acura, too. They never told me that Al was going to take over the grounds. Out of all the directions it faces, I feel as if they are all pointing at me.
I hope they are all related. I hope they keep seeing my face. I hope they’re only just watching. Every step I take amounts to moving forward. And I can only go in one direction anymore.
Josh Dale can be found at his author website: https://www.joshdale.co/