top of page

Dead Stock

By Camila Castillo

“Why is this place so empty?” Calum said as him and his partner stood in a local train station in Florida. “I don’t know maybe people don’t use trains anymore” Jodi responded as she struggled to get signal on her phone. “I barely saw any cars on the road Jodi, that’s so weird” Calum pointed out. It is circa year 2040, a lot has changed since the advancement of technology. Many businesses have plummeted in worth and use because of how simplified everything is. Very rarely, would you see civilization in the streets or the public. If anything, you would see essential bots who were either cleaning up the trash on the roads or monitoring traffic. Jobs ceased to exist for the human population, since thanks to technology, there was always a solution that catered to the needs of capitalism. The mail was delivered by self-service bots, using a data sorting system to speed up deliveries. Government owned vehicles such as trash trucks, were now self driven and did not depend on humans to collect waste. Grocery stores now fully depended on self checkout and self service delivery. Everything that was once a hassle to humanity, was simplified enough to the point where it would no longer be a concern. Jodi and Calum had just got off a train after visiting Jodi’s parents in Florida. They decided to spend their 3rd year anniversary there. The two were jet lagged and tired from traveling for a few days. Her parents insisted that they stayed over, but she ensured them that they had booked a hotel. The couple desired to have their own privacy and had plans of their

own. They were looking for that place where they booked their suite in for the weekend. GPS was not working on their phone and for some reason, Calum could not get a bar on his. “Can we just call your parents, it’s clear that we are lost” Calum complained dragging his feet behind. “I would if my phone had any battery” Jodi answered as she tried to turn on her device that had a red bar flashing on the screen. “I charged my phone on the train, I’m not sure why it died this quickly” she admitted. “Maybe the outlet on the train was faulty” he suggested and shrugged. The two walked for a couple of blocks, in hopes of finding a payphone or a public phone of some sort. Instead, they walked into a small electronics shop in hopes of finding a new charger. As they approached the front door of the small place, they witnessed a disturbing scene of protesters being arrested against police cards. They carried signs that read ‘STOP THE WAR ON OUR TECHNOLOGY’. Jodi watched from afar trying to make sense of the situation but Calum calling her instantly brought her back from the situation. Inside the electronic shop, there was one worker who stood behind the cash register. He was a man who appeared to be in his late 30s, rugged and wore a baseball cap. His eyes were glued to the small outdated tv as he paid no attention to the customers that came in and out of the place. Calum and Jodi stared for a moment, as they haven’t seen that brand of tv in years. They proceeded to walk from aisle to aisle in search of a new charger for her phone. The shop seemed to be out of stock. The shelves lacked merchandise, it appeared that the store had literally nothing. They haven’t updated anything, everything they had was considered vintage.

Approaching the register, Calum cleared his throat trying to get the older man’s attention. “How can I be of service?” The older man asked as he turned down the volume of his small sized tv. “Hi, we’re looking for a charger for this phone?” Calum responded as he handed the man Jodi’s phone. The man studied the device. He turned it over to find the charging port and shook his head.

“Sorry we don’t have these in stock” he said while returning the device back. “Do you know any store around here that has them?” Jodi commented.

“No ma’am these are considered dead stock” “Dead stock?” Calum repeated. “Like they don’t make them any more?” The man nodded his head in response. “That doesn’t make sense, this phone came out like 2 years ago” Jodi commented. “Its part of government policy I suppose” Calum couldn’t resist asking about the small tv. “Why don’t you buy another tv? This one is outdated and we have some great ones now, I mean you should know since you work in electronics” Ironically, the tv starts to glitch, making weird sounds and in response, the man unplugs it. “This one has all the channels” he explains, The newer ones don’t have them, the government made sure to leave them behind for their own good”

Jodi and Calum gave each other a weird look. Before they could question him any further, a few customers came in. Realizing they were wasting their time, they decided to leave and find another alternative. “Calum what about your phone?” Jodi asked as they walked out of the store. “It doesn’t work in certain places remember? My phone plan got limited for some weird reason” The two searched almost every store they encountered hoping to find a phone. The problem was, that they could not remember the name of the hotel. Luckily, they found a phone retail store to see if their cellular issues could be addressed. There, they were greeted by a young man who wore a black dress shirt and slacks. “Hey there, how may I help you?” he greeted them with a welcoming smile. “Hi, we’re looking for a charger for my phone, I believe that I have this phone company on my plan” Jodi explained. Like the man at the electronic store, he inspected the device and shook his head.

“We don’t carry these in stock anymore” he informed. “The charger or the phone” Calum commented. “These phones in particular. Smart phones altogether” the worked clarified. “What do you mean? What kind of phones do you sell then?” Jodi asked growing impatient.

The worker sighed and froze for a moment, as if he had to think carefully about what he had to say. “Look.. its not our decision. New government policies are enforcing us to dumb down our products. The only kinds of phones that we can sell are flip phones, only used for calling and nothing else” “Flip phones? I haven’t heard of those since reading about them from a history book of the 2000’s” Calum answered. “They are making a comeback. It seems that we are moving backwards these days”. “Is this an only Florida thing or will this be worldwide?” Jodi questioned cocking an eyebrow. “For now, it’s a Florida thing, but soon I truly think that this will extend worldwide” the worker expressed and shrugged. “Are you both fellow travelers or locals?” he questioned. “We’re from California, we’re just visiting family” “Oh the west coast, nice. Enjoy your freedom while y’all have it. This is only the beginning”. Jodi and Calum found this comment very weird but didn’t pay much attention to it. As it was near dusk and they still couldn’t find their hotel. At this point, it didn’t matter what type of phone they got, but rather that they got one that actually worked.

“Do you have any of those burner phones we can purchase just so we can call up a hotel to find a place to stay?” Calum asked the man who was finishing up some last restocks. Luckily, they did have those in stock and they were a bit pricey, but they had nothing else to resort to. They thanked him and walked a couple blocks down the streets. A directory of all the places in the city was located at the end of a busy street. The two stayed there for about 25 minutes calling number after number until they finally found availability at a small motel nearby. The young lady at the checkout was very friendly and gave them the key to their room almost immediately. Inside the room, were 2 twin sized beds, an ironing board and a medium sized tv mounted on the wall in the center of the room. Jodi took a quick body shower while Calum flipped the channels on the tv hoping to find something entertaining to watch. After passing the same 5 different channels a few times, he realized that there was not much variety in regards to entertainment. Thus, he settled for a common news channel they had. The tv displayed clips of a recent protest that occurred a few hours prior. There were many police cars at the scene, severe maltreatment of protesters, many handmade signs being ripped from their hands and ripped apart. The scene was quite disturbing to say the least. They were being tear-gassed, beaten, duct tape placed over their mouths etc. It was as if they had something very crucial to say but were silenced against their will. Calum immediately got goosebumps and a bad feeling inside his gut. The tv immediately changed to a short clip of what looked like a congress meeting. Hundreds of people were clapping about a decision that was just voted on.

Jodi walked out in a black robe and noticed the disturbed look on Calum’s face.

“What happened?” She questioned as she approached him. “Do you remember the protestors we saw earlier today?” he responded while never tearing his eyes away from the screen. “Yeah, what about them?” she said while combing her fingers through her brown curly hair. “They were on the news. I guess they were protesting something about the government”. Suddenly, her phone on the small coffee table began to speak. ‘Warning: This device will self destruct in 2 minutes’ It began to vibrate uncontrollably. Calum rushed to grab the phone and placed it in the bathtub just in time. It seemed to burn and sizzle. After a few moments, it exploded into pieces. The room grew very silent. All that could be heard were the heavy breaths shared between the two. “What just happened?” Jodi said in disbelief. The two were interrupted by a loud alarm coming from the tv. They ran into the room and noticed a flashing of neon colors. Across the screen it said, ‘THESE DEVICES FROM THESE COMPANIES WILL SELF DESTRUCT IN 5 MINUTES’. The words were followed by the list of companies which included the one on Jodi’s phone plan. The devices included laptops, tablets, pcs and cellphones.

Calum pulled the phone out of his pocket and stared at it in fear. He wondered if his was going to self destruct at any moment. Even though his phone plan was not listed on the screen. He placed his in the bathtub next to the remnants of Jodi’s phone. Nothing happened. “What is going on?” he said and looked at her in confusion. “I have no idea but I don’t like this” Jodi said while shaking her head. “I’m going to start looking for our flight tickets back home” he said as he pulled out a small book from one of the drawers near the bed. “Good thinking “ she agreed and turned off the tv. The next day, they woke up early to fix their room and leave it as clean as they found it. They found a local coffee shop and had breakfast there. People seemed very on edge. There was very little to no small talk amongst them. An invisible fear in the air lingered over their heads. Everybody had an idea about what was bound to happen, besides Jodi and Calum. The two went to buy snacks at a local market. They figured they needed snacks for the airport. As they stood in the snack aisle, they noticed an old couple purchasing in bulk. In their cart, they had lots of matches, candles, water, duct tape, tissues, canned foods etc. They were panic buying. This was very deja vu, for they were preparing for something. After paying for their stuff, the two walked outside. The market was located in a busy plaza where many other stores were. They noticed a long line that took over the sidewalk. It was an internet cable shop, many customers were upset and frantic. Calum and Jodi walked slower to listen in on the commotion. “I have family I need to speak to! “ shouted a woman.

“My therapy is online!” announced a younger woman. “I need to make sure my mother is safe!” screamed a middle aged man. “We can’t do anything about it. The government made their decision, we can’t go against the law” the kind worker announced as he tried his best to address everybody’s concern. You could notice the pain in her eyes as she informed them. “This is unfair. It’s a violation of our freedom. We’re moving backwards!” responded the middle aged man. Jodi felt there was something bad going to happen and told Calum to order a taxi so they can leave to the airport. The taxi was completely automatic, it didn’t require a human driver to operate the vehicle. The drive to the airport was almost excruciating for her to bear. She needed to leave this state because her intuition picked up something bad that was yet to happen. The arrival to the airport, was as chaotic as the previous scene that they had just witnessed. A mass crowd had formed at the check in area. People were begging to buy tickets to anywhere, it appeared that they were trying to flee from something. Workers did their best to calm them down as they searched their computers for available flights. They threw money with the workers in hopes of bribing them. The people were desperate to leave the state of Florida. A young man approached Calum and Jodi as they waited for their flight. Jodi recognized him as one of the protestors that she had saw a few days ago. Not being able to contain her curiosity she bluntly asked the young man about the chaos that emerged. He spoke in a low voice. “The government is planning on abusing their power. They have just released an internet blackout where people in the state of Florida are forbidden to contact the outside world. They are shutting

everything down and leaving us in the dark. We are in danger.” He paused for a moment and then finished with “ You didn’t hear this from me”. With that, he disappeared amongst the large crowds of people. And suddenly, everything started to make sense. The lack of signal while trying to contact their parents, the deadstock of the chargers, the downgrade of smart phones, the ominous self destruct message on the tv. The protestors who were being tortured and beaten against their will. It was a warning, of what was to come. There was a sound of tanks and military presence that filled the air. A horrible wave of fatal fear washed over the room as people screamed. The people begged for flight tickets, they were desperate to pay any amount. The screens in the airport flashed to static as if the channels were cut off. The channels searched themselves until it paused on a clip of a group of older gentlemen who stared at the screen smiling. Their smiles were very disturbing, they remained still. “We have now entered a state of peace. No longer will we be influenced by technology. The only source of information you will receive, will be by the government. You are now safe from outside harm”. The image on the screen was distorted until it faded into static. Moments later, all systems in the airport had powered down and restarted on their own. Every flight that was just purchased within that time frame, was now lost. The workers didn’t have it in them to inform this distraught crowd that it would take more than a day to restore their flights. Calum and Jodi watched in horror as this was like a grenade that had gone off. People screamed and panicked. The two being from California, were oblivious to the particular dangers that these

people were facing. Jodi suddenly remembered what the guy from the phone retail shop told her. In response, she felt sick to her stomach that she became nauseated. “When is our flight boarding?” she asked growing hotter in temperature. “In about 3 hours why?” Calum said trying not to sound scared. He noticed her uneasiness and wanted to be a safe place for her especially in this situation. “I just want to go home” she admitted feeling overwhelmed. “Hey, we’re going to be ok” he tried to comfort her but to no avail. She wanted to take a nap but was terrified of what she would wake up to. The screams of panic and utter fear echoed in her head. Her stomach churned and twisted. It pained her to see so many people fearing for their lives. This was something she had read from the history books. If Florida was doing this, which state was next? The government had always tried to control everything that gave a person a voice or power. Dumbing down technology was their way of controlling people and what knowledge they could gain from an outside source. It was a means of control. Too much information could cause retaliation. And of course, the government couldn’t have that. They needed to make sure that civilians were unaware of their intentions. They deemed that they knew what was best for them. Banning all forms of social platforms was not enough. The origin of the source needed to be addressed. They had cut ties with one of the world’s most influential form of technology, the internet.

It was long awaited that this would occur, as there was far too much power in this global connection. The only form of communication that was known. “I’m gonna go check what’s going on” Calum announced and stood up to watch the chaos from the glass doors of the front entrance. Outside, were many police cars and military vehicles. Men in green combat gear guarded the doors as if they were preventing civilians entering. “I swear I didn’t say anything I promise!” shouted a familiar voice from a distance. Calum contorted his face in confusion and continued to observe. It was the man from the electronic shop, he was handcuffed and being escorted by military soldiers on either side of him. Another one on the side, was carrying the old tv that he was watching when Jodi and Calum entered the shop. The old small tv was placed on the floor. One of the soldiers was handed a sledgehammer to destroy the piece of history that remained. Pieces of metal and knobs flew everywhere. The old worker was instructed to go on his knees as one of the soldiers stood behind him with a small pistol in hand. Calum closed his eyes as the loud boom echoed in his ears. He felt sick to his stomach. Without saying a word, he turned around to approach Jodi who sat in the worn our navy blue seats located in front of the boarding area. “What was that?” Jodi asked as she looked at him. “Nothing, you can take a nap. We have about 2 and a half hours for our flight”.

“You can lay on my lap, I’ll keep watch” he ensured. Jodi was far too tired to protest and made herself comfortable on the seats. Calum stared in silence as he thought about the poor worker who lost his life due to having a forbidden piece of property. There was a cleansing that was taking place in secrecy. Technology had advanced, only for the government to shut it down. The demand for power was as greedy as it always has been. Nobody was safe. Nobody has ever been safe.


bottom of page