Doctor Wilson hurried toward the entrance of his clinic as if conditioned by the buzzing in his pocket.
Personal reminder: NEWSPAPER DELIVERY @ 0600.
Wilson didn’t need to look at his phone to know what it said. It was the same every morning for the past few years.
Wilson unlocked the door and stepped out into the icy winter morning, feeling the cold seep into his aging bones. He looked up the street and squinted against the malignant wind tracking from the heart of downtown.
He didn’t mind waiting for the paper in the summer. The sun was rising, the temperature was a perfect twenty degrees, and the world was only beginning to wake up. However, the paper was never late in the summer.
Winter in Brooklyn was bitter, dark, and wet. And the paper was always late. Wilson turned back to the door and pulled it open just as the drone came around the corner. He let the door fall closed and waited patiently for his delivery, slowly hardening as a forming icicle does.
The drone came to a stop and hovered in front of him.
“Doctor Robert Wilson, pleasure to see you this morning,” the drone’s voice was mechanical. It was an older model without the ‘HuMan’ voice technology. Newspapers didn’t have the money they used to.
“Here is your subscription.” The New York Times protruded from the body of the drone and Wilson took it quickly. “We value your business.”
The drone disappeared in a flurry of wind and Wilson retreated back inside the clinic. Of course the Times valued his business, he was one of the few keeping the print edition alive. Some would call him old fashioned, and he wouldn’t argue. Some would call him a sadist, since no one relied on the news anymore. He didn’t think he could argue that either.
Wilson’s office was down the hall, and after a quick stop in the staff break room for a coffee, he’d nestled himself at his desk with the paper laid out in front of him.
It was his routine. Reading the paper was his time before the day began. An hour more and the rest of his staff would arrive, a half hour more and they would open the door to clients. An endless deluge of them. Without his time in the morning, he would have lost his mind years ago.
Wilson always started with the sports. He knew that the sports section, unlike the other sections in the paper, were always true. Professional sports was still God in America. You didn’t lie about the Knicks.
After the sports, he skipped over business—the section that reminded him how little money he made, and then skipped over international news—the section that reminded him how fucked the country was, and finally settled on the local news.
There was a story on the latest developments in a rouge drone assault spree. Wilson had even tended to a few of the victims. Fifteen so far and they still hadn’t found the faulty machinery. The experts were saying that whoever had damaged it and set it loose had corrupted both its Morality Drive and its GPS. It would explain why the attacks were random and particularly brutal.
Wilson scanned a few more articles, then settled on another. The headline was different, but the story was the same and it always hit home. Another physician, dead in his office. ‘Died suddenly.’ Wilson knew the newspeak. He didn’t know why he read those articles anymore. It was enough to make him wonder when he would be next.
His eyes lit to the name. Doctor Tracy Knowles. Wilson was pretty sure he’d met Knowles at a CME event (one of the few perks left in the profession) a few months back. They’d had a lot in common, as they discovered over a Busch. Old fashioned guys working within the lines drawn for them. And they were both Knicks fans. The man didn’t seem unhappy at the time, but then again, it was hard to tell these days. People had gotten good at hiding how they felt. Besides, it wasn’t always depression driving suicide.
Wilson finished on the strips. Even if the artists were jaded, at least there was still some innocence there, amongst the panels. Wilson chuckled at one, outright laughed at another, and frowned his way through the rest, then he folded the paper up and set it aside on his desk. Five minutes left. He leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes.