"Sum of Knowledge"
By Hector Gilbert

Readiness

Of the Inner Doors' population of thirty-five thousand, six hundred and forty-three (by the present date, Monday the 24th of April), Mr. Reding lived as number 212 in terms of leadership. This translated plainly into the location of his quarters.

Block twelve, second floor. It came to Mr. Reding's thoughts with a sort of unmatched sense of readiness.

Mr. Reding opened the door to come in; he closed it behind him. He approached the mess of labeled paper on his desk once he came in, and calmly he narrowed it all into one tall pile. This pile was carried towards the filing cabinet, but dropped on the floor beside its small safe-size compartment because the door to it was locked.

Mr. Reding reached into his pocket, where to no surprise there was a key. With this particular key, he opened the door to the filing cabinet. Flapping the door open with his left hand, Mr. Reding found that the inside of the filing cabinet was empty.

For the next forty-seven minutes Mr. Reding sorted out the messy pile of files before him until it was made into a clear, organized collection in the filing cabinet. Then he closed the door to the small filing cabinet shut.

Mr. Reding was careful to lock the door after closing it, and of course was sure to slip the key back into his pocket. Mr. Reding stood up from his crouching position, satisfied with the completion of a day's work.

It was only a matter of minutes of standing in wait before his superior checked on him. A small, thin and very pale man wearing a black shirt and pants; Wez Sirphan, the number ten (from block ten, basement floor level).

With a brief "hello", Mr. Reding acknowledged the presence of his superior. The voice had an edge to it that Mr. Reding rarely knew of otherwise. The tone was as accepted as the greeting.

"Hello," Wez predictably replied. As always, his own tone of voice was cool enough to be cold.

And with that, Wez checked out Mr. Reding's work. It was all good; the papers were off the desk and in the filing cabinet. He asked Mr. Reding for his key in order to inspect the filing cabinet, and he nodded in approval finding that Mr. Reding had kept his key in his pocket just as he was meant to. Mr. Reding, having handed Wez his key from his pocket, tensed up as he watched his superior look over how he organized the files.

The order was alphabetical, using the first letter of the last name written on each file. Just like it was meant to be. One day Mr. Reding had placed them in order of the first letter of the first name written on each file. He certainly regretted that, but now that he was obeying standard procedure Wez seemed to act as if that had never happened.

The inspection lasted a total of ten minutes. Then Wez left, and Mr. Reding let out a breath he forgot that he was holding. Wez, finding that the door to the outside hallway was closed, was forced to open it on his way out. This allowed Mr. Reding to look at his back for three whole seconds before he left.

The day, all-in-all, was going just like most of the others. Perfect. Now, it was time for Mr. Reding to talk to people.
He crept over to the side wall, where there was a small picture-phone. The 128-by-128 pixel liquid-crystal display beside the dials lit up after he dialed in the number "2-1-3".

***

The phone was ringing. Ms. Coltrane hissed a sigh through clenched teeth, for she knew that it was him again.
She whipped the phone off its handle. The screen lit up. She was half-hoping to see Wez Sirphan being the one wishing to talk to him, as she found his smart appearance sort of refreshing at times like these. Of all the false hopes.

Mr. Reding always called at this time of day, anyway (when everyone at floor two had just finished filing). He had a firm grip from which there was no release, and yet he didn't seem to have the capacity to realize it.

"What?" she rasped.

"...Hello," he stammered out hesitantly.

"What."

A brief silence. "I just want to know if everything is okay."

"Yes, everything is okay." Or rather, okay without Mr. Reding's intrusion. But other than that, Ms. Coltrane told the truth, for she found herself unable to tell any other lie.

Besides, if she had said that she wasn't okay, Mr. Reding would try to empathize with her. It shown nothing else to her except for how much (or, ore often, little) he knew.

"No dreams?" he asked her.

Of course, now that she did report that she was doing just fine, he was going to start. Start on topics such as his distorted view of Wez Sirphan, Ingred - and his dreams.

"No," she muttered back, "I didn't have any dreams."

"I had a dream," Mr. Reding reported to her. "It wasn't very nice."

She never had dreams, and was also sure that he didn't either. He was insane to believe otherwise. But here he was, going on about how bad his dreams were. And they were always to do with...

"Ingred," he said, "Ingred was in the dream."

He never met Ingred. Sometimes, she wished that he did, just to make him shut up. Ingred would teach him a thing or two, certainly. "What did he look like?"

"...I don't remember." That was his excuse; it always was.

"Anything else to report?"

"No."

"I guess this is goodbye, then." And, quite hastily, she hung up the phone.

There was one good thing about Mr. Reding. It was that he no longer rang back right after she cut him off.

***

By now the day was nearly over for Mr. Reding; it meant that now it was time to say goodbye. He opened the door to the outside hallway, and closed it calmly behind him before proceeding to go by his plan. It was standard procedure - only recommended standard procedure - but it being standard procedure, Mr. Reding aimed to please.

Carefully he knocked on each door in the floor two hallway, with a message of farewell to each one inside. This indicated that he was leaving.

First he knocked the door at block one. "Goodbye, Ted Clark!" He heard his familiar hearty "goodbye" back; the usual response.

Block two. "Goodbye, Tam Fox!" The usual response.

Block three. "Goodbye, Phil Harding!" The usual response.

Block four. "Goodbye, Reuben Stevenson!" No response.

"Reuben Stephenson?" No response. Mr. Reding was puzzled.

Mr. Reding turned around on a hunch. Wez Sirphan was right below him, holding his chin with a sort of curiosity.

"Right then," Wez stated. "It has come to my understanding that Reuben has vanished."

"What's going to happen?" Mr. Reding moaned.

"We're making up the space by moving everyone up a block except for those being demoted."

"And am I being demoted?"

Wez sighed. "No. You're not. You're effectively promoted; in block eleven from now on."

Mr. Reding smiled, and continued to walk away and say goodbye. Wez knew that Mr. Reding had full knowledge of what was happening; he only asked him about it because he liked the way it was said to him. Wez could only smile at that because by this stage he was past grimacing over him.

With that, Mr. Reding's day came to a close. It was approximately an hour and thirty minutes long. He found himself fading away, eventually just hoping that he wouldn't have another dream.

End of part one