The Bartlebies

The word spreads like blood through water and work ceases. They hold no strikes, form no picket lines, make no speeches. They simply stand where they are, and wait.

“What the hell are you doing? Get back to work!”

“I would prefer–” the eternal phrase– “not to.”

They are fired, of course, but do not leave until their shift ends. The next day they are there, in uniform, silently taking their posts. They are dragged away, limp and unresisting, and stuffed into jails filled to bursting. Each new hire lasts a day, perhaps a week, before they too hear the call and drop their hands, their tools, their eyes. “I would prefer not to.”

Each day new hires, but never a scab. They are cursed at, tear-gassed, beaten and slandered. They remain silent; they do not resist. Neither do they retreat.

A week, then two. A month, then two. “I would prefer not to.” Written on bridges and tshirts. Scrawled across a sidewalk. The world slowly goes mad, choking on its own incomprehension.