Image by Christine Renney
Cartwright’s job was dealing with information, but he wasn’t the one responsible for collecting it. He didn’t garner or gather, didn’t even transcribe the documents. When the documents arrived all of these tasks had already been done. Cartwright’s Employers had stressed that it wasn’t necessary for him to understand the info, how it might relate to things in the big wide world wasn’t his concern. His only task was to familiarise himself with it, to read everything and to look at and study the photos, to listen to the audio tapes and to watch the videos.
His Employer’s instructions had been oblique but, working diligently, Cartwright had managed to do what they ordered. Correlating and categorising, he had built an archive, one that he could navigate almost effortlessly. If and when they came a-calling he was sure that he would be able to find the documents they wanted. Even if their questions were cryptic, and all they could provide were a few key words, Cartwright believed that he would be able to locate the correct files and provide the necessary info. But no-one had come a-calling and in twenty years his system hadn’t been tested. Actually, that’s not quite true. He had on occasion been called upon to redact certain info or someone from the files. And Cartwright had always done this happily and, working with a thick black marker, he blocked out the words one at a time, page after page. The fact that he was able to do this so swiftly and efficiently was evidence at least that his system worked.
When he began, twenty years previously, the job had seemed old-fashioned. He had felt as if he were functioning out of time, even more so as the years progressed.
The info was always hand delivered by couriers, bulky envelopes stuffed with sheets of thin typing paper, the text typed on old word processors. And then there were the cassettes: the C60s and C90s and C120s and the video tapes. Sometimes there was something scrawled in biro on the labels or the index cards and sometimes not.
The video footage was mundane, mostly CCTV captures. Cartwright always made extensive notes, describing anyone who crossed in front of the camera, the cars – colour, make and model, registration plates. He included anything and everything, determined not to miss the tiniest detail. The time and date, weather conditions, street signs, pubs, clubs and restaurants, shops, office blocks, company logos – they were all recorded.
The audio tapes were equally as boring, mostly interviews, men and women describing a particular place or a particular person. As he transcribed Cartwright was struck by how similar their testimony was to his own notes on the video footage.
He included as much incidental detail as possible. Voices, accents and cadence of both the interviewers and their subjects. How much the interviewees had to be coaxed or if they gave up the info unprompted and, most importantly, if and when the voices had appeared on other tapes.
Cartwright had worked hard over the years and he had somehow managed to make something from out of nothing. And now instructions had come down from up above. He was to be retired, his services were no longer required. Cartwright wondered what would happen to his archive. Was the info also now redundant and would it simply languish untouched and untested?
He had just six months but it was long enough to do what he intended to do. He would transfer everything onto his computer and when he had uploaded the entire archive onto the hard drive he would post it on-line. Make it available to all and anyone who was so inclined could then test his system, come rain or come shine.