The Program — audio series — You had me at "Hello World"

You had me at "Hello World"

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IMS: Hello, this is IMS, the author of The Program audio series. Every episode of The Program is a standalone story set in the same world, but they all differ in form and feel, so don’t hesitate to skip around. The show is brought to you for free because it’s supported by advertising. You can get the ad-free version and bonus episodes by becoming a patron or subscribing to the show on Apple Podcasts. The Program comes for us all.

ANNOUNCER: What you are about to hear is an episode of a radio show called “Heroes of the Program”. Immensely popular during its heyday, it is a prime example of propaganda representative of the entire era.

JM: Could you please introduce yourself?

VIKTOR: My name is Viktor Ivanović and I am one of the last remaining heroes of the Program. As one of its first users, I saw the Program rise from a piece of software you would access on your phone to a global entity that replaced states, money, and god. But this is not a story about that. This is a story about clay rabbits, sexting, and poetry. This is a story about how I fell in love.

JM: Hello and welcome to the Program!

LAB: Our guest today is a living legend - the emphasis being on living, as all our heroes are legends, but not all of them are still alive.

JM: One of them is Viktor Ivanović, who half a century ago answered the Program’s call and earned the highest achievement.

LAB: However, hero Ivanović - or Viktor, as he prefers to be called - is a simple man. He has given almost no interviews since he was awarded, preferring to live far away from the public gaze with his wife Marta.

VIKTOR: Ah Marta. My Marta. I remember our last anniversary. We lit the candles in the room just like we did every other year. It was sort of a ritual - you know, to set the mood. And I’m sure you understand, I don’t need to explain. [laughter] But I guess that year the number of candles triggered the fire alarm, so the fire alarm went off, alerting the whole neighbourhood two 75-year olds were having sex. [laughter] Even the alarm was trying to tell us it’s time to call it quits.

JM: That’s hilarious.

VIKTOR: That was our last anniversary. Few weeks later she died in her sleep. They said “stroke”.

JM: I’m so sorry to hear that.

VIKTOR: Don’t be. I’m not. I’m grateful for every minute I got to spend with her. There are things in my life that I regret, but not a single one, not a single one involves Marta in any way.

LAB: Well you touched on an interesting topic just now - regret. You are here with us precisely because you wish to discuss regret.

VIKTOR: That’s correct. I'm here to tell you about a summer half a century ago. It was the summer the Program appeared, but it was not the Program and the global revolution that followed that affected me most that summer.

LAB: It wasn’t?

VIKTOR: Oh no. You see, that was also the summer that I met Angelica. And what’s a global revolution compared to a woman?

[laughter]

LAB: So tell us about her.

VIKTOR: The first time I saw Angelica was on a service that was then very popular. It was called the Facebook. It was sort of a precursor to the Program and it was also a network of people.

LAB: Oh really, how interesting!

JM: Yeah, I gotta admit, I never heard of this service.

VIKTOR: You haven’t really missed much. The Facebook was really basic - you’d mostly send your friends stickers and funny videos. I know it sounds dumb. I was definitely spending too much time on that service, too much time.

LAB: That couldn’t be all that you were doing at this time - what else were you involved in?

VIKTOR: I got a degree in Art History a couple of years back and I was still living with my parents, as most of my friends - remember, that was still the time when people had to buy a place to live so I didn’t have a lot of options. Not in a country like mine.

JM: Which country was that?

VIKTOR: It was called Bosnia and Herzegovina

[Zekerijah Đezić - Razbolje se šimšir list]

VIKTOR: Bosnia was not a country you would choose to be born in.

LAB: So what can you tell us about Bosnia?

VIKTOR: The best you could say about Bosnia is that there were countries that were worse. Which say really much - the world before The Program was not a nice place, especially if you didn’t have a lot of money.

JM: So, can you tell us how is the money different from the credits we use today?

VIKTOR: The problem with money was that it wasn’t in any way connected with the person spending it. You did not have to prove that you are well-intending, respected individual to use money, yet you could use it to buy influence and favour just like you’d purchase sugar water.

JM: Yeah, that sounds like a system with great potential of abuse.

VIKTOR: Yeah, I guess looking back it’s fairly obvious. So, in order to get money I worked part time in a call centre of a telecom. This is where young people had a job to answer old people’s questions. I was sitting at a computer all day in a room that took the whole floor. This type of office they called open space but I don’t know how you can call it open space since it didn’t have a single window.

LAB: Really, it had no windows?

VIKTOR: None. I think the idea was to make employees lose the concept of time. The job was not only squeezing my soul, but it wasn’t even earning me the damned money, which explains why I was still living in my parents’ basement.

[song ends]

LAB: Was Angelica also working here?

JM: In this windowless box?

VIKTOR: No, no, no. That’s not where I met her. She was travelling all over the world trying to find herself and trying to figure out what to do with her life. We got introduced by a mutual friend on the Facebook. You see, before the Serendipity feature, concept of stranger was very much alive. And the only thing you knew about someone is what they decided to post about themselves. So what I knew about her was that she was 27, that she worked for a startup company, and that her self-professed super power was always picking the best photo filter for the Instagraph.

JM: The Instagraph?

VIKTOR: That was another online service. Its purpose was to show off.

LAB: This was around time the Program first appeared, right?

VIKTOR: Actually, the Program was already around, at least in the basic form. People were accessing software on their phones. You could interact with it by touching the glass screen. It’s hard to imagine it now, but original Program was just like that.

LAB: So the Program was around, but it wasn’t yet popular?

VIKTOR: Oh it was very popular - everyone who tried it loved it! It’s just that not everybody knew about it yet. I remember I was the first person who told Angelica about it. And that was unusual, as it was always the other way around - something would appear in the West, and much later it would arrive to Eastern Europe. To tell you the truth the whole economic system was a mystery to me - how was it possible that someone in Bosnia would get four times less money than someone doing the same job in Germany? Of course, today we know the whole system was rigged, but back then it just didn’t make sense!

JM: So yeah, why did the people put up with it?

VIKTOR: Because we were entertained all the time. In fact, this is probably why Angelica hasn’t heard of the Program before coming to Bosnia - the West was just too busy watching the Netflix!

JM: Watching what?

VIKTOR: Oh nevermind, forget it.

JM: So initially, what was it that drew you to Angelica?

VIKTOR: Oh she was bright as a day in May. I remember when we started messaging, I asked her all the standard questions - like you know “Do you have a happy childhood?”, “What’s going to be written on your tombstone?”, or “How old were you when you lost virginity?”. Stuff like that. Her answers were “I still have a happy childhood”, “BRB”, and “Does the vibrator count?”

[laughter]

LAB: She really must have made an impression on you for you to remember so long after.

VIKTOR: Oh I must have re-read messages we sent each other dozens of times. I don’t know, she was just so refreshing. So carefree, unlike people in Bosnia, who were mostly a pessimistic, depressive bunch. We just had great a great, great connection. And she could surprise me: I remember showing her my dog, Jon Bone Jovi, expecting her to melt but you know what she said? She told me how once she had a rabbit that committed suicide. She was not a fan of animals and she didn’t pretend to be. Same thing with kids - she didn’t have the slightest amount of maternal instinct and kept insisting she will never have children. She did later admit that Jon Bone Jovi was cute, but I suspect that by that time she already thought the owner is cute as well, so...

LAB: So how did you actually get together?

VIKTOR: The night she arrived to Bosnia there was a concert. I told her I could get her in for free - it was a free concert but she didn’t know that. There was not even a cover charge. Once we got in I even had her buy me a drink inside to repay me, you know. [laughter] Now we had a few beers, and talked a bit more, and so on. Then at one point she asked if I’m always that arrogant and irresistible. And I told her I am neither of those things, and asked her if she was always that charming and witty. I knew that I was unlikely to say anything as witty anytime soon so I kissed her there and then.

JM: Wow, that’s pretty bold, I wish I had the guts to do that!

LAB: So did you two become a couple afterwards?

VIKTOR: Yeah, we were together since day one, two adults acting like teenagers. I still had an artistic streak back then so I made her a clay rabbit and put it on a necklace. I think I told her something about this being her second chance as a rabbit owner, something like that. The only thing that caused a rift between me and her was when I asked her if she played any sports and she said frisbee. Apparently she played something called ultimate frisbee and she kept insisting it’s a sport. And I remember thinking to myself, “Viktor, the girl’s an idiot!”

[laughter]

VIKTOR: I will never forget the nicknames we had for each other. She said most of her friends called her Angie - Angelica for short. So I said why stop there, why not shorten it to two letters - N.G. [laughter] We used to joke that it sounds like a rapper’s name - “Nefarious N.G.” or something like that. [laughter] But don’t worry, my nickname was even worse. There’s this traditional Bosnian desert called a baklava. Angelica of course loved it. And she said that there’s only one thing that’s sweeter than Baklava in the universe. Me. So that’s how she called me. [laughs] It’s one of those stories you remember your whole life, you know? Just like a poem she shared with me. It was from a poet called Ian M. Starwell - I never heard of him, but Angelica loved him. So it became our song.

IAN M. STARWELL:

Here, in this poor land
Where soil is hard and winters cold
A boy takes a girl's hand
One last time for his to hold

His cheek against her cheek
Her heart next to his heart
Both unable to speak
Unable to tell the tears apart

In front of them, in the deep night
A sea shimmers under the moonlight
A sea that dictates their fates
A sea that separates

A ship will come with the coming of day
Taking men on a trip in one way
To a land far away from the old
Where the soil’s not as hard, and winters less cold

There’s nothing to rejoice
But the girl must stay strong
So she commands her voice
And sings their song

I love you so very so,
So very much, y'know
It will lead to tears, y'know
It's a love as such, y'know

VIKTOR: Angelica and I both had a rich inner world. Our imagination might originate from the fact we had spent most of our formative years alone. See we were both single children with working parents. That was what life was like for most people before the Program - people would work for at least 8 hours every single day. Even if your job was boring or stupid, you’d go to work. Even if you effectively worked for 2 hours, you would still have to remain on your job for another 6 hours to leave the appearance of working! Those were considered to be the good jobs! Your name and what you did was how you’d mostly introduce yourself to people. Like “I’m Robert and I’m fixing washing machines” or something like that. This was before every job got broken down into simple gigs.

LAB: Can you tell us a bit more about the early days of job automation?

VIKTOR: The Program in the beginning had only one feature - finding gigs through the Job Market. Most jobs were on farms. You’d pick a gig and get very specific instructions what to do. For example, if you had to pick 14 bulbs you were not simply told to take 14 bulbs - you were instructed to take 5 bulbs, then 5 more bulbs, and then finally another 4 bulbs. This was done in order to minimize mistakes. Whoever was giving out these instructions obviously didn’t have a lot of faith in other people. [laughter ] Once you've completed a gig you’d take a selfie.

JM: A selfie?

VIKTOR: Oh yeah, you’re kind of young and you’ve never heard of selfies. A selfie was basically a photo of yourself that you’ve taken yourself. You would use selfies to prove that you completed the gig.

LAB: What are some of the other gigs you could pick up in the beginning? I’m presuming office jobs were still not available?

VIKTOR: Very few of them. In the early days it was mostly agriculture and construction. A lot of times the gig would consist of simply showing up and picking up materials from somebody else. You know, sand, cement, tar, stuff like that. You never really knew where it was coming from, or what you were building for that matter. In fact, you’d rarely work on the same construction site. One day you’d be mixing concrete at one project, the next day you’d be shovelling the other. More qualified workers would perform supervising gigs. I don’t know how many credits they were making, but I can tell you that I was paid very well - I’d make more money in a week than my father would in a month!

JM: Wow! So credits were there right from the beginning?

VIKTOR: They were, it’s just that they didn’t indicate your reputation back then. And also they were interchangeable with other currencies. Back then most countries minted their own currency, so we had more currencies than a harlot had sailors! So for example if you needed euros, you’d find somebody who’d want to buy your credits and perform the exchange. People used to do it a lot at the beginning but less and less with time, as value of credits grew and more and more places started accepting them. Soon there was no longer a need for other currencies at all. And you know what happens with things that are no longer needed.

VIKTOR: And then summer came to an end. Two months after she arrived, Angelica returned to the United States of America. She left one morning, catching a flight from Dubrovnik, to Frankfurt, and then on to Washington. And my basement apartment suddenly seemed huge. And my city so small.

LAB: Can you tell me more how you felt after Angelica left?

VIKTOR: To tell you the truth it didn’t feel that different. It’s not like we stopped all contact or anything - we were still in touch through the Facebook virtually all the time. In a way I guess you could say we were returning to our beginnings. Another thing that probably helped take my mind off her is that I was living like a maggot in bacon at the time. More and more companies were switching to the Program to pay their workers, including the Telecom I worked for. My rate almost tripled overnight! The Telecom didn’t have to pay me so for them it was an even better deal. All corporations were just in love with the Program. And of course why wouldn’t they be - the Program was now paying for half of the workforce! All my colleagues in the call centre were now financed through the Program. So suddenly customer service agents were doing better than most managers! I was smug as a butcher’s cat because of this, as most managers did very little actual work!

JM: Didn’t anyone find this whole situation with workers being paid through the Program strange?

VIKTOR: Sure they did. But what do you think the companies would do, refuse? I mean even if they did, their competitors certainly wouldn’t. And it was only necessary for one of them to take advantage of free labour to crush everybody else.

JM: But back then you had governments - didn’t they step in to curb the practice?

VIKTOR: Actually, the governmental jobs were among the first to switch to the Program’s payroll. I think you might be overestimating old governments - they were like leaky buckets happy that it rains. A few honest politicians admitted that they were not really sure how the Program was being financed. Some of them speculated it was through the EU funds. The majority though didn’t think much about the Program’s origin but instead tried to take the credit for it, insisting that it was their idea all along. I remember Angelica telling me this was the case in United States of America. I mean didn’t the last American president say the Program was a product of his regime?

LAB: The last American president said a lot of things.

JM: As you very well know, nobody is quite sure where the Program originated.

VIKTOR: I know, and this is something Angelica and I talked a lot about. She was telling me how the American media was spreading anti-Program propaganda... That it was a communist ploy from China, and that the Germans were behind it. I mean you can still hear people from that part of the world spreading bullshit theories like that.

JM: I’m still not sure why you didn’t go with Angelica to the United States of America. Is this because you disliked travelling?

VIKTOR: Actually, I’d say it was the United States of America that disliked me! Unlike Americans who could walk in Bosnia like a sheriff into a saloon, Bosnians couldn’t enter America without a special permission called a visa.

LAB: So if you couldn’t travel to Angelica, why didn’t she come to you from United States of America?

VIKTOR: Well she was working there. And I already explained how working worked back then. It’s not like you could drop everything in your life and move to Bosnia.

JM: Not even for someone you loved?

VIKTOR: Well, that’s just the thing. Also complicating things was the fact that she was seeing other people. Sometimes men, sometimes women.

JM: You mean romantically?

VIKTOR: I wasn’t sure of the nature of those relationships. Like most young people of the era, she dabbled in polyamory - I was never able to tell if this is indeed something that defined her, or if it was simply a convenient way for her to keep her options open. In a society where one is constantly bombarded with attractions and actively encouraged to move on when things become hard or boring, dedication to a single person is tantamount to a revolutionary act.

LAB: So what did you do?

VIKTOR: I did what I could. I called her. I’d send her plushy animals… Trying very hard to keep the flame of N.G. and Baklava alive. [sad laugh] They were such silly nicknames, but they would always bring a smile to my face. I couldn’t forget them even if I wanted to… My friends tried to console me, but I had only one friend who could understand me - Ian M. Starwell.

IAN M. STARWELL:

It's better to do, than cry for a do-over
If no path is right, then all of them are
Life starts slowly, and then it's over
Dull in a close-up, beautiful from afar

The girl kisses the boy on the lips
Their final kiss on the ground
It’s supposed to be love that sinks ships
And not the other way around

Then she cries and swears
Curses the bay and solemnly declares
"I wish I had one more life
One to stay and one to be your wife"

The boy fell silent, he bowed his head
Then he looked at the girl and quietly said
"If I had life number two
I'd spend both of them with you"

It’s an impossible choice
But the boy must stay strong
So he commands his voice
And sings their song

I love you so very so,
So very much, y'know
It will lead to tears, y'know
It's a love as such, y'know

VIKTOR: So that was my life then. Working and waiting. Little did I know that my world was going to completely change. Or better said, that the world is going to completely change.

LAB: Can you talk to us about the night of the Update? What do you remember about the system change?

VIKTOR: First thing you have to understand is that nobody had an idea what was going on these couple of days. Especially during the night of the Update. But I just knew something strange was happening. Remember how I told you I was still picking up gigs for the telecom?

JM: Yeah, sure.

VIKTOR: Well that day I was offered a gig to come and cover the night shift. However there was something unusual - the gig paid three times as much as it did normally. So I quickly grabbed it without thinking and went to work late in the evening. I remember barely catching the last bus to the city centre. There were two other guys already there when I arrived. This was the second thing that was odd, for normally one person would cover the night shift, just to keep an eye out on the network and make sure everything was okay.

JM: So who were these guys?

VIKTOR: Just a couple of colleagues. Like me, they were drawn by overpriced gigs that night like flies to fire. So we made ourselves coffee and locked the doors from inside. This was standard night shift procedure but it’s important for the story. We were there for less than half an hour when I noticed that Internet usage suddenly started to spike; it was past midnight, but judging from the traffic it could have just as easily been noon! So we checked the social networks and saw what was happening - it seemed government decided to outlaw the Program and shut it down! And it wasn't just Bosnia - people from several other countries were saying the same. There was a huge outcry. Remember, by the time over half of the population already owned credits. By defending the Program people were simply defending their property! Then suddenly we heard a knock at the door. It was the director of the telecom company with two policemen. They were steaming out all seven orifices and demanded to be let in. They sounded like people who were accustomed to getting their way - you don’t really hear that tone of voice anymore. Luckily, the doors were locked shut, and remember, the room had no windows, so there was no way for them to get in without some heavy duty equipment. So the director said he’s going to sack us if we don’t open the door! Then another thing happened: we all got a notification at the same time on our phones. I looked at the message and saw I was offered another gig. The title was “Stand firm”, which was strange as this was quite abstract. Stranger still was the fee: 5,685 credits recurring monthly in perpetuity! And just to give you a perspective: you could sustain a family of four with that sum at the time. So I quickly clicked on the gig and read the description. It said three things. First, that the job is to prevent anyone from tampering with the network. Second, to ensure this, it is necessary to prevent anyone entering the room and it is necessary to incapacitate people already in it. And third, that this fee is only given to the first person who completes the gig.

JM: Bloody hell!

LAB: So, did the other guys get the same notification?

VIKTOR: I’m sure they did, as I saw their reaction. You could see the gears in their heads turning as they were processing the situation. Each one of us was waiting for the other to make a move! I assessed the situation and immediately dismissed one guy as harmless, as he was shorter than February and I could never imagine him in a fight. The other guy however was more formidable - he was a full head taller than me and must have had over a hundred kilos - he could definitely whoop my ass! So we were just standing there, not saying anything. The three men outside were banging on the door shouting to open up, oblivious to the drama going on inside. I felt like they were banging directly on my brain! Sweat started getting into my eyes and I felt it burning. I still wasn’t sure what to do. I wanted to tell everybody that there’s no need for this, or something stupid like that; but then again, I just couldn’t be sure if their allegiance is strong enough. I was ready to defend the Program, but were they?

JM: So what happened?

VIKTOR: It all happened in less than 20 seconds. The small guy pounced like a puma on the big guy and started beating him in the face. He managed to land a few good punches, dazing the big guy. As for me, I just froze. I couldn’t tell if the big guy was still conscious, but he pretty much seemed incapacitated. The little guy was still hitting him like a wild dog when I approached him from behind and hit him over his back with a chair. He fell down on the ground right next to the big guy. Both of them were short of breath so I quickly grabbed some computer cables and tied their hands. The little guy was still kicking so I had to pin him like a hog. He kept screaming “I’m with The Program! I’m with the Program!”, but the carrots were already cooked. He soon stopped from exhaustion. Then I took a selfie with them all tied up and bloody and sent it in. It got approved and I was offered a new gig: wait for reinforcements. So I spent another four hours in that room until finally other Program loyalists arrived and made the Director and the policemen scram. And that was pretty much the end of it. That’s how I became a hero.

LAB: What happened next?

VIKTOR: Nothing that involved me. I went home and observed the rest of the Update as a spectator. I’m sure there are better people to talk about that period than me.

JM: Really? Surely you have some theories about what happened?

VIKTOR: Of course I do. Over the years, I read many explanations and opinions and what not explaining the Update, but if you ask me it ultimately came down to one thing: the number of people who were satisfied with the old system versus those who were not. I think with all I told you today you can guess who was in majority. I mean back then we had people who didn’t even have a home to live in! That’s literally what we called them - homeless.

JM: I’m not sure I understand… So where did those people live if not at home? In hotels?

VIKTOR: [laughs] They were living on the streets!

LAB: Outside?!

VIKTOR: I know that it doesn’t make any sense now, but at the beginning of the 21st century no one was thinking that way; everyone was only thinking about themselves. It was just I, I, I. For fuck’s sake, even the most popular phone was called the I-phone! And it was easier to stare at the phone all day than to look at the world in the eyes. We were passing by the poor every day and they were literally begging us for help, and I don’t know what’s worse, that the beggars were normal or that it was normal to ignore them! We were repulsed by the horrors of history, we despised the king that exploited the serfs, but in a way we were even worse - we were living in a world when we were all kings, but all that opulence wasn’t enough and we just wanted more and more and more! [coughs] And if there wasn’t for the Program, we would have never stopped! We needed it to save us from ourselves!

LAB: That’s a lot to take in… Now, Angelica? What about her, did you get in contact with her?

VIKTOR: As you know, the Update was much more chaotic in the United States of America. It later came to light that most of the Bosnian government collaborated with the Program. In the United States of America, it was much more difficult to put all the existing institutions on the paylist, so there was a huge conflict between the Program supporters and its adversaries. The United States of America basically imploded and Washington was especially hard hit. It was impossible to get any news from the ground for months. And it wasn’t for my lack of trying - I tried everything to reach Angelica before finally giving up. I knew that if she were alive she’d contact me. But I never heard from her again.

JM: Wow.

LAB: Wow indeed.

VIKTOR: I later actively suppressed all memories of that summer. I had to, they were just too distressing. Luckily I met Marta shortly afterwards. We were one of the first couples introduced through the Program’s Serendipity feature when it launched. She became my friend and my lover. We pairbonded less than a year later. Unfortunately we couldn’t have children of our own, so we were taking up all parenting gigs offered. I was even a father to one boy. He would always ask with big eyes if I really was a hero of the Program. And I would usually keep him guessing. I never told the full story publicly until now.

LAB: Thank you so much Viktor for sharing your story with us.

VIKTOR: No need to thank me. I just wanted to let the world know the story of N.G. and Baklava. Hopefully it means to some people at least a wee bit of what it meant to us.

JM: That’s very brave of you, and I am sure our listeners will appreciate your honesty and courage.

LAB: Before you go, one more thing. You said you never tried to contact Angelica in all these intervening years?

VIKTOR: No. Primarily because of fear. I was too scared I’d find out that she perished in Walmart massacres or something like that.

LAB: Then you’ll be pleased to hear that she is alive and well! It took a lot of detective work, but we were able to find her!

VIKTOR: [silence] You were?

LAB: We did and she’s alive and well! She still lives only 30 kilometres from Washington.

JM: Not only that, but we spoke to her yesterday!

LAB: If you’d like, we could arrange for you to hear each other. How does that sound?

VIKTOR: [silence] That… I’d like that.

[telephone ringing]

ANGELICA: Hello?

VIKTOR: Hi, it’is Viktor.

ANGELICA: Hey!

VIKTOR: Angelica?

ANGELICA: It’s me!

VIKTOR: Do you remember me?

ANGELICA: Of course I do, I’m not senile! [laughs]

VIKTOR: You’d be forgiven, it’s been 50 years!

ANGELICA: Well, better to arrive late than ugly! [laughs]

VIKTOR: You could never arrive ugly.

ANGELICA: Oh you old flirt.

VIKTOR: Are you calling me old? Because I self-identify as a teenager!

ANGELICA: A recycled teenager perhaps! [laughs]

VIKTOR: You know how they say, being old is always ten year older than you currently are.

ANGELICA: Well, being old is not so bad when you consider the alternative. [laughs]

[pause]

VIKTOR: So, what happened to you?

ANGELICA: What do you mean?

VIKTOR: I mean after that summer we spent together. I lost track of you.

ANGELICA: I lost track of myself.

VIKTOR: I did try to contact you. But I couldn’t reach you and I thought you just moved on. I thought that’s why you never contacted me ever again.

ANGELICA: Viktor, what do you want me to say? That I was thrown out from my house? That I left Washington in a bus with only a knapsack on my back? That I lived in Canada as a refugee for two years?

VIKTOR: I’m sorry... I didn’t know…

ANGELICA: It’s not a part of my life that I like to think about.

VIKTOR: I don’t know what to say…

[silence]

ANGELICA: You know, I still have the rabbit you made me.

VIKTOR: You do?

ANGELICA: Yeah, I had it around my neck when I fled. My kids were always fascinated with that rabbit.

VIKTOR: The kids?

ANGELICA: Two kids, three grandchildren, one husband.

VIKTOR: Two husbands at the same time..?

ANGELICA: [laughs] Silly... [laughs]

VIKTOR: [laughs] I just wanted to make sure!

ANGELICA: What about you?

VIKTOR: My numbers are not that good. I was married, but she passed last year.

ANGELICA: I’m sorry.

VIKTOR: Don’t be. I’m not. I’m grateful for every minute I got to spend with her. You know, there are things that I regret in my life, but not a single one - not a single one - involves Marta in any way.

ANGELICA: You’re right, you are lucky. Love is rare and it’s often unreciprocated.

[silence]

VIKTOR: It’s good to hear you, N.G.

ANGELICA: It’s good to hear you too.

VIKTOR: I'm glad that N.G. and Baklava live on!

ANGELICA: [confused] What do you mean?

VIKTOR: Baklava, remember..? (…) It’s the… The nicknames we had for each other… Remember, how I used to call you N.G. and you called me Baklava..?

ANGELICA: [sighs] It’s… I'm sorry… I’m... I... [sighs]

VIKTOR: You know, I could never orgive myself for losing you Angie.

ANGELICA: I'm sorry. I can only say sorry. I wish we had a chance to say goodbye properly. I wish there was something I could do. All I can say is that I'm sorry.

VIKTOR: That’s okay. It’s okay.

IAN M. STARWELL:

The moon disappears
The ship comes along
The boy and the girl wipe the tears
And one last time they sing their song

I love you so very so,
So very, very much, y'know
It will lead to tears, y'know
It's a love as such, y'know

For the rest of their years
They shall hold this moment perfect
Love that brings us to tears
Is the only one worth it

JM: Viktor, are you alright? How do you feel?

VIKTOR: Well, pretty much like someone whipped my heart with nettle.

LAB: I’m so sorry. It was certainly not our intention to open any old wounds.

VIKTOR: It’s okay. You couldn’t have known there was a wound - I didn’t know there was a wound. But then again I guess that’s precisely why I made myself believe Angelica was no longer alive for all these year. You see, we would rather think of a person that used to love us as dead rather than not loving us any more.

JM: That’s a depressing thought.

VIKTOR: I told you Bosnians aren’t optimistic by nature. You probably don’t know this, but when I was born Bosnia was in a middle of a war. When I was a bit older my parents would tell me about the massacres, about raped women, about the genocide... And as a kid I just couldn’t believe it. Not that people wouldn’t do such atrocities - that I had no trouble believing - but that the rest of the world would just watch. I remember thinking I would never stand by while something like that was happening. But then I did.

LAB: Viktor, you don’t have to…

VIKTOR: I remember when Angelica descended into my life that summer. You can only imagine: a free-spirited world-travelling girl whose only care in the world is frisbee. Compared to me she was a space shuttle! But then the tables have turned. The Program brought me and Bosnia so much coveted wealth and respect. And it was so easy to forget the other side of the equation - those who had to lose in order to equalize.

JM: Viktor, don’t...

VIKTOR: You asked me how I feel - I feel ashamed. Ashamed I ignored what was happening in that part of the world and to the woman I loved. Ashamed that I did nothing at the moment she needed me the most. And then people call me a hero! Some hero I am...

LAB: Viktor, don’t be so hard on yourself! The historians are still debating if what happened there even classifies as a war.

JM: Yeah I mean, besides, a lot of evidence suggests Americans were in fact the architects behind the Program!

VIKTOR: Like we could know who’s behind the Program! We don’t even know its real name...

LAB: Listen to us Viktor! What you did was for the greater good. It was mathematically proven that the old system was simply not sustainable in the long run - if it had not been for the Program, the whole ecosystem would have crumbled by now!

JM: Yeah, that’s right, that’s why you’re a hero Viktor! Because of actions of people like you, we are living in a better world. All of us, not just a chosen few!

LAB: I am sure even Angelica understands that now!

VIKTOR: You know what, you are right. Everything makes sense now. In fact, it’s completely appropriate. I am a hero, and heroes always win.

LAB: Exactly!

JM: Spoken like a true hero!

VIKTOR: … It’s just they never get the girl.

[The Program main theme]

JM: This episode of the Program was made by seven people: Željko Sorić, Elaine Singer, Rashaana Cumberbatch, Andrew King, Stephan Lipton, Christien Ledroit, and IMS. Visit programaudioseries.com for more details. Now, think about three people you care about most in the world. People you can’t imagine ever losing from your life. Now call them and tell them about this show. Let them know there’s a message waiting for them at the end. This is that message.

WRITTEN, DIRECTED, EDITED AND PRODUCED BY

Ivan Mirko S.

CAST

VIKTOR IVANOVIĆ - Željko Sorić
HOSTESS - Rashaana Cumberbatch
HOST - Andrew King (vimeo)
ANGELICA - Elaine Singer (website)
IAN M. STARWELL - Stephan Linton (Mandy)

MAIN THEME AND ADDITIONAL MUSIC BY

Christien Ledroit (website)

REFERENCES:

original art by Carlos Costa