Tag Archives: job

The Last One

Another entry for the /r/KeepWriting “Writer vs Writer” match.

My prompt:

The Last One

Your character is the only person left in the world who practices his/her trade. After they’re gone, the trade/skill/job/profession will be no more.

The Last One

Wrinkly fingers brushed over the cold wood of the desk. He pulled the hand back to his face and blew the dust from the pale skin. His account was too empty for the repair; he would have to clean the apartment himself.

He sighed, sat straight and pressed the button. The camera and projector jumped to life. He moved the keyboard and controller each to their place.

A moment later the face appeared. Claire. A happy face with a tired expression.

“Good morning, Claire.”

“Hello, Mr. Zhang.”

“How are you today?” Continue reading

The Knife is Still in My Lap

I sit here shivering with my back against the wall. The knife is still in my lap. I can’t even leave this room. I just don’t know what to do anymore.

It was all because I flunked school. Fuck school. Lock kids into a tiny and smelly room in the best time of their life. And then make sure every small mistake determines their future. A gray and brown building filled with incompetent teachers and kids so horribly raised that not just them but also their parents deserve a good spanking.

That’s why I flunked. I couldn’t go there. I couldn’t stand the incompetence and the boring, dull, dragging hours on broken chairs. I felt my heart clench whenever I just so much as looked at the front door. So I didn’t go. And look where that got me. Continue reading

My Last Seizure

I only remember three things from that morning:

  • I was naked on a bed.
  • She was staring at me.
  • There was blood on the pillow.

That’s all. That’s my life and my history. Of course my family and friends and particularly Kennedy told me about my past and the cause of my memory loss – the seizures – but all that doesn’t feel like more than a biography I read in a book.

Born here, went to school there, seizures started in grade 6, still managed to finish school, still managed to start a math degree, still managed to raise funds for the worse-off, still managed to get a warm-hearted and beautiful girl to love me.

Kennedy with her stunning dark brown hair. She was the only one that was there when I had my last seizure. We were in a hotel room in Vegas and I was just on my way to the bathroom when my legs began to shake. I fell. My head hit the chair. Continue reading

One week ago I lost the only person I ever loved

There are two golden threads running through my life. The first is that I was always the unluckiest person I knew. The second is that everybody always hated me.

It started even before I was born. My mom said my father beat her when he heard she was pregnant. Then he left.

When I was a toddler other parents refused to let their children have play dates with me. Mom said they always cried when they were brought to our house or when mom or I came there. They always cried, every single other toddler, without exception.

My only memories of preschool are of me playing alone in a corner of the colorful room. I was the outcast. The others avoided me. They hated the food I brought to school; they hated the way I was dressed; they hated the way I played games. If you ever thought that there is no bullying in preschool – there is. And even the other mothers avoided me. They cuddled each other’s children, picked them up, cuddled them, played with them – but not me. Never me. Continue reading

How She Got Her Job

Her face was smooth, not a single wrinkle was on her skin. Even her body was thin, graceful, glowing from the inside. She didn’t look like her 29 years.

“Confidence is everything.” Kayla smiled. “Isn’t it?”

“Possibly.” I said.

She laughed.

“That’s why it worked.” Kayla said. “Isn’t that the bigger question? Not why I did it, but rather why it worked?”

“Not for us.” I said.

“For me it is.” Kayla said. “Else I would never have gone on. The first time was an accident. But after that it just went on and on – and nobody doubted me. Nobody cared. Humans are ants; humans like to follow orders. That’s why the Nazis –“

“Kayla, please hold that thought, I’m sure it’s interesting but we are talking about you. The first time was an ‘accident’? Can you tell me about the ‘accident’?”

“Oh.” She said. “Sure I could. But why would I?”

“Because I write a report.” I said. “Formally I only advise. But how many years would you like to stay here?”

“Fine.” Kayla said.

She folded her hands over her chest.

“It had been more than a year. I was qualified, if anything I was overqualified. I have a bachelor and a master and the rest of the platter that all employers demand. But I was working in a petrol station; I couldn’t even afford a car. I wrote more than ten applications per week; that’s 500 in a single year.”

Kayla laughed, but her eyes stayed hard.

“I had forty or so interviews. Do you know that feeling, when they invite you, the hope? And every one of them crushed it. Half of them said I was overqualified, the other half that I didn’t have enough experience. But I know the truth. Wrong accent. Wrong address. Wrong skin color. Wrong gender.”

“That’s why you planned to kill her?” I asked.

“No.” Kayla said. “I didn’t plan it. I was invited for an interview. But the moment I stepped into the room and met Mia I knew I wouldn’t get the job. I had seen that look before, those eyes that say ‘Your kind doesn’t belong here.’ I tried my best, I was nice, gave the right answers – and still, near the end of the interview I felt Mia’s hostility, how she didn’t even want me in the same room. That’s when I snapped.”

“You snapped?”

“I asked her why she hated me, and Mia got defensive and denied it. Then we got into an argument. And somehow this paperweight got into my hand.”

Kayla leaned forward.

“I swear I only hit her once. I was too shocked to do it a second time. And then I just sat down and waited. I thought either Mia would get back up, or somebody else would walk in and wrestle me to the ground.”

She smiled.

“I waited for nearly an hour. But when I finally got out of my trance and looked outside – the corridors were all empty. They had all gone home already. That’s when I got the idea to take over.”

“Take over?” I asked.

“You know, to take her place.” Kayla said. “It was just a wild shot. I think even in that moment I knew it was insane; I thought it would never work. But somehow I felt that I was in trouble anyway and that I deserved that position; after all the things I went through I thought I deserved a job.”

“You killed the interviewer and took her place?”

“Yes.” Kayla smiled again. “I replaced the door sign and everything. I took her body to my place. And in the morning I came early and sat in her office. One of the secretaries brought a new candidate to my room around 9. She made big eyes when she opened the door and led him in – but she didn’t say anything. I gave him the job, and when she brought another candidate at 9:30 I gave her the job too. But I knew I couldn’t keep doing that – so I went to the secretary and asked for the list of other candidates and canceled all of the following interviews; I didn’t want to reject anyone in person.”

“It was funny, actually. The secretary didn’t doubt me a single time. And the other employees saw me interacting with her, and somehow that made them accept me too. The IT guy even made me an email and computer account. And when the manager saw that I had an email he asked me why headquarters had sent me. I said I was a replacement and he just nodded and welcomed me to the team.”

“That’s the one thing I learned that day: confidence is everything. It was a bit more difficult to get the finance department to put me on the pay list – but the manager liked me and when he intervened they obliged. And the moment I had access to the system I deleted the old candidate manager from the personnel roster and added my name instead – and no one doubted me anymore.”

“And the body?” I asked.

“Oh, that was easy. I found a short guide online. I cut the flesh and threw it out with the normal trash; then I crushed the bones and skull and threw them out in a different load. It was messy and hard work, but in the end not really difficult. Oh and the organs, I froze them for a while and a few weeks later I chopped them up and then threw them out in pieces.”

“And you felt no regret?”

“Not really. I mean, she must have been a bad person. That’s why no one missed her, I think. The police came a few months later to ask about her – but at that point no one remembered when I had started; and no one suspected a thing.”

“But you didn’t stop there?”

“No.” Kayla said. “I’m not sure why I continued. It was just easy, you know? The whole office was on this adventure-team-building exercise trip in the mountains.”

Kalya leaned forward.

“The head of HR was horribly self-obsessed. Really, he had it coming. He always flaunted how bold and courageous he was; I think he actually tried to impress me, he knew that I was single. He stood too close to the cliff. No one was looking, so I took my chance and pushed – and then quickly pretended that I was trying to save him.”

“And still no one suspected you?”

“There was an inquiry, afterwards. I think one of the secretaries liked him and she looked at me strangely afterwards; but the others actually hailed me as a hero for trying to save him. They said I had risked my life to try and help. That’s why the deputy head of HR, John, became the new head of HR – and I became the new deputy.”

“Nobody else was suspicious?”

“No. They liked me, you know? I was easy-going, and at that point several of the staff got their jobs because of me. They were on my side; and even afterwards, as deputy, I made sure that all new recruits were routed through me, so that I had the last say and so that I told them that they go the job. I made sure to take those that were unemployed for a long time. A man never forgets the person that gets him off the street.”

“And the secretary?”

“Oh, first I made sure to spread rumors. She had been nearby when the head of HR fell down the cliff. I told one of the gossip girls that I had seen them fight shortly before he fell. Messages transform – and the next thing I heard there were rumors about her having an affair with him; some even said that she might have pushed him.”

Kayla brushed her chin.

“Nobody missed her when she had the accident on the stairs a few weeks later. She’s still in a coma, I think. It’s a shame that she might still wake up; I don’t like nosy people like her.”

“And then you were caught?”

“What? No.” Kayla laughed. “As said, they liked me and they didn’t like her. I heard the gossip afterwards, that she had deserved it and that it must have been her fault. Nobody cares if an unpopular person has an accident. That’s why I always made sure that they were unpopular before I did anything.”

“How so?”

“Gossip, you know? It’s really easy. The head of HR – I told a colleague that he kept brushing his arm against me; she then told another that he was looking at her strangely – and rumors never stop, you know? Rumors only grow, and they are as sticky and smelly as French cheese.”

“But you are here now. So I suppose people got suspicious?”

“Oh, no.” Kayla said. ”It all went smoothly. The new head of HR, John, he was just too annoying for me. I didn’t even care too much about his job. The rumors were running already well; first that John was gay, and then that he had hit on some of the other men. I made him suggest a joint sauna trip – and that was the end of his popularity. The men shunned him very quickly, and the women followed.”

“When they all ignored John it was easy for me to gain his trust. It was easy to get him to take me home. And there, well, John was very careful. He didn’t make any missteps, he didn’t do anything that I could have turned into an ‘accident.’”

Kayla dug her fingernails into the table.

“Still, John was acting really nervously. I wanted to leave because I thought I wouldn’t be able to overpower him. But he stopped me at the door. John said ‘I know about you.’ And then he told me I would have to have sex with him or he would tell the police about me.”

“I didn’t want to take any chances – I sprayed pepper spray in his eyes and stabbed him to death. I think he didn’t expect that. I cleaned the place, stole a few things to make it look like a robbery, and rushed out. That was definitely my sloppiest murder. I wasn’t surprised when the police came the next evening to the office and took me away.”

“They said they had evidence of me committing murder. I confessed to killing him right away, I thought it better to come clean right away – but they were surprised. They said that the tape wasn’t of me murdering him; they said that they thought he had been my accomplice and his death a revenge murder.”

“You know,” Kayla said. “I don’t know how I could have overlooked it, the camera. When I had my interview Mia even told me that it would all be recorded. The camera must have stood there while she interviewed me, and when I smashed the paperweight on her head, and even when I pulled the body out. And John must have had the tape since then.”

This is my story, originally I published it on Reddit.

Losing my Faith

I was perfectly prepared. After months without a job I knew that all my chances were on this opportunity, as researcher at a financial consultancy.

The job interview was the smoothest I ever had.

“Welcome,” said the bald, skinny man in his 50s, my future boss.

He smiled and then asked me only two questions:

“Do you smoke?”

“No, sir, I don’t.”

“Good,” he said. “We don’t like that here.”

He smiled again.

“Do you value your faith?” He stressed the last syllable – “fai-thee.”

The question took me aback. I thought that would have been an illegal interview question. But he looked serious, with his eyebrows raised to a frown.

“Yes sir, to a certain degree,” I replied. “I believe, but I will make sure that it won’t affect my work, sir.”

“Good,” he replied, and his face widened to a smile and didn’t change from its position until the end of the interview. “I’m Matt. And I’m glad you have faith. We need people like you around here.”

“Thank you, sir.” I said. “I really think I’m a suitable candidate because of my expe-“

Matt cut me off. “It’s okay. You’re hired.”

I signed the contract and walked out of his office, down through the corridor past a string of rooms with desks and chairs. I found it strange that nobody else was around, but it was nearly lunchtime. I made a mental note to eat a small breakfast so that I would be able to join the early lunch crew.

The next morning the office was buzzing. Fax machines, copy machines, coffee machines, a water cooler and the constant hum of an air conditioning welcomed me to my new life. Higher pay, own office, flexible hours – it was the perfect job.

My colleagues welcomed me the moment I sat down in my brand-new office chair. The black leather was smooth to the touch. I closed my eyes, but before I could lean back and relax I heard shuffling feet and saw the whole team was standing around my office door.

They all beamed with joy.

“Welcome!” Said a young, attractive woman I later got to know as Natalie. “I think you will be a beautiful addition to the team.”

“Hey,” said the company lawyer. “I’m sure you’ll do great with us!”

“I’m Candice,” said another attractive woman. “The boss said you have a faith. I really like that.”

The rest of the introduction is a blur in my memory. Too many smiles, too many kind words, and, that’s the only thing I really remember from that introduction, too many of them mentioned my faith.

I loved my new office. I loved that it was right between the boss’s office and the fire escape. I loved the brand-new computer and swivel chair, the small fake plant in the corner and the big, spotless mirror to my right.

That first day I was motivated. I was happy. I didn’t mind that I wasn’t sure of my task and that they only made me fill excel sheets. “They are testing the new guy,” I thought to myself – and the fact that they kept passing by my office with beaming smiles reassured me that I would be fine.

At first I was worried that they all went out of the fire exit to smoke. But the air conditioning worked well and I never smelled a thing. The only smell that bothered me was the smell of warm, fresh plastic, similar to that of a new car or new computer.

Despite the boring tasks the first was a breeze. They all smiled at me while they walked past, or when I walked past their desks or the obligatory water cooler.

I was nervous that first day, maybe that’s why I didn’t notice that they all avoided me. Sure, they looked at me and greeted me, but it seemed as if the conversations I had with any of them were limited to yes and no answers. I asked them questions. I offered them anecdotes and jokes at the water cooler. But they all either smiled and laughed, gave short, monotonous answers, or simply walked away. And during lunch hours they all just disappeared.

I have heard of bullying – but I never felt it like that. It was as if there was a wall between them and me. They kept smiling, but they were all in on it; even the boss. He had nothing better to do than sit in his office and, just whenever I was finished with my mindless tasks of copying data from one spreadsheet to the next he came in and pointed me to a new email or new file on my desktop or handed me a new USB-stick.

I tried to bring the bullying up with him, but he ignored what I said. He just sat, smiled, and stared at me. “Don’t worry,” he said. “Once you lose your faith you will understand.” And again he stressed the word faith in this odd manner – “fai-thee.”

“For now the only thing I can offer is to raise your salary.”

And he did. I thought he would offer me maybe a thousand more – but instead he doubled my salary.

I thought the money was good and I would be able to take the bullying. I knew it had to stop at some point.

It was Natalie that finally broke the ice. She stood in my doorway when I turned around.

“Hey,” Natalie said.

“How long have you been standing there?” I asked.

“Not long.” She grinned and walked into the room, placed her hand on my shoulder.

“I was just wondering,” she said. “Whether you have a girlfriend? Or maybe a wife and kids?”

“No,” I said. “I’m a free man.”

Natalie lost her smile for a moment. “Okay. I just thought an attractive man like you would also need an attractive partner. I just like that you have a faith.”

Natalie winked while she walked out. She too pronounced the word faith with a long, stretched “e” at the end.

That day, or rather, moment, was the happiest I had in that job. I was so sure that they all hated me that a one-minute flirt blew me away. I even did some of my work, rather than look on Reddit and read the news, which I had taken to after two weeks of constant mindless number-copying.

It was strange that the boss was not interested in my results. He asked me for them, but to my knowledge he never actually read any of the analyses I wrote. I had first just done the simple copying, and then began to calculate results that I thought might be useful. Twice I even wrote short summary notes of what I thought the company profile would be and how beneficial an investment would be for our clients.

But Matt ignored all of that. “Nice job,” he said. “I like your faith in this job.”

For the first weeks I didn’t notice the quietness of the office. I thought my room was just had good noise-insulation. The only things I heard were the footsteps of my colleagues sneaking out for a smoke, the footsteps of the boss coming into my office. Sometimes I heard the fire exit door fall shut.

But when I stepped outside my office, the moment I stepped through the door, the busy conversation began. Phones rang. People argued, laughed, talked. I could rarely make out what they were actually saying to the clients or each other, but they were clearly talking.

It shouldn’t have taken me so long, but it was the fourth week that I noticed that the noise stopped whenever I entered my office. It was like a button – I stepped outside, the noise began, I stepped inside and, I counted the seconds, after exactly five seconds the noise stopped.

No conversation, no laughter, no printers, no ringing phones. Only, occasionally, the footsteps and smiles that passed my office.

That day, with a fresh Monday-mind, I thought to join them outside for a smoke. I never wanted to smoke before, but it felt as if that was the only thing that separated us – they went all day to smoke. I never heard them go to lunch; I never heard them go to the bathroom. The only time I heard them was when they went to smoke.

I stepped outside my office, turned around the corner, and saw Natalie standing in front of me, right next to the fire exit door.

“You smoke too?” I asked.

“Sure,” she said. “But you shouldn’t.”

“Why not?”

“Oh, you just shouldn’t. That’s how I lost my faith.” A whisper of sadness hushed over her face, but instantly Natalie’s smile returned. “Would you like a coffee?”

We went to the kitchen. She hesitantly opened a new bag of coffee, placed the pat in the machine and pressed the button. The red light blinked.

“I think you need to put fresh water,” I said.

She smiled, clumsily removed the tank and refilled it at the tap. She spilled much while trying to place the tank back into its place, as if she had never done it before.

She laughed, but she didn’t speak. I drank my coffee, she didn’t even bother to make one for herself. Natalie just stood there, staring at me.

“You really have a good fai-thee.” She said.

After three awkward minutes with her I left the room. I really tried to make conversation, to continue the flirt, but all Natalie did was to stare at me. I sat down, drank my coffee, and stared at the screen.

At that point I knew I needed to see their smoking spot. I felt all my instincts screaming, but I knew I had to do it if I ever wanted to be accepted by the group.

Half an hour after my “conversation” with Natalie I got up and walked briskly out of my office – the chatter started just a moment too late. And I think in that moment I realized how wrong it all was.

I turned towards the fire exit door and heard the boss shuffling behind me.

“Hey,” he shouted. “I have more work for you.”

But I was quicker. I walked towards the door, ignored Natalie rushing towards me from the kitchen, grabbed the cold metal handle, pulled it open and stepped outside.

They were standing there, nearly the whole office. Their heads were first towards the window in the wall, and then turned to me.

It took me a moment to realize what the window was, to connect the dots between the shape of the mirror in my office and the transparent glass that they were standing at.

It took me a moment to connect the dots between window and mirror because I was staring at something else, at the smooth skin that covered what I knew as their faces.

It only took a moment, a tiny fraction of time – and their faces returned. I saw them pushing out of the smooth skin, to form features.

They stared at me; the lawyer was the first to begin running.

I rushed back through the door, saw the boss running from the side and Natalie from the front. I ran towards her. Matt’s hand missed me only by an inch.

Natalie opened her arms wide, as if she wanted to embrace me.

My fist was quicker than her. My fist pushed her features back into the soggy mass.

She fell to the side, I rushed past, heard the screams and footsteps behind me.

I sped out of the office, down the stairs, their feet hitting the floor closely behind me. I don’t know how, but I was quicker than them.

I was out on the street – they stopped inside.

When I looked back I saw Matt standing in the lobby with his face only half-formed – no eyes, no nose – only his wide smile.

The last thing I remember from running away is Natalie’s voice. She was screaming, loud and shrill, from a window.

“Stay here! I like you! You have such a good” – and this time I didn’t mishear the last word – “face.”

This is my story, originally I published it on Reddit.