New short fiction by Rose Guildenstern.
My husband had a few job interviews a while ago, and the absurdity of the modern process we all must submit to in order to eat inspired this little cautionary tale:
Ten minutes late.
Sam, of course, arrived early and then waited, foot tapping nervously as he watched the hands on the warped clock face flip him off with every irksome tick and tock. When the clock at last shrieked four times, a man who looked more like an imp than his role as administrative assistant led Sam through a crooked door saying, “Please take a seat,” with a mumbled apology that, “Mr. Norton may be a few minutes late, sir.”
Sam despised tardiness. He believed there should be a special place reserved in hell for the chronically delayed. He’d in fact spent the last three minutes mentally designing all sorts of horrific tortures for just such a person.
The interview room was monotonous, walls empty of adornment except for yet another faulty clock, this one with the numbers in the wrong order: 1 12 3 5 6 7 9 10 4 11 8 2. According to this clock, it was 5:15, which was one hour off, of course.
Sam checked his own Rolex to verify and upped the ante on the level of gore in his cerebral torments.
The crooked door opened, and in came a man with blue skin and kinky crimson hair. He arbitrarily flipped through a manila folder of papers that had someone else’s name clearly printed on the cover in Bookman Old Style font—one “Barnard Hutchinson”—consulted the clock in the room, frowned slightly, and said, “You’re over an hour late, you know.”
Sam’s nostrils flared as he began a slow and systematic grinding away of his silver teeth.
The man smiled that offensive sort of fakery that makes one want to toss him in front of a moving semi.
Sam only just stopped himself.
Understanding dawned on the blue man’s face. “Ah, you’re not Barnard Hutchinson, are you? So sorry, mix up in the paperwork. Be right back.”
He vanished, leaving only the manila folder belonging to Barnard Hutchinson laying haphazardly on the floor.
Sam stared at the mess. He waited over five full minutes—the clock read 5:22—before giving in to curiosity. Snapping his fingers, the papers appeared in his own hands. Opening “Barnard Hutchinson’s” file, he read the following words neatly scrawled on a single piece of paper:
Are you Barnard Hutchinson? No. So mind your own fucking business.
The rest of the papers were blank.
Sam placed the folder neatly on the table in front of him, then smashed the table into a jumbled heap with his golden fist.
Standing, he strode towards the crooked door, grabbed the doorknob with his hands, and found it was locked. With a mighty roar, he threw himself into the door, cracking it in two.
The impish assistant crouched trembling on the other side. He squeaked, “I’m sorry, s-sir, but if you wish to be considered, you must wait like everyone else.”
“But I’m not like everyone else, and you know it.”
Someone tapped Sam on the shoulder, and he whirled around, fists at the ready, to discover the blue man beaming back at him. “We’ve found your paperwork, thank you for your patience. If you’ll please return to your seat, we can begin now.”
Sam took a deep breath. Then another. He crossed the room and sat in the same damned chair in front of the demolished table. “I’d apologize about the table, but you’re lucky that’s all that happened.”
The blue man whistled and sat opposite him. “Collateral damage, completely understandable.” He paused, flipping through a new folder with the name “Samael” embossed in Times New Roman. “Your work experience is impressive, if I do say so myself. Angel of Death, Venom of God, Commander of two million angels. I’m surprised you want a transfer. Anything in particular prompt this change?”
“Irreconcilable differences with my colleagues.”
“Oh, I see.” The blue man squinted at the paperwork. “Yes…it says here that Michael and you have had a few, uh…disagreements.”
“They’re all a bunch of pansy ass boys afraid to do God’s true work.”
The blue man cleared his throat. “The ‘true work’ of taking men’s souls?”
Sam just stared at him.
“So, you want to stop being an archangel and join the demonic legions?”
“I’ve been misplaced in my current position. My IDP supports this adjustment.”
“And your immediate supervisor has approved this?”
It was Sam’s turn to clear his throat. “Not…exactly.”
“Meaning He disapproves.”
“Did He offer an explanation?”
Sam’s hands began to sweat. “He says I’m too pretty.”
The blue man looked him up and down. “Well, there is that.”
“That shouldn’t matter! I can’t help how He made me.”
“There, there. It’s all part of His plan.” The blue man closed the folder and placed it in his lap. He steepled his fingers. “I’m sorry, but I can’t consider this transfer without your superior’s approval.”
Desperation clawed at Sam. He couldn’t work another day in such a hostile work environment. He pleaded, “Is there no way? None at all?”
The blue man took pity on the poor wretch. He leaned over and whispered in a diamond ear, “You didn’t hear this from me, but the only way to change work hubs is if your boss casts you out.”
Sam’s starlight eyes twinkled.
Of course. Why hadn’t he thought of that?