Danielle D. Brown
I’m minding my own business when my supervisor comes over and informs me that I’ll be heading to the basement for my next job. Immediately, I’m nervous. Very few people went into the basement, and even fewer came back the same. No one talks about it. It’s hard to explain, but when they come back, they have this dazed look on their face and would quit the agency shortly after. Worried, I gather up my briefcase and my jacket to head down to the basement.
I walk down like 100 hundred steps until I finally reach a door that says, “Authorized personnel only”. When I open the door, all the lights in the hallway flicker off and then return with a deep red color. Probably an electrical problem. I walk into the hallway.
After about 10 minutes of walking, I see a very large man in the red darkness. When I get closer, I notice that the man is wearing a suit that is about three sizes too small and an even smaller bowler hat. He introduces himself as Terry Gunslinger, reaches out to shake my hand, and as he does, I see that across his knuckles is tastefully written “YOUR NEXT”. I introduce myself, and he turns towards the hallway, assuming I’ll follow him.
“Who sent you?” he asks.
“Uh, Peter from upstairs. He said I’m supposed to be doing some job with you guys in Lower Management. Is there a boss I can talk to?” An awkward silence seems to follow us down the hallway.
“Oh yeah, real cool guy. You’ll meet him when we get to the office. But whatever you do, don’t mention his Father. He owns the company, but it’s a super touchy subject.”
When we walk into the office, Mr. Gunslinger directs me towards a big corner office. Sitting behind the desk is the most beautiful dark haired woman I’ve ever seen. Her arms are folded elegantly in front of her, and she smiles at me when I walk in.
“Ah, you must be the new temp,” says the figure in the deepest, most masculine voice I have ever heard and will ever hear. “My name is Louis Cipher. I run Lower Management.” I remain confused as to his gender.
After I introduce myself, he starts to tell me about the company, which is apparently owned by his father. I didn’t ask about that one though. They do a lot of contracting work, repossessions, and legal work for the company.
As he talks, we walk to the desk I’ll be working at for the next few months or so. Before he leaves, he slides a small jacket and an even smaller bowler hat towards me and tells me I must wear it every day. There’s some kind of company policy stating that all employees must wear small bowler hats; I don’t ask about this either. I’m not really sure if I want to know why. He says that I shouldn’t worry about it.
I’ll be doing interviews for job placings in the company. Somehow, I’m qualified for the job. Immediately. Before my first interview, I have some time to get a good look at the office. Over in the corner by the watercooler, a guy with a goat is filling a rather large jar with thick red liquid. When I asked Terry, he said it was some kind of punch and that I should try it, but I think I’ll just stick with water I bring from home. A guy with thirteen lit cigarettes in his mouth is waiting by the front desk, and eight women wearing barely any clothing walk over and sit at a desk. When I asked my cubemate, he just said it was casual Friday and went back to his work.
My first client meets me back at my desk. I immediately want to leave. He’s got tattoos up and down his huge, muscular arms, and a tattoo that says “NICE TO MEAT YOU” written across his chrome dome. I wonder silently if he noticed the mistake.
He sits down, and I introduce myself. He introduces himself as Barry the Butcher. I nod silently and try to ignore it and start off with some basic background questions provided on a small orientation pamphlet.
“So what did you do before you came here?”
“Well, I started with a lot of importing and exporting, but now, I mostly do exporting.” He replies proudly, stroking his bald head.
“Oh, what do you export?”
“Mostly heads now. Every so often, I do an arm or a leg, depends what the customer wants though.”
“So you do like bubbleheads and mannequins?” I say with a laugh. His face hardens.
“No, I mean like body parts. You’d be surprised how much business I get.”
Officially scared out of my mind, I excuse myself as calmly as possible and run to find Terry.
“We have to get this guy out of here before he hurts someone.” I explain this to Terry, but he seems unconcerned.
“What did you say his name was again?” he asks, placing his index finger on his chin thoughtfully.
“Barry the Butcher,” I reply. “He seems like he should be locked up.”
“Oh Barry! You weren’t supposed to get someone like him on your first day. No shit you’re scared! Ha! I’ll send him to one of our more experienced guys. Thanks for telling me.” With that, Terry walks right up to Barry, and they walk away laughing, probably at me.
Shortly after my encounter with Barry, a kid dressed in all black wearing black eyeliner comes and sits at my desk. He doesn’t say anything, doesn’t acknowledge me; he just stares. It’s a little creepy. After about a minute sitting in silence, I decide to start the interview.
“So what’s your name, and how old are you?”
“I’m Raven. Twenty-four years old.” I look over at the file on my computer screen and notice that his name is actually Keith Smith.
“Are you sure that’s your real name? I have something different on your file.”
“Gawd, you sound like my parents. I changed my name to something that fit my spirit. They’re so stupid. My parents. They just don’t get me. Wish they would die. Jesus.” Immediately, my computer starts to beep. A small screen pops up that says, “If disrespects parents, blasphemies, or mentions lack of baptism, please supply client with a bowler hat (located in lower left drawer) and send to Lower Management.”
Following the instructions, I explain that he will be working in Lower Management and open the drawer to my left. Inside are about 50 small bowler hats lined with ridiculous precision. Taking one out, I give it to Keith—er, Raven, and Terry comes over and escorts him out of the office.
After he leaves, I handle a few more clients and get called into Louis’s office. He smiles with a toothy grin when he sees me and claps.
“Ah! There you are.” He declares proudly. “I’ve seen some good stuff from you today, my boy.” He slips a piece of old parchment slathered with calligraphic ink writing to me. “How would you like to sign a contract for a more permanent position?”