‘This work sucks hard,’ cigarette stub arched into the litter-bin. ‘People not just quit, they run away, literally!’
‘Yeah, like Daniel did. He agreed to work overtime for one, two, then three evenings, and then he ran away, after only a week here. He even left his work record card,’ tall, round blond shook his head sadly, flashing glasses, and wistfully put out the cigarette in the ashtray.
His colleague sighed and went back to the office. It was going to be a long day. Left alone, Peter shrugged. He was a nonsmoker and went outside just to keep his superiors’ company. He hoped they could stop discussing work matters, at least during the break. Cash rivers ran through this holding, overflowing legislation banks and eroding financial monitoring dams. Their muddy waters brought lucre to the shareholders but for ordinary employees they only meant more overtime work. Overtime and unpaid, by the way. “…because a good employee always finishes his work on time.” Bastards.
‘So, Peter, Nick and me have already done everything we’d planned for today. Can you stay a little longer and deal with the rest of the documents? Great, then we’re off.’
Peter looked at the clock – it was half past seven already. The three of them could wrap it all up in half an hour, but he was just a trainee and now he was going to spend a couple of hours trying to figure things out by himself. But despite this, he just could not say “no” to his boss.
‘Yeah, no problem…’
‘Thank you very much, Peter,’ a fake smile cleaved its way through the bosses’ fat cheeks and Peter casually faked one in response.
Even the strictest drill sergeant would approve of the time it took Peter’s colleagues to get their bearings and run to the exit. His boss continued to hand out more orders during that process.
‘And another thing, Pete… If you receive any strange letters or something, just call me. My phone’s always on, ok?’
Peter had already dived into his work, so he just nodded in response. With his colleagues gone, the only sound to disturb the office silence was the mix of the keyboard clicking and the soft hum of the air conditioning – even summer evenings were hot enough to keep it on. Some footsteps rumbled through the corridors somewhere else in the building and a nasty screeching sound was heard, as if a knife was scratching glass. Apparently, the great invisible army of janitors was already on the prowl. When he turned his gaze away from the endless stream of tables – just to give his eyes some rest – Peter noticed an unread letter in his internal mail. He clicked the flashing red envelope and read the office memo:
“I hereby inform you that the slide-rule assigned to the underground research division is in an improper condition. We strongly ask to provide our division with two sets of stripped vests ASAP.”
Not even trying to comprehend the meaning of the memo, Peter continued his calculations. Things like that were the responsibility of Supply Division – someone had probably just mixed up addresses. The mail icon in the system tray changed to a red envelope again.
“The difficult situation on the non-ferrous metals market is forcing us to declare war on Uruguay. Shambhala Investment Division. ”
‘What the?!’ Peter knew for sure that the company had no branches in Shambhala. And, come to think of it, they did not conduct any underground research either. He remembered his boss’s advice and dialed Anatoly’s number.
‘Hey, Peter, what’s up?’
‘Anatoly, as for those strange letters you mentioned. I’ve just received a couple of striped vests requests and war declarations… Should I respond?’
‘Nah, it’s that dumb prankster we haven’t found yet. After six PM you might as well turn off your mail app or they’ll keep coming nonstop. Daniel complained about these all the time, until he run away. Just ignore them – it’s half past eight, everybody is at home by now,’ the boss fell silent for a moment and then asked in an overly sympathetic tone if everything was ok with his work. Peter assured him that he’d almost finished and hung up. His will to work vanished completely, so he decided to surf the Internet a little. Peter read all the news updates and moved to his favorite blog. While the Internet Explorer was loading the site’s dark grey background, Peter remembered how he had found that blog playing his favorite game.
Sometimes, when he was alone in a cold apartment he rented, he tried to describe his current feelings in one short sentence and then searched the Internet for a site that fitted its mood most. That particularly dreary day Peter wrote “the bird has left the cage” and was simply astonished when the browser opened someone’s blog – that entry struck right into his very heart.
“The bird has left its cage. Our modern civilization has lost its purpose. We’ve been told for years that our jobs have become safer and overall life and work conditions have improved. Well, it’s nothing like that. Welcome to the market economy: twelve-hour workdays with four hours you will never get paid for, no holidays and low pay. The wild capitalism times are back and the modern office employee strongly resembles some Middle Ages serf in having almost no rights. His salary is so low it is only enough to buy some bare necessities and pay for the Internet – the only place he can go to compensate for his failures in real life. The real working conditions are mostly prehistoric and the question: what will kill you faster – some wild animal you’ve encountered during a hunt or your daily contact with the monitor’s radiation? – is still open for discussion. But I think it is no use comparing these two deaths because they exist on different planes. The monitor just shortens your life while the wild beast cuts it short and on a brighter note. Death is like a shot drink, it is not intended to be savored for years, sprinkling its taste with the sauces of occupational diseases – ulcer and hemorrhoids. Karl Marx was wrong – capitalism cannot destroy itself. Capitalism is the great mythological serpent, and clutching his own tail it is doomed to endless repetition. The only difference from the nineteenth century is the absence of revolutions and strikes. Modern riots have no place in cities or in the country, now they break out in chat rooms and forums. “
The blog belonged to a girl known only as Your Angel. Peter did not show her site to anybody but treasured it deeply, and today it presented him with two entries at once. He decided to read the first one immediately and leave the second for later, when he had finished his work. Before he began reading, Peter noticed a piece of paper on his table he did not remember being there before. It was another office memo, with his superiors’ signatures, printed on stamped paper. The contents were simple: “Tear, rend, rip, tear, rend, rip.” The decision “Interesting!” was written by Anatoly and Peter smiled. So, his office mates decided to play a practical joke on the newbie. Great! He would definitely settle the score later. Peter turned the air conditioning down – it was finally cool enough in the office. He tried to sit back comfortably and listened to a distant rumble of footsteps. It was nice to know that the trainee was not alone in this oversized coffin this late.
The first entry was short:
“If you treat suicide not as some kind of physiological process of dying but as the destruction of your unique traits and your personality, the most efficient ways are marriage and work. The survival rate is nothing more than a simple calculation error. However, unlike classic methods involving a piece of soap and a rope, this suicide will take much longer. The effects are almost invisible to the eye, therefore. We can say that now you are taking a death loan of sorts. And you tend to forget that every loan comes with a price and interest rate attached.”
Another entry about work, again! Sometimes Peter thought that those entries were intended for his eyes only. There were too many concurring views, thoughts, and feelings. Or maybe he was suffering from split personality disorder and it was his alter ego writing those entries all day long? Peter would have believed it if he hadn’t seen the results of his twelve-hour workday. His thoughts were interrupted by a printer opening its mechanical jaws and spitting out a sheet of paper. The page was covered in numbers – lots and lots of eights stationed on the snow-white surface in perfect order. Peter crumpled the sheet, threw it in the trash and returned to his calculations. Through the thin wall came loud crashing and creaking sounds of doors being opened and furniture moved in the next room. Truly, a mop in janitor’s hand is more frightening than the samurai sword. Peter looked at the new wave of memos flooding his mail and simply switched it off. If everybody but him was already at home, who needed an internal mail? That flashing red envelope annoyed him. He was close to finishing the task and, accompanied by the thumping behind the wall, Peter finally directed the cash flows to their normal channels. It was a shame, really, but working with such enormous sums, he did not have any spare cash to spend. Such is the fate of an office samurai, as an old friend of his used to say. He worked for a large bank, but then he moved somewhere and eventually disappeared from Peter’s radars entirely.
Office samurai Peter closed all calculation programs and stretched in his uncomfortable chair. It was time to read the second entry.
“Many scientists and parapsychologists exploring the nature of hatred, define it as a subspecies of sexual energy or as a manifestation of our own dark essence. I do not know what drives a person in those moments of selfless desire for destruction, but it makes me wonder: where does all this negative energy vented into our world go? One shudders to think what might happen when the battery capacity is exceeded, but the energy keeps flowing in. Former concentration camps and prisons are notorious not without reason – the “batteries” there simply cracked open, causing physical embodiments of anger and pain to materialize in our world. In such places accumulated hatred was a consequence of the material, physical stimuli, like death or beatings. And its manifestations comply with those stimuli. I’ve already written about the giant dog, devouring the wardens of an old Cuban prison. And you can get some info about the ghost of Cheka officer killing mushroom pickers in Magadan from the yellow press.
Some time ago I wrote about “death loans”. Despite the inconspicuous nature of the procedure, we can’t say that “borrowers” do not understand what happens to them. Believe me, they understand it pretty well. Class inequality, chronic diseases, and an office form of prison dress code causes streams of irritation and hatred to form. Quite often it causes the most terrible and ruthless form of hatred to manifest itself – self-loathing. It is logical to assume that this hatred slowly settles in the basements of modern torture chambers – large banks, holdings, and multinational corporations. It is highly unlikely for eyeless ghosts to wander the corridors of these office buildings, chains in hands. The nature of an office samurai’s hatred has no defined embodiment and will most likely manifest itself in the form of anger or even hatred activating triggers – information channels forcibly passing through employees’ consciousness during their day in office. Persistently circulating rumors about the disappearance of bank employees in Tokyo, Moscow and Melbourne can serve as proof that these triggers can transform into some very dangerous forms of hatred radiation.”
Peter was surprised to find that while he’d been reading some new memos had come through. The mail program seemed to have re-launched itself. Behind his back the printer continued to spit out paper sheets full of eights. Peter noted that the machine was printing in landscape format so if you put the sheets in normal position, those eights turned into infinity signs.
‘That is enough!’ flashed through Peters head while his fingers were dialing his chief’s number. Anatoly’s phone did not respond. Peter threw the handset down in anger and immediately recoiled from the phone in fear – being put on the base, that plastic rattlesnake immediately started ringing and vibrating from an incoming call. Lifting the handset again, Peter was hoping to hear his boss, telling him that the stupid game was over and he could go home. Instead he only heard silence which suddenly exploded with sharp and nasty creaking sounds from the speaker. Just like the day before, when they’d been trying to install the hands free system and something had gone wrong. Peter’s teeth started to itch and tears welled up in his eyes from the terrible sound. He dropped the phone and smeared his face over with tears. When his vision cleared, through the papers floating around the room Peter saw the door to the office opening slowly. ‘But the janitors leave at half past six,’ an icy understanding finally dawned in him.
‘This work sucks hard! Yet another trainee’s run off,’ Nick lit up with pleasure looking at the girls from the planning department returning from lunch.
‘The guys from Personnel Department are complaining – they have three work record cards at their hands, so they want us to find those kids and return them,’ Anatoly’s fat chin flinched. ‘And how are we going to do it? We have no time! I told you – do not push everything on the trainee!’
‘Nick, relax, another one is coming for an interview today.’
‘Than make sure that this will not run away – we can’t clean this mess on our own all the time.’
Author: Denys Skorbilin
Illustrations: Raisa Ohlopkova
Translation: Igor Plisyuk