Daniele, my wife, often accuses me of being a chronic head scratcher in times of stress. Usually I laugh it off and make a joke about it but I’m starting to realise she’s right.
I pace up and down the hall outside of my office, cracking my knuckles and rubbing my hands through my hair. I’m usually a calm person but at times like these that goes out the window.
“Oh calm down, Jonathan,” Elaine tells me from behind the desk. “It’s not that big of a deal.”
Laughing under my breath at her, I shake my head and look away from a window towards her.
She looks pretty good today with her light brown curls styled on top of her head. Wearing the red lipstick that I always find quite attractive on her, I can’t help but think it suits her outfit for today – a black button down with a black pencil skirt. Although I can’t see her feet, I’m sure she’s probably wearing some ridiculously high heels.
She purses her lips at me and shakes her head.
“If you keep it up your might have a heart attack.”
“I feel like it’s a possibility,” I say as I walk towards the water cooler in the corner. “This is big stuff.”
“So what?” she swings around in her chair. “This isn’t a rare occurrence for you.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I ask flirtatiously and smile somewhat when I see a flush of red on her cheeks.
“All I’m saying is you’re the best sales representative Telcorp has ever had.”
I take a sip of the cool water and non my head in thanks.
“I appreciate your kind words, Miss Robertson.”
“Call me Elaine,” she points her pencil at me and I laugh again.
Having calmed down a little, I pace around the hall, looking at the pictures on the wall. I look over my shoulder at Elaine when I hear the phone ring and in doing so, my eyes fall on the television in the upper right corner.
Downing the last dregs of my cup, I near the TV, grabbing the remote from Elaine’s desk and turning it up.
“In breaking news we witness the live events happening right outside Coolmound city as terrorists launch their second attack of the week.”
The picture of the reporter is soon replaced with footage of a burning fire creeping up the first barrier between us and the outside world. People run across the camera, some wailing and screaming.
My eyes search the screen, wondering if any faces can be seen, but the terrorists, the ones responsible all wear masks. Those that are caught by the fast swarming police service are dragged away, out of the cameras view.
“Horrible isn’t it,” Elaine walks up beside me and I nod my head in agreement, crossing my arms.
“They’re only making it worse for themselves,” I say, waving my hand towards the television. “I mean, if you’re trying to convince the world that you are decent enough for the city’s, blowing up people isn’t a good start.”
“Maybe they just want attention,” Elaine theories and chews the tip of her pencil. “Really, who knows what goes through their heads.”
“Nothing,” a voice says from behind us and we whip around to see a man in a black suit standing before us. He moves towards us, eyes on the screen. “These people are savages, people with no mind that’s smart enough to function in such a society as our own.”
His eyes turn from the screen to meet mine.
“I’m Riles Granger, owner of Telcorp.”
I immediately stick my hand out towards him, my fast breath returning.
“Jonathan Charles, at your service, sir.”
“No need to be so formal,” Riles shakes my hand. “You and I are going to be great friends.”
“I’d like that.”
“Let’s step into my temporary office,” Riles a tight smile, one that doesn’t quite meet the eyes.
Obediently, I walk a head of him towards the open door. I ball my hands into tight fists, nerves shooting up and down my spine. I can’t wait to go home and tell my wife that I met the manager of the business I grew up working for. More importantly, I’m excited to go home and tell her that I got a pay raise, a new job title and a new position in such a company as Telcorp, the biggest electronic supplier in the world. That is, if I get the job.
I pause at the door, looking back over my shoulder in time to see Elaine turn the power button off for the TV. It’s not a rare occurrence here for us to pay no mind to the terrorism attacks. The cities are the most heavily guarded places in the planet with the exception of the castle holding the royal family. What happens outside our barricades are no problem to us.
As Riles passes me though, it’s only then I realise that he paid no mind to Elaine and I didn’t either. I contemplate feeling bad, but I quickly shake the thought away.
In this society and this nation, we look out for ourselves. You never know when someone is ready to rip you down.
With a smile, I close the office door and turn towards Riles.
Riles Granger, I decide, is one of the more attractive men in the Telcorp business. Sitting across from him at the desk I can’t help but take in his physical features, mentally planning out how to improve my own in his wake.
It’s one of my tricks of the business. Always look a level higher in a company and one day you will get there.
With a black suit and tie that clings to his slim frame, Riles leaves much to the imagination, minus the glasses and bald head. It’s a new and fresh look to the one I’m used to: Bushy beard, gelled back hair and fancy clothes.
I want to ask for his clothing brands, but decide against it. In a job interview, you don’t want to be the one asking the questions.
“Are you aware of the responsibilities of such a position, Charles?” he asks and I nod immediately.
“Yes sir I am. I would do anything to meet the requirements of such a position.”
This time when he smiles, it meets his dark green eyes.
“Tell me, are you religious?”
I scoff before quickly regaining my composure.
“No not at all. A big man with a stick in the sky would hardly go unnoticed by scientists.”
Riles laughs a short laugh and folds his hands in front of him, leaning more onto the desk.
“I like the way you think. Science and facts are what keep the world running. Without them we wouldn’t be where we are today.”
“I agree,” I nod along with his words. “Science is the basis of this company. All words passed from us to customers are facts and no one can argue with facts.”
“We need more than facts,” Riles pushes himself out of his chair, walking over to the window and looking down at the world fifty floors below. “When it comes to a position on our sales executive team, you need to put your heart and soul into it. People don’t want facts, they want relatability, do you understand?”
Part of me wants to argue but I decide against it, instead opting to nod.
“The world is a strange place,” Riles continues. “If we all wanted facts and not fantasies it’d be much easier to operate, but sadly that’s not the case and that’s why we’re living a divided lie.”
“I’m not sure I understand.”
“Come here,” Riles orders and I quickly stand to my feet, hurrying to the window wear he stands. It’s only now with the sun filtering in the window that I notice the wrinkles around his face. For some reason in repulses me and I quickly turn my eyes down to the city below.
“Here in the city,” he explains, “we live a calm and collected life. We go to work every day to earn money to pay our bills and feed our families.
But what about over there?” He asks and points out into the distance. “What about the people who can’t take the facts as facts and live a life out in the wild, surrounded by others who refuse the same? What was a battle of opinions soon became a battle of survival.”
I still fail to understand, my own logical mind not keeping up. Coughing nervously I ask,
“May I ask what this has to do with Telcorp?”
“Of course,” Riles pats my arm and gestures back towards the chair.
As I take my seat, Riles explains.
“Even here in the city people still want more then soul. The difference between a sale and a non-sale is the soul that you put into it, not the facts. You can tell them for example that a specific vacuum cleaner has the highest rating in all the planet but they’ll still choose the one that you give a personality.”
“How do I give a personality to a vacuum cleaner?”
“Invent something,” Riles waves his hand in the air in front of my eyes. “Tell them your grandma owned one for the duration of her life and it served the family well. Tell them you bought it as a wedding gift to your wife and she loved it.”
I laugh at the idea.
“I’m not sure what your wife is like, Mister Granger, but my wife would bite my head off if I bought such a thing.”
“Exactly!” He snaps his fingers with eyes as bright as sparklers. “People love a funny joke. They love anything that makes anything personal. Facts aren’t personal, they’re just inclusive. Personality is reclusive.”
“I like that,” I say thoughtfully.
“And I like you,” Riles points his index finger at me. “That’s why I want to give you this position in our company.”
I bite my tongue to hold in a shout of joy and instead reach out to shake his hand again, nodding quickly and laughing with a short breath.
“Thank you, Sir. You have no idea what such a position means to me.”
“Oh, but I do and that’s why I’m giving it to you. Looking back at your records you have been one of the best access to this branch. We don’t let the victors go unprized.”
We stand to our feet and I hold my hands behind my back, clenching them in excitement.
“I believe you have the potential to bring this branch many sales and if you do just that,” he pauses and stares me dead in the eyes. “If you do just that we might find a place for you in our office.”
All I can think in that moment is going home and kissing Danielle and telling her the good news of my promotion and the possible future promotions in my future.
“I would do anything for this company,” I repeat in the most serious tone of voice I can muster in such a situation. “Anything at all.”
“We know,” Riles nods. “Hard work pays well.”
I exit the office with a spring in my step and make my way towards the water cooler again, grinning broadly.
“It went well I take it,” Elaine smirks from behind her desk, standing up as I walk past.
“Very well,” I tell her with a short laugh, pointing a finger at her. “You told me it would.”
“It always does for you,” she walks around the desk to stand beside me.
As I take a drink I feel her press her lips into my cheek and I freeze.
“Congratulations, Mister Charles,” she whispers into my ear and with that she turns around, walking back to the desk.
I smile as I watch her go.
Today is the day of change.