I wrote this story as an entry for the "Vortex" competition. It is about a VERY uncomfortable office environment... I won't give anything more away, please read! Thank you! :)

1. Flies



by Paula Wengerodt


There was an unmistachable stench of cigarettes in his office. Not a wrinkle on his suit, not a hair out of place, he sat with his back straight, staring past the walls of his glass bubble. We all felt uncomfortable (after all, the mouse doesn't laugh in the face of the owl, does it?) and as we typed away, his ice cold stare prevented us from slipping into the world of our words. We were not only a bank, but we spat out thousands of shiny, meaningless words a day – words which were supposed to be inspirational : the steps to success which our readers had only to spend $3 on before they could glide into the world of the rich and famous, the world which, in reality, was a world of lions and snakes and other ruthless predators.


Next to me, Marcus' hand slipped, upsetting a cup of hot chocolate all over his keyboard, and the new shredder. Marcus, knowing what was next, bit his lip and squinted in a way which was supposed to come across apologetic, but was instead percieved as a provoking poke at Mr. Aquilan's eye. The glass door swung open, and our eyes moved towards the towering shadow of 'THE BOSS'. The latter strode over to Marcus' desk, leaving a trail of cigarette smoke behind him and smacked his hand down on the flat-pack table. “Mr. Gondheim. WHAT EXACTLY DO YOU THINK THIS IS? A ZOO? SHOULD I CHAIN YOU TO YOUR COMPUTER? AND WHAT WERE YOU DRINKING ANYWAY? HOT COCOA? BE A MAN AND DRINK SOME COFFEE!” his voice quieted to an aggressive whisper and his lips narrowed to expose his gums “That shredder cost $500. The cost will be taken out of your paycheck, which, by the way, may well become non existent soon. Or would you like to do this company a huge favour and hand in your resignation notice so we don't have to pay you a severance check?” with this, he made a cutting sign with his hand over his neck and turned to his secretary. “Judy, call human resources and tell them to HIRE HUMANS, NOT APES NEXT TIME!” Three drops of spittle flew out of his mouth and landed on Judy's face. She waited until he was back in his office to wipe them off.


The next morning, Mr. Aquilan's mood had darkened noticably. He stared at us in his usual icy way, but his ashtray filled faster and his suit seemed crisper and his hair more gelled. He was one of those people who, the more their personal lives collapsed, the more emotional turmoil was going on inside their heads, refused to maintain anything less than a perfect, chiselled-in-stone appearance. His movements were more jerky and his mouth hard and narrow. He bellowed at anyone who came too close, and Judy was effectively beaten into an emotional trauma by his words.


We later found out that a loss of 3 billion dollars had caused Mr. Aquila's mistress to leave him, and his wife to distance herself from him. How did we find out? The tabloids. He was, by the end of that week, 5 billion poorer but 6 times more famous than he had been before. Every new employee, no matter how immune to his harsh words their ego seemed, how full of hope for prosperity and wealth, how full of fresh ideas, they always left at the end looking limp as an unwatered office plant. I, too, would have ended like that, had I not left the company that fall.


As for the man who had once squashed us like flies under his black, polished heel, his reputation for running an impeccable functioning, well-oiled machine was tainted beyond repair. 

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