Tuesday, April 17, 2007

TNT: Ch. 63

John Begonia was nervous when he arrived at the forest rendezvous. John Begonia was not a dark alley deals sort of guy. He had sought a government job because the up-and-up was where he liked to be. Everything was neater there. Nothing about this spring deal was neat.
Take crazy people. John reckoned that crazy people should identify themselves as crazy, and after that should be summarily ignored unless found dangerous. What should never be done, he reasoned, was to legitimize their craziness - for instance by taking legal action over a couple of worthless springs. Anyway, he didn't suppose that this Eric guy was much better, but at least he seemed like he wanted to give John answers. And what John desperately wanted was for everything to make sense again. He turned the corner to find a small Asian man sitting on a log with a pile of ancient books. The man rose, walked up to John, and put his hand on his face.
"Mr. Begonia, I presume," he said.
"Who are you? Where is Eric?"
"Calm down. The answers you seek are not Eric's to give; he has another path to follow. You must walk with me," the man said, beckoning.
In spite of himself, John locked into step next to the man.
"Many call me Master Lin," the man said.
"What exactly are you a master of?" John asked.
The man looked flustered.
"...Toast ... er, fu. Toast Fu," he said unconvincingly. John shrugged.
"I was promised answers."
"There can be no answers without questions."
"I have lots of questions."
"But first you must have answers."
"Ah ha."
This was as far from things making sense as John could imagine anything being.

Eric knocked on Mr. Brixton's door with a certain amount of hesitation. He wasn't exactly sure how things were supposed to go here. A woman answered the door. She was a small but proud-looking woman with a look full of years in her eyes. She looked oddly tired.
"Are you another lawyer?" she asked.
"No. I'm here to talk to James Bri-"
"Of course you are. Come on in, I'll make some tea." Her tone was not polite. It was more like making tea was something she was required to do as hostess, no matter how much she might hate it and even if she was in a hotel room and not her own house. "Have a seat," she continued in the same tone. "JAMES!"
James walked out of the bathroom.
"Yeah, honey?"
"Someone else is here to see you."
Mr. Brixton walked over to Eric and extended a hand.
"James Brixton."
"Eric Smellick," Eric replied. "I wanted to talk to you about the springs of life."
"Do you, uh, believe in that stuff?"
Eric was caught off guard by the question.
"I'm not sure how much to believe," he said.
"I'll tell you something," said James, moving over to one of the two chairs in the small hotel room. "When I said, 'Maybe these are DeLeon's Springs of Life,' I was making a joke."
"Were you?"
"Yep. But I can't deny there's something off about them. Eric, right?"
Eric nodded.
"You seem like a decent fellow, and you say you're not a lawyer?"
"No, I'm - "
"And you're not with the park service?"
"No." Eric had given up on getting a word in at the moment.
"Let me show you something." He stood up and motioned for Eric to follow him into the tiny hotel bathroom. Immediately Eric noticed the two potted plants sitting on either side of the sink, one barely struggling for life and the other blooming with beautiful flowers.
"I planted them four days ago, with no sunlight and hardly any water. Guess where the springs are?" he asked.
Eric pointed to the blooming flowers.
"Bingo. The two that I'm supposed to take care of, they're buried in the soil. You see, I think they exude life. I haven't begun to explore the possibilities, but its amazing to watch it work."
"I'll say," said Eric.
"I wish I could just show this to anybody who wanted to know, but I've been counseled to keep my mouth shut. I certianly shouldn't have showed you, only right before you came in I decided I was going to show everything to the next person who came through that door, cause I just couldn't keep it to myself anymore, y'know?"
Eric nodded.
"So, Eric, I know you've been wanting to say... What're you here for?"

Friday, April 13, 2007

Mourning for Mortimer (Maybe)

We hope you don't enjoy your stay,

the voice continued.

The Satanic forces of this damned place remind you that the use of recording devices is prohibited on pain of eternal damnation,

it went on. Mortimer was beginning to find it annoying.

Don't forget to visit the gift shop on your way out. Of HELL.

This was getting a little ridiculous. Mortimer was happy when the voice fell silent, but was less happy to hear another voice in the corridor behind him.
"Sir," it said, "Sir!"
"Yes, Mr. Shelley?" Mortimer asked.
"You didn't actually dismiss me," said Stephen Shelly, the level III lawyer.
"You can go."
"Actually," he said, "I can't. You see, I have to be banished from the same plane I was summoned to. I followed you in here, so I can't go home until you get out of here."
"Well why didn't you have to sign a damned contract?" Mortimer asked.
"Extraplanar exclusion clause. You summoned me from the plane of legal. We have our own hell."
"The plane of law, you mean?" Mortimer had heard of this, a plane full of beings of pure law, where ethical dilemmas were nonexistant.
"No, sir, the plane of legal. Not at all the same thing, I'm afraid."
"Look, Mr. Shelley. Just, stay out of the way, ok?"
"Yes Sir. I took the liberty of requesting a copy of your contract from the receptionist, so I'll just continue studying it, shall I?"
"You go ahead."
By this time the two had reached the end of the corridor, a problematic event since the corridor ended in a sheer drop that seemed to go on forever. Agonized screams rose up from it. He looked around and was relieved to see something coming through the air towards him. It turned out to be a boat, a rowboat to be exact. A gruesome figure with a boar-like face and a gaunt, frail body was rowing.
"Visitors?" it grunted, "Climb aboard."
They climbed in and the rower turned the boat around. It looked like the ride was going to pass in silence, but it quickly became apparent that silence was too good for hell.
"Now if you'll look directly below you, you'll see what we like to call "the pit,"" the thing began, "Over 50,000 feet deep, the pit is the place where most of our residents spend their time. We're going to start circling down into the pit to give you an idea of what it's like there."
"Um, excuse me," said Mortimer "I don't remember signing up for the tour. I want to see a particular person."
The ghastly figure turned toward Mortimer and gave him a sour look, soured all the more by the various fangs and tusks at work.
"This is a tour boat. It's complimentary with your soul. You could have waited for a public barge, but now you're here I can hardly just stop the whole tour because you made a mistake."
Mortimer rolled his eyes as the creature went on, discussing the various torture implements passing on their left and the various sins that had brought them on. The pit seemed to have a sort of wide spiral walk around it so that torture was occurring all along the way.
"In order to insure quality agony that lasts, of course, very few stick with one torture. Residents are rotated down the pit so that their torture increases each century. This has the added effect of giving people the impression that at least their torture will stay interesting, which makes their stay in the room that much worse."
Mortimer was getting sick of this. He began to wonder whether one could die in hell. He supposed that one couldn't, which meant if he just jumped out of the boat he'd make it harmlessly to the bottom of the pit. Then again, even if one couldn't die, one could certianly feel pain - that was the point, after all.
He was interrupted from his speculations by an imp appearing in a poof of red smoke and whispering something in their tour guide's ear.
"This is all terribly interesting isn't it?" said Stephen Shelly. "I'm glad I came along."
"Any luck with the contract?"
"The uh... Oh yes, the contract. Well, I figure he'll show me where they keep all the lawyers, and then maybe they can help explain bits of it."
"Keep looking," Mortimer said.
The tour guide turned to the imp, and said, "Is that so?" He began to row the boat toward the center of the pit, so they were no longer close to any side, then said to Mortimer in a voice dripping with sadistic delight,
"There seems to be a problem with your bloodwork. We'd like to take a second sample, as per the contract you signed."
Mortimer turned to Shelly, who nodded embarrassedly.
Mortimer got out his knife and grabbed for the jelly with his other hand.
"We'll take this one ourselves," said the guard, producing a huge jagged blade. "Don't worry, you can't die in hell. You'll barely feel a thing," he said, gesturing toward the torture around them, "Comparatively speaking, of course."
But the demon had told Mortimer all he needed to know. Without giving the thing the second it needed to lunge at him, he leapt over the back of the boat, and began the long fall down.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Memo from Management


It's annual performance review time, and I have been asked to address some rumors floating around the office. As such, I want to make sure we're all clear on what a performance review is and what a performance review isn't.
First of all, and I can't make this clear enough:

A performance review is not performance art.

You will not improve your salary by painting yourself blue and eating massive amounts of Captain Crunch at your performance review. Also, contrary to popular belief, no one ever got a raise by lighting himself on fire. Those of you junior employees gullible enough to believe that story should ask Mr. Hollis in finance about the real story. Or about what happened to his face, or why he has no children. You'll get the same response however you phrase it.
In addition, singing and dancing are inappropriate at a performance review. It is your JOB performance I will be reviewing; I don't care about your guitar performance, vocal performance, show choir performance, kazoo performance, or accordion performance. Or, for that matter, and I'm going to get this out of the way here and now, your sexual performance.

Onto the dress code. I understand a memo circulated last week to the effect that animal costumes would be mandatory at this year's performance review and that, and I quote, "your choice of costume will be a crucial factor in decisions regarding your salary." I assure you that this memo is completely erroneous and anyone dressed in an animal costume will be severely reprimanded. (Except for Mr. Leslie, who has a documented medical reason.) Remember, this is a professional environment and I expect professionalism from each of you.
There is one more item of business, and I am hesitant to even include it. In past years, we have had issues, in performance reviews, with, how shall I say it, excessive flatulence. Not issues with one or two employees, or with one or two... incidents, but issues with extensive and repeated displays across the board.
Such behavior is distracting and unpleasant, so I am attaching a list of dietary considerations for your review. You would all be wise to heed them in the days leading up to your annual review.
Finally, I understand that the rather small raise budget has, once again, become public knowledge. However, disappointing as these numbers may be, it is no reason to display any unprofessionalism that could cost you the single available .0007% raise. I hope you will all take this memo to heart.