Q: The Job Interview
Clasping my hands behind my head, I try my hardest to look casual as my left foot bounces up, down, up, and down. The office is a small white-walled government looking cage with a creamy colored desk and matching seat opposite of the half-broken tin chair I sit in now. None of the walls have pictures- bare as the scratchy blue carpet beneath my feet- but a lone plastic tree guards the far right corner of the room as if to protect it from being completely blank. Shifting my eyes towards the single 4×8 window with no blinds, I realize how high up the thirteenth floor actually is and feel my two feet start to bounce in unison now. The pale brown door to my left opens. “Mr. Q?” a short balding man in a stained white t-shirt, blue sweatpants, and brown loafers peers in. Jumping to my feet I stutter, “Uh, yessir, are you Mr. S?” Without a word, Mr. S closes the door, locks it and struts behind the desk. Placing his palms on the table, he leans over the desk and peers towards the window. Silence. “Uh sir?” Mr. S clears his throat and cuts me off, “I’ve always loved the view up here, whaddaya think Q?” Sitting back in my chair now, I run my fingers through my hair anxiously and sigh, “Yessir, I suppose it is a good view. Um do you suppose-“ Shhhh. Mr. S slowly moves towards his chair and continues staring out the window for a few more minutes before rubbing his eyes and turning towards me again.
“Now,” he begins, “my guess is you are wondering what this job interview is?”
“And why I’m having you refer to me as Mr. S?” I nod again.
“And why we are calling you Mr. Q?”
Leaning forward in my chair, “Yes, I received a couple of letters telling me to come to the thirteenth floor of the Lexicon Building. With all due respect sir, I would’ve come sooner but the letters were quite cryptic, at first it seemed like some sort of scam-“
“What made you decide it wasn’t?” Mr. S lightly scans his balding head with his fingers, leans slightly forward in his chair, and folds his hands with a smirk. I stare back politely- suddenly the office seems too small for the short man sitting in front me. In this short pause, I look down to realize my rigid black and white business attire in contrast to Mr. S’ fraternity morning-after swagger. “What kind of…business is thi-“
“I’ll start with the name thing,” he burps as he opens up his desk drawer and pulls out a silver flask. “See around here, everything is important. Every last little detail.” He pauses to unflinchingly take a long swig of the flask. “What is NOT important,” he says wiping his lips with his forearm, “are names. I am Mr. S, that’s it, simple as that, no first name, no codenames, no nicknames, each employee has a letter. When we run out of letters we’ll start over Mr.AA, Mr.BB. Get it?” Without checking to see if I understand, he finishes off the flask and slams it down on the desk. “We don’t invite many people to an interview, usually people are referred by employees inside the organization, however one of our scouts saw you the other day, doing some sort of messenger job.” Pulling out a single sheet of paper from one of the drawers, he places it gingerly on the desk. “Says here you’re a courier?” Startled by this half-monologue, I bite my tongue before replying with a simple yes. “Right, now here comes the job part. Everyone here has a specific talent; our last Q was our messenger. Bout a few weeks ago we had to get rid of him- spent too much time enjoying this here beautiful view.” Again he stands up and leans against the desk for a few seconds to mindlessly gaze through the glass. Sighing he turns back towards me, “So what do you say?”
I notice my feet are bouncing again and much faster than before too. Watching as my anxiety takes hold of me, the situation becomes more confusing than ever. “Uhm.” Pause. “I- I, uh don’t even know what you guys do.” Mr. S chuckles, “Mr. Q, I told you what we do here is not important, it’s whether or not you’re in.” Furrowing my brow, I muster the courage to reply, “You just said every little detail is important here though didn’t you? Except for names?” The short man walks in front of the desk and leans back up against it. “Listen man, what we need you to do is to go throughout the city and deliver messages and packages to them. That’s it. We have very specific notifications and such that must reach our clients here every day. And at exact times as well. If you must know, most of these packages are simple thank you gifts or cards to old friends of the organization. We pay well, you can come and go as you please as long as everything is delivered each day, and best of all there are a few more important deliveries we will give you bonuses for. So, what’s the problem?” Now staring at me shrewdly, my doubt subsides momentarily. “Well, it doesn’t sound bad. The pay rate you mentioned in the letter was much better than what I’m getting paid now. Uh, there wasn’t a company name on any of them though is it-“Coughing lightly, Mr. S narrows his eyes, “We’re Organized Fate.”
Once more I inhale the room’s surroundings with my eyes and think about the higher pay-rate, “Hmm, what type of people am I delivering to?” Mr. S grabs his flask off his desk and slams it down once more, “Look Q, you in or out?” I shake my feet loose of their incessant bouncing and stand to shake his hand. S grabs my hand and smiles for the first time since the interview began. “Good,” sliding behind the desk again, he pulls out a brown manila envelope from a drawer and drops it on the desk. “Here’s your first and only delivery for today- to, uh, see how you do- don’t mess it up!” Reaching for the envelope Mr. S grabs my wrist and stops me short, “This one’s going to Ms. P, one door over- easy. There’s only one rule though, you may never open any of your deliveries.” Letting go of my hand, Mr. S turns his back towards me and begins to gaze out the window once more. Taking that as my cue to leave, I grab the manila envelope and say thank you before walking out the brown door. On the other side, a black letter “S” sits like a stain above the door handle. Turning around in the bleakly-lit office hallway, I find the door labeled “P” now four feet in front of me. I pause and take a deep breath before knocking.
“Come in,” a stale voice replies. Upon turning the nob and stepping in the room the first thing I notice is this office is an exact replica of Mr. S’ office, fake miniature palm tree in the corner and all, but with an oversized analog clock instead of a window. A middle-aged brunette woman with black lipstick in a flowing green wedding dress sits on the edge of the desk with her legs crossed and hands laced upon her knees. The distinct look of boredom is etched upon her face as she turns to face me. “Hello, you must be new,” she says holding out her hand, “I’m Ms. P and your new job is fucking miserable.” Walking up to her with the envelope behind my back and my other hand extended, I manage to introduce myself as Mr. Q when she notices the manila letter in my other hand. “What’s that?” she asks suspiciously- a look of terror gradually forming on her face. “I’m not sure,” I begin, “uh, Mr. S told me to bring it over as my first delivery or something?”
Ms. P jumps off the desk and snatches the envelope out of my hand. Then I watch her stumble over towards the tree’s corner and rip open the top of the letter in a frantic shriek. Not knowing what to do in this moment, I take a few steps backwards towards the door before she finishes reading and lets it flutter to the ground. Swiftly she turns around with her hands behind her back and stares at me, then at the clock, then back towards me. Waiting for her to say something, I stare back intently. She turns back towards the clock one last time before pulling a sharp toothed jackknife from behind her back and begins inching towards me. “Woah,” I stumble back over the still-open door, falling to the ground and closing my escape in one fell swoop. Ms. P screams and beings to launch herself on top of me, knife raised in her right hand. I roll to my right where the tree stands just as Ms. P stabs the jagged knife into the thin carpet floor. As Ms. P strains to dislodge the knife from the floor, I jump to my feet and grab the nearest thing in sight. The next thing I know Ms. P has stabbed her knife into the heart of the plastic tree in my hands. “Agrh,” I kick her in the chest and watch her twist and fall backwards with the knife in her hand. Something like a deep groan and a muffled crunching sound reaches my ears as she hits the floor. The chaos abruptly ended.
Waiting for her to get up and start attacking again, I stay crouched with the tree still in my hands. After awhile I lean over her and drop the tree. “Ms. P?” Silence. Gingerly turning her over with hand, I use my other to cover my mouth in horror. The jackknife lay lodged in her chest, a cruel blood-dripping smile now in place where her frown used to be. Jumping back in surprise, I scramble to where she dropped the letter and begin to read.
Ms. P, Organized Fate regrets to inform you that your time here is running out.
We have received information that your death will occur today,
Thursday, October 12th at approximately 5:24PM.
Cause of death: knife wound
Though there is nothing that can be done about your fate,
we have enclosed a weapon for at least a false sense of protection.
Godspeed, Organized Fate
I re-read the message over and over before looking at the clock and seeing it is now 5:26PM. Glancing back at Ms. P, I clench my stomach in disgust and drop the envelope before dragging my feet out the door. “Hey!” I yell before I even open Mr. S’ door, “what in the hell was that!” Mr. S comes to the door and invites me in before swiftly closing his door behind him. He props himself against the desk to look at the window again as I begin pulling on my hair, “How can you be so calm right now? Didn’t you hear what just happened? You made me freaking kill her! What is this? Who are you guys?” I emphasize all my questions with violent pulls on my hair or anxious steps in his direction yet Mr. S remains stagnant admiring the view. “You didn’t read the letter did you?” Mr. S crosses his arms and finally looks at me. I stare back in amazement, wondering what exactly I had gotten in to and whether or not he was now planning to kill me. Only my heavy breathing filled the space between us. “Eh, it doesn’t matter anyway,” he turns back to the window and puts his hands in his pockets, “everyone finds out eventually. Organized Fate is the company in charge of letting certain people know when they will die.”
My eyes somehow grow wider in amazement and I let my hands drop to the side, “What in the fuck are you talking about? She wouldn’t have died if you didn’t give her a fucking knife or tell her I was gonna’ attack her or whatever the hell- gahh! You’re not even listening!” Mr. S gets up off the desk and walks towards me, “No see that’s where you’re wrong. She would’ve died either way. The higher ups are blessed with the gift of future sight and know when these people’s life will end but that doesn’t mean they are the cause of it. These envelopes give the victims a chance to say goodbye, to go out fighting, or say their sorry-s before it happens.” Mr. S sighs, walks over to the desk, and pulls out another manila envelope and a different flask from the desk. “You see Q?” S takes a long big swig from the flask and coughs violently, “I’ve been working here for a long time. Today I got a letter, I haven’t opened it. See?” He turns the sealed flap towards me then places it back down. “I refuse to, I know it’s inevitable. I can’t change it man it’s organized fate.” He leans back up against the desk and downs the rest of the flask with. “W-what?” I sputter.
S smiles and throws the flask on the rough blue carpet, “I’m tired of working for these guys, man. No one’s in charge of my fate but me. So screw this. See ya’ later Q.” In one swift movement, S pushes himself off the desk and launches himself out the window. I gasp in horror yet again and cautiously peer out the window, S lays in a crumpled heap of glass and a developing pool of blood thirteen stories down below. A wave of relief collapses over me and mixes in with my fear, maybe I was free of Organized Fate and wouldn’t have to go insane the way S just had. I start for the door in a hurry to leave this godforsaken office when the manila envelope catches my eye. I rip open the top in haste and begin scanning the page.
Mr. S, Organized Fate regrets to inform you that your time here is running out.
We have received information that your death will occur today,
Thursday, October 12th at approximately 5:35PM.
Cause of death: fall from great heights.
Godspeed, Organized Fate
I drop the page and let the words imprint themselves on my mind. Mr. S hadn’t read the letter and yet it had made no difference. Shuddering, I un-tuck my shirt and run out of the office with the crooked little Q above the doorknob, swearing never to return again.