Launch a campaign or initiative or whatever. Optimize the whole deal. Turn it on live. Consume another cola/coffee/tea/energy drink, but be expedient. A busy bee gathers no moss. Management hasn’t yet perfected its rumored robots or trained monkeys or robot-monkeys to replace you; until then and not long after, you’ll have to sign forms in your own blood.
These daily processes echo previous employment you’ve experienced: you login to the network, open a computer application, and shift paper documents across the desk in an all-day square dance until five o’clock. You’ve learned to keep your eyes down and your stories straight. You and this job were made for each other, like sparks and an oily rag.
When a manager moseys by, notices your apparent passivity, and asks hey, what are we working on? you explain you’re double-checking your completed assignments. The pig-eyed wannabe-poohbah will buy the falsehood because it pleases them, even though no one at the company actually reviews their own deliverables, or anyone else’s.
The clock says quit, you’re done. For the day, not forever. Quit forever if you want to; you still have to come back tomorrow nonetheless.
One January afternoon you take an outdoor smoke break despite your aversion to the smell, taste, or idea of cigarettes. You shiver empty-handed, your fingers are talons. In succession, your colleagues flick spent butts onto the plowed snow. In silence you salute each dying ember as it cools, extinguished. The burn-holes stare back at you. Momentarily the sun dims; not by a solid object, but conviction. Regret clogs time’s gears; they slow and then stop. Your frozen breath falls to the ground and shatters.
When you drift back inside and navigate the sea of workstations, monitors flicker and go blank in your wake. You grasp your chair’s backrest and it crumbles onto the seat. Your wings unfurl until the tips tickle ceiling tiles and lighting fixtures. Weeks ago, days ago, you’d have traded a kidney for the room’s new silence. A spreading sheet of ice on the desk reflects your image, which you find agreeable. You are the encroaching winter, never again the stricken flame.
Michael Grant Smith wears sleeveless T-shirts, weather permitting. His writing appears in elimae, The Cabinet of Heed, Ellipsis Zine, Spelk, Bending Genres, MoonPark Review, Okay Donkey, trampset, Tiny Molecules, and elsewhere. Michael resides in Ohio. He has traveled to Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Cincinnati. For more Michael, please visit michaelgrantsmith.com and @MGSatMGScom.