Our security guys walked Annette to Human Resources. Bobby, the older guard, wore massive black shoes. His Frankenstein boots echoed in the hallway. According to the collective theory around our office, bantamweight Bobby’s footwear-ballast kept him within gravity’s bounds. He should have tethered himself to his sidekick, young Derek, who was unlikely to go anywhere.
Annette’s round, dark eyes blinked; her chest heaved in quick puffs. Same as when a nuthatch flew in the breakroom window last month. The doomed bird fluttered about, banging into vending machines, until Derek shattered it with a broom. All of us cheered except Annette. We had no idea how hazardous our workplace would become.
“When I made the lights flicker it was a test,” Annette explained to her uniformed escort. “The printer explosion was an accident. I’m sorry for the damage I caused.”
An administrative assistant passed in the opposite direction, smiled at Bobby and Derek, and made an obscene hand gesture at their detainee. Annette’s face contorted as if she’d been punched in the stomach.
“I told you,” Annette sobbed to Bobby and Derek, “I haven’t mastered my power. I didn’t ask for it!”
Derek glared. He hated to walk; moreover, he couldn’t stand it when people talked. If you asked him about his career, though, he’d ramble about how he dreamed of getting a job that would let him carry (and sometimes use) a gun.
Our company’s disciplinary guidelines? Following Annette’s exit interview she’d be frogmarched upstairs to the mezzanine (which warehoused freight overstock) and guards would push her down the metal stairs.
Technically, Annette’s office fixtures were fair game only after she’d vacated the premises or was pronounced non-responsive. Some of us invented reasons to stroll past her cubicle and preview the jackpot. The desk was last decade’s IKEA but the good kind, made of real wood. A cell phone vibrated itself past the blotter and broke into shards on the floor. Annette’s chair was still warm but her purse, wireless keyboard, and pencil sharpener were gone, claimed by the most enthusiastic among us.
Bobby knocked on the Human Resources office door and, without waiting, led Annette and Derek inside. Elizabeth the HR Specialist stood up and dumped Grey from her lap. Grey, Annette’s manager, known for the smallness of his eyes, physique, and mind, struggled to his feet and wandered around the HR office. He monkeyed with random decorative doodads and pretended to read text messages on his wallet.
“Okay, well, how are you today, Annette?” said Elizabeth. With a tissue she dabbed her schmeared lipstick.
“I’m very great, thank you!” replied Grey. He fumbled his wallet into Elizabeth’s fish tank.
“Grey, we’re talking to Annette now,” said Elizabeth. “The telekinetic lady.”
“Telegraphic person, you mean,” Grey said with a leer. Not bothering to roll up his suit jacket sleeve, he plunged his arm into the tank. Elizabeth’s Siamese fighting fish attacked his Tag Heuer wristwatch.
“Thank you, Grey, yes. Now, Annette, you do understand your metaphysically deviant behavior has made other employees uncomfortable? Further, there are issues in regard to property damage? All told, we’ve received numerous complaints and your manager has warned you previously?”
“I’ve got you now, you piece of filth!” cried Grey. He held his wallet overhead, an angler’s prize, then vomited into the fish tank. The office reeked of energy drinks and vodka.
“Anyway,” continued Elizabeth, “your words and actions violate company policy, and so on, so as of today we’ve terminated your employment, effective immediately. Anything you wish to state in your defense?”
Annette dried some tears with her sleeve and glanced from Elizabeth to Grey and back again.
“What’s there to say?” Annette said. “You’ve fired me.”
Elizabeth nodded for a few seconds before shaking her head. A mask of solemnity replaced her feral grin.
“Well, yes… but, I mean, you’re still employed by us –“
“Technically!” crowed Grey.
“– until these two gentlemen, whose names I can’t remember, push you down some stairs. So, goodbye and have a nice day!”
Elizabeth extended a hand toward Annette, who refused it. The HR rep shrugged, returned to her chair, and with one finger poked randomly at the computer keyboard. Grey sidled closer to Annette. Lips parted, tongue lolling, goatee moist, he lunged forward to kiss her on the mouth.
In Annette’s cubicle our work was nearly done. Some people go straight for the computer peripherals, others scavenge sticky-note pads and highlighter pens. The Accounting Department mafia claims all snacks and condiments.
Earthquakes are uncommon around here, so none of us knew what to do when the floor began to oscillate. Ceiling tiles scattered and crumbled. The lights went out, the emergency backups sizzled and died, and you could see through the dusty darkness only when balls of sparks exploded. A marketing specialist pulled the ring on a fire extinguisher but nothing happened; the inspection label was dated 1987. A sweet-flat odor, maybe natural gas, seeped into the air. We couldn’t take shelter beneath Annette’s desk — someone had appropriated it.
Michael Grant Smith wears sleeveless T-shirts, weather permitting. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in The Airgonaut, Ghost Parachute, The Cabinet of Heed, Ellipsis Zine, Spelk, Bending Genres, MoonPark Review, and elsewhere. Michael resides in Ohio. He has traveled to Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Cincinnati.