(Ever wonder what might go through your mind if you were suddenly blown up in a nuclear holocaust? No? Good for you. However, the possibility of being blown up in a nuclear holocaust is swiftly becoming a strong possibility, given that the world is currently being run by a pack of self-serving idiots. Again, however, those idiots inspired me to write this story. It’s about the thoughts and feelings of 100 people, 10 bats and 1 cat at that moment just before and/or during being blown up in a nuclear holocaust. I’ll be posting one episode a day along with a completely gratuitous photo until all 100 people, 10 bats and the cat are blown up. I kind of feel sorry for the bats.)
It started as a vague awareness of something drifting in the air, a connection floating between the dust motes, barely perceptible by a sixth sense or whatever psychic warning that joins the herd instinct to stop and listen. Shiela Montgomery stopped chewing on her mid-morning Coffee Crisp. Her eyes narrowed as her mind tried to tune into whatever it was that had just locked the room into an instant in time. Danny Yates’ fingers halted their crazy keyboard dervish as his wrists pressed down against the cushioned tray, his fingers raised over the keys like vipers set to strike. Chloe Sanders cocked her head to the right and looked at the pipes and electronic circuitry in the ceiling as she thought, Is this place going to blow up? There had never been any doubt in her mind that someday the place was going to blow up. She’d always hoped it would happen on her day off or when she was on lunch hour. But no, here she was, sitting at her desk at the tail end of a monumental quality request form and the damn place was going to blow up. All those pipes and circuitry.
It was like a moment echoing between two solid walls of time so fast that its movement merged with time into motionlessness. So fast, it went nowhere.
Oh shit, thought Chloe Sanders.
The moment collapsed in on itself like a savage force of shaking fury.
Oh shit, thought Shiela Montgomery.
A distant rumble. And then the release.
Oh shit, thought Danny Yates, a split second before his skin peeled away from his bones and his bones disintegrated as the searing wave of nuclear hell fire tore through the office, the building and the city.
“That was intense,” said Chloe Sanders.
“I guess I never really expected it to be that fast,” said Danny Yates. “I didn’t even have time to think about it. Did anyone else feel that rumble?”
“It seemed like it was a thousand miles away…and then…woop,” said Arthur Williams, who’d been in the office all along, watching Chloe eating her Coffee Crisp and wishing that he’d had a chocolate bar as well.
“And I always thought it would be the pipes and circuitry that would blow us up,” said Chloe, shaking her head in disappointment. How could she have been so certain and so wrong?
“Well,” said Shiela Montgomery, “we finally got rid of that ugly ceiling. It made me feel like I was working in an oil refinery.”
“Or deep down inside the city’s sewage systems,” said Olivia Portman, who had blue Wiccan symbols tattooed on both her arms. “Right down under the city with the stench and the salamanders.” She’d been fantasizing having oral sex with Arthur as he watched Chloe eat her chocolate bar just before they all blew up.
Their location and surroundings were uncertain. They were aware of themselves and of each other and they were vaguely aware of the absence of things, like the ceiling. Their desks were gone along with their computers and swivel chairs. There were no walls, no windows, no floor. It was certainly a much different environment than it had been a few minutes before. Chloe’s Coffee Crisp bar was gone before she’d had a chance to finish it and she felt a little ripped off by the timing of things. The nerve: blowing a city up before people have a chance to finish their chocolate bars.
“So…how do we enter this into our timesheets?” asked Jamey Dunlop, who was always asking stupid questions instead of trying to figure out anything on his own. People tried to avoid him because he always had a question, even when he didn’t. He just saw you and he’d ask a question.
“I don’t think you’ll have to worry about your timesheet anymore, Jamey,” said Olivia, who was wondering if it would still be possible to have oral six with Arthur.
“I don’t care if I ever have to fill out another timesheet for as long as I live,” yelled Janet Campbell from over in PR. She hated numbers, and timesheets were all about numbers. “Timesheets suck!”
There followed an undercurrent of mirth, like dozens upon dozens of people smiling together as though they’d just shared a large pizza with the works and a case of cold beer.
“But you can fill yours out if you want to, Jamey,” said Danny Yates, smirking. He didn’t like Jamey, who annoyed him with stupid questions even when it was obvious that he was deep into coding and didn’t want to be interrupted.
“OK,” said Jamey. “How do I get to my timesheet from here?”
“Jamey!” said Alice Turnbill, a systems analyst who was in town once a month for team meetings and who felt a little picked on that the city would be blown up on the one day of the month that she was in town. “Just find ‘here’ first and take it from there, you nitwit.”
Another undercurrent of mirth ensued. Some people were beginning to think that maybe being blown up wasn’t such a bad thing. It sure beat that ugly ceiling. All those pipes and wires.
“OK,” said Jamey. “How do you get to here?”
Stifled laughter. You could feel it holding its breath, beating hard against the urge to let loose.
“Why don’t you try looking under the third brick to the left, Jamie,” said Alex Gray, a consultant who’d been with the company for nearly three years and nobody actually knew what he did as he sat at his desk by the window with a beautiful view of the city. Andrea Carr from accounting suggested one day (by the water cooler, of course) that downloading porno was a fast rising corporate concern. She looked at Alex as she said this. Now, as far as the rest of the office was concerned, Alex Gray spent his days by the window with the great view of the city downloading porn. Nobody even suspected that he spent his days making entries into an online religious journal, a sort of diary in which he spent his days writing about his love for God and all of God’s creations. For one week of each year, he wrote and published the company’s annual glossy, full-color, twenty page letter to the shareholders about how well the company was doing and how safe the shareholders’ money was with the company. Alex’s job was to gather the photo images, write the text, put it all together in a publishing program, send it to the printers, hand the printed copies over to the chairman of the board who would then pass them on to the shareholders. It took Alex a week to do all this. He made $85,000 a year. But the shareholders loved their annual twenty page letter. Alex’s words to Jamey were the first words many in the office had ever heard him say.
“OK,” said Jamey. He was quiet for a moment. And then, “Does anybody know where the third brick from the left is?”
It was around this time that Danielle McLeod, a Level 1 Policy Analyst from the Compliance Division, realized that one of her arms was protruding from her chest. She noticed that the nail polish on the thumb was scorched. Damn, she thought.
Arnold Hicks from the mail room, who’d been in the office delivering mail when he was blown up, and who weighed close to three hundred pounds, saw his feet for the first time ever, sprouting from either of his shoulders. So, what’s holding me up? he thought.
“OK,” said Jamey. “I’m serious now. Does anyone know where that brick is?”
“Up your ass!”
A silence followed. No one knew where that voice had come from. No one knew whose voice that was. But there was a very distinct undercurrent of mirth to be felt. The voice came from Jasper Goudy, a sidewalk skeptic who spent his retirement days sitting on a bench outside the building passing judgement on passersby. He generally kept his opinions and judgements to himself, thinking them so loudly that he was certain the air in front of his forehead heated up with the energy of his thoughts. When he was blown up, he bounced off the top of a bus and bounded into the air, through a window and into Carla Fitch’s top right desk drawer, where he became a vocal part of a desk. He wasn’t sure where the rest of his body was, but he was certain that his head was in the desk. Carla, who was in charge of the company’s eLearning program, was on vacation in Paris, which was being blown up at the same time as her desk was being blown up with Jasper’s head in it. Coincidence?
“Yeah, Jamey,” said Jennifer Likely, Director of Compliance Training. “Up your ass!” Jennifer had always wanted to say something like this to Jamey Dunlop. She hated his continual whining and questioning. But more than just saying “up your ass,” she would have loved to strangle him to death or pour starter fluid all over him and set him on fire. These were things she fantasized as she sat at her desk and watched Jamey asking other people how to do this and how to do that, or listened to him whining about some piece of software not working because he was too lazy to read the specs and there was nobody around him who’d used the software so he had nobody to ask. On one occasion, she was stapling papers together when she heard Jamey whining about something and she thought how nice it would be to put staples in his forehead and eyes. She smiled as she stapled and fantasized. “Up your ass you fucker,” she yelled. It felt good. “Fuck you, Jamey Dunlop, fuck you…fuck you. Ha ha ha ha ha!” Jennifer, though dead from being blown up, was having a wonderful time telling Jamey to fuck off. In fact, she couldn’t remember ever having this much fun when she was alive. She was, after all, in compliance. What kind of life was that? She liked being dead. She got to tell Jamey Dunlop to fuck off. She got to say, “Up your ass, Jamey Dunlop.” She smiled as the explosion did crazy things to her anatomy.
Garth Peterson wasn’t as happy as Jennifer. He was in charge of enforcing workplace inclusion policies and he believed that annoying people like Jamey should be embraced by the corporate community and his annoying behaviors accepted by his co-workers. Garth was also a very sensitive man and felt a deep sense of hurt at the use of Jennifer’s language, which, he felt was entirely inappropriate given her role in compliance. Garth’s role was already tough given that all the people he worked with were white, straight, middleclass atheists. And none of them were handicapped. Well, maybe now that they were being blown up. Garth spent most of his workdays taking professional development courses on inclusion in the workplace. So far he’d taken one hundred and twenty-three courses on company time and company expense. He was an expert on inclusion and he’d hoped that someday the company would hire someone in a wheelchair or from a foreign country who didn’t look like everybody else so that he could practice those one hundred and twenty-three courses on that person. He felt a bit piqued as he realized that his great hope had just been blown away.
Jason Hart was pissed. This shouldn’t be happening to me, he thought. Jason was a branding evangelist. His job was to visit potential clients and lie religiously about the benefits of dealing with his company, and he was good at it. They paid him over half a million dollars a year to lie. Religiously. (Alex Gray was jealous of Jason Hart. He figured that, if he could work for a company for as long as he had with no one knowing what he did, then he could lie better than Jason and he should be the one making over half a million dollars a year. Plus, it would give him something to do.) Jason was pissed because he was supposed to meet with a potential client later in the afternoon and he’d been preparing his lies for weeks. They were beautiful lies about deliverables that wouldn’t be anywhere near the quality of what he would promise, lies about timelines that no one in their right mind would believe…until they were steeply engulfed by Jason’s lies. He’d even put together a PowerPoint presentation to visually enhance his lies. He had charts and graphs and anecdotes and statistics and meaningful graphics and photo images and quotes and excerpts and interviews and testimonials and recommendations and imaginary sources that he would mention in passing as he clicked quickly to the next screen before the potential client had a chance to actually see the sources let alone ask about them. Jason was gifted at leading his victims down a cherry-walled path and into the trap. But today, he’d been blown up before the meeting and he was pissed.
Donna Hartley was a project manager who hated Jason Hart even though their names were sort of similar. Time after time, Jason had made promises to clients that she and her team had struggled to fulfill, usually unsuccessfully. And when that happened, she’d usually been left holding the shitty end of the stick while Jason went off to lie to another sucker and get her and the other project managers into more shit. She’d made complaints to senior management about Jason, but his lies were bringing in money and feeding their Christmas bonuses, so nothing was ever done about him. Not even a scolding finger. Donna wasn’t too happy about being blown up, but she was happy in the knowledge that Jason was being blown up. If she’d had a mouth left, she would have smiled.
Carla Mason, a junior corporate intelligence analyst, had waked up that morning knowing that this was the day that she would be blown up. She’d been tempted to inform her boss, Jane Powel, about her findings, all of them pointing toward the city being blown up along with a large part of the rest of the world, but she’d finally thought, No, let them read the newspapers and news sites themselves. Besides, ever since the Christmas party when she’d gotten too drunk and told everyone that she’d been attacked and raped by Egyptian hieroglyphics when she was a child, most people didn’t take anything she said seriously. But she was good at running errands and was willing to work evenings and weekends on meaningless projects, so she got to keep her job. As she was being blown up, she kind of liked the idea that she wouldn’t have to work late tonight.
Darren Leckie was an intermediate advertising copy writer who, like Alex Gray, had nothing to do. All the work he was supposed to do was farmed out to companies in India and Indonesia where they did the work of a team of Darrens for a fraction of the cost of one Darren’s salary. His appearance in the company was symbolic. He represented everything the company stood for in its hiring policies to create local jobs. Basically, Darren was an imaginary persona for an imaginary policy creating imaginary jobs for imaginary people. He was almost relieved to be blown up. He hoped those assholes overseas were being blown up as well.
Cora Albright was probably the only person in the company who actually acknowledged Darren’s existence. Cora was a Tier 4 Policy Implementation Specialist and the person responsible for hiring Darren so that if someone called the company about the advertising copy, they could speak to someone who spoke English. No one ever called, which pretty much made Cora’s life even more meaningless than Darren’s. Three days earlier, her doctor had told her that she had to give up drinking because her liver was on its deathbed and was going to take her with it in less than a year if she didn’t quit drinking. But booze was all that kept Cora from exiting the building through the window instead of the elevator at the end of each day. She was feeling kind of groovy about not having to take that thirty storey ride down to another evening of vodka and orange today. She was about to do the most significant thing she’d ever done in her years with the company, which was to join the chorus and yell, “Fuck you, Jamey Dunlop!” But her mouth was suddenly two blocks away from the thought.
Ever thought about writing a novel but don’t know how to get started or keep the steam up until you have something in your hands ready for a publisher? You need Writing Hurts Like Hell: How to Write a Novel When You Don’t Have Time to Write a Short Story.