L-Y C.A.N. TV
A drop of ink fell on the grey print page of the open newspaper. Anna Kolovitch stared at the broken pen a moment before returning to her surveying of the personal's section of the paper. Although she would have preferred work as a camerawoman, as she had intended when she'd left her college course late last year, lately she'd been settling for what she could find in the meager job-market of the modern world.
Absent-mindedly she glanced at the narrow box that had been partially blotted out by the drop of red ink from the dime-store ballpoint.
What was still legible read "Applicants for position at L-Y C.A.N Television station should prepare their paperwork and then ring-" And a number.
Tapping her teeth with her pen absently, she considered the opportunity. True, it didn't specifically say camera-work, but technically her degree would have counted as multimedia- and she'd had to take all those general courses. At least she'd actually be in the same building as proper filming equipment.
She surveyed her stack of resumes, considering which would be best for this particular opening-
Small advertisement, miserly? Or simple necessity for a small network; although surprising they wouldn't use their own television station to advertise.
Casting their net farther afield?
So, she wanted a number nine, capable graduate with multi-cultural background and able to do more with less.
Sifting through the document pile on her over-burdened kitchen table took several minutes, but then once she'd gathered up the proper Resume and her portfolio, it was only after she'd begun dialing the number that she realized that they might expect her to be able to immediately fax them the documentation… Or email- for both she'd need to go down to the other closet sized apartment directly below her and ask Bertrand if she could borrow some of equipment, again.
Admittedly he didn't seem to mind the visits, although he seemed to be slightly nervous about opening the door. Over-time she'd begun to think that he was probably doing something illegal with all of the technology he had piled up down there.
She found herself jolted back to reality as the phone was picked up… despite the fact she didn't actually recall dialing the last few numbers.
The person who answered sounded strange. Over the last year she'd dealt with innumerable secretaries and similar obstacles to communication with the people who would in fact be the ones to decide whether she was employed and able to eat more than instant noodles that night.
She'd come to recognize the common denominator that remained unchanged no matter the nationality, accent or attitude of the speaker- and that was still there, it was simply that the voice of the woman that answered sounded… strange, like it wasn't just one person speaking, but an entire chorus of singers speaking in perfect synchrony.
"Good eternity, sir, madam or other, please state your business."
Not one to lose a shot at a decent line of work simply because of trouble at the telephone exchange, I recovered myself and used my number three professional tone, the one for the secretariat, beurocrats and form-stampers whose sole purpose seemed to be delivering the line 'We'll get back to you'
"I'm Anna Kolovitch, I read the advertisement in-" I paused to flip over the damp wad of newsprint I'd been perusing.
Before I could read out the title, the woman on the other end cut in.
"Please ensure you have your details in-hand and that you have undergone all preparation you require prior to interview."
There was a brief dial-tone and then toccata and fugue began to play. At least it was better than being put on hold to country and western.
Absently I leaned over to look at myself in the grubby oval of silver-backed glass that served as a mirror for me, turning back and forth I tried to make sure that I didn't have an errant fragment of breakfast stuck to my cheek, or that somehow, all of my hair had come unbraided during the night.
Checking my teeth, I cussed mildly, my pen had been leaking at both ends and now I looked like I'd been dining on extremely rare steak.
The phone ceased blaring slightly eerie organ music and I quickly raised the handset back to my ear.
Unfortunately, it had come with the apartment and I was pretty reluctant to actually let it touch my face, at least until I could afford some metholated spirits to wipe it down with.
So, when the secretary spoke again, I only caught the last few words "- You will be with us momentarily."
There was a note. It wasn't musical, it was vocal and it burrowed into my mind like a blunt bone needle.
For an instant, my senses were confused, direction took on flavor, heat became sound, taste became touch and smell switched places with vision.
It lasted for all of a moment before I found myself sitting in an interview room. I didn't need a sign.
Once you'd seen enough of them, they sort of blur together, the grey panel walls, steel tables, slightly uncomfortable chairs, setup so that to reach documents in front of the interviewer you had to either lean so far over the table you appear undignified or get up and walk a pitiful three steps to place them in front of the man, woman or-
I saw the interviewer and suffered a mental derailing. From the resulting train-wreck arose a crazed shade of reason.
There is what appears to be a very, very large man shaped bear with multi-faceted eyes sitting across from you in a business suit. Do not react. You were just shocked into flashback earlier right? You couldn't really have just been pulled here from your apartment with no memory of where you are or how you got there to face someone who can't possibly, be human.
No. This is just a test. That's a very, realistic, suit intended to shock interviewees and test their ability to work with others and crap. Just act normal, you've done this a hundred times and you'll do it a hundred more if you don't.. stop.. staring, and Start Speaking!
"Good-" she hesitated and then recovered "-Day, mist… sir, I'm here about your advertisement, having recently graduated, I have current knowledge. I'll require no training and can start working with your team right away."
Automatically, she reached for her bag to pull out her portfolio and resume, but found she was already holding them and without stopping to question where her belongings had got-to, she thrust it at the interviewer.
The… Person, on the other side of the table, reached over with what was unmistakably a paw and delicately picked the folder up between two huge, curved claws. They were black. They were long enough for two dozen supermodels. They were pointy and did not look like they'd been designed for removing the bark from trees or extricating grubs from logs and cracking particularly difficult nuts.
They in fact looked like they were for activities involving the words, rip, tear, slash, hack, rend and possibly maul.
They really did pay attention to detail when making those costumes these days… or so she supposed, it was becoming less and less certain with each passing moment that there really was a rational explanation for all this.
He…she… It, poured over the resume, and then as delicately as I might have handled picking up an errant butterfly, opened the plastic folder and began to spread the sheets out.
It was my good one, from back when I'd been making twice the minimum wage doing library work for my university and I'd invested a few of those florins into getting my best work done on glossy photoprint sheets.
The subject matter was as unremarkable as you get, but at least it didn't matter so much for my intents and purposes.
The interviewer, it was… easier to think of him that way, snuffled and then in a voice which didn't so much speak as rumble ominously, said; "What do you think your best quality is?"
On automatic I responded to his totally normal question.
"I'm able to work effectively and comfortably with peoples of any background and maintain a high standard of work quality with minimal resources."
The thing, twitched a little, after a moment, I realized that it had in fact raised an eyebrow. Not that it made any difference appearance-wise.
Still on automatic, my mouth worked faster than my mind "By peoples I of course mean any colleagues no matter what physical appearance or ideological differences they might possess."
It grunted. I hoped that I was right in considering it as an approving sort of grunt.
"Where do you see yourself in five years?"
"I'm afraid I don't have a crystal ball-" The standard joke did nothing to alleviate the seriousness as it usually did. Instead it gandered a sympathetic sort of nod. "-But I expect to be working here, or at least somewhere else in the same industry. For me it's not the pay, but the experience of being part of a process which produces the finest form of entertainment and presents it to allow peo- beings every-where to remain appeased, informed and amused."
The bug-eyed bear nodded, carefully dipped the tip of its fore-claw into a well in the desk, and added a flourish to a form of its own.
I'd seen enough ticks to know when someone adds one, be they using claw or fountain pen. I took it as a good sign.
It cleared it's throat, sounding slightly less rawkus than a midnight chorus of amphibians and asked
"Why do you want to work at L-Y C.A.N T.V?" he pronounced it as a single word rather than abbreviation.
"To allow me to utilize my college experience in a professional environment."
an errant thought treacherously infiltrated my mind that and to move out of an apartment that can be measured in a size of square inches.
"So, is there anything you'd like to add to what you've shown me?"
It rumbled the question in an 'The interview is now over' sort of manner.
"Uh, although I'd prefer to be doing camera-work over anything else, any job will do… Almost any job."
"We'll Get Back To You."
Although I'd always imagined those words as heralding some sort of 'Crack of Doom' it was the first time I'd actually heard them rumbled in a voice to match.
I smiled at the… interviewer automatically, only remembering after I'd begun the action that because of my leaky ball-point I looked like I'd torn into a rare steak without a knife and fork.
Oh Bugger. Just grin, bear it and hope the interviewer doesn't notice.
It did. Although it didn't say anything, I could see what counted for its face shifting underneath the pelt.
Standing up, I considered whether to take my file back or to leave it with him…. Which brought up another, far more important question; "Pardon me, but I seem to have forgotten how exactly I got here, where is this building?"
Its unblinking eyes angled toward me.
"Need to know. You don't. You will be banished momentarily."
I considered arguing with a creature large enough and probably strong enough to tear me apart like a wet sheet of paper and wisely decided to sit down in my chair and remain quiet.
It used the foreclaw of its left paw to sketch out a circle, bisected twice in the air, before rapping on it with its knuckle; producing a sound which was almost exactly not quite like when you or I might knock on a door politely.
"Kahve here, Interview is over, please send in de next can-di-date." The sudden change in accent would have been surprising, if I had not already just been interviewed by a bugbear with no clue as to when, where or how I actually got to the interview.
There was a moment of uncertainty, when nothing happened and I felt sure that the man on the other side of the table would pull off the head and say "Fooollleeedd Youuuuuu."
Instead, light bled up from around my feet and I got the strangest sense of falling backwards while standing still.
I was in my closet of an apartment. Nothing had changed, apart from my phone which was swinging off the hook.
Everything seemed to be how I left it, which now I looked at it, was so dulled by dirt and dust that if you'd photographed it, sepia would have been applied automatically.
Slipping into cleaning mode, my brain shut down, minutes stretching into hours as I stacked, dusted, washed, primped, hoovered and generally did my best to distract myself from what I just experienced.
I needed someone to talk to about it, but I'd only sound crazy if I called my friends from college and my family was out of the question automatically, so who did that leave?
Ah, well, there was him.
Knock Knock knock nock knock Knock Knock
"Who is it?" came the slightly nervous voice from within.
"The only one you told to knock on your door like that. Please, let me in, I'm not really in the mood for the usual gauntlet you run me through."
Something in my voice must have convinced him, since there was the series of clicks, slides and beeps that signaled Bertrand unlocking, unlatching and unhooking his door.
"What's happened?" he peered through the crack nervously.
"I think I'm going insane. Can I talk to you?"
The single visible eye blinked once and then, there was the clink of one last chain being unhooked.
The door swung open revealing Bertrand, who as a whole could be simply summed up with the word scraggly; scrawny, slightly greasy, very paranoid, pale, twitchy and dressed in jeans and a shirt as awkwardly as any scare-crow.
"I'm still working on the nerves myself, but okay, I mean, if you wanted I could find you some insanity support group or something, I mean, Uhm, what's wrong exactly?"
I smiled gently. It's always encouraging to see someone slightly less in control of their faculties than you are, unfortunately, it resulted in him falling backwards onto a pile of mail.
I stopped smiling and quickly added "That's not the problem, that's ink. Ball-point was leaking."
Eventually, I'd consoled him into a state approaching nervous wreck again and he whirred around the kitchen making coffee.
I accepted mine gratefully. Bertrand might shake more than a leaf in a hurricane, but he could open a bistro with his brews.
The first sip was electrifying, so strong that by all rights my hair should have ended up sticking out in all directions as stiff as a board, without the gag-inducing bitterness.
"You should sell this stuff you know. What's in it?"
He sucked up his with a straw, something I'd convinced him to take up. At least this way I couldn't spill it… much.
"Uhhhh, Uhm, I can't actually." He daubed ineffectually at the area of his black shirt he'd managed to stain with his sleeve.
"Never-mind." I sighed and took a gulp to fortify myself for what I was about to admit.
"I think, that I just got teleported to an interview with something that could best be described as a cross between an insect and a bear. Both very large… For a corporation named L-Y C.A.N TV."
He didn't laugh, he didn't splutter, he didn't eye me weirdly.
Instead he seemed calm. He looked at me as curiously as a kitten might stare at a butterfly.
"Coincidences like this should by rights, never happen. However, they do. I believe your story."
I really didn't know what to say to that, I'd never seen or heard him speaking so assuredly. It was like I was talking to a different person entirely.
"I'm afraid I can't actually help you, because, we are either both insane or both totally and utterly unmistaken."
I realized what he was getting at.
"Not quite. You might have wondered why I'm usually in a state approaching borderline emotional blowout. For you to know that, I'm going to have to tell you a little story."
He removed the straw from his coffee and drank deeply.
"I was once a totally normal student. Completing my com-sciences degree with flying colors, publishing software and bankrolling promising new game design groups… Well, not quite normal, but that is immaterial. One night I was leaving campus by my usual route and I saw…-" he looked up with haunted eyes. "Well, anyway, I was so shaken that I began to research what you might call the supernatural.
Eighty percent of what I found was total trollop. The other nineteen was simple ignorance… but one percent, forum posts, images, the occasional cached web-page. They had clues." He took a deep, shuddering breath and continued "I became frustrated by all of it. Over time my grades slipped, things happened, eventually I ended up here, growing less and less sure by the day if what I saw was real, mistaken, delusion, if I'd become insane, if I was simply chasing after-images and shadows.
Then you come in here. You're the most realistic and practical person I've ever met, you only care about two things. Cash and taking pretty pictures." He paused "No offense meant but my people skills aren't what they were… which was pretty terrible in the first place."
"None taken" I responded automatically. I couldn't dispute him. Taking pretty pictures and money.
That's me in a nutshell. I wondered if I should be pleased or despondent. Most people spent their entire lives trying to work out the 'why?' of their existence. I'd just had mine explained in two, three, no five words. I really should have been coming up with alternatives but the bluntness of his statement just punched through my mental barriers with the ease of a lead ball through paper.
Now that I considered all of the interviews I'd done, all of the lies I'd woven in the interest of employment, I really could have achieved pretty much the same result with Bertrand's summary; and I would have saved everyone's time.
Blinking I returned to the present, Bertrand was waving his hand in front of my face.
"Sorry, I spaced out, Go on."
He nodded, cleared his throat and continued to speak "Anyway, for the last five years I've been living off the land while I searched for them. It was tough, you saw what I was like. I didn't know if I was insane, if I was in fact marked for death and to top it off, I'm somewhat guilty of every internet crime that they have a name for and some that they don't."
"You really are beginning to sound like that guy, from the movie-" He nodded "Another reason why I thought I might be going around the bend. My life had begun to resemble the matrix…. You don't have white rabbit tattoo do you, If you do, you might just be a figment, oh god, that's it! I can't handle that I've wasted my time so I-"
I conked him on the head from across the table. "I'm real. I know things that you don't."
He seemed to calm down a bit "Come on, you were doing so well!"
He tried to sip his coffee, failed and cleaned off his straw with his sleeve before reinserting it into the mug. "There isn't much more to me than that. You've found out more in ten minutes than I have in five years of doing naughty things inside university and government data-bases."
He seemed serious, straightening out I shrugged helplessly "What now then? What should I do?"
Bertrand looked me in the eye.
"Two choices. Either hope that they never come back to you and that you're left alone, or pray that they do get back to you saying 'You're hired' since I imagine they try and minimize the number of people who know about their existence."
When he put it that way…
"So just keep on doing what you're already doing. If you actually get hired by these people-"
I interrupted "They seem to prefer the term, beings."
"Whichever, then you can simply quit your job and accept the position. If not there's a good chance either they have some amnesiac to keep you from blabbing, or they'll just… kill you."
Just... Kill You.
Those words echoed in my head for a very long time. It was so certain. Not a threat, but a statement of fact, as cold and hard as a block of white marble.
"So what would you do if you were unable to attain this position."
"Just kill you." I answered absentmindedly.
"What?" The interviewer spluttered, my mental bungee cord snapping taut as my mind was propelled at breakneck speed into the present.
I assessed the situation; it looked like my mistimed statement had buggered up any chances of employment here. Oh well, while I've burnt my bridges I may as well use the fires to roast 'smores.
I smiled reassuringly "It was meant as a minor joke. The fact is, I would very much like to work here, but if you and your company are for any reason unable to find me a position, then I suppose that I'll return to the shoebox apartment I've been struggling to rent, search for another half dozen resumes and do my danmdest best to find work elsewhere. This is of course after the mandatory emotional breakdown that I'll have on the way out of this building, when the time-limit for this interview runs out at twelve o'clock."
I let my face fall, inside jumping for glee at his expression of mild horror, outright shock and growing dismay.
"You asked for an honest answer. There you are." He hadn't actually, but I've never had someone deny me on that one.
"Uh, how many-"
"This is my two hundred and eighty fourth interview. Failure no-longer scares me.
Look, I know how this goes, you're going to tick three more boxes on the left side of your sheet, you'll stonewall with questions about my education and family until the time runs out, you will then shake my hand and tell me that you'll get back to me, while leaving your clipboard full of ticks in full view.
When of course, as we both know, even one mark in the left column means that I'm unsuited for employment and that you should do your best to keep me hopeful and docile so I don't use crude methods to defame or discredit this establishment."
The bell rang. The Interviewer's jaw hung slack.
A slow grin crept across my face as I stood, curtsied with almost mechanical precision and then walked over to the door.
"W...wait, perhaps some kind of arrangement... Can be reached?" I turned around, honestly surprised.
"As you realize this interview is being taped, so any actions you did take against us could be subject to litigation-"
"I have nothing to lose." I shrugged and began to open the door.
"Wait! Just... wait. I'd like to see if I can get you a position in customer service, but as I'm only cleared to hire for checkout, it might take a day or so to process the offer."
I paused, genuinely taken aback. Raising an eyebrow I attempted to quizz him about why he thought I'd do well in customer service of all places.
"Good grief, you're acting as though we actually like customers. You just made me feel as though your cockup earlier was entirely my fault! That is the kind of person I want dealing with the people who bring their broken T.V's and crap to us under warranty!
I don't need people who can read out our mission statement backwards, I need people who make our customers feel like they are the ones at fault!"
I stared at my coffee later while Bertrand bustled around his tiny kitchen. The place was looking cleaner and some of the boxes closer to the door had been thrown out.
"What should I do? The first job I'm looking to get in months and I can't actually accept it because at any moment I might be called away to a supernatural television station?
It's not like I can actually put that on my resume later." I had a sip. His coffee had gotten better too, now he wasn't spilling it so much.
"The only thing you can do is wait for them to call you. They may never get back to you, like the way every other interviewer you've told me about hasn't."
"And if they do get back to me?" I asked bitterly.
He shrugged "That, is for the one that applied for it in the first place to figure out. I can't actually do anything more than give you wholesome normal advice. When it comes to the supernatural, you probably know more than I do already- And I fancy myself something of an expert."
He sat down across from me at the stained white and black checkered circle of the vinyl table.
"So, what did it feel like to come under the transportation spell the first time?"
I closed my eyes to better picture the scene.
"Like I was listening to a vocal drill that was boring its way into my brain- A bit like an accapella drill. Lots of voices all singing the same note and that note was penetrating my mind. It made the roof of my mouth tingle."
Bertrand 'hrummed' for a bit before saying "Did you feel a pull, in the direction of the voice?"
I tried to think back. There had been a certain… magnetic quality to it. "I suppose so, a bit like I was being sucked towards the source."
Bertrand grinned "Ah-hah! I think I've got it figured out. What you heard was a Siren song. At least I think it was. They were said to call ancient sailors from their ships, tempting them…. But by the sound of it, you go where you're called whether you want to or not." He got up and began digging around in a box by the door into the kitchen.
"Here they are-" He said, pulling out a pair of gigantic chunky circular headphones from the cardboard box "I knew I'd seen a pair of these around here."
I looked at them. They were circular, black and silver glossy plastic with those foam spongy circular bits that would sucker around your ears like the suction-cup of some bad sci-fi monster.
"What am I meant to do with them?" I asked, mildly repulsed by the gigantic headset.
Bertrand gave me an odd look "Ancient sailors stuffed wax in their ears. I like to think we've progressed some since then. You wear it and you should be safe from the sudden summons of siren-song serenades, see?"
I saw. I wrapped my arms around his neck and then released him after a short hug "You've been a really great help and for absolutely nothing. Even before I helped you lose your paranoid delusions."
He blushed "Shucks, It's all good, I mean, you'd have done the same for me."
I shook my head and smiled before ducking out and back to my own closet.
"…. Uh?" The manager's gaze was obviously directed at the two head-sized earphones that had latched onto me like some creature from the depths of a techno remix of lovecraftian horror.
"Nothing…. Just, would you mind… It's a tad…" His expression looked pained, as though he was channeling the spirits of a thousand conflicted chiwowas.
"Something the matter with the unapproachable techmaven you wanted?" I raised an eyebrow.
I'd restyled my hair to hang down in a long fringe instead of the tight ponytail I usually kept it in.
"… I…. uh… Let's just see how this goes." He retreated uncertainly.
I smiled uncertainly, at least until I realized I had absolutely no idea about how to do my job.
Okay, Stock-take! What do I have? Store uniform. Large headphones. Nametag.
I pushed out of the cloakroom into the main store looking for the wayward manager.
There he was, on the other side, being accosted by some old granny demanding a refund on a memory stick that looked blackened. As I approached I heard the words 'Burn' and 'Files'- Causing me to come to the conclusion that the woman had not only got the wrong idea about what was burnable, but also taken her guess far too literally.
I swept over to him and murmured "Sir there's a K24 in Aisle 19. What would you like me to do about them?"
He looked up momentarily confused until a spark of understanding visibly arced between us and he immediately addressed the woman polite, but with an obvious stern undertone.
"Excuse me a moment." He turned to me and paused, before asking "Is it them?"
"The very same, they don't seem to have taken the warning."
"Pardon me Ma'am but if you could address one of the support staff, they will demonstrate how to copy files to your drive."
He then strode off purposefully in the other direction, with me trailing along behind.
Once we reached the other side of the store he relaxed "Ghastly woman, last time she came in here, she'd been trying to save poloroids by stuffing them in a floppy drive. For some reason she thought it would scan them."
I shrugged. "I really do have a question for you though, what am I actually supposed to do here?"
He returned my blunt question with a blank look and an equally bludgeoning query.
"I thought we'd gone over this?"
"Nope. So far we've agreed I act as the unapproachable service attendant who you can't actually pluck up the courage to talk to but would feel childish asking someone else because of that. I don't actually know what I'm actually supposed to do. Like, in the 'real purpose' sense of the word."
Understanding dawned "Explain to people that they were doing whatever it was they were doing that led them to complain, wrong. If they prove otherwise, then explain it's a limitation of the product. If neither explanations work, offer a R&R deal. That's shop talk for 'Replacement and Refund'. Better to lose a sale but keep a customer." He finished sagely.
"But, I don't actually know hardly…." He held up a hand, stopping me mid-sentence "Only three people in this store have even a remote idea of what we actually sell and what it can do and I let them do the purchasing. I'm a business major, not a techie. I don't actually know what we sell either. I just do the best I can. Improvise."
He turned me around bodily "Irate customer incoming."
I almost panicked, but I kept my cool and just breathed deep as the man in his early thirty's homed in on use like a shark that had scented new blood. I stood my ground and eventually he reached us and leaned sideways to peer over my shoulder.
"Well pardon me Missy, but could I speak you your manager about something, it's about which of these cameras offers the best picture."
I sighed, relaxing a little at the lucky break.
"Sir, I'm here to help assist customers, which cameras are you looking at?"
"Well, it's just that this is rather technic-"
"The DX12 Nikon Colourshrike seven, Goldfinch 1312 Foto Finish or the Firex full spectrum eight."
"What purpose, do you want these for professional photography, home use, nature photography, stills, moving shots or holiday use?"
He blinked and tried to peer over my shoulder to look at the manager again "Oh, your boss has gone, could you call him back?"
I repeated the question and his face scrunched up in indecision. "What's the difference between home use and holiday?"
"Home use will rarely incorporate long distance or high light level shots, so you'd need a wider lens but shorter focal length. The selection you currently have picked our is for high detail professional nature shoots, specialized for avian photography- birds."
"Goldfinch is for when you want stills of hummingbirds in flight. Firex is for when you need to deal with low light conditions and Colourshrike is for very long distance detail camerawork. So, I assume you want to go birdwatching?" I finished off with a bright little smile.
"Uh, no… Just… home use." He sounded quite put out and I let the brittle smile I'd plastered on fade to a dull look of mild contempt.
"Oh. Right. What DPI do you need?"
"Do you have any idea what you actually want?" I let the question hang there, as intimidating as an anvil forged of a hundredweight of sheer embarrassment.
"No." He seemed to have undergone the most fascinating transformation, visibly deflating in defeat.
"Well, I'm sure we can find something for you to use. I hope though, that next time you will at least know what you want before coming to us. You wouldn't believe the number of people who expect me to think for them."
He was beginning to look more cowed by the moment, not because of the direct critisim, but the implication that he was merely just another stupid customer, unable to make up his mind in my eyes.
He cleared his throat, "No…" His voice cracked and for a moment it looked like he was about to cry.
His back straightened "No, I'll find it myself, I won't impose on you any further… goodbye."
The last was said rather hurriedly, as he beat a hasty retreat.
The manager stepped out of the aisle behind me. "Magnificently done…. However, front desk says there's a phone call for you, would you please take it and tell them not to call you at work?"
I frowned "Are you sure it's for me, I haven't told anyone I'm working…. Nevermind."
Must be Bertrand. I concluded midsentence as I moved down the side of the shop to the front desk.
Pulling off the bulky headphones, I blinked as the background noise of the shop assailed my ears, unbreaked by foam and plastic.
"You are being collected, Please hold for transition in three, two, one."
The note sounded before I'd even finished reaching for my headphones, emerging from the earpiece and engulfing the entire store…. But it wasn't meant for the others, however-much they turned and gazed every which way in wonderment, It was for me and the force of the voice grabbed my brain through my ears, having it's way with my mind.
The world washed out, strokes of white slashing across my vision like the greenscreen of an underfunded special effects department, before the same invisible painter began to render the new scene across my vision.
A large serpentine head filled my world. Presently, I realized I was looking at an honest to god, Red, Scaly, European dragon. It's speech was both wispy and rumbling and…..
"alright Cuddle and Kiss anna kolovitch, this 'ere is your gear for your new Corn on the bloomin' Cob as probation'ry camerawoman second Bo-le and Glass"
Anna almost opened her mouth to ask 'Why do you have a cockney accent?' but managed to bite her tongue in time.
The dragons head retracted, as it pulled back through the supply office window*.
*What do you call the window/desks at places where you requisition gear?
Anna hesitated before stumbling forward to unwrap the brown paper parcel and look at the 'gear'. Sunglasses, Sunblock, Wide brimmed hat, balaclava, Black denim jumpsuit, cape (Burnt umber) and high-heeled combat boots (Noir).
It was also mildly damp. She leaned over the supply desk and felt her jaw drop as beyond was a simply gigantic cave, with shelves set up around the edge and in the center…. a pile of gold, gems and jewels that could have made Fort Knox seek counseling for size issues.
It was also about the right size for a Cockney Red Dragon to curl up on.
He opened one eye and then perked up.
"Aint they in your size? sorry if I got that Pete Tong, usually I'm pretty Robin Hood at guessin', 'ere, i'll get ya a smaller set." With a languid stretch, the dragon rose and stepped over to a far shelf, it's head swaying up and down as it scanned the rows. It paused, opened its mouth and flicked out its serpentine tongue, wrapping it around a package and then walking across the floor to place it on the desk.
The brown paper package was dripping with dragon drool.
"'ere ya Scapa Fla, ya can Pope in Rome on the bloomin' range 'ere, just tell me if ya need aahhht else and wrap the chuffin' set ya daan't need wif that fireproof Linen Draper by your plates of meat."
He paused and then spoke a little slower and more carefully.
"You can change here, just wrap the set you don't need in the fireproof paper by your feet and give me a Wally Grout… a shout if you need anything."
If it hadn't come from a creature that could have used her as a toothpick, she would have called the tone he used kindly.
The dragon stepped back over to its horde and settled down again.
Anna briefly hesitated, before undressing and redressing in the original damp set.
She hesitated and then called out "Um, pardon me? What do I do with what I was wearing?"
The dragon lifted up its head and peered over at her for a moment. It's muzzle began to twitch.
It began to make sounds like, "Ah, Ah…" and it's nostrils flared.
Thinking faster than she would have ever believed she could, Anna grabbed the wide roll of fireproof paper, stepped on the end and then drew it out the length of her body, fingers holding the underside of the roll above her head.
The dragons sneeze rolled through in a blazing cone of billowing smoke and fire, passing on either side and above her makeshift shield in an almost solid broiling red and orange inferno.
Then the heat-wave rolled in, sucking the air right out of Anna's lungs, leaving her to gasp and choke in the thick oily clouds of smoke that followed the pyroclastic sneeze.
The muffled click of a switch being thrown preceded the heady thrum of the ceiling fans as they vented the smoky atmosphere from the room.
Struggling to her feet, Anna faced the cockney dragon.
"What the hell was that for? You could have killed me!" she shouted at the creature beyond the supply desk… where a small pile of ash represented the results of her old clothing and worldly possessions verses a dragon's nasal functions.
The dragon looked at her for a moment and laughed boomingly.
"Kill… You? A vampire? Good one china plate. I mean, you'd just regenerate!"
Something inside Anna, Snapped.
"I Am Not A Vampire. I am Not A ghoul, Ghostie, Member of an ancient race or otherwise undead or imbued with supernatural and predominantly Magical Abilities. I Am Completely NORMAL!"
She leaned over the service desk, breathing heavily and glaring at the gargantuan reptilian.
"Steady on, steady on, ya mean ter say, you're just a plain old ordinary 'uman wif the Jeremiah resistance of a match-head and the regenerative capacity of a brahn bread Earwig?"
"I don't know what the hell your saying, but yes, I am just a perfectly ordinary recently unemployed college graduate, do you have a problem with that?" Anna began to twitch.
"It's just that you're all so… Not fireproof, and… easily breakable and for some extremely tasty."
"Are you saying you don't find me tast-?" Anna finally began to catch up with her mouth and successfully tackle her treacherous tongue.
"Nah, Nah! Not like tha', it's just, Humans, they're like shell-fish with me, I can't eat e'm or I get heartburn."
"Look, it's no joke. Why did ya take a Corn on the bloody Cob where half the bleedin' people you're workin' wif find ya delicious and the ovver hald can tear ya apart loike wet tissue pa-per?"
"Unemployment stinks." Anna responded automatically.
"I'll 'ave ter call the bleedin' manager." The Dragon raised up his knuckles and rapped on the air, producing a swirling circle of complicated symbols. Reaching into the center, it came out with a house sized phone receiver, which it raised to its snout.
"Operator? Stop calling me while you're in surgery! No I will not let ya build a giant golden robot ya great pillock! I daan't care if i'm supposed ter speak clearly on the Dog and Bone! Stop hanging on me line!"
It reached into the same hole that it had pulled the receiver from and banged on something.
"Ah, Matilda, be a dear check what the boy upstairs thinks about what's on my mind?"
The dragon shivered and then began to draw breath in deep gasps, causing Anna to lunge for the Fireproof wrapping paper.
She would have been too late, if the gout of roiling flame hadn't splashed harmlessly against the wall above the service desk.
"Sorreh, mind-readin' always makes meh sneeze." The dragon apologized to Anna, now ly
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