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5-11-01 - Fiction Week - Day Five

Man.  These damn Theme Weeks are always a day too long.

---

Day Five - Mystery

"A is for Agent"  -Another Not My Desk Mystery

The phone rang.  It was my temp agent.  She had a job for me.

Something was wrong.

I'm a temp.  It's what I do.  I also solve crimes.  Lately, what with Bush in the White House, there had been more crimes than jobs, and lately, what with my schadenfreude, the crimes had been more pleasant to work on.

So, I was more than a little surprised to hear my temp agent offer me an actual position.

"It's only ten minutes from your house," she said.  "And, it pays well.  They won't expect anything from you.  You can wear jeans.  Occasionally, you may be asked to judge bikini contests. You don't have to be there until 11am every day.  And, you'll get all the cookies you can eat.  The address is -- YAAAAAAAAAAAAGGGGGG!!"

"How many A's in that?" I asked.  But there was no reply, just a click on the other end.

I hung up.  Looked like I had a case.  A case of the munchies, because all that talk about cookies had gotten me hungry.

It looked like I had another case, too.  A briefcase.  But that was nothing new.  I'm not even sure why I mentioned it.

In addition, it also looked like I had another other case, as well.  A case of... murder.

I hopped on a bus and told the driver to take me to the agency.  The driver reminded me that it was a bus, not a cab, and told me to stop hopping.  Fine.  We'd play things her way.  For now.

At the agency, I went up to my agent's office.  She was dead, all right.  Someone had strangled her with the phone cord.  On the wall, someone had written in blood, "Nice directions."

Underneath that, also in blood, it said, "What I mean by that is, temp agents are notorious for giving poor directions to temps for their assignments.  So temps spend a lot of time wandering around in frustration.  Which is why I killed her."

All signs pointed to a temp as the suspect.  Sad, but at the same time, amusing.  And before you think I had anything to do it, let me say I did not.  I'm not saying I didn't want to kill my agent.  I'm not even saying I never tried to kill her.  On several occasions.  She was wily, this one.  But she had let her guard down, and now she was paying for it.  In blood.  Oh, and in death, too.

I needed a list of temps whom she had assigned jobs for, so I walked into the Staffing Manager's office.  He was asleep on the couch.  Asleep?  Or dead?  No, asleep.  I wasn't surprised.  Not once, in all my years working for this agency, had I been able to get this guy on the phone.

I kicked the couch, and the Staffing Manager, Rick, looked up at me blearily.  Then he shot bolt upright, straightened his tie, and started blabbering at me.  "Sorry!  Sorry!  Welcome to the office!  Can I get you some coffee?  A bagel?  Some orange juice?"  He grabbed a bottle of O.J. from his desk and shoved it into my hands.

"Relax," I told him.  "I'm not a client.  I'm one of your temps."

"Oh, jeez," he said, grabbing the juice back from me.  "What the hell do you want?"

I told him I needed the list of temps my agent had been assigned.  He shuffled around in his papers, tossed me the list, and went back to sleep.

Typical.

I scanned the list.  There was one name that rang a bell.  I'd have to give this temp a visit.  I checked the address.  I knew the area.   

Another bus ride later, I kicked open the door to the temp's apartment.  No one was home, it seemed.  The place was in disarray, it looked like someone had tossed the apartment.  Then it dawned on me.  This was my apartment.  No wonder that name had looked so familiar.

Then something else dawned on me.  I flagged down another bus.  I gotta remember to get a transfer this time.

---

Rick looked up blearily at me.  Oh, wait, I used blearily last time.  Ummm... groggily.  "Now what is it?" he asked.

"Oh, nothing.  I just need a question answered.  But it's a big question.  You know what I'm talking about."

He looked at me.  "How did you know I killed her?" he asked.

"Simple.  She was strangled.  But the message was written in blood.  So, whose blood was it?"

"It was--"

"That was a rhetorical question.  You seemed a little... tired, which is odd, since your job doesn't actually require you to do anything."  I picked up the bottle of orange juice from his desk and shook it.  "You have orange juice, a common beverage given to those who have recently given blood.  My guess is, you drained your own blood for the message, felt weak, and decided a nap and some O.J. would get you back on track.  Am I right?"

He didn't reply.

"That one isn't rhetorical."

"Oh.  Yes," he said.  "But I cleverly designed the message so it would seem like a temp wrote it!"

"Maybe a little too cleverly.  Temps are vague, lazy, and horrible at explaining things.  They would never leave such a concise message.  Something you, a staffing manager, would know, if you had ever talked to one or knew anything about them or dealt with them or thought about them.  So, before when I said 'Maybe a little too cleverly,' I really meant 'Not really all that clever.'  It was sarcasm."

"I see."

"Oh, and also, earlier in the story, I mentioned that she had let her guard down, and she wouldn't do that if a temp had been in her office, since temp agents hate and distrust their temps."

"I think everyone gets the point."

"So," I said.  "I just have one question left that needs answering."

"Is that question... why?  Why did I do this horrible thing?"

"Of course not," I said.  "I couldn't care less.  The question is, what's the address of the job she was giving me when you killed her?  Sounded like a sweet assignment."

---

After obtaining the address from Rick, I had gotten on another bus, ready to start my new assignment.  Sadly, by the time I got there, they had filled it with another temp.  They just couldn't wait for me.  I explained to them I had gotten lost for three hours, but they didn't seem to care.

Rick had given me the directions.

Nice directions.

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e-mail: temp@notmydesk.com


5-10-01 - Fiction Week - Day Four

You know how I love kids.  So, perhaps we should kick off Day Four of Fiction Week with a fairy tale!

---

Day Four - Fairy Tale

"The Frog And The Temp"

Once upon a time, there was a BEAUTIFUL PRINCESS (see above).  She lived in a MAGICAL LAND filled with MAGICAL THINGS, but she just WASN'T HAPPY.  She really wanted a BOYFRIEND, because years of oppression, beginning with FAIRY TALES like THIS ONE, had taught her that she NEEDED A MAN to be HAPPY!

So, she set out into the ENCHANTED FOREST, where she came upon a FROG!

"Help me!" croaked the frog!  "I am a HANDSOME PRINCE, but a WITCH turned me INTO A FROG!  If you KISS ME, I'll be a PRINCE again!"

So, the princess gave the frog a BIG KISS, and the frog RAN AWAY LAUGHING, because women in this magical land were so FUCKING GULLIBLE.

The frog, whose name was FREDDY THE FROG, went back to his pond, where he saw a TADPOLE swimming around.

But this was no ORDINARY TADPOLE... this was TOMMY THE TADPOLE!  And TOMMY THE TADPOLE, more than anything else, wanted to be a TEMP!  He wanted to be TOMMY THE TEMPING TADPOLE!

Are you BUYING THIS?

Tommy realized it wouldn't be EASY for him to be a TEMP.  He didn't have any ARMS.  He didn't have any LEGS.  All he had was a HEAD and a TAIL.  He was basically a BIG GREEN SPERM (ask MOMMY or DADDY if you don't know what a SPERM is).  Still, TOMMY wanted to TEMP more than anything else, and he told FREDDY THE FROG about it.

"Forget that!" Freddy the Frog said.  "You'll NEVER be a TEMP!  Just give up on your FOOLISH DREAM!"

TOMMY was SAD, although his EXPRESSION didn't CHANGE AT ALL.  Should he BELIEVE what FREDDY was TELLING HIM?

Just then, BUCKY THE BIRD flew down from a nearby tree.  

BUCKY THE BIRD was the OLDEST, WISEST BIRD in ALL THE LAND.  Legend was, he knew the answer to EVERY QUESTION that had EVER BEEN ASKED!  

TOMMY turned TIMIDLY to FREDDY THE FROG.  "Maybe we could ask BUCKY THE BIRD if I'll ever be a TEMP," he said.  "He's sure to know!"

FREDDY THE FROG didn't hear this, though, because BUCKY THE BIRD was THRUSTING HIS SHARP BEAK through FREDDY'S SOFT BELLY!  BUCKY was not only WISE, he WAS HUNGRY!  BUCKY tilted his HEAD BACK and did that WEIRD SWALLOWING THING that birds do, and FREDDY disappeared into BUCKY'S STOMACH!

TOMMY THE TADPOLE cried out in HORROR, but BUCKY ATE HIM TOO, along with SIX HUNDRED of TOMMY'S BROTHERS and SISTERS who were swimming NEARBY.

THE END

---

*Tacked-on Happy Ending For Unsatisfied Readers*

LATER, BUCKY flew over a CAR and POOPED on it.  The CAR BELONGED to a CEO, who had his TEMP WASH the POOP OFF.  So, in a WAY, TOMMY THE TADPOLE got involved in TEMPING AFTER ALL!!  Because some of TOMMY was in the POOP.

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e-mail: temp@notmydesk.com


5-9-01 - Fiction Week - Day Three

Yeah, we're still doing the fiction thing.  Humor me, 'kay?

---

Day Three - Erotica

"Temporary Position"

Melvin was a temp, and a tiny temp at that.  He stood about five feet, two inches, and weighed perhaps one hundred pounds (soaking wet with his pockets full of change).  He was scrawny, weak, noodly-armed and chicken-legged.  Basically, a total wimp.  As a result, Melvin didn't fare too well with women, for they generally didn't notice him, and even when they did, they were rarely the type of woman he was looking for.

But today was different.  Melvin looked up from his desk (well, not his desk), and there she was.  The most stunning woman he had ever seen.  Long, tan legs.  Sumptuous breasts.  Full lips.  Long, dark, red hair.  Strong shoulders.  Powerful, muscular arms.

Wow, Melvin thought.  She's beautiful.  She's sexy.  And best of all, she looks like she could could snap me in half.

Melvin was looking for a strong woman.  It was all he really wanted.  All he really needed.  And, for once, a strong woman was looking back.

"I'm Sheila," she said, extending a powerful hand.  He offered his, and felt it swallowed up, nearly crushed in her strong grip.  The intense pain as she ground the bones in his hand together gave him a little shiver.

"Melvin," he said.  "N-nice to meet you."  She was a good eight inches taller than he was.  Standing in her shadow, he felt himself grow warm.

"I've seen you outside after work," she purred.  Purred like an 18-wheeler, that is.  "Waiting for the bus... maybe today you'll let me give you a ride home."

Melvin's mind whirled.  He felt a bead of sweat trickle down his back.  "That would be... nice."

"I assure you, the pleasure would be all mine," she said, then she slowly licked her lips, and walked off, hips swinging under her tight, clingy dress.  He watched her go, watched her run her fingers through her wavy hair while she walked, watched her feed a few coins into the vending machine outside the break room, watched her lift and vigorously shake the machine when her Snickers bar got stuck.

She was perfect.  For him, anyway.  Some might think than Melvin's desire for a strong, powerful woman made him less of a man.  But, seeing as how he wasn't much of a man to begin with, it probably didn't matter.

After work, he climbed timidly into her Ford Bronco, and she sped off, her ham-sized fists engulfing the steering wheel and gear shift, her thick, powerful legs working the pedals.

Oh, she's beyond perfect, Melvin thought deliriously.  She could easily bench-press me.

"Care for a snack?" she asked, cutting off several cars as she changed lanes and ran a red light.  She reached into the glove box, leaning over him.  He held his breath as her elbow jammed tightly into his ribs.  That's going to leave a mark, he thought gleefully.  She produced a handful of walnuts, cracking them in her bare hands, and he chewed on a few.

"Not too many," she breathed.  "Don't want to spoil your dessert."

They arrived at his apartment and sat for a moment, the truck idling.  "Would you... like to come up for a bit?" he asked.  

She looked at him for a long moment, her fingernails making slow circles on the handle of emergency brake.  "I'd love to," she said at last.

He walked up the steps ahead of her, but in his nervousness he stumbled.  She caught his arm, yanking him back upright.  Wow.  His mind was whirling.  In his head, her muscles were already slick with sweat, her body was already straining and flexing as she pushed it to its limits... and the positions... he thought of all the possible positions... was this really going to happen?  Were his fantasies finally going to come true?

Inside his apartment, he led her over to his couch.  She leaned against it, one strap from her dress slipping off her shoulder.

"Is this why you asked me up?" she said, her hand sliding slowly over the back of the couch.

"Yes," he whispered.  "Yes."

Melvin's fantasies came true that night.  All of them.  She was strong enough.  More than strong enough.  She helped him move his couch, in fact, she did it almost all by herself.  Her muscles strained, but got the job done.  Sweat coursed down her body, but she never stopped, never faltered.  And all the positions... she positioned the couch by the door, by the window, across from the bookshelves... they even tried it in kitchen, just to be kinky.  Eventually, despite her strength, fatigue overwhelmed her, and she collapsed, breathing heavily, bathed in perspiration, to the cushions of the couch.

But Melvin wasn't tired.  He could do this all night.

And he hadn't even shown her the bed yet.

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e-mail: temp@notmydesk.com


5-8-01 - Fiction Week - Day Two

Welcome to Day Two of Fiction Week!  Got a chiller for you today, a shocker, a tingling tale of terror... and temping.

---

Day Two - Horror

"Nightmare on Temp Street"

Standing in the rain, huddled beneath her umbrella, Kate checked the address again.  Was this the place?  The old abandoned church?  She peered at it uncertainly through the downpour.  The paint was peeling, the wood was rotting, and the stained-glass windows had all been broken by rocks.  The crumbling bell tower still stood, however, pointing into the thundering sky like an one-fingered salute.

It seemed like an odd place to call for a temp.  But who was Kate to question it?  She'd worked in far nastier and spookier places.  Hell, she'd worked at Rice-A-Roni.

The front door creaked open at a touch, and she stepped inside the nave.  A flash of lightning illuminated the cobwebbed interior, and she suddenly saw a shadow in the corner.  The shadow... of a man.  A man... with a paunch.

"Are you... my temp?" a voice echoed.

"Um... yes," was Kate's timid reply.  Her voice sounded tiny in the huge, empty building.

The shadow transformed before her eyes, into a balding man in his forties.  "Well, hello!  Cliff Pearlson!"

They shook hands, and Cliff held on... just a little too long.  His beady eyes looked her up and down.  "Welllll..." he said.  "I wasn't expecting my temp to be... quite so pretty."

"Um, thank you," Kate said.  "What is it I'll be doing here?"

"Oh... all sorts of things.  I'm going to keep you... quite busy."

Cliff led her to a small desk in the chancel.  She sat down, and he pulled up another chair, sitting close to her.  A little too close, she thought.  He smelled like stale cigarette smoke and pungent cologne, and his breath stank of onions.  Whenever he had to tell her something, he would touch her on the shoulder or wrist, or even, sometimes, the knee.  Kate began to get creeped out.  Worst of all, while he sat beside her, he sucked noisily at his teeth.  Constantly.  After an hour, she doubted he had any enamel left on them at all.

Everything he said had some sort of sexual undertones, it seemed.  "I'll do my best to keep your little hands... busy."  And, "Well done... I can see you have many... hidden talents."  Yuck!

He was always complementing her and insulting her at the same time, saying things like "Well, such a pretty young lady... and smart, too..." as if he was surprised that a woman could actually be intelligent.  The jerk.

Worst of all, he seemed certain he was being charming.  Like he was winning her over or something.  The more repulsed by him she was, the more he seemed sure she adored him.  What was his deal?  He was condescending and smug and just awful.  She couldn't quite figure it out.

A little later, he left her alone for a few minutes, then came strolling back.  He had taken off his coat and rolled up the sleeves of his work shirt... but he had rolled them all the way up his arms, almost to his shoulders.  Kate hated when guys did that, it meant they were trying really hard to show off their biceps, and his weren't particularly impressive.  Sure, he probably worked out, but only on his arms, because he had that paunch and that dumpy butt.  And, indeed, he leaned over her, pointing to things on her computer screen, flexing and releasing his biceps and forearms for no particular reason.  She shuddered.

He also had removed his shoes, and was walking around in his socks.  There was something so... wimpy about a guy who took of his shoes at work.  Boy, everything about this guy was just rubbing her the wrong way... speaking of which...

"You know what?" he suddenly asked.  "You look a little tense.  What you need is one of my... back rubs."

Something began to dawn on Kate at that moment, something terrible, but it slipped away from her as she felt his gross, overly hairy hands on her shoulders.

"I give great back rubs," Cliff said.  She wasn't inclined to agree.  It felt terrible; he was pressing down to much, probably wrinkling her blouse... and... and was he... trying to look down her top?  He was.

"Of course, my real talent lies in... giving foot rubs," he said.

Lighting struck outside, setting a small tree ablaze and rattling the walls of the church with a deafening thunderclap.

"WANT ONE?"

Kate froze, her entire body locked in horror.  She knew, now, just what he was.  How could she not have realized sooner?  How many female temps had told tales of such demonic creatures?  How many times had she been warned?  It was all so clear now... the bad breath... the lame sexual innuendo... his mistaken notion that he was being charming when he was just being... just being...

A DICKWEED.

Kate screamed, lurching from her chair, knocking Cliff backwards against the pipe organ, which let out a hollow, resounding chord.  Cliff was a dickweed!  She was working for a dickweed!  She had to get out of there!

"...strong for such a pretty girl..." Cliff was saying.

She ran for the door, but it slammed shut in her face.  Spotting a stairwell, she dashed up it and into the ambulatory, which was a maze of deteriorating cubicle walls.  She staggered blindly though the labyrinth, hearing Cliff's voice, sometimes near, sometimes far, but always behind her... and closing fast.

Such a pretty young lady... and smart, too...

I can see you have many... hidden talents...

You look tense... you need one of my back rubs... back rubs... back rubs...

She burst through a door and saw a winding staircase before her.  The bell tower!  No good, if she climbed the steps she'd be cornered up there, but Cliff was suddenly behind her, his stinky breath on her neck, whispering "With a pretty girl like you around, I'll never get any work done..."  She shrieked and ran up the steps, hearing his socked feet slapping their way up behind her.  And she hated being called girl.  It was woman, dickweed!  Despite her terror, and despite the fact that it slowed her down, she clutched her skirt tightly to her legs, knowing he was trying to get a peek at her underwear as he followed her up the steps.

She reached the top, and looked around wildly.  There was nowhere to go.  The storm was right overhead, hurling wind and rain and thunder down onto the church.  She whirled around, and there was Cliff, leering, smiling, even winking, a few disgusting beads of sweat on his upper lip.

How could she stop him?  Dickweeds refused to take hints, thought they were charming to a fault, were convinced they were attractive... how could she stop him?  How?  How?

Well, good old-fashioned violence was worth a shot.  She socked him in the chops as hard as she could, and he reeled back, lost his footing, and tumbled, paunch over pate, down the stairs.

---

The trip back to the temp agency was a living nightmare.  Kate was shaken.  There seemed to be dickweeds everywhere now.  The guy who sat right next to her on the bus, when there were plenty of empty seats.  The man sitting across from her on the train, who slouched way down and tilted his head, trying to see up her skirt.  The guy in the elevator who reached for the call button just after she did, deliberately brushing her hand with his... or was she just being paranoid?  She couldn't tell anymore.

Sitting in her agent's office, she blurted out the whole story.  Her agent, Alan, listened attentively, nodding, then got up and closed the door to his office.

"I'm truly sorry we sent you there," he told her.  "I can't even imagine how horrible that must have been.  We would never, ever, knowingly send any of our temps to work for a dickweed."

He paused.  "I can tell you're upset.  Worried.  Tense."

Kate's eyes widened as she felt his hands on her shoulders.

"What you need... is one of my backrubs..."

The last thing Kate ever heard was Alan sucking his teeth.

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e-mail: temp@notmydesk.com


5-7-01 - Fiction Week - Day One

'Bout time for a theme week, wot?

See, lately, I've been feeling about as creative as a... as a.... a... um... well, you see the problem.

Therefore, I shall attempt to jumpstart my creativity by writing five short temp-related fiction pieces this week, each in a different genre (scif-fi, horror, historical fiction, mystery, etc.).  I haven't really decided on all the genres, yet, in fact, I just kinda decided to do this whole theme week at about 11pm Sunday night.  So, they all may suck horribly.  But what the hell!

---

No games in Diversions this week.  Nope, you've had enough games, it's time to do a little reading, as per the theme, so I've linked to some writers I enjoy:  James Lileks Writing Archive, The Ferrett's Domain (contains a lot of profanity, so be careful if you're at work), and some articles David Sedaris had published in Esquire.  Sure, I know, most of it is non-fiction, but I don't really read much fiction these days.  It just doesn't interest me anymore.  That said, er... let's get going with Fiction Week!!

---

Day One - Science Fiction

"Temp 2198"

Zant Corgul was certain his supervisor, Simon A. Tan, was the devil.

It wasn't the fact that Simon had horns protruding from his forehead that tipped Zant off.  Nor was it the fact that he had pointed teeth and a forked tongue, carried a pitchfork, and often belched billows of deep red smoke.  It wasn't the fact that Simon had an nine-foot tall, pitch-black bodyguard that appeared to have been carved out of a block of scorched stone.  And it wasn't the fact that Simon's first two initials, plus his last name, made him S.A.Tan.  None of this meant anything to Zant Corgul, because Zant Corgul was a moron.

What did tip Zant off was that whenever Simon walked into the downstairs lobby, the elevator to the 438th floor was always there, waiting for him.

It was unnatural.  It was impossible.  Everyone else had to wait hours for the elevator.  Not Simon.  He'd stroll in, wisps of smoke curling from his nostrils, his forked tongue flickering, bodyguard looming, and *ding*, there was the elevator.  There were dark forces at work here, Zant knew, and he was determined to get to the bottom of them.  Or the top of them, once the elevator showed up, that was.

Zant was otherwise happy to be temping for NASA.  NASA, of course, no longer had anything to do with space exploration.  After losing their sixty-third consecutive Mars probe in 2137, they had gone under, and now produced vacuum cleaners.  Extremely sophisticated, high-tech vacuum cleaners, of course.  If any of their vacuum units detected so much as a speck of dirt within their proximity range, they would descend upon it, at high speed, and suck it up.  If there happened to be more dirt present than one unit could handle, it would instantly replicate, forming more and more vacuum units out of whatever minerals were contained in the dirt it was processing, and soon there would be swarms of them, sucking and cleaning and disposing of everything in sight.  You had to be really careful not to let them get outside.  Due to one careless consumer who left his front door open, the entire state of Iowa was now just a hole in the ground.  A very deep, extremely clean hole, but still.

At any rate, Zant was determined to have a word with Simon.  You know, about being the devil and all.  The way Zant saw it, he'd be happy to sell his soul to make that elevator come even just a tiny bit quicker.  Besides, as a temp, he found that his soul didn't come in handy most of the time anyway.

Of course, trying to schedule a meeting with Simon wasn't easy, because Simon's bodyguard would kill you.  Zant had seen it happen to several employees, a corporate manager, and a toner salesman making a cold-call (no great loss).  The great black bodyguard would listen patiently to whomever was requesting the meeting, flip through the appointment book for a moment, then smash one huge fist down upon the intruder, splattering him or her into pulp and bones.  The vacuums would screech out from their hiding places, and moments later, there wasn't so much of a trace of what had happened.

Still, Zant thought he had a chance.  He had an ace-in-the-hole, which wasn't so much an ace-in-the-hole as an extremely large Canadian-made XXH4 Submatter Plasticulating Assault Cannon.  Some temps stole Hover-It Notes, Zant stole Hover-It Notes and atomic weaponry.

As the bell dinged on the 438th floor, Zant stepped out, walked through the lobby, past the potted plants and holographic (yet still out-dated) copies of Woman's Day, to the reception desk, leveled the cannon at the bodyguard's head, and triggered the device.

Nothing happened.

Fucking Canadians.

The bodyguard's arm shot out, and Zant felt himself lifted off his feet and slammed against the far wall, where he collapsed in a heap.  The bodyguard strode over to him like an ebony mountain, only with legs and arms and stuff, and swung another beachball-sized fist.  Zant rolled out of the way as the wall behind him bent inwards (Rubbermaid), but the bodyguard's next blow caught him squarely in the back, sending him reeling into the office plants.

Zant looked up groggily as the bodyguard advanced upon him, fists clenched, face impassive.  Zant grabbed the nearest potted plant, hurling it at the giant.  The bodyguard deflected the feeble throw, smashing the pot easily, sending dark soil cascading all over his huge, stony body.

*Beep*

Screeeeeeech.

Zant stood, watching, as the vacuum bots squealed across the floor and swarmed over the giant's feet and legs, replicating, devouring the dirt, and with it, eventually, the giant.  As the colossus was taken apart, piece by piece, Zant saw circuitry and wire and cable beneath the rocky exterior.  A robot?  Why would the Devil need a robot?

Leaving the remains of the giant, Zant walked into Simon's office.

Simon A. Tan sat behind his huge cyberoak desk, swirls of smoke lazily rising towards the ceiling from his mouth and nose.

"You're the temp, right?" Simon asked, smiling politely with his pointed teeth, his forked tongue flickering.  "May I help you, or were you just here to destroy my receptionist?" 

"Er.  No, Mr. Tan," Zant said.  "You can help me.  I'd like to sell my soul to make the elevator come faster, please."

"Sell... your soul?"

"Yessir.  Seeing as how you're the... Devil..."

Zant trailed off.  He noticed a cigar smoldering in an ashtray on Simon's desk.  Well, that might account for the smoke...

"The devil?  Am I?"

"Yes, I... I mean, you carry a pitchfork."

"That?  Why, that's just a walking stick."

And it was.  It even said on the side, MicrosoftWalk98 -- Where Do You Want To Walk Today?

"The... the sharp teeth and forked tongue?"

"Body modification.  I was a crazy kid.  Wanted to be a rock star."  Simon laughed.

"Okay... but... the horns?"

"Implants.  Cybernetic.  They serve a number of purposes, really."

Zant sighed.

"They open my garage door."

Zant closed his eyes.

"They start my car."

Zant, very slowly, rubbed the bridge of his nose.

"And... they call the elevator.  Very handy.  Otherwise, that damn elevator takes forever.  Now, I'm a little busy.  Although, since I seem to be short one receptionist..."

---

Zant sat glumly at the reception desk, staring at the Human Resources Administrator who was blathering at him about setting up a meeting with Simon.  He hated this job.  The computer didn't have any games on it, there was a lot of phone work and scheduling, plus, once this HR person finally stopped talking, he was going to have to kill him.  And the guy was pretty burly.

The worst part, he reckoned, was the reception desk was right in the lobby.

Where, every time he looked up, he could see the elevator.

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All material 2000 - 2001 by Christopher Livingston.  Yeah.  That'll hold up in court.