|Till May (standard:fantasy, 5658 words)|
|Author: Spotlight||Added: Dec 06 2003||Views/Reads: 2807/2575||Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)|
|This is one of my personal favorites, therefore it probably alienates many readers. If anything, it is something you have never and probably will never read again. (telemarketting, werewolves, time-travel, symbolism)|
Click here to read the first 75 lines of the story This was the day I would do something I never thought possible. My first day on the phones, the lady who could not understand the concept of a mouse being able to point and click on things, who looked like she was a single-mother waitress with visible bones working three jobs, she cried after her first customer service call. I felt bad, but inside I was laughing. She collapsed, giving away her headset over a question about pets. We never saw her again. Two months later, I would be breaking down over an asshole I had never talked to before. It was a fluke. It is embarrassing to admit. Customer Service has a set heirarchy of hate. First, you hate the company. Second, you hate the customers. Then, you hate them both. Leia and Holly were close to me, leaning backwards and pressing cancellations, blank expressions on their faces as they conversed in sweet voices about insurance. Every few seconds, while the customer complained, Holly would mute her microphone and start telling me stories about her high school parties. "I'm sorry to hear that you would like to cancel your ten year life insurance plan with JC Penney would there be a reason you'd like to cancel? - So, Mike was there at the apartment this weekend and you should ask Amanda how drunk this one kid was. - Well you know sir you have been with JC Penney for three years now and while life insurance is not something that we can see an immediate reward from it is something that we all will eventually need to help loved ones pay for costs associated with passing away and I see your cost per month is only thirteen dollars and pays out ten thousand dollars for expenses. - He started whipping it out, 'cause someone said it was probably small.- I'm sorry sir you do have 17 days until the end of the coverage you have paid for would you like to maybe keep the plan just in case and call back anytime before that date to cancel your service. - Chad did it too, and his is nice. You should have seen everyone's faces when his penis was so little, but no one wanted to say anything. - Okay I have cancelled your account as of today and the money for the rest of the month will be refunded to your credit card within the next two months. - It was so funny. - Yes sir in two months it will show up on your statement. - Chad and I made out in the back of his car that night. He has nice pecs. - Yes sir it has been cancelled. I'm sorry it will take that long to process it but it will be put in the system by tomorrow. Thank you for calling it has been cancelled." Then, a few minutes of stand-by time to finish her thoughts to whomever was leaning back in their ergonomic seat. That is the monotony of answering the telephone. The rep is like an actor performing the same scripted three-minute play for their entire shift. And when the mental script changes, the voice adapts unattached from the brain. # He invited me to follow him, his lips open in toothy smile. They were glaringly white. I hesitated. “Maybe, we can talk like, far from the cliff, maybe?” I did step onto the rock though. “More of a breeze out here.” He said, padding along the thing. I took a deep breath and walked behind him uneasily. When I reached a few feet from the edge, seeing the tops of some smaller trees in the clearing, I froze. "It was five years ago." He sat on the precipice, his long legs straightening at the backwards joint. "You should sit down for this." "I'll be serious with you, I don't like heights and we're pretty much totally backed into here. I saw those guys, in the leather and stuff..." I realized I was almost shouting when a long white claw was pushed to his black lips. He then demonstrated with the same finger, leading it heavily along the rock, leaving a deep scratch. Nonchalantly threatening, he lazily tapped his outstretched claws on the cliff. "You should sit." This time I eased myself to the edge, letting my shoes pressure against my toes, the weight of gravity catching them. The cliff angled back towards the waterfalls, giving no safe wall to rest my heels. I could barely look forward at the trees surrounding the place, knowing how they cut downward to misty water. The air was unnaturally warm and sweet smelling, his fur was surprisingly pleasant, scented with berries. "Call me, Rick. Rinse Us Clean.” Alright, I thought. He must have sensed my confusion. “My nickname. My full name. From an overly prophetic mother having me in a rainy month.” I nodded to appease him, still too stunned to grasp the concept. “Trist (his nickname) was our chieftain, a young wolf, taking the title from an old alpha who had slowly lost his strength with age. I was ambitious and jealous of this wolf, only one year older. Only one year older and he got all the perks, while I had nothing.” He motioned with his paws, jarring me slightly when an exaggerated movement brushed close to my face. He explained. “In our tribe, the alpha-male was decided by a test of strength. You either became chief, or died with a little bit of dignity. That's why many wolves too old to hunt, would choose to challenge the alpha. To die with honor before they lost their wisdom with age. When I challenged Trist, only a month after he became the new Alpha, every member of the tribe begged me to wait. Losing a strong wolf during the hunting seasons would be a terrible blow to the tribe. But, I felt cheated and as winter came, no amount of persuasion would stop me from proving myself. I shook paws with Trise that night, when they carried torches out to this ledge and watched us climb down to the ring of rock below here. You can almost touch your feet to it if you stretch out.” The wolf slid along the angled edge of the precipice, his tail scraping and fanning out against the lip while he arched to touch this hidden bar. “Right... here.” There was a tick of a claw. “Try it.” I made contact with his soft fur then as a reflex, pulling him up by the chest and shoulder. “I'll take your word for it. You're freaking me out.” He felt like a shaggy dog. “The prize was what I wanted most, not the dignity. I was twenty-four years old, in prime condition. Of course, I wanted sex. And the Alpha's main occupation was procreation.” Stopping for a second, he chuckled and patted me on the back. I tried to grin. “It's called laughing, you should try it sometime.” “Ha.” I said, “Yeah, it wasn't that funny anyway. But, you'll like this. The Alpha has his choice of women. And it really doesn't matter anyway, ‘cause they would come to you for the privilege to carry your cub. Sure, we weren't a huge tribe, but about one hundred women could satisfy any wolf's dreams.” He continued, “It's logical, for survival. The strongest male mates with the females, to have stronger kids the next generation and so on. They groomed my fur daily, washed and cleaned me, crushing sweet-smelling powder into my skin which made the women go crazy at night. There was marriage, and only the harshest of Alphas would have sex with a married woman, unless they asked him to do it, and yes, of course, slip-ups and shame and all that, but... now, the amazing test of the Alpha”. He was grinning, baring his white teeth for a beat, but his cheeks fell with his words. “We'd hang from the bar for minutes, hours, days even, until one of us fell. Triste and me, side by side, staring at the rock in front of us, sometimes glancing at the other's struggle. The tribe left late in the evening, the moon our only light. A crazy shine was on Triste's nose, eyes, the edges of his stronger shoulders groomed by the women, the sweat droplets like a supernatural glow. When the sun rose, I knew that I would fail. My entire body was numb and pulsing with pain. It is amazing how quickly shallow reasons for courage, women, power, riches, all fade when there is so much hurt. I was nearly unconscious, no resolve left. Any moment, I thought then, barely able to feel my own grip.” He turned to me then, extending one finger and pointing. “I have never told anyone this. It is why I sit with you now, waiting to die.” He was unable to hold my gaze. A grave, solemn importance was placed in his confession to me. “I summoned any energy I had left and kicked Triste with all my force. He was unable to defend himself, shocked and tired, helpless as he fell. There was no sound when he hit the water; he made no sound when he slipped. It has haunted me for five long years. His silent, dignified death.” “I doomed my tribe with that act. I crawled into my throne and within the year the first hunters came with their weapons. Hundreds have died, my friends, my family. We were forced into hiding, the few men and women left. I came here to pray for forgiveness, separated from my tribe by the hunters, finally her to finish the job.” He paused. “I am resigned to die.” His voice changed immediately to pleading and he hugged me, wrapping his arms around my waist and speaking into my side. I petted his head, awkwardly, while he talked. “But, you. I beg you to give me a second chance. We're going to die today, but you can save my soul. Let me prove it was real, that I truly deserve to be a chieftain. Challenge me.” “Umm...” I was swaying on the edge of a tall cliff, without even one glance downward. “Dude, I, can't pull that off. Just ‘cause you think we'll die, maybe we can run off somewhere. I hate heights.” I felt a sudden strength in Rick‘s grip, claw tips poking my sides. “It's funny how easy it is to skin someone alive with claws this long. You'd love to help me out, for a dying wolf's last wishes, right?” “Sounds... wonderful.” I said, like a knife was placed to my neck. “Great! Hold still!” He chimed, grabbing my forearm. Before I was able to scream in protest, his teeth had clamped down on my arm, drawing blood. “Holy crap! What the hell?” My blood was boiling around the cut, and the feeling traveled along my arm and through the bloodstream. Hair follicles sprouted from my skin, growing thicker, together and graying. I felt like screaming, the pin prick sensations, millions of hairs pushing through, sent me scratching at my body for those few seconds. My bones began to melt and Rick grabbed at me, pulling me to a safer area, a few feet from the edge. They were reshaping and stretching my skin, elongating my neck, growing at the tail bone, snapping my legs to the digitigrade angles. My vision blurred, eyes shifting position and a feeling of vertigo, when my nose stretched forward slowly, creaking as new skull bones and cartilage stretched into a gray mass, capped with shiny black. When I was left heaving on the ground, I barely recognized when the changes had commenced, my muscles shaking and alive. I felt stronger, looking down at my now stretched outfit, the golf shirt contrasting with my grey fur that poked out, matted around the edges. Lifting my fingers, I could see ridges of the last thin knuckles on each, close to the finger tip, where long claws were retracted underneath the dark skin and fur. “Come on, we don't have much time.” Rick said, helping me to my feet. The angles were all wrong, but I could walk easily, if a little strangely. I pulled my trapped tail above my pants. “Just put your legs down over the edge.” I tentatively did as asked, feeling nothingness as I dipped further down. After a few grating seconds, my footpad connected. “Alright, I'm there.” “Good, now you might want to get use to your new mouth, first.” “Why?” I said, mimicking a yawn and stretching my muzzle open further then I ever thought possible. Reflexively, I closed my mouth, with a loud crack and shivered, afraid I might have dislocated something. “Because, in the trial we hang from the bar by our teeth. Did I forget to tell you?” He grinned, as he pushed my head down with his foot. # Holly was Irish and drew Celtic designs on her stat sheet, a petite girl with brown hair barretted in a few spots. Leia had red hair and freckles, skinny and tall. She once showed me the heart surgery scar on her chest, the pacemaker x, the removed lung around her bra, and a random hard-back novel without a cover where she had drawn mice and griffins among the letters, sometimes emphasizing certain words for a specific message. I was having girlfriend troubles. I was losing myself in a waning relationship. These were my excuses to Amanda, who jingled with novelty key chains and ear piercings. This lady wanted to cancel her account. This lady was not in our system. She was Hispanic, ghetto, loud, stupid, mad, from Oregon. "I'm sorry." "Don't apologize. I just want my money." She was obviously calling the wrong company. We screw people out of money, but not the 253 bucks she claimed. "Can I get your name?" "I'm not giving you my name. I just want my money." "Well, then I'm sorry but," "Don't apologize. I just want my money." Getting her address from her took five minutes of pleading. She was the type of person to fill all empty space with gripes about everything, her boyfriend, JiffyLube that day, her workday at the pharmacy, constantly interrupting me when I would try to help. Constantly telling me to go faster, then cutting me off when I apologized. “I'm not going to fucking pay for this shit I didn't even fucking order!” “Well, if could get your address or membership number, your name is not coming up in our system...” “It better be coming up! I'm not paying 253 fucking dollars! You should get it off my name since you already charged me for it!” “Well, I'm sorry, but sometimes...” “Don't say sorry, I just want my fucking money back!” “I'm trying but, I will need your...” “I live in fucking Oregon, figure it out from that! You already know how to charge me 253 dollars without my fucking name even in your system!” That's the "I want to kill myself" part of customer service. Knowing that these people are way out of line and not being able to tell them. I wanted to strangle her and her assumption that I, personally, was the cause of her entire dilemma. She had that constant quick iambic beat of a Spanish accent in her voice, filling in every gap with a constant stream of noise. I am known around the office as the nice guy, the amazingly calm person during the most horrible calls. She never let me have a deep breath. She was giving me aural claustrophobia. And my version of snapping was raising my voice. "Ma'am, I am doing my best to help you! But, I need you to calm down!" It was comical, the way the entire floor stared at me. People stood up in the telemarketing booths to see. How did this idiot get to me? It was a good day, mediocre, nothing strange, nothing truly weighing on my mind. I was red-faced, frustrated, about to explode from being so damn fake nice. Ten minutes of holding in my emotions finally burst from my lips in the form of a more stern niceness, completely unsatisfying. The breakdown did not hit me until after I was pulled off the phone by a supervisor. I was balling on my way out the back door, and I collapsed in a heap of tears and mucus against a cinderblock wall. # Rick hangs his hands against his side. Saliva drips from the corners of his maw, coating the rock and falling till it breaks apart with air pressure. The rock is covered with etchings, little line patterns sometimes like a language, other times merging into an endless maze. I wonder when this monument to strength was made, who carved the rock, scaled beneath the slant for hours scratching that feathered bird with dulling claws, the rose with petal pieces falling between curved ridges. There is a rough circle in front of me, split in the middle, one wolf eye to the right, another to the left. The left eye turns downward. It is the most excruciating pain I have ever felt. I hear a grunt from Rick. His lips move comically, spitting and dribbling as he speaks. "Dat ish my mark. Triste mark ish," his paw points to a sketched river weaving around a rock. "here. We all make our mark." He could not help grinning, wiping his chin with a paw, saliva shaken from his wet fingertips. "Whem you luth to me. I will fina-lly carve a hithdory. The trive, our fires. Before my feofle die forver." We hear footsteps, they resonate in our grinding teeth. Many footsteps, the swish of boots on dust, clopping of a horse, metal clicking. They smell of metal. My nose is grabbing scents, making me taste their smell like a 9-volt battery on the tongue. We breathe through our nostrils. Their language is quick and sharp, they are male voices. Short bursts of information. "They are loud." Rick risks whispering, pushing his tongue against the jagged stone surface. I believe his reassuring me, but my muscles tense. A scream from a female's voice pierces the heavy shuffling. There is laughter and coughing. Rick's eyes narrow, and I realize he can recognize the voice as it is now muffled and squeaking. I notice for the first time, the stillness of the wind, the warmth of the clotting blood from my forearm. My ears swivel to catch a sandaled foot reach the stone edge above. I cannot see if they notice us, inches from them. I know they will catch us, simply jostle us to the misty foam below. We are vulnerable, dangling by our teeth. Another scream. Then a wind. The split second we feel our fur pull with the wave of air downward seems to freeze us in the moment. We cannot look, but our senses suddenly focus on the sensation. There is a body falling. It is a woman. The fur of her body connects with the tips of our tails, sending them into a brief riot of motion. She is clutching at the air. She sees us hanging, twisting violently when past our footpads. Rick is aware of the pain in his jaw now, I can tell when the scream changes into a last effort to be saved. # I thought back to the break room conversations, more than half the time revolving around when we were going to quit. The room was decorated functional, brown, wobbly tables with plastic metal chairs. The walls were bright vending machines infrequently stocked, and in any white brick spaces between were outdated motivational papers or black posters showing the tragedy of insurance fraud, asking us to turn our friends in for rewards. There was a somewhat visible sexual tension between Leia and me that formed a cute stuttered silence between topics, but normally Holly, who worked in a different department yet sat beside us, took an unscheduled break, filling in the shy pauses with chatter. She liked to mindlessly banter and giggle in this high-pitched whine. But she understood sarcasm, so her sadism overcompensated for her relative boy-crazy ditzyness. Leia had a more laid-back conversational style, a student of art, which she flaunted through buttoned down sixties attire left unbuttoned; the orange of flowers draped over cotton t-shirts and white pants was her style. Leia would say, “Did you hear...?” And I would say, “Yea! I can't believe they are...!” I loved the skim-milk chocolate pudding from the revolving window vending machine, and would normally pause here for a spoonful. “I'm really thinking about quitting.” And I would say, “I've only got till May. I have to stick it out.” It was late March then, and I was breaking down. They pushed Amanda out the door, into the chilled afternoon. She loved rainbows. She threw the rainbow stickers randomly on the back of her car, oblivious to the obvious connotations, but she was not gay. I was wiping my nose with a shirt sleeve, butt against the butts littered around the gravel from the smoke break minutes ago. It was the “what's wrong?” conversation, but at least I knew the person, at least she was a fat girl I could relate to and not some supervisor putting on a sympathetic face for a few minutes. I said I was stressed out probably, and that I was stupid and that I can't believe someone actually got to me like that. And I blubbered, still crying. She said something about how she's flew off the handle a few times and almost got fired, but she said she was just pissed off and that I was a better guy and they thought it was crazy to see someone like me get affected. I said to give me some time. She said that she could tell them I went home for the day. I said no, I'd be in in a few minutes. Then she said something slightly funny and I blubbered, almost choking and coughing out a laugh. By the time she left through the side door, I was standing, leaning against the cinder block wall with red-eyes. I shook my head. I didn't want to go back to it. To another person immediately yelling at me. For a second, I thought of grabbing a pudding from the machine and slowly eating it and the cheap whipped cream globbed on top like a deformed rose. But, I took a deep breath, then sprinted up the wooded hill behind the building, out of the concrete and back to running madly through the leaves. The orange sky darkened in the shade of the trees, and I was trudging through the undergrowth, leaves and branches sometimes catching on the fabric of my casual formal golf-shirt. I had tears welling in my eyes, and it felt wonderful to rub them, knowing it was only the swift wind against my face forcing the liquid to the corners of my eyelids. I was feeling my legs move after hours of numbing black chairs. Smelling the harsh scent of oxidized leaves churning to mulch on the forest floor. When I could breathe no longer, when the lack of oxygen tingled my legs and pounded my heart, I stopped, leaning against pine tree letting my face rub against the bark. For a few moments, I shut my eyes, listening to the heartbeat in my temples. Even the grayness of the shaded sun warmed me more then the incessant buzz of oddly white fluorescent lamps. I was still breathing deeply, feeling the rasp of air on the walls of my lungs, when I continued deeper into wooded landscape. I saw the explosion before I heard the sound, splinters of wood flying at me in my peripheral vision from where I had paused. A loud gun shot echoed through the forest, and I turned to see a group of men one hundred feet away, dressed in leather, one with traditional musket smoking from the misplaced shot. The old heavy bullet had ripped through the tree trunk, leaving it wildly frayed. I ran when I saw a second musket raised, the men in leather, their helmeted heads painted a shining crimson. I heard shots hit nearby trees, then explode with sound, one of the most accurate whistling by my ear. I bounded over severed tree trunks, stumbled across uplifted roots, scrambling headfirst through the unfamiliar forest. They never rallied. Four complete shots and the onslaught was over, but fear drove me past my endurance. I was swerving, carving jagged trails through the place, hoping to lose them while they reloaded their guns, throw them off with unexpected turns. The forest became more foreboding, a grey fog settled in low on the ground, the trees more tangled. I was heaving for air, weaving around barely seen obstacles, until a small clearing opened along the trees, and water rushed through the area. # Rick fell. I almost lost grip myself, until clamped down harder, my teeth sliding along the rock like they were being filed to the gums. His claws then curled around the stone pipe, and he was hanging from the ledge by his arms. Teeth bared and eyes burning with a feral glow, he lifted himself to a crouching position above the bar as though it was effortless in his anger. “I am selfish. I had given up in shame, resigned to my deserved fate, waiting for death. This game is pointless. You had won from the start. I cannot make up for what happened, but I won't let another of my tribe fall while I hide like a coward.” He leapt into the air then, and I saw two leather clad men fall with the water, screaming as their guns smashed against the rocks. Rick was howling now, a keening, a hoarse scream and the footsteps of the men echoed again in my teeth. A gunshot boomed while the men barked orders, they were grunting and another fell, this time this throat sliced and his back arched around the edge of the rock, before his lifeless body flipped downward. I was hearing chaos, screams from women, and clashes of metal against rock, and above them all, the harsh cry of Rinse Us Clean and I imagined him attacking the men, arms and legs working together with claws outstretched, him moving from person to person to their guttural pleads. Then, it was more then one. A wall of sound piercing the air, a bullet skimming the rock and knocking dust onto my grey head. The chaotic sound repeated itself to silence. Men were righting themselves, shuffling along the rock. First a child, her lifeless body sweeping by in a rush of air behind my back. Then a mother, her hands bound by ropes, blooding staining her female chest. There were five, the bodies rolled or shoved over the edge, falling till they disappeared into the mist below. Rick came last. I could feel his blood warmly spill onto my back when he passed by. His face was expressionless, his body hacked and mangled, an exit wound, two bullet-holes in his abdomen, knife cuts along his face and arms. The blood trailed from him in swirls, then broke apart like rain. I could barely feel the pain anymore, hanging there from the bar, now carving a last memorial into the stone with my untrained claws while the men above pounded off to another destination. There was so much that I could have written to encapsulate the history of this place, to explain the plight of the dual wolf's down-turned eye where Rick had left his mark, but I left the ledge, climbing carefully to the top in my new body and trudged back through the forest. I left the words, “second chance“ carved into the rock above Rick‘s drawing. The skim-milk chocolate tasted sweet on the new ridges of my long tongue, after I meandered inside through the back door of the sterile break room. My incisors scratched against the cheap plastic. I took my time cleaning the angled cup until only a thin trail of muddy saliva was left on the sides. I slipped back into the black chair of the cubicle, to the mindless conversation between Leia and Holly. They were sympathetic, but shocked. I was surprised they did not comment on the way my tail slipped underneath the backrest, or how the headset was difficult to fit around uplifted ears. No one seemed to notice that my grey fur matched the color of the desk, or that when I spoke my voice was lower, more confident. I was a werewolf. I fought back by logging into 01 and taking the first call. The customer was from Georgia, around fifty years old and yelling about five months of being billed. I noticed it was eight months. I reminded him of LeisurePlus's hotel discounts of up to fifty percent on selected hotels since he was planning a trip to Kentucky and he wanted to take his dog. He said that maybe he should look over the information then and became apologetic. I sent him the packet on LeisurePLus which takes three weeks for him to receive and told him if he wanted to cancel he would just have to call in within the next two weeks and he would not be charged. First call retained. I growled loudly at Holly. She giggled. .......Spotlight 2003........ .......Comments, questions, hatemail? Send me some and tell me what you think. Tweet
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