01
Nov
09

The Part-Timer- Part 1

Welcome to another week at Tales From the Apocalypse Shift.  Just in case anyone missed the news earlier in the week, I’ve worked a deal with my publisher Library of Horror Press to publish this blog as a book!  The full title will be All Hell’s A-Buying Froztees: Tales From the Apocalyspe Shift, Vol. 1, and you will likely be able to find it some time early next year.  Not only will it include all the stories from the blog, but there will also be one other story that will be exclusive to the book, so keep an eye out for it.

And don’t forget, if you really want more of the Apocalypse Shift universe, the novel The Apocalypse Shift is available from Amazon.  If you’re not at all familiar with the universe and are looking for a good place to start, the first part of the first story can be found here.

This week marks the first never-before published content on the blog.  While this one does not involve Caleb, Gloria, the OneStop Mart, or any of the characters from the novel, the eagle-eyed reader will notice several references throughout it that mark it as existing in the Apocalypse Shift universe.  Someone paying very close attention might even find clues to important plot-lines in upcoming Apocalypse Shift books.  It’s also not really a horror-comedy like most of the other stories in the AS universe.  Instead this one is my humerous take on… well, you’ll see.  This story will be a long one, probably consisting of five or six parts.

Enjoy!

-Derek J. Goodman

 The Part-Timer – Part 1

Gabrielle clutched the sheets over her breasts and practically vaulted out of bed.  She wasn’t normally shy about showing off her body and she certainly didn’t have anything Toby hadn’t seen many times before.  She’d been known to prance around the house sometimes after sex if she still had the energy, dancing to music only she could hear in her head and humming out of tune.  Occasionally she might interrupt her mad shimmies to glance over her shoulder at him if he were watching and bat her eyes in mock innocence, all the while with a huge goofy grin on her face.  The act was somehow innocent and sexy at the same time, and without fail he wound up pulling her back into bed.

But Gabrielle wasn’t grinning now, and if she was actually making the effort to cover herself up, then Toby had to assume that he wouldn’t be in bed with her again any time soon. 

“You shithead,” she said.  Toby was barely able to hear her, partly because her words were little more than a mumble and partly because she was turned away and stooping to sort through their clothes.  She came up with her bra and started to put it on, not noticing until she tried to hook together the back that it was inside out.  “I can’t believe you would fucking ask me that again.”

He hadn’t realized it when the question had been coming out of his mouth, but now it occurred to him just how far he might have crossed the line.  He couldn’t take it back now, though, and he saw no other choice than to try pressing the issue through and hoping it came out the other side okay.  “Look, I’m sorry.  I know it’s been rough lately but it would only be for maybe a week or so, and then I should be able to pay you back.”

Gabrielle started to put on her pants, then stopped when she realized she hadn’t yet put her underwear back on.  “That’s what you said last week, and two weeks before that.  What, did you think that after a few orgasms I might forget about all the other promises to pay me back?”

It was a good thing her bedroom was mostly dark.  Otherwise she might see how badly he blushed.  That had been exactly what he had thought.  Gabrielle had the brain power to go toe-to-toe with any of the greatest thinkers in human history, but that would have first required her to come down to Earth from whatever world her head usually resided in.  She was brilliant, funny, and gorgeous, but sometimes she couldn’t remember how to tie her shoes.

“It’s not going to be much longer now,” he said.  He got out of bed and stopped her as she tried to put on her shirt backwards.  He gently cupped her chin in his hand and guided her gaze to his.  There was a wrath the likes of which Toby couldn’t ever remember seeing before in her eyes, and it made his heart hurt.  He’d felt plenty betrayed in the past by other girlfriends, and the thought that Gabrielle might be feeling that way made him almost want to slice open his wrists.  “I’ve got several applications I just turned in, so I should be hearing something within the next couple days.”  It was a lie, and Toby hated himself even more now that he saw that small glimmer of hope enter her eyes.  He’d meant to fill in all those applications.  He really had.  Things had just gotten in the way, important things like… well, okay, maybe they weren’t so important that he actually remembered what they were, but they had certainly seemed important enough at the time.  Some of these thoughts must have shown on Toby’s face, because Gabrielle’s glimmer of hope faded away and left only a resigned frown.

“I’m not giving you any more money,” she said.  Her words had the same tone his mother had always affected when she would punish him and then go on with the whole this hurts me more than it hurts you spiel, which of course was never true, just as it wasn’t true now.  Gabrielle might be starting to get disgusted at his sponging ways, but not as much as he hated himself for it.  “What you need to do is get a job.”

“I already have a job,” he said, but he didn’t put any conviction behind it.  He could barely even hear his own words.

“Another job, honey.  The club alone is just not going to cut it.”  Toby bristled at that.  Being a DJ had always been his dream job, and if he had his way that would be all he would ever do.  But the club only wanted him two nights a week, and although the pay was good it still wasn’t enough for his share of the bills.  He’d had a job at a factory until recently that had even had pretty good insurance, but he’d gotten sick of being treated like just another poorly oiled cog in the machine and walked out one day.  Gabrielle hadn’t been happy about that at all, and yet their sex life had become much better now that he didn’t permanently smell like grease and burning metal. 

“Look, I think I’ve almost got the owner worn down,” Toby said.  “If I can get her to give me just one more night a week then…”

A tear ran down Gabrielle’s cheek, and Toby stopped.  “If you keep making excuses like this then we’re not going to last,” she said.  “I’ve put up with that enough in my life, so I’ll be fucked if I put up with it from someone who claims he loves me.”  She was mostly clothed by now, and she sat down on the bed to put on her socks.  “It’s not like I’m asking you to give up what you want to do.  I would never ask that.  I’ve got things I want to do and be, too.”  She gestured across the room at the eight or nine partially finished paintings she had stacked against the wall.  “But I make sure I at least have a practical way of supporting myself.  And we both know I’m not typically the level-headed one in this relationship.”  As though unconsciously trying to make a point she put her socks on inside out and stood back up.  “So what does that say about you, Toby?”

It said plenty, but Toby didn’t know how to put it into words without it sounding like another excuse. 

“You’ve got to get some things straightened out in your head,” she said.  “And until you do maybe it would be a good idea if we didn’t see each other for a while.”  She stalked out of the bedroom.  Toby knew she would be back, but not because of any attempt to make up.  Sure enough, she popped her head back through the door a second later.

 “Um… this is sort of my apartment, so maybe you should be the one to stalk off instead?”

*          *          * 

Toby checked the address in the paper against the ones all around him one more time.  This had to be the correct building, since it was the only one on this side of the street on this block, but he couldn’t actually find the address displayed anywhere on the outside walls.  It didn’t look like the kind of place that might be hiring.  It didn’t even look like it had been open for any business at all in the last decade.  The building had probably been a warehouse at some point, but now all the windows were busted in and most of it was covered in graffiti.  The graffiti consisted mostly of gang tags, but some Rembrandt had taken a whole thirty-foot section of wall to write “With Great Power Comes a Great Many Groupies” followed by multiple crude attempts at depicting female anatomy.  Even if the building was still the home to some business, it didn’t look like the kind of place where he would want to work. 

Toby briefly entertained the idea of just tossing his want ads into the rest of the litter along the building’s walls and going back across the city for another attempt at pleading with Gabrielle, but that would probably be the emotional equivalent of pounding his own foot with a sledge hammer.  She had been absolutely right, he knew that, and going back to her without even trying to fix the problem was self-mutilation, an attempt at making himself even more pathetic than he already was.  All he really needed was something part-time, and for the rest of his time his world could be exactly as he wanted it.

He’d gone to his mom’s after Gabrielle had kicked him out and she had let him stay on the couch for the rest of the night.  She hadn’t appeared at all happy about it, but he had known she wouldn’t say no.  That might not end up being so true the next time, however, since he did owe her even more money than Gabrielle.

He’d started paging through the want ads over his bowl of Frosted Flakes, but nothing he had seen there had jumped out at him at first.  There were plenty of job openings similar to the one he had just quit, but there was no way in hell he was going back to one of those.  Even Gabrielle would have had to admit that was a bad idea.  She’d seen how unhappy he had been there.  Day in and day out at the same mindless repetitive work, dangerous crushing machines with only the minimum required safety functions (most of which were usually on the fritz anyway), and bosses so convinced they were your intellectual betters just because they wore a different colored uniform than you.  Toby would rather take a job where he was sometimes on fire than go back to one of those soul-crushing places.

Toby hadn’t been paying close attention to any of the ads he flipped through, so he couldn’t say later why this one in particular had caught his attention.  It wasn’t any bigger than any of the others yet Toby stopped to give it a second glance anyway:

Part-time DHR

20-25 hrs/week

Excellent pay and benefits

Applicants must have

flexible schedule and an

interest in truth and justice

Genetic mutations a plus

The ad was followed by an address where applicants could go to apply, along with a name, the Alphomega Corporation.  Toby had spent several minutes staring at it, but that didn’t help the ad make any more sense.

There was a door ajar not twenty feet away from him now, and although it didn’t look like it could possibly be the front entrance it was the only door he had found so far.  It didn’t sound like anyone was inside, but for all he knew someone could be hiding just beyond with a baseball bat.  Maybe the ad had been placed to lure unsuspecting dumbasses into a trap where they could get mugged or killed or turned into Soylent Green.  A crazed little voice in his head told him that was probably a more preferred fate than going back to Gabrielle without a new source of income.

Toby really didn’t want to go in there.  Maybe he could instead just go to that convenience store down at the corner of 13th and Pearl.  They almost always had a sign saying they needed someone for the night shift…

He looked at the ad again.  20-25 hours per week.  Excellent pay and benefits.

“Screw it,” he muttered, then went through the door.  He didn’t have the slightest clue what a DHR was, but as long as he only had to do it for twenty hours a week, he didn’t care.

He only had a brief impression of the room he was in before someone or something closed the door behind him and he was in darkness.  It took him several moments to realize it shouldn’t be this dark.  The glimpse he’d had of the interior had implied a massive, featureless room taking up the whole building, but what about the windows?  It was still the middle of the afternoon and they should have provided more than enough light.  He stumbled back to where the door should have been just behind him, but his hands touched nothing but empty space.

“Hello?” he said.  His voice carried quite a distance before it bounced back in an echo.  Whatever this place was, it was much larger than it had appeared from the outside.  “If this is a scam then let me just tell you right now that I don’t actually have any money to steal.  Unless you really want to steal my bus pass, but I would kind of like to keep that.”

“We have no intention of robbing you,” a female voice said from somewhere to Toby’s left.  It sounded close, maybe not even five feet away, and it lacked the echoing quality of his own voice.  The voice was very matter-of-fact, like the voice’s owner had actually contemplated mugging him at one point before discarding the idea.

“So it’s the Soylent Green then?”  He tried to make it sound like a joke, but as soon as it left his mouth it didn’t seem funny at all.

“We have no intention of eating you, either.”  It was a man’s voice, this time from somewhere to his right.  There was a note of regret in his voice that Toby didn’t want to analyze.  “We were afraid you would be late for your interview, Mr. Sullard.”

“But I didn’t set up any…”  Toby’s blood went cold.  “Wait.  How did you know my name?”

A voice spoke from somewhere in front of him.  It was calm and soothing, but Toby couldn’t for the life of him figure out if it belonged to a male or female.  “We at the Alphomega Corporation pride ourselves on an extensive knowledge network.  Please sit down.”

A pool of light shined down from somewhere above onto a padded metal chair directly in front of him.  He touched it first in the off chance that it might send 50,000 volts of electricity through him when he sat in it.  When he wasn’t fried like an egg, he sat down.  “You know,” he said, “this is a really creepy way to do business.”

“And yet it is our business and we will do it as we see fit.”  Whoever owned that particular voice sounded like he was about eighty and had been smoking since he was three.

“Can I at least see what you look like?” Toby asked.

There were a series of booming clicks from above, and Toby had to cover his eyes as the space in front of him was bathed in a pool of the brightest light.  There was a semi-circular stand in front of him like he would have expected to see in some government tribunal or something, a place for people to sit around some poor schmuck and generally act superior.  Nine people sat at the stand, each with his or her hands folded in front of them and faces completely lacking in expression.  The man furthest to Toby’s right wore pure black while the woman furthest to the left wore only white.  Everyone in between wore business suits of progressive shades of gray.  The person in the middle, whose physical features were as androgynous as his or her voice, wore a perfect middle gray tone.

“I trust this makes you more comfortable then?” Middle Gray said.  He/she even smiled a little, but not for too long.  Then there was twitch on his/her face that Toby thought might have been pain.

“Um, not really,” Toby said.  “So I guess you guys would be the supervisors or the human resources representatives or something?”

They all responded at once in a monotone.  “We are the Balance.”

“Ooookay.  Fine.  But if I wanted to call you something that didn’t make me think you were all nutjobs then I would refer to you as…?”

“We are the Balance.”

Okay, that was enough for Toby.  He started to glance around for any sign of the exit, but the majority of the building was still dark.

“Mr. Sullard, I have to apologize for my colleagues.”  The speaker was a youngish man in light gray sitting two seats from the end.  His hair was elegantly groomed in a professional style even though his scraggly beard stuck out in odd directions.  “They often seem to forget how disconcerting this process is for new employees.”

“Well, do you mind if we just get the process over with then?” Toby said.  Maybe the convenience store wouldn’t be that bad.  He could sell Twinkies to drunks, maybe mop up their messes.  And he sure as hell wouldn’t have to deal with anything as weird as this.  All he had to do now was make himself look like the worst worker ever and he could get out of here.

“Fine,” Scraggly Beard said.  “You’re hired.”

Toby blinked.  “Isn’t there supposed to be an interview first?  Or even an application?”

“We already have all the information we need regarding you,” a young woman in dark gray said, except maybe “young woman” wasn’t the right term.  She didn’t even look like she was ten years old yet.  “You possess all the qualities we are looking for in an employee at this time.”

“You will start tomorrow,” Middle Gray said.  “You will receive all the materials you need to begin later today.”

“Look, I don’t think I want to do this,” Toby said.  “I don’t even have the slightest clue what I would be doing, and you guys really aren’t…”

Scraggly Beard smiled.  It didn’t seem nearly as painful for him as it had been for Middle Gray.  “You will start at fifty dollars an hour.”

Toby didn’t say anything.  He just sat there with his jaw hanging open.

“We are glad you feel that is an adequate sum,” the man in pure black said.  “Now if you don’t mind we will need you to leave.  We have much more business to see to before the end of this planet’s revolution.”

There was a squeal from behind Toby, and he looked to see the door he had entered was open two feet behind him.  Because he couldn’t think of anything else to do or say he stood and walked towards it.  He turned back to look at them just as he set one foot out the door. 

“Thank you.  Thank you so much.  But I don’t suppose you could tell me what exactly it is that I’m going to be doing?”

“We feel that the title of DHR is self-explanatory,” Middle Gray said.

“And what does DHR stand for?”

“Defender of the Human Race.”

 Toby was able to get out of the way just in time to avoid being hit by the slamming door.  He was so dazed by the entire encounter that it almost didn’t strike him as odd that the outside of the warehouse had been replaced by a strip mall consisting entirely of Hello Kitty boutiques.

To Be Continued

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