Fear The Dawn: Chapter 8

It was another regular morning in the office. People bustled to and fro, entirely absorbed in their daily business, never suspecting anything could be amiss. Yet as the morning went on, a whispered message began to spread from one employee to the next until it reached the entire floor.
There's an important meeting for all employees in the boardroom.”

Not far away, two people were riding the elevator to the top floor. “It's going to be a red-letter day”, said a sharply-dressed man in a dark suit, rubbing his hands together gleefully.
I'm glad you made a friend”, his female associate remarked in a soft voice.
The man narrowed his eyes. He was burdened with her presence this morning, and as always, she was completely out of place. She was dressed well enough, in a well-tailored woman's suit, but her hairstyle was completely inappropriate for this kind of setting. Her long, wispy hair blew about everywhere, leaving long white hairs all over her clothes, though she was completely oblivious to it. The vacant look in those dopey blue eyes told him she was going to be no help, on this morning or any other.
It gets lonely sometimes” she added, in that same weak, squeaky voice.
She could speak when they were here, but she never had anything useful to say. He ignored her, focusing on the front of the elevator.
What are we doing here?”, she asked.
We've come to shut this place down!”, he grinned cruelly. “Everyone's getting fired!”
Oh no!”, she exclaimed, her voice rising in volume just a tad. “Surely we don't need to fire everyone.”
We may not need to, but we will anyway, that's what we do.”
But the people here will be so sad”, she said, looking down at her feet.
He rolled his eyes. How could anyone be so dense? “That's the whole point!”
But why? Why do we have to do bad things?”
Because the strangers would do the same to us if they could! If we don't get them first, we'll be lost out here forever!” He took a deep breath. “Honestly, how do you ever make it back on your own?”
She finally clammed up after that. The elevator doors opened, and they walked out into the hallway towards the boardroom, the man striding confidently ahead while the woman moped behind.

Everyone was already gathered when they arrived. From the hall, he could hear them talking in hushed voices, but the room fell completely silent when he entered. He took a second to breathe in the tense atmosphere, then he cleared his throat.
Good afternoon”, he began, in a tone of voice that could almost have been pleasant. “As you may have heard, starting today, this firm has a new owner. I am sure you are all anxious to know how things are going to change around here under the new management.”
He paused to give them extra time to squirm.
This company has a long, rich history”, he continued. “Through hard work and toil, what was once a small, privately owned firm has experienced years of growth. People have built good careers here. In fact, you might even say that this company is just like one big happy family.” Some of the people in the back breathed a sigh of relief and he saw smiles in the audience. That pleased him.

But there's a funny thing about families: They're weak. People tolerate mediocrity and incompetence because of 'friendship' and 'loyalty'. Teams become bloated and unproductive because no one will make the hard choices. Efficiency falls, and leaner, hungrier rivals pounce on that opportunity like dogs on raw meat. That is what caused your share price to drop, and that is how I was able to gain control of this company so easily. The time has come to trim the fat. This company can be run with fewer, lower-paid workers. They will work under contract, receiving no benefits and having no tenure. Parts of this company that are no longer necessary will be sold off to reduce costs and turn a tidy profit.”
There were people in the audience who were crying now. It was time to put them out of their misery.
And as for all of you, your services are no longer needed. As of 4pm today, everyone is-”
Banshee slammed her fists on the table, sending a puff of white hair floating throughout the room.
You can't fire everyone!” she insisted, staring at him forcefully. “Just look at them! You've got it all wrong!”

He was momentarily caught off-guard by her defiance, but then a horrible smile began to form across his lips.
My associate has a point.” He said, pacing back and forth across the front of the room. “Relieving all of these employees and dividing up the company will involve a lot of tedious paperwork. There might perhaps be room for one person from this company to stay on as a liquidation consultant, but it would have to be someone who would not feel badly about taking this company apart. Is there anyone like that in this room, I wonder?”
No one dared to breathe a word, but they all turned to look at each other. Banshee looked on in horror. Someone started to speak, but he silenced them with his hand and began to walk towards the door.
It occurs to me that there might well be several candidates. Very well. Whomsoever is the first out this door will have the job.”
He gestured to the doorway from outside the room. There was a moment's pause, and then there was a great scuffling of chairs and stomping of feet as dozens of people frantically pushed and shoved each other, scrambling over the table and knocking down the chairs in a mad dash for the door.
Stop!” Banshee pleaded with them. “You're better than this!”, but they just pushed her out of the way.
A large, burly man with short brown hair was the first one out the door. “We have our winner!” he declared, raising the man's arm. “Well done, sir. It's good to find someone else who understands what friendship is truly worth. And to the rest of you, pack your things, I want you out of here by this afternoon.”

Why?” She demanded as they rode the elevator back down. “Why did you do that to them?”
Me?”, he asked, innocently. “I did nothing. Those tendencies were inside them all along, I merely gave them the opportunity to let them out. If you want to know why they did what they did, perhaps you should ask the stranger. Or should I say, my new assistant?”
No”, she refused, back to her usual overly soft tone of voice. “No...”
Suit yourself” he shrugged, “but that's what it takes to survive in this world.”


She didn't talk to him after they came back, but of course, she never did. She just stood there, staring out over the waves with her head in her paws and her tail drooped. Perhaps she was hoping to see something out there, or maybe she was hoping not to.
He shrugged. “What she does is no concern of mine.” The hunter walked over to the helm of the ship and took the wheel in his paws, contemplating for a while. Eventually he decided on a course to take and perched himself in his favourite spot along the bottom edge of the centre sail.

From his high vantage point he spotted the ship long before she did, but he kept quiet and waited. She eventually spotted the ship and her tail perked up a little, but she didn't show the same excitement she had before. “Perhaps she's realized how silly this all is”, he thought to himself. “That's for the best”. Eventually the other ship pulled up alongside his and the same annoying cream-coloured man travelled across to his ship as the dark-furred one silently watched from his perch.

Well, look who I ran into again”, he said, cheerfully. Banshee didn't really respond.
What's the matter, pretty flower?” he asked her. Still she didn't reply to him, so he lifted her chin up with his paw. She looked at him through tear-filled eyes, and tossed her paws around him, burying her face in his chest.
Hey, now” he pulled back a little, surprised by her outburst, and gingerly patted her on the head. “Why won't you tell me what's wrong?”
She can't”, said the dark-furred one, dropping down from above and gracefully landing on one foot. “Haven't you figured it out yet? She can't speak.”
Line was taken aback. “What? That's awful. You must be so lonely.” She didn't nod or give any other reaction.
I don't think she can hear you, either, or at least she never responds to anything.”
You poor thing”, he said, rubbing the back of her head with his paw. She looked up at him, and he bent down and rubbed their noses together. “Stay strong, okay?”
Banshee finally stopped crying and just stared at him for a moment, still as a statue.

It's not the fact that she can't talk that's making her sad”, he interrupted.
Then what's the matter?”, Line wanted to know.
What do you know about when the sun comes up?”
We travel to strange places, and that's when I do my material”.
He hadn't expected that response. “Material?”
“Yeah, you know, make witty remarks, point out the absurd, and so on.”
Would you consider a person who can't hear or speak to be absurd?”
He shook his head vigorously. “Oh no, I could never poke fun at someone's suffering”.
Well, this morning I took over a company that was losing a lot of money from a rather large stranger.”
Line's ears perked up. “See, there's your problem. Get rid of the fat guy, you'll save a fortune on donuts.”
The corner of the hunter's mouth twisted into the faintest hint of a smile. “And here I was just going to make him run out into the hall and maybe lose some weight.”
Now see what you want to do is tie a bagel on the end of a piece of string and hang it from his head, he'll run much faster.”
Hmm”, the hunter thought to himself. “Perhaps this isn't totally useless after all.”

No comments:

Post a Comment