Pursed Lips

Lia awoke from her dream and suddenly knew why for months she had been so tired no matter how long she slept.  She had been tensing her back muscles so tightly that in that split second between slumber and full consciousness, Lia noticed her upper torso was actually raised off of the bed. Trying to relax, Lia recalled the dream that induced her to this state of heightened tension: Josephina.

The dream had been almost entirely about that haggard middle-aged woman, who, in Lia’s sleep, had been sporting a mango coloured cocktail dress made out of taffeta.  Josephina had coerced her adoring minions around her at the office, seeking the usual praise and to mete out punishment. Lia as usual was the sole offender.

No matter how much Lia tried to engage Josephina in conversation, the latter ignored the former as if she had been an annoying bug. Not once did Josephina acknowledge Lia’s presence, instead responding to the younger woman’s attempts at engagement with comments directed at the gathered office serfs, but clearly about Lia.

In her overly confident voice, Josephina would state, “I don’t want people working here, who don’t want to be here.” She would then leave time for her followers to agree wholeheartedly to her statement. “There are lot’s of people who would kill for this opportunity.” Again looking for the requisite heads to bounce, Josephina would pause. “I’m not a monster. If you don’t want to work here, leave.” There was always a second of delay after a proclamation like that, even Josephina’s office serfs knew deep down that she was horrible to work for, and as such they didn’t automatically move to shaking their heads in negative unison. Fear for what would happen if they failed to agree with Josephina quickly enough, however, led them to shake heads more violently than when they nodded concurrence. Lia noticed this and promptly suffered the consequences of Josephina’s hard stare.

Just thinking about this dream was causing Lia to purse her lips. That’s how you end up looking like Josephina, she thought remembering that withered upper lip twisted from decades of stress and vengeance. Lia uncurled her lip, and just as is in her dream she tried to focus on packing up her desk, she decided to turn her attentions elsewhere, getting up from bed.


The Incident

The conference call to which the Agent was referring was by now infamous. Not only did the effects involve the almost immediate disbanding of CACA itself, but the government of the host country, Plebeia, was on the verge of collapse for having spent so much money to organise something revealed to be so useless.

Just before the main CACA Plenary of the Leaders – the three-hour marathon meeting that essentially comprised the entire billion-dollar affair – someone with access to the secure room had surreptitiously dialled a number from the one phone available. Whoever did this had put the number on speed-dial in advance of the meeting and wisely left the phone on mute so that none of the leaders or their assistants could detect that a call was live.

The phone itself had been hidden inside the special purpose-built meeting table, not to disguise the communication devise, for one of the requirements of the meeting room had been to have a single phone line, but for design reasons. Aesthetically, wires and telephones looked messy and detracted from the overall ambiance of the meeting room. Indeed, the Facilities and Operations division at PEWE had spent countless hours devising ways to dress up the various spaces that Leaders might visit. They had done such a good job that the Leaders wasted a great deal of the slated meeting time discussing the various back drops and other decorative items bearing the Plebeian CACA logo and which, ultimately, was one of the major causes for the public’s outrage upon hearing the recorded phone call.

The number called was a Voice-Over-the-Internet-Protocol or VOIP line registered in a Nordic country to a false identity using a stolen credit card from a wealthy, and now perturbed, denizen of the Maghreb. The entire three-hour meeting was digitally recorded and posted on an independent media website through a proxy server that appeared to be situated somewhere in Oceania. The posting was timed so that the call began to air in its entirety at the outset of the final press conference for the CACA Plenary of the Leaders. Members of the international media were given a front row seat to watch the reactions of the Leaders of the world’s wealthiest countries as the closed-door meeting was replayed through the iPhone of one of the attending journalists.

Pictures of the red-faced and mortified Leader of what had arguably been the most powerful country in CACA graced nearly all of the major papers the next morning. She had been caught on tape flirting heavily with the much younger Leader of an Old World country. Both had maintained very public images of being traditional-minded and happily married – of course, to other people.  At the point in the recording when she could be heard to have said: “you’re being very naughty; don’t make me come over there and spank you,” seemingly as a result of his playful reluctance to sign on to the joint statement all of the Leaders’ assistances had prepared in advance of the meeting, this so-called Leader of the free world buried her face in hands and began to sob uncontrollably. Decades before, her husband (and predecessor in this job) had been involved in a sex-scandal that had nearly destroyed all of her chances at ever become Leader. Surely this innocent act would ruin everything, she thought.

Very seldom were the Leaders heard to have actually discussed anything serious. Sure, they traded figures on how broke each of their countries had become as a result of the recent economic crisis, but more often than not they talked about the fine food and wine they had just been fed or the bane of having to be in the media spotlight all the time. In fact, all of the Leaders came off looking more like pampered starlets rather than serious politicians. The ramifications, the world over, were so intense many governments were faced with the very real possibility of revolt from ordinarily docile populations. One phone call, thus, had the potential to bring down an entire system and, as a result, was more effective than any mass protest or violent act of terror had ever been before it.

All of the official investigations into who was behind the conference call, so the media had reported, had turned up nothing to date. It was becoming more and more evident that the conference call was an inside job, but other than that, any solid leads were elusive.

The Agent began to talk again, slowly and thoughtfully, “There was one curious thing that we have been careful not to leak to the media, but it’s only a matter of time before it gets out.”

Lia looked at the non-descript woman surprised and with interest.

“You know how you mentioned those scenarios earlier?”

Lia nodded at the Agent. “Yes, of course.”

“Well, a couple hundred, no more, were printed for the CACA Plenary. As you know, they were used to provide precise baby steps for all of the workers supporting the Plenary to follow.” The Agent paused.

Eager to hear more, Lia prodded, “OK?”

“Somehow, one of the actions listed to be taken, just after checking the meeting room, to make sure it was all in order before the Leaders were brought in, was to press the three top buttons on the phone.” The Agent stopped again and seemed to be considering whether or not she should tell Lia any more.

Lia shook her head as if bewildered. “That’s odd!”

The Agent agreed, nodding.

“But didn’t the person checking the room, phone or both not see what pressing those buttons would do? Phone keys are usually labelled.” asked Lia, still astonished.

“That’s the thing,” the Agent continued, “for design purposes PEWE had used a phone that had uniform buttons. So whoever dialled the number had no idea what they were doing.”

For the complete on-going story, please click on the icon below:


Who done it?

The Agent looked at Lia, “Do you think Ajay was behind it?”

Taken aback, Lia thought about the prospect. Could Ajay have sabotaged CACA? Of course not! Lia shook her head and answered, “It’s not possible. He lived for CACA. Being DG of that boondoggle was the highlight of his career.” Again shaking her head decisively, “There’s no way. The upper echelons of PEWE were so oblivious. They were in awe of CACA. Even when the media began reporting on the costs of the Assembly, they still could see no wrong. It didn’t matter that the country was teetering on bankruptcy and that it was generally expected that the few hours the leaders would meet would be taken up with discussion of what to do with the world’s dismal economic performance. To them, the outside world just didn’t understand the importance of CACA and the nearer the Assembly was approaching, the more convinced the heads of PEWE became that no cost was too high in ensuring that this plenary was the best of all to date.”

Lia stopped abruptly. The idea struck her so, and from what seemed like nowhere, that it cut her current line of thought off completely. At last noticing the Agent watching her curiously from across the diner booth, Lia began again. “Unless it was a mistake.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, think about it: here you have a group of people who for the last year or so lived for nothing else than the CACA Assembly of Leaders. And when I say lived for nothing else, I mean it. They were working twelve to sixteen hour days, seven days a week, for at least the last four months leading up to CACA – two or three of those months away from friends and family at the site of the Assembly.” Lia huffed at what she might have had to endure if she had stayed on at PEWE and added, “Undoubtedly, many of those people lost friends and family over their role in organising CACA.

“Of anyone, who would have the most interest in ensuring that CACA was a success, if not the heads of PEWE or perhaps the politicians hosting the Assembly? What if the whole stunt was just a failed attempt to prove to Plebeians that CACA was worth all the money the taxpayers had to fork over to hold the meeting here?” Lia glanced at the Agent to see if she was still following.

“So, you’re saying, someone like Ajay might have decided to arrange the live conference call from the meeting room so that Plebeians could hear the discussion and see how important it all was?”

“Exactly,” continued Lia more animatedly, “but instead the live audio stream of the meeting only proved how pointless the whole of CACA was. The plan backfired, you see? The whole point was never to sabotage the Assembly, but to make outsiders believe in it!”

As usual, to read the complete work in progress, please click on the icon below:


A Potemkin World, A Closet Full of Shit

They say life is comprised of a beginning, middle and end.  They say love is the greatest gift we can bestow upon another.  They say many things.

Of the vague notions we have failed to harness and compartmentalize, are life and love.  Although both can be destroyed, neither can be contained.  Both are grossly misunderstood – life translated into existence and love into unification.   In our bid to turn both into our possessions we have lost all concept of either life or love – until at last they have no more meaning.

But meaning in itself is a slippery slope. Meaning has long since come to be only the allocation of fixed constructs into a definition – a word.  Defining words begets a static object (if even the act of definition is used to relay something entirely vague – such as life). Words, each one housed in its own definitive cage, are piled higher atop one another until finally an idea is utterly caged in a fencing of constructs – penned and accepted as permanent.  The idea can then be possessed.

Armed with these words, these possessions, we create an understanding of the world around us, our lives and ourselves.  Compounding words we establish beliefs and identities.  Assigning more and more fixed meanings we at last settle into a Potemkin world – a world built of words, a world where definition equivocates reality.

It is here that we sit lost, cut off from all things basic and yet indefinable.  Alienated from one another – we search for life and we seek out love.  Yet in our bid to retrieve what has been lost we use the very means that led us here in the first place – reason and definition.  We have encircled ourselves in a pattern that no one seems willing to break – for breaking that circle would in fact entail rejecting all of what we claim to know, including ourselves, and being led by something so incomprehensible it cannot ever be bound by words.

Our history – a brutal series of words strewn linearly behind us – haunts us.  However, what haunts us is not so much the horrific acts we so morbidly enjoy redefining, but our inability to break the circle.  We slaughter one another in order to experience a slight glimpse of what might be life.  We smother our spouses, children and friends in constricting relationships in a bid to recreate love.  We reject material objects and punish our bodies with ascetic lifestyles hoping to let go of the false world and ourselves without ever fully understanding what might truly set us free.

When, in fact, it is all in the meaning.  The very words we use to think and to breed further definition in order to comprehend it all suck us further into this vortex.  Our focus on the woven myriad of words comprising our own personal story and thus our perception of the world blind us from seeing anything else.  Something that is not defined should not be trusted and we perpetually revisit words of the past looking desperately for an answer.  We search for an answer that must come in the form of a concept that can be written, fixed, unchanging – for that is all we can seem to understand.

We then look to the past to unveil an answer.  We sift through our own past and those of others hoping to find a key in experience.  However, experience, as we have come to define it, is only a compilation of words describing past events.  Experience as we know it is itself only a construct.  Searching in experience to unlock the monstrous door that is unhappiness only locks us more so in the circle.  We fail to understand this as we as individuals are only an accumulation of experiences in that sense – our stories and therefore our identities are only a series of events we reflect upon in the future.  We stand ahead and look back at these events to define what we are, ergo we describe ourselves into existence.

Our Potemkin world depends upon this.  Everything exists, including ourselves, only because we say it does.  If experience is but a compilation of words – or static constructs, and we are defined and created solely by our experience – are we as individuals not constructs?  Can a construct really expect to live?

Rummaging through the archives of what is past detracts from all that happens now – it obliterates life.  Although our words and definitions are static the concepts we attempt to chain with them are not.  Life is not existence – life is to experience everything, not just one definitive action or emotion independently for a limited duration of time – but everything that is in a perpetual state of present.  Life is an energy that surges through every construct we so mercilessly seek to confine, pulsating through our words and definitions with a fluidity that cannot be contained or stagnated.  Life is all around us, in us – it is what makes everything a whole and should not be sought out with words or in compartmentalized pieces.  Life cannot be found in a Potemkin world – would we think to look for it in a house of cards?  Why then would we look for it in our make-believe selves – selves that only exist because we build upon definitive events to create a self-story?

Yet we do so constantly, and all the while we struggle to accumulate further contained experiences, to create life.  We then reflect on these events of the past from a point in the future – but where is the present?  To live would be to truly experience – requiring presence in the here and now.  To live would mean moving through unbroken experience devoid of definitions and commentary – always leaving the past behind.  To live is not to ponder past events and our perceptions of them – that is existence.  To live is to feel now.

That is not to say that what mankind has done should be forgotten – quite the contrary – we must endeavour to not repeat it.  However, dwelling on the past and relying on it to create the present only perpetuates that existence as a truth.  In relying on what has passed to continue to define us – to allow us as a species to exist, standing apart from all other things – only seals the circle we so desperately need to break.  In requiring a definition to give us meaning we in fact validate all of the atrocities of the past. In doing so we only encourage a future of much the same.

We must let go of our history – beginning with our individual construction, our own personal stories – and let those events be relegated to the past.  We must begin to live, to experience everything without the fears lingering from a history that plagues us.  We must move into the now.

To do this, to experience and live only in the present has been rendered almost impossible.  The Potemkin world we have created now controls us – to feel anything other than what we have assigned for ourselves is not just taboo it can be criminal.  In eliminating even the possibility of simply experiencing we have filled out heads with a perpetual chatter about nothing – chatter related entirely to ourselves as the constructs living in a Potemkin world.  We walk around worrying about our bank accounts, whether so-and-so loves us as much as we do them.  We think about clothes, mortgages, gossip and entertainment instead of breathing air, or feeling wind.  We obsess about unimportant details that compose the world and societies we have established.  As opposed to experiencing we wonder and worry – we feed our sense of self and as a result the reality we have constructed.  We do the exact opposite of what I am proposing.

I, of course, am no different.  Were it not for a chance encounter, what seemed as chance anyway, it is doubtful whether I would take the time to sort through this, my closet of shit.  Had my path not led to him on that day I decided to help myself – I am not so sure that there would be such compelling force to dispel with what was.


The Battle of the Self

What is it to feel this way?  At once you cling to this generally accepted reality of misery and you drift listlessly with sweeping energies colored in varying human emotions.  So long as things aren’t taken personally, what sound person wouldn’t chose the latter?

But anyone who has ever let go will tell you – dropping the clichés and setting yourself free is not as simple as you think. Although, yes, you come to a point, where the constructs that have always bound you just float away one after the other – the last stretch, where you must ultimately decide to let go or not, is battle.

It’s an interesting struggle, in which to behold oneself.   After all it is fought solely with the self.  Such awareness befalls you.  Inhaling you expect to release the last of the pressure binding you with the air to be expelled.  Reminders and notions of what you had constructed as a reality flood back to you. The reminders arouse responses of hurt, mistrust or even blinding physical pain. Suddenly, ordinary worries and the usual trivialities that consume most of our lives rush back to you and you begin to question everything.

“What was that sound?”

“What is one cigarette going to do to you?”

“Is he really right for me?”

“What am I doing in this job?”

Its negative energy – and its winning.  Yet suddenly something sets you adrift into a different direction.  You realize how this line of thought is useless and so many of these nagging questions don’t even matter.  All of this was built up in your own mind to appear important.  That was only aggravated by the constant social confirmations that you are in fact correct and normal in worrying.  So now that you are aware of this, why can’t you just let it go?

This is your battle – a fight between ego and awareness.  It’s an easy one to lose.  You live with your self, for let’s face it most of your life if you are normal, only to find out that you, the construct, is a sham.  Are you going to accept defeat or wage war?

Most tend to accept defeat – opening up their arms to the comfortable notion of self and the world self builds around it.  Busily concerning their selves with the image of what they think they are and what they perceive others to think of them.  This muddles up with trivial life problems, such as extramarital affairs, mortgages, careers, gossip and another being is swallowed up in the trials of existing.

There are, though, a small number who chose to battle – and ultimately discard of their selves completely.


An Escape

As a waft of perfume worn only by menopausal women desperate for filial attention hits my nose, I realize why I am in the spare bedroom.  Of course, this isn’t helping ease my anxiety. Quite the contrary, the events of last night come rolling back like an unwanted but inevitable hang over. And as with the cologne so horrid it remains etched in the air hours after the wearer’s departure, a more tangible reminder is found on my couch in the form of an overweight ass pointed upwards clad in stomach churning navy blue briefs. Norman had invited his mother and brother to come and live with us.  This cannot be the start of my day. Where is the remote?


“You are watching BBC World News, I am George Alagiah.” Good.  I haven’t missed George.  There isn’t any particular reason why anyone would prefer George to the other news anchors, but I like his name.  George Alagiah. Alagiah. It just rolls gently off the tongue.   I once looked his biography up on the BBC website just to uncover what sort of place produces a name like Alagiah. OK, maybe it’s vanity; after all, if I had the last name Alagiah just think about how cool my name would sound – Aliah Alagiah.  Sure it sounds a bit like a “John Johnson” but whatever…

“Europe continues to experience extreme weather patterns.  Across the Mediterranean temperatures continue to sore well above 40 degrees Celsius exceeding temperatures in drought stricken Africa. As parts of Europe buckle under intense heat other areas are struggling to push back rising flood waters.”

Better than the perpetually grey skies we suffer here. Or that particularly ugly storm front on my couch.

Brrring-Brrring, Brrring-Brrring.  The phone. Who could that be? An unknown number.  I hate answering calls that can’t be identified. What the hell – my day can’t get any worse. “Hello?”

A man’s voice gruff from years of smoking responds, “Khello,” in an accent emphasizing the consonants and lengthening the vowels in his words, “may I speak wiz Aliah McCauley?”

“This is she.”

“Aliah, I am cawlling on bekhawlf of ze layte A. Majevsky.  Zey whas a distant relatife of yours and as a result of zeir respect for your whork zey have lehft you all of zeir considerable estate.  As per zeir deerehctions, a man named Mikhayeel whill be arriving shortly to collect you.  A. Majevsky whished to assure you that ozer zan zose items utterly irreplaceable, such as family kheirlooms or other objects of sentimental value you need not bring anyzing furzer.  Indeed, bequeasthed to you is every book imaginable of any worth and a great deal more.”

“I see. Thank you for letting me know.” Funny, but I have no questions.  The bulbous ass facing me from the couch probably isn’t helping. Who would stay here? What else do I need to know?

“Very whell zen. As I said, Mikhayeel whill be zere shortly. Please try and be ready.”

Stunned I hang up the phone and wonder at what things to gather.  Fortunately, Norman had insisted on my leaving all of those objects near and dear to me packed in boxes in the garage when we moved in. About to head into the garage, I notice a shadow of a man on the other side of the glass in the front door. Mikhail is already here.


Cult of Personality

Lia looked at the Agent and waited. Leading this conversation was rattling Lia’s nerves. There was always something about law enforcement that had made her anxious, as if whenever the police were around, Lia immediately felt as though she were doing wrong even though she wasn’t. She couldn’t explain it, but in this she wasn’t alone; who doesn’t slow down on a highway with the sudden exposure of a police car waiting to catch speeders?

It went beyond that, though. There was a growing rift between society and law enforcement in Plebeia. Several policing agencies had suffered extreme corruption scandals, one involving that force’s own pension funds, and the relationship between law enforcement and the criminal underworld had settled into something more of a symbiosis, whereby the cops often didn’t act on complaints about local drug dealers, for example. This had been leading to an increased rate of vigilantism, which oddly was more punished than the crimes that had initially encouraged regular citizens to take matters into their own hands.

Sitting across from the silent PISS Agent was certainly making Lia feel as though she were hiding something. Conscious of her growing anxiety, Lia struggled not to fidget and so put her hands securely back around the now cold coffee mug and deliberately looked the Agent in the eye.  The ordinary woman stared back at Lia with a blank but not unintelligent look that was devoid of any sort of suspense yet seemed designed to stretch out the silence and test the effects of it on Lia’s composure. Refusing to carry the conversation, Lia inhaled deeply and carefully, so as not to make her breath obvious, in an attempt to steel her nerves.

At length, finally accepting Lia’s resolve, a subtle smirk appeared on the Agent’s face before she continued, “Was there any one event in specific that led you to quit?”

Lia looked at the Agent wryly. She clearly wasn’t getting it. Just as quickly as the proclamation had come to Lia’s thoughts, however, she checked herself: but did you really explain it to her? The answer was no. Again, Lia took a deep breath and tried not to judge the Agent and answered in as balanced a voice as she could muster, “If I had to say, it was more like a series of events that all built up in a crescendo, but the final nail in the coffin, so to speak, came at the first staff meeting we had with our new Director General.”

New Director General?” The Agent seemed to be surprised. “But I thought the only high-level late hire before the CACA Plenary was that Director who came over from the Minister’s office?” By the suddenly guarded expression the Agent adopted immediately after saying this, it would appear that the information had just slipped out.

She’s done her homework, thought Lia, but this was pretty general information in The Bubble. “Yes, that Director was the only late hire.” Lia reassured the Agent. “We had a new Director General because Josephina no longer wanted to report to her initial superior. And let me tell you, the change was significant.”

“What do you mean?”

OK, Lia contemplated, she’s interested in the organisation. “Well, as you probably know, there are two Director Generals in PEWE, both report directly to the Chief and have a number of Directors underneath them. The Directors seemed to be reporting to the respective DGs based on function – so, one DG covers all of the logistics for the event, you know the transportation and accommodations, while the other handles the soft stuff, like the media and outreach.  And honestly, you couldn’t find two more different personalities if you tried. The first, (and I am sure, as a security person you will appreciate my preference for him), was a former military man, very systematic and orderly. He didn’t mess around and had rules, so you knew what to expect and where you stood. He was also above petty politics and didn’t engage if attacked in a lowly manner. While all of this made him extremely fair and effective in actually executing the work, it made him prime bait for the other DG to belittle and use to gain the upper hand with the Chief.

“You see, the Chief is actually a really nice guy, or at least he can be, which is more than can be said for a lot of the others in PEWE. But the man doesn’t want trouble and often just gives in to make people happy. Whoever squawks the loudest will usually get what he wants with the Chief. And Ajay could certainly squawk.”

“Yes, I have heard that Ajay Naidu is a handful,” rejoined the Agent.

Lia laughed, “Well, I suppose you would be too if your name meant unconquered and your family originated from some ancient warrior caste.”

“Is that true?”

“From what I read on the Internet,” Lia shrugged, “what do I know? From what I’ve heard, Ajay comes from a tight-knit cabal from one of the coastal cities and has brought along a lot of his own in his meteoric rise up the bureaucratic pyramid.” Lia paused, making a face as if remembering something, and added, “Well, his own and handsome, young men.” Lia looked at the Agent questioningly to see whether the implication was understood.

“Oh?” was all the Agent said as she absorbed the new details.

“Yes, and Ajay isn’t particularly good to them. Supposedly, he forces them to go to movies and dinner with him. And heaven forbid they should refuse his request. I’ve heard that Ajay was stupid enough to actually respond in an email to one of his staff who turned down an invite to a show saying that he had prior plans; Apparently, Ajay’s reply was – you don’t have to lie, prick.

“At that staff meeting our division had with Ajay, he admitted to forcing his staff to show him their email accounts so that he could read everything they wrote. It was a weird encounter,” Lia became thoughtful as she tried to remember the meeting, “we had all been working at PEWE for six months and under him for at least half that time, and he just then decided we should sit down together, for what purpose none of us had been entirely sure. As we were about to be relocated to the site of the CACA Plenary, we thought it might be related to that.

“During the meeting, it became quickly apparent that it was just a typical opportunity for the Ajay Naidu Show to abuse a captive audience.  He was twenty minutes late and then began by talking about himself, his favourite thing: how important he was, what he had done in his career, he showed us a news reel about his role in organising the CACA Plenary and then embarrassed his deputy by asking if she was wearing the exact same outfit that day as she had in the video. Then he systematically went around the conference table and insulted people individually, telling some they were too fat to be considered viable exercise partners for him when we move, and others hicks for being from small towns. And throughout it all, the staff laughed as if Ajay had made the funniest jokes ever, encouraged by his reminding us that we were there to pander to politicians and that we should never fail to react accordingly to whatever entertaining tale with which a person in power chose to regale us.

“Our division laughed the loudest. The girls seemed to be competing for his favour. Ajay’s staff, however, while struggling to humour him seemed worn and drained. And then it began to dawn on me; Ajay was building a cult of personality around himself.”

“So what did you do?” asked the Agent.

Lia laughed and looked at the Agent a little astonished, “what could I do? I certainly didn’t laugh. Ajay wasn’t funny. He was scary. And frankly, after everything I had been through by that point, I was exhausted. Moreover, and what I haven’t told you yet, was that once we were relocated our Directors were given the authority to approve or reject our applications for leave – on weekends. So Josephina, who I had already come to loathe and fear by that point, was given absolute control, not only of my working life, but my personal time as well. And sitting there watching Ajay, to whom Josephina reported, I became painfully aware that there would be no one higher to appeal to, in fact, he was in many ways even worse. I was petrified. And if there had been any doubt about my decision to quit before that staff meeting, it was absolutely gone after that!”

Shaking her head, Lia added, “You know, immediately after that meeting, Carrie, our Senior Manager, came up to me and quietly said, you didn’t look very happy in there; you should try and smile a little more, it will be better for you.” Lia chuckled and smiled, “It was Theatre of the Absurd.”

For the complete on-going story, click on the icon below.



I didn’t notice it at first. The change. At the time it was almost imperceptible, at least to me. Looking back, well, it all probably started then. Who knows? Maybe it began well before that. Lord knows I wasn’t happy when I came to that job. I probably brought just as much baggage to that office as anyone else, Josephina Steele included. But if I had to pinpoint some moment in time, it was definitely around the holidays.

As I said, Josephina was never really out of the office. During the second half of the holidays, she physically came into work one of the days. I was already frustrated with Ariel and Alison, more than I probably should have been, so I requested a private meeting with Josephina. Things hadn’t yet changed between us, at least not from my perspective. I still felt comfortable around her, but the stress of working under Josephina was beginning to build. Really, I didn’t know what was happening to me, it seemed situational and if everyone else would just start pulling her weight, maybe I wouldn’t be so miserable.  Or so I thought.

The reason I wanted to talk to Josephina was to ensure that I would stop having to do Ariel’s, and potentially Allison’s, work. It was apparent, to me, that Ariel and Allison couldn’t sit together anymore. If they couldn’t stop talking, they definitely couldn’t do any work.

Josephina and I went downstairs for a coffee in the office building’s small cafeteria.  We took a seat by the window at one of the small square tables for two. Josephina looked at me with her cold tired eyes expectantly waiting for me to say something. I instantly began to feel nervous. Second guesses swarmed my head: What if what I had to say was trivial? What was I doing here? This was stupid. It was too late.

“So what is it?” Josephina asked impatiently.

“Um, well, I just wanted to tell you about your staff in your absence.” Oh God, what am I doing, was all I could think. The words wouldn’t come out right and by then I was certain that this was a very big mistake. I began to worry about Josephina’s reaction and that only made me more nervous. It blinded me to the other changes.

Josephina was staring at me as if I was some sort of idiot, or so I thought. I felt pressed to continue, “Well, Ariel and Allison probably shouldn’t sit together.”

“What do you mean?” Josephina spoke sharply, each word cutting the air as she pronounced the syllables.

“Uh, they don’t stop talking, ever. And it’s loud and distracting to anyone unfortunate enough to have sit near them.” There, it was out.

Josephina sat there silent for a few minutes, adding finally, “Yes, you are probably right.” And then just as abruptly as before, “Is there anything else?”

Ariel is pregnant. Something in my head encouraged me to tell her about Ariel and her accidental pregnancy. I didn’t have a chance to think why or whether or not I should be telling Josephina about it. My nerves were rapidly becoming the only thing that I was able to take notice of, and they were tightening fast. I looked at Josephina’s old and sagging face. Her dark brown eyes were beady and hard, and I started to feel fear, but I still to this day couldn’t say as to of what. I just feared. It was like a building anxiety that soon would never leave me.  Amidst all of this the words just flew out of my mouth, “Ariel is pregnant.”

“Did she tell you that?” Josephina looked at me with eyes full of knowing. Ariel had clearly already come to her with the news.

“Uh, no. She told Allison. The whole office heard. She also told the world that she wasn’t sure what she was going to do about it, that she might still have an abortion and that it was twins. For the last week, whenever she did show up at the office, this was all the two of them were talking about. People get pregnant all the time. It shouldn’t impact her work and disrupt others.” The last two sentences surprised even me. They were so judgemental and vindictive. And yet this growing anxiety blinded me to it. I was so irritated by the idea that I was working and having to do more because others let their personal lives get in the way, I didn’t even question whether or not my behaviour was appropriate. I just didn’t care. It makes me sick to think about the things that I’ve done, especially there.

Josephina appeared to be considering what I had said and added, “It won’t. I won’t tolerate it.  There is work to be done here and it won’t wait for this sort of crap. I don’t care if she is pregnant or not. Lot’s of women have kids. Look at Carrie.”

Carrie Stone was our Senior Manager. She had four kids all born within a five-year span. Her husband and she had come from a small town not too far from The Bubble (that’s what I call the capital). Carrie was older. I’m not sure how old. She was definitely too old that to ask might be offensive, but her youngest child was only ten so it would leave you wondering whether or not she was as old as the deep wrinkle between her eyes suggested. In any event, Carrie had barely taken a couple of months off with each birth and she continued to be the first person to volunteer for overtime. Moreover, she was commuting one-way for an hour every day. I had no idea how she managed, but thought it was probably a money issue. Her husband was just a general labourer. Carrie had no higher education and seemed grateful to have the job she did, which for the last fifteen years had been under Josephina.

“Yeah,” I agreed, “Carrie is pretty remarkable like that.” Having been privy to Ariel’s shoddy work over the holidays, I was less convinced that she had it in her to follow in Carrie’s footsteps and so I told Josephina as much.

Surprisingly, Josephina defended Ariel saying, “The problem is, when she does work, it’s good.” At this I tried hard not to make a face. There had not been one item Ariel had touched, which I had seen anyway, that did not have at least a single glaring mistake.  The woman was clearly incompetent. Josephina’s defence of her didn’t make sense: when it came to the work of others, like myself for example, mistakes were not tolerated. Josephina wasn’t rude about it, (always), but she also wasn’t very nice either. Later I learned that Ariel’s last job had been as an assistant to the Chief of PEWE and that she was yet another “placement” from him.

What Josephina was about to say, however, shocked me even more. Suddenly, and from what seemed like nowhere, she asked, “Do think she is really pregnant?”

The idea had never occurred to me, but given Ariel’s behaviour, openly talking about being knocked-up and abortions, it sort of made sense.  I tried to shake off the stunned look that was most likely on my face. “You don’t think she would make it up, do you?” The idea was so far from the realm of what I would consider normal, despite Ariel’s behaviour. I had a difficult time believing someone would actually do that. And to what ends? “Why would she do something like that?” I wondered.

“For sympathy.” Josephina was blunt. “But I don’t have any for her. I think she is a liar.”


Lia glanced at the Agent, whose face remained immovable. This adopted cover must be great for preventing wrinkles, Lia mused and tried not to laugh at the stupidity of her own thoughts. Sparing Lia the effort, the Agent asked, “So what happened in the end, I mean after this talk with Josephina?”

Lia scoffed quietly and smirked at the absurdity of it all, explaining, “Well, Ariel was moved – to the cubicle beside mine. Her phone was just on the other side of the fake walls partitioning the cubes. They aren’t soundproofed. I had to endure every personal conversation she made, and of those there were many. One day I overheard as she arranged to go snowboarding on a Saturday, but two days after a certain medical procedure, which had her taking a couple of personals days from work.” Lia shrugged her shoulders.

“What about the work load?” The agent inquired, “Did it at all improve?”

“Of course not.” Lia answered, “But this can’t be what you have come to hear.”

For the complete on-going story, please click the icon below.


The Possessed

Today I chose to rework the ongoing Josephina Steele story – it’s going to be a little darker, I think. The story can be viewed in its incomplete totality by clicking the link below.

Otherwise, I would really appreciate feedback on all of the writing posted here, so set up an anonymous account and start posting your ideas and input, please!


Soul Crushing

Never had I really considered the concept of soul crushing. What that might entail both in the experiencing and crushing of a soul. I didn’t take the time to really, deeply consider the process from beginning to end. What it might feel like, what it would take. I think my own soul might be crushed.  But I’m not sure, because I still can’t quite imagine what soul crushing is. All I’m really aware of, even now, is the sensation of being crushed. And even at that I begin questioning my own sanity. Afraid to ask how rational my reactions have been this past while. Or. Oh God. What if I’ve been reacting so disproportionately to everything around me?

It’s all very blurred. It happened so quickly. The crushing. It was just a blip in time. At least from the time I noticed something seriously wrong to the awareness of being crushed. It was less than six months. I feel sick. Not just nauseous at the thought of everything, but sick with what seems like an illness of mind.  It’s just a job.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1 other follower