The Removal Team, #FictionFriday

13 05 2011

Well, finally I’m releasing a short story.  This one actually was inspired by Write Anything group’s Fiction Friday challenge.  (Challenge #207 to be exact.)  I love the concept of a weekly writing contest for the community to gather around, so if you’d like to try it out yourself, go here and see what’s coming up next as well as the Fiction Friday rules.

But I digress.  Here’s my entry for this week.  Please excuse any rough patches–one of Fiction Friday’s rules is to not edit.  A rule I actually appreciated.

Hope you enjoy!

 

The Removal Team

Ignavius Dom was not a bad man, but he did not have any remarkable qualities, either.  Perhaps that’s what ruined him in the end.

Ignavius worked for the Corporation.  His father and mother had sold their business a few years ago, and the new CEO had fired him on the spot—but given his family’s reputation, the Corporation had been eager to accept Ignavius’ request for employment.  Had been, at the time.  Now, the Corporation wasn’t so sure.

And that’s where we find Ignavius now—on his way back to his small cubicle, reading a fishing magazine.  He was supposed to finish that report on the Corporation’s loss of sales due to the recent oil spill in Texas, but Ignavius wasn’t too concerned about it.  What were they going to do, fire him?  Big deal.  He could just call on mom and dad for a little cash until he found his next job.

Actually, he thought, it might be a good time to find another job anyway.  After having just broken up with Jennifer—who happened to be on the Corporation’s board—Ignavius could do with a change of scenery, and a friendlier atmosphere.

All of these thoughts flew from Ignavius’ mind when he turned into the cubicle.  The paperwork on his desk—including the oil spill report—had all been stamped with red ink in giant letters, “REMOVE.”  Ignavius frowned and tossed the magazine on the desk.  He picked up a picture of him on a fishing trip—it too had been stamped, “REMOVE.”  The red M completely blotted out his face.

“Ah, there you are!”

Ignavius spun around to see a friendly-looking man in a suit smiling at him, arms open.

“I’ve been looking all over for you,” said the man.

“Do I know you?” asked Ignavius.

Behind him, he heard the clicking sound of a stamper.  Ignavius jumped at the sound and saw a nondescript man had just stamped “REMOVE” on his fishing magazine.

“What are you doing?”

“Don’t mind him,” said the friendly, white haired man.

“Listen, those are my things.  I don’t need the word ‘REMOVE’ all over what I’ve been working on.  What’s that even supposed to mean?  Wait, do you work here?  Am I being fired?”

Donald, an overweight office rat, stuck his head in then.  “Ignavius, who are you talking to?”

“Who’s it look like?” asked Ignavius, gesturing at the white haired man in a suit.  Only, the man wasn’t there anymore.  And neither was the man with the stamper.

Ignavius looked around frantically as Donald’s expression grew worried.

“There’s…nobody there, Ignavius.  Are you feeling alright?  Maybe you should go home, get some rest or something.  You don’t look too well.”

Ignavius mumbled something unintelligible, and Donald snuck away—quickly—to his own cubicle.

“That was a close one,” said the friendly man, suddenly right in front of Ignavius, who shouted and fell over into his trash bin.  He shouted an obscenity or two on the way down.

“As I was saying,” said the man, “you shouldn’t worry about him.  He’s just prepping your things for Removal.”  He indicated the happy stamper, who had moved Ignavius out of the way to stamp “REMOVE” on all of the rubbish and thrown away paper in the trash bin.

“Why?” Ignavius squeaked.  It was all he could think to say.

The friendly man hesitated, his bright smile unfaltering.  “Well…  Let’s take a walk, and I’ll explain how this goes.”

The man helped Ignavius off the floor and put an arm around his shoulder, guiding him out of the cubicle, where several average looking men in suits now worked through the desk drawers.  They stamped over every leaf of paper Ignavius had worked on over the last few years.

“What’s going on?” asked Ignavius when they reached the stairwell, muttering more to himself than the friendly man.

“Well, I’m afraid you’ve been marked for Removal,” said the man, taking the steps upward.

“Removal?”

“Yes.  I’m sorry.  But you’ll be glad to know my team takes pride in making the process quick, and the effects painless.”

“What…are the effects?”

“Being Removed, of course.”

“From the Corporation?” asked Ignavius, confused.

The man only laughed.  It was a nice laugh, but it gave Ignavius a nasty taste at the back of his throat.

“Did I do something wrong?” asked Ignavius.  “If I’m going to be fired, I’d at least like to know why.”

“My team isn’t from the Corporation, Mr. Dom.  But Miss Merula, who I’ve been told you know, did hire us to complete this process.”

“Jennifer hired you?”

“Yes.”

They broke out of the stairwell finally, out into the open air of the roof.  It hadn’t been that far up from Ignavius’ floor, but still he was glad to stop and catch his breath.

“I figured this was coming,” he confided in the man.  “Jennifer and I went on a couple of dates—but my lack of interest in her collections annoyed her, so we split off.  She’s been rude to me ever since.”

“Well I am sorry to have to do this,” said the man, “but Miss Merula’s application for your Removal was completely acceptable, and she paid us very well.  Never turn down good business, right?”

“Right,” said Ignavius, unsure.

The rooftop door opened, and a small man in an over coat and a wide brimmed hat came out.  He limped towards them slowly, leaning heavy on a black cane.

“Ah,” said the friendly man, “here he is now.  Mr. Dom, this is my associate, Detrotick.  He’ll be the one Removing you.”

Ignavius backed up against the roof’s edge.  “I think I can walk myself out of the building, thank you.  I don’t need help leaving.”

The man sighed, his smile a sheepish grin now.  “Mr. Dom, I don’t think I’ve made myself clear enough.  You’re not being fired—you’re being Removed.”

“I still don’t know what you mean by that!  What does that mean?” Ignavius shouted.  He was increasingly uneasy about the small man—Detrotick—limping towards him.  Ignavius couldn’t see Detrotick’s face under the man’s wide hat, just his bone white chin and what looked like a forced grin.

The friendly man sputtered through his smile.  “It means you’re being Removed.  What else would you like me to say?”

“REMOVED FROM WHAT?”

“From everything, Mr. Dom.”  The friendly man smiled sadly, patting Ignavius on the shoulder.

Ignavius flinched away, circling Detrotick, looking at the door to the stairs.  He was terrified now, afraid Jennifer had sent a group of assassins after him.  After all, she had the money, the connections, and the success-created madness required to do so.

“I wouldn’t do that,” said the friendly man, smiling knowingly towards the stairwell.  “It will just tire you out, running.  It’s always better if you just sit down and relax.”

Ignavius burst out in a flailing run.  The Detrotick grabbed his button up shirt, pulling him close in.  Ignavius screamed as he realized the Detrotick’s face was bone white because it was bone.  The man’s head was a skull.

The Detrotick stood up, slowly unfolding from its stood posture.  It never seemed to stop standing up, growing taller and taller as Ignavius watched.  It raised its black cane, which somehow began to resemble a scythe.

Ignavius screamed and pushed the Detrotick’s hand away.  It didn’t budge.  He pulled himself forward, ripping out the entire right half of his shirt’s front in order to get away.  He flung himself into the stairwell, nearly tumbling down the first several flights before getting off on his floor.  He ran to his cubicle to collect his car keys and wallet.

But when he got there, another man sat at his desk, talking on the phone.  There were pictures of the man and his family on the desk, and as Ignavius watched, the man finished typing a document on the computer.  The trash bin was empty except for a plastic salad bowl.

There was no sign Ignavius had ever been in the cubicle.

Donald walked by with a cup of coffee.  He stopped and stared at Ignavius.

“Can I help you?” asked Donald, staring at Ignavius’ ripped shirt.  “Are you here for a…interview?”

The door to the stairwell opened.  The Detrotick was there.  Behind him—it—the friendly man smiled and spread his hands as if to say, I told you so.

Somewhere on the other side of the room, Ignavius heard the elevator bell ding, and he took off for it like a madman.  He pushed several people out of the way as Donald started calling, “Security!  Security!”

Other office rats scrambled and yelled at him as Ignavius shoved his way into the elevator, slamming the FIRST FLOOR and CLOSE DOORS buttons alternatively.   Through the sliding closed doors, he could just see the Detrotick moving slowly towards him.  Limping, small.

Other elevator passengers clung to the walls at first, glaring at Ignavius on the way down.

The doors opened and Ignavius, out of breath, moved forward, trying to decide what to do next.  His car keys had been…Removed.  Was his car gone, too?  And he had no cash for a bus or some way to get out of town.

A door opened on his right—a stairwell door.  The Detrotick limped out slowly, the friendly man nowhere to be seen.  And with him, all pretenses of friendliness were gone.

Ignavius ran.  The only place he knew to go was his parents’ house.  They’d get him out of this mess.  They had money, and more connections than Jennifer.  Whatever this was they could fix it.

 He shouldered through the Corporation’s front doors and spotted a man getting in a taxi.  Wildly, desperately, Ignavius pulled the man out before the door closed and hopped in the cab.

“Go,” he shouted.  “Go, go, go now!”

The taxi driver started in a panic, slamming his foot down on the gas pedal.

“Whoa, man!  What’s wrong?”

“Don’t—don’t ask!  Just go!  As fast as you can!”

“Okay, pal, okay.  Take it easy.”  The taxi driver nodded calmly, soothingly, but kept up the dangerous speed.  “Where am I supposed to be going?”

“The docks,” said Ignavius.  “The docks on the east side of town.”

“Alright, man.  Docks it is.  Just take it easy, and I’ll get you there.”

Ignavius relaxed, closed his eyes.  His chest heaved from breathless panic, and his legs hurt.  He’d never run like that in his whole life.

Then he remembered he hadn’t put his seat belt on.  He opened his eyes and reached for the belt, but out of the corner of his eye he saw a small figure in a trench coat sitting beside him.

Ignavius screamed at the Detrotick, who sat grinning its skull grin at him.  It held the black cane sideways over its lap, hands folded pleasantly on top.

Ignavius let the seatbelt go—it zipped back into the hole behind the seat, slapping the window as it did so—and opened his door.  The taxi driver yelled something at him, slamming on the breaks.  But Ignavius didn’t hear what the driver said.  He fell out the door, rolling over the harsh asphalt.  It burned his skin and scraped his exposed stomach.

Somewhere behind him, a car horn blared to life.  He was aware of skidding tires and the sounds of crunching metal.  Ignavius looked up from his fetal position on the ground to see a car had swerved into the taxi cab—probably to avoid him.

He wondered if that would slow the Detrotick down any.

Ignavius got up and jogged to the sidewalk.  He didn’t stop, but kept going west, where his parents’ house would be.

It was a long—and exhausting—run.  Ignavius’ body burned with effort, and several people had scrambled to get out of his way.  He probably looked like a lunatic.  But he didn’t care.

He was just happy the Detrotick hadn’t shown up anymore.  Still, he wasn’t out of the woods yet.

Ignavius nearly cried with joy when his parents’ building came into view.  He renewed his efforts, surging inside and finding an open elevator.  Their penthouse was at the top.

He looked out the door before the elevator closed.

No sign of the Detrotick.  Nor when the doors opened.

Ignavius stepped out, nervous.  He looked both ways before continuing through the lobby to knock on his parents’ door.

He waited.  No one answered the door.

He knocked again, looking over his shoulder.  The Detrotick wasn’t there.

Finally, when Ignavius could take it no longer, he found the fire axe in the hallway next to the lobby and came back, a look of utter madness in his eyes.  He hacked away at his parents’ door.

By the time he’d broken through enough to reach in and undo the locks, he was completely out of breath.  Ignavius stumbled in, feeling his heart flutter against his ribs.  It was then—when he stood looking at his parents’ lifeless penthouse—that he remembered.  They were out of town.

He noticed the picture in the front hallway.  It was his family, on a fishing trip.  He’d caught a small bass on the trip, while his father had caught a huge one.  But in the picture, Ignavius wasn’t there.  Just his father, holding up this huge catch.

Ignavius stumbled against the wall.  Movement caught the corner of his right eye.  The Detrotick was coming around the corner.

Ignavius got up and ran out of his house, clutching the fire axe to his chest.  He stumbled in the lobby, breath coming to him in shallow, meaningless gulps.

Looking down over him, the Detrotick started to stand straighter.

***

 

The friendly man knocked on the door, smiling under warm office lights.

“Miss Merula?”

Jennifer Merula turned around in her high backed desk chair.  She had her black hair pulled tight in a ponytail, revealing too much of her pale face and wide, glaring eyes.

“Yes?”

“I’m from the Removal Team.”

“Oh, right.”  She stood and pulled the stack of green bills from her desk.  “Here’s the other half.  Is it done?”

“My associate said he was almost finished.  Your friend Mr. Dom caused quite a ruckus in the streets though.”

“That flat footed bore is not my friend.  He’s a waste of space.”

A cell phone rang, and the friendly man in a suit put his finger up.  “Hang on, let me just answer this.  Hello?  Yes?  Very good.  Thanks.”

Jennifer Merula frowned as he hung up, having trouble remembering what they’d just been talking about.

“It’s done,” he said.

“Oh,” she said.  “Good.  I’m sorry, what was it we were talking about, again?”

The friendly man smiled.  “Pleasure doing business with you, Miss Merula.  I’ll be seeing you soon.”

“That’s…good,” said Jennifer, rubbing her left temple.  “That’ll be nice.”

The friendly man left the office, leaving only the trace of a smile behind, his job done.  Tomorrow was another day.

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One response

11 06 2011
Doug

very cool…and creepy.

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