He thought about his recent girlfriend, Martha, who he had given up to move to a new city to work for Munt Corporation. He had loved her, it was true, but she had been unwilling to move with him and so he had no choice but to do what he thought was the decent thing and break it off with her. His new job would only put a tight strain on their relationship; meetings would be few and far between and the both of them would only grow frustrated and resentful. But he leaned back in his chair as he became misty-eyed; he thought about the early days of their romance and how he had, at one point, thought that she would be the girl he would marry. Still, he had ambitions and a career to forge and if she couldn’t understand that then there was no future between them. She was being stubborn in refusing to move with him. He couldn’t languish in the countryside forever. He had done the right thing. She had her own ambitions, it was true, but she never tried to help him with his own. She didn’t understand him, saying that working for a finance company was like working for the devil. They don’t care about you she had said. They only care about money. Pish, thought Kevin.
More hours passed and he couldn’t work out whether or not he had fallen asleep for a short while. It certainly felt like he had because he couldn’t remember what he had been thinking about for the last hour or so and he felt groggy.
He checked his watch – it still said eight fifty-five. He held it close to his ear to see if it was still ticking – it wasn’t.
‘That’s all I need,’ he said wearily to himself. He now had no idea what time it was.
Feeling agitated, he rose from his chair to stretch his legs and then had the idea of cupping his ear against one of the walls to see if he could hear something – anything from the next room that would put him in touch with his co-worker’s. Before joining Munt Corporation, he had been excited at the thought of working with fellow like-minded and determined colleagues towards one collective, beautiful goal. He was a little dispirited to be working alone, and in such deprived conditions, but he kept telling himself that it was only temporary and that soon he would be promoted. He believed in his abilities.
He knelt down and placed his ear against one of the walls – silence. He stayed there for a few moments and pressed his ear closer but still he couldn’t hear a sound.
‘Perhaps their role is similar to mine,’ he said with irony.
All he could hear was the faint rumbling sound of the pipes.
‘This building could do with a makeover,’ he surmised.
Still, it wasn’t for him to say how the interior of Munt Corporation should look and he scolded himself for having such thoughts. He tried once more to listen in to the next room – but all was still silent, as though no one was even in there. He couldn’t even remember if his office was at the very end of the corridor. It had certainly been very far down the corridor. He pictured someone working in the next room – he pictured a beautiful young woman, with thick glasses and brown hair. Intelligent and determined, she was a fast worker who lived for her job. She lived to serve the state. He smiled at her and called her Lucy. What a lovely name for a lovely worker!
His telephone began to ring. Surprised, he shot up so quickly that he banged the back of his head against the wall as he levered himself up, before rushing over to his desk. He was brimming with excitement. After a third ring he lifted up the receiver.
‘Hello. Munt Corporation. Kevin Ellis speaking,’ he said eloquently into the receiver, his excitement channelling through his voice.
‘Not quit yet?’ came the mocking reply from a hoarse, sinister-sounding voice.
‘Pardon?’ queried Kevin, a little perplexed.
All he could hear was heavy breathing.
‘Not quit the job yet?’ repeated the abominably cynical voice. It sounded distant, as though the man was far away from the receiver. Kevin thought it sounded ghoulish.
‘Who is this?’ asked Kevin.
The man on the phone began to cackle hoarsely, evidently amused by something.
‘Hello?’ repeated Kevin.
The cackle stopped to be replaced by monotonous, heavy breathing which indicated that the man on the other side was a heavy smoker. Kevin noted how false the voice sounded; as though the man, whoever he was, was hiding his real identity. It certainly didn’t sound like a normal voice.
‘Sir, Munt Corporation is very busy so if there is nothing further that you want from us then I’m afraid I’ll have to hang up.’
There was a long pause. Kevin couldn’t even hear the breathing anymore. All he could hear were the simple strains of room noise. He wondered where the caller was calling from.
‘How do you like your office?’ asked the voice, still sounding fake, still sounding hoarse and creepy.
‘Sir, Munt Corporation is very busy and – ‘
The man began to cackle again before cutting himself off mid-laughter. Dial tone. Kevin continued to listen for a few more seconds before slowly putting the phone back on its hook.
‘How very strange,’ he said.
He felt his spine tingle and an odd sensation rippled through his body. He hadn’t expected prank calls at Munt Corporation; certainly, nobody had warned him about phone calls of that nature. Maybe, he mused, it was a rival firm. Maybe this person telephoned all newcomers at his building in a bid to unsettle them. Yes, that was it; the caller was from a rival firm who was trying to unnerve him. Whoever it was, they were certainly feigning a voice so that they could obscure their true identity. He shivered when he thought how inhuman the man had sounded.
The New Job and Other Stories, a collection of short stories, can be purchased now through amazon: