Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Payroll Tech

The floor was barely visible, covered with ripped and filthy papers piled high to the ceiling and nearly overflowing the dark and dingy room. The Payroll Tech, sitting in the middle of it all, absolutely hated the end of the month when every Servant, Agent, and Minion of Sauron trudged into his office to submit their timesheets for processing.

He loathed the paperwork from the Goblins and Trolls because it was slimy and grimy and stuck to his fingers. The timesheets from the Orcs had the added bonus of a layer of blood, which made their markings nearly impossible to decipher. And for almost a year the PT had suffered through the sneers and snarls of the Uruk-Hai, who barked and spat at him for having to adhere to such "bureaucratic nonsense".

"Don't blame me," he'd always reply, "I just do as I'm told."

Once, and only once he'd added, "... just like you," which was the stupidest thing he'd ever said to an Orc. But, even worse than the Orcs were the timesheets of the Nazgul.

The PT had to wear heavy asbestos gloves in order to touch the Wraiths' paperwork, and the gloves made him sneeze furiously for days. To add to his misery, his wife would refuse to do the wash because of the sulfur that permeated his clothing, and instead made him trudge 10 miles to the nearest laundromat. (Mind you, the river still ran black even that far from Mount Doom, and it took over an hour of hard scrubbing on the washboard just to get his jerkin halfway to presentable.)

The PT snapped his head up from the desk full of dirty rotten timesheets and sighed.

He'd forgotten to bring in his gloves, which he'd had to pay for out of his own pocket money (much to the chagrin of his wife, who made him eat soup for a month). He whispered a curse of thanks to Sauron that the Wraiths were usually late with their submissions, and checked his pocket watch to see if he had enough time to race back home, get the gloves, and return to his office before they appeared.

"Fallow!" came the scream from his supervisor. "Nazguls comin', ETA 40 minutes. Get your room cleared now."

He cursed again as he looked around at all the paperwork that still littered his office. Just a flick from an N's timesheet would ignite it all and leave him buried beneath the mound of ashes. He'd learned that lesson the hard way one too many times, and so he did what his supervisor would deny if ever an auditor checked the books.

He buzzed for assistance before putting his head down and his back into it, scribbling furiously in the ledger as fast as he could. While he was busy marking all the submissions with what he knew were the typical hours worked for each and every Goblin, Troll, Orc, Warg, Easterling and Dunlending across the Shadowlands, two techs came in and started shredding the timesheets and bagging the leavings. They took turns shoving papers through the rows of machetes and then cording each full bag and taking it out to the dumpsters.

They weren't quite finished when the smell of sulfur drifted into the room.

"Ah shite," one of the lowly assistant's whined, and Fallow glared at him. There were still a few piles of timesheets remaining, but thankfully the PT had just scribbled in the last row of hours. He slammed the book shut and put it in his fireproof drawer, then stood up and raced to the shredder. He shoved the tech aside and grabbed the levers to spin the gears faster while the assistants scrambled about the room to throw the remaining papers at the spinning blades. Slivers drifted up into the air while most of the shreddings found their way into the bags that were hooked onto the back of the machine.

The techs grabbed the last bags and rushed out of his now empty office, and the PT sat down at his desk. He had settled his blackest sunglasses on his nose when he heard the first Nazgul enter the room.

"Just put it down," he said keeping his eyes averted and tapping the corner of his desk, "right there please."

He heard the sizzle as the timesheet hit the metal desktop. He repeated the same instructions seven more times, bearing the brunt of the odors and heat that swirled about and battered him with the coming and going of each Wraith. He waited, sweating in his leather boots as the ninth and most powerful Nazgul glided in.

"Doooo yoooou haaaave aaaa pennnn?" The voice was deep, slow and deliberate, and had the most frightening timbre the PT had ever heard.

Fallow swallowed hard. He was already drenched but now felt as if he was sinking into the fiery lavas of Mount Doom. His hands trembled as he opened a drawer, pulled out his strongest metal writing tool and laid it on the desk. He heard the King of the Nazguls pick it up and scratch his mark.

"Thaaaaank yoooou," the King said.

The only way Fallow knew that the wraith had left the room was because the heat dropped 50 degrees and just to this side of tolerable. He took off his sunglasses and watched with fascination as the pen bubbled on his desk, a puddle of melting metal and black ink that he knew would harden into a dark diamond he could trade on the black market (perhaps netting as much as the cost of sending his wife off to cooking school).

A spark floated down and landed on his nose, which brought his attention back to the present situation. The few slivers that hadn't been bagged had ignited the moment the King had appeared. He thanked his lucky demons that they'd finished shredding the piles of papers just in time, and now he could continue on with his work.

He opened his firesafe drawer and pulled out the ledger, then considered for a moment how to handle the timesheets of the Wraiths. He called out to his supervisor.

"Um, boss?" he said, "can I borrow your gloves?" knowing full well that his supervisor would say "no" but gladly sell them to Fallow for a markup that would have him eating soup for another two months.

<word count: 1061>

1 comment:

Parabolic Muse said...

Oh I loved it! I read it to Cathie. Excellent!!