"Hello? I am Jeff. I am here for my interview. Is anyone there? In the darkness? Is anyone there? Our appointment was at 9:00."
"Jeff. My name is Jeff."
"Kevin, we refer you to the relevant sections of the handbook, where our policies are laid out in detail. Your violations have been noted. Disciplinary action is in process."
"Discipline? For Kevin, right? Because I am Jeff."
"No time theft, no late punch-ins, no malingering.
"No long lunches, no late lunches, no snack breaks. No predator-prey relationships.
"No vacation days used for personal time. No personal days used in place of vacation. No sick days. Do not come to work sick.
"No food in the bunkrooms. No sleeping in the mess. Books stay in the refectory, don't get caught reading in the dormitory. No praying on the roof, no harvesting of beets when the blood moon shines. No expectorating, ejaculating, exsanguinating or defecating except in designated areas, designated areas to be marked with a designated designation followed by graphic designating the designated activity. Is that clear, Kevin?"
"Jeff. I told you…"
"Kevin: if you fill out your pink forms before 3 pm, you must hand them in to the pale secretary in the bursar's chamber with an accompanying photocopy of a photocopy of your birth certificate. If it is after 3 pm and the fussy person who waters the ferns is taking the stairs rather than the elevator, please provide proof of vaginal birth via green testament of organic origin or terse diary entry. If a fire-eyed man is hunkering in the southwest corner of the vestibule and he is clacking two oyster-shells together like rustic castanets, don sackcloth and flee into the barren hills, seeking the blessed resurrection via mortification of some tender body part (example: the soles of your feet. )
"No dangling in the suicide nets on company time.
"No smoking. Don't litter. Kevin, you have multiple citations for littering."
"Jeff. I'm Jeff. And I, Jeff, have never littered. I have sung hymns by the water cooler. I have photocopied. Bless me, mother, for I have photocopied."
"We see you have asked for a raise, Kevin."
"I would not object to a raise. Please give a raise to Jeff. He is a deserving employee."
"Very well then. The request procedure depends on the type of supervisor."
"Please explain. I, Jeff, am not sure what that means."
"There are many different types of supervisor.
"Some bite, some spit acid from hidden face-pits, a few are harmless, or old and or rendered meek by time and fate.
"If the supervisor prances on one hoof and squeals Ya-hey moony momma! then it is the banded variety of supervisor, and a swift blow to the spinnerets should quiet him.
"If on the other hand the supervisor has a red blaze across the sternum and mutters Tel-al-abib, mother, caress my dirty hands, it is probably an Irish water-lapper and will require a rod of pure silver applied to the thorax.
"If the supervisor has one blank white eye, and one eye terrible with nuclear death, and if that supervisor is half-bear from the waist up, but has human hands, it is most likely a greater Tanzanian leaping supervisor. Do not come near. Beat a drum of dried skin, scatter peas on the thirsty soil. Give birth to a shapeless ball of eyeteeth and cysts."
"I do not think that I, Jeff, am capable of giving birth. I doubt very much that Kevin is, either. Can you distinguish Jeff from Kevin? Can you distinguish one human from another?
"You aren't answering. Are you there, in the darkness? I, Jeff, am calling you. You have stopped speaking.
"Our appointment was at 9:00. I, Jeff, am late, I know. I am late by twice ten thousand years. And the floods have bathed the dry hills, and the mountains have fallen in the sea. And the stars have made their circuits, and the scorpion has caught the harrow. And still the earth goes hurtling through the darkness.
"That's what we humans do, we hurtle, and we're very good at it."
Matthew F. Amati was born in Chicago but grew up among the banyans and motorcarts of a faraway republic. He lives by a canal, where he mutters. His work has appeared previously in The Cafe Irreal as well as in Flash Fiction Online, Daily Science Fiction, and several print anthologies. You can find a lot of it linked here: www.mattamati.com.