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Journey to Fulfillment

Victoria Mashburn

          You look up as the fruit bat clock on your office wall strikes noon. Time for lunch, which today is frog’s eyes with sweetened condensed milk, delivered to you via teleportation. The menu is not as odd as it usually is, but you are not sure that you should try to pick out a pattern just yet. After all, normal is a setting on an appliance, and that phrase is taken to heart at your new job, where you work in a supply closet with a brass plate above the door labeled ‘Office 307: Miscellaneous.’

          As you eat, you look around the room, thinking about just how accurate that engraving is. On the east wall, there are jars of viscera and vials of congealed blood dating all the way back to the 1940s. On the west wall, there are employee manuals in every language currently known to man, bound, of course, in the skin of a native from the country of the language’s origin. As is custom, the skins were acquired humanely and with the family’s permission, as they still are today. Accompanying those are Playbills from plays that have not been written yet, thanks to Felix, who had unfortunately broken the company time machine and made management upset enough that it would not replace it any time soon. Finally, on the south wall, there are typical office supplies. Bins upon bins lined the shelves, filled with such things as sticky notes, fountain pens, regular paper clips, jumbo paper clips, and chargers for the company phonographs.

          Your work space is on the north wall, which you find ironic. Though a compass points due north whenever one is trying to find the right direction, you have no idea in which direction you are meant to go, especially not here. While you were hired by your current employer for a job, and you signed a contract, you do not know what you are meant to do, nor do you know what the company does. It seems that every department and worker gives themselves a title, so you have decided to do the same. As of today, you are the Miscellaneous Services Coordinator.

          As you are making a note to get your title engraved on an official placard for your desk, the company president walks into your office, their bowl being carried by one of the many glass-eyed interns. You knew coming in that the president was an androgynous betta fish, but it still unsettles you a bit when you see them speaking through the intern. Today, they need you to seek out Office 308, which does not appear to exist. In fact, the office numbering stops at yours, then begins again at Office 328, making a total of twenty-one consecutive nonexistent offices. The spirits in the break room tell of those offices existing but being moved to a higher plane of existence when Violet Sbara, former communications liaison, sent them there via a very powerful sneeze. You accept the assignment, after which the president takes you 42 floors down to the sub-basement level of the building. They cough up a minuscule key, which the intern scoops from the bowl and hands to you. You go up to the only door on the floor, letting the attached device scan your key in the corresponding slot.

          Hesitating only for a fraction of a second, you pass through the doorway. The darkness surrounding you is impossibly pure. The only way you know that you are blinking is by the pull of the muscles in your eyelids. You hear shuffling, then a dim pinprick of light illuminates the void.

          As you reorient yourself, the light drifts closer, no brighter than a candle flame and no larger than a golf ball. Through a series of howls and shrieks, it conveys that you are meant to follow it. You turn to look back, but the president is gone and the door has disappeared. You swallow the terror that threatens to consume you and follow the light as instructed. You are unsure as to how far you walk, nor how long it takes you to do so.

          The light eventually stops at an outline of what appears to be another door. You wipe off some of the grime to reveal a plate labeled ‘Office 308: Prophecy and Ritualistic Services.’ You wipe your hand on the wall, jumping as you hear a knock from within. The light flickers, and you hear a click. Gathering your courage, you push the door open and enter. Behind you, the light goes out.

          Another light comes to life, this one a brilliant red. A black two-headed cobra appears in front of you, its eighteen-foot frame a sight to behold. Upon seeing you, the heads stare at you for a moment, turn to each other, and nod in agreement.

          The cobra hands you a woven basket with an elaborate ceremonial dagger, a quart jar full of its venom, and a plain pewter goblet. The head on the left explains that, since it cannot have any children of its own, an individual must be chosen via prophecy to take over their duties when the time is right, and you are that individual. The head on the right adds that you have no choice but to accept, and that you must complete the ceremony at that very moment.

          You are understandably numb and confused at this point. However, you realize that it is ideal, and thoughtful in a way. You never knew your family, and you are not interested in anyone, nor will you ever be. Up until now, you had decided to keep your options open in case you were to change your mind, but you no longer see a point in doing that. You kneel and take the dagger, filling the goblet halfway with the blood that you force to flow from your hand. You fill the goblet the rest of the way with the venom. The mixture is bitter and it makes you feel a bit dizzy. Once you drain the goblet, you sit down, feeling faint. You are instructed to let it happen as the cobra curls itself around your vulnerable, listless body.

          You wake up in your office, leaving a spot of drool on your desk. Blinking rapidly, you look up at the clock. It has only been five minutes since the president entered your office. Next to you is the basket, and in the basket are the same three items, impeccably clean. There is also a slip of paper, something that was not in there before. Reading the message, you feel warm and cold all at once.

          ‘Until next time, sweet morsel.’

          You turn the paper over, observing that it came from Office 308. You run to the mirror, finding that your bond to the otherworldly snake has altered your eyes to match the one whom you will eventually succeed.

          You sigh and look once again at the clock. Four more hours until you are allowed to return home. You sit at your desk once more. You are still unsure as to what you are to do in this moment, but you are comforted by the fact that you now know what your purpose is in the future.

Fall, 2017 Issue