IN THIS TWILIGHT
By AL BRUNO III
Three months in
By now work had become routine but it had yet to become drudgery. Every day Mike Carter sat down in a cubicle that he shared with two other co-workers, logged into his computer, put on his headset and took calls. Working in the Billing and Sales department meant he took calls from doctors, hospitals and nursing homes. Some calls were to pay or dispute bills; others were purchase orders for artificial limbs, CT scanners and medical sundries. There were account numbers to be checked and shipping addresses to be confirmed or changed. Mike was surprised at how much of the work the computer did for him, most of the time all the customer’s data just flashed up on his screen and all he had to do was talk and click the mouse.
“Come on. Look how quiet it is. Sometimes there’s ten minutes between calls.” One of the people he shared his cubicle with was named Cosmos. At first Mike had thought it was some kind of Greek name that happened to sound like the word ‘Cosmos’, but he soon learned that her parents had chosen to name her after the universe itself. She was just married and just out of college and was finding herself disillusioned about both. She seemed to take every call from her husband and every memo from corporate as a personal affront. “They’re going to move the whole damn operation offshore in a year, just you mark my words.”
The red haired man who sat directly opposite her rolled his eyes, “The company can’t do that. They have roots in the community,” his name was Jimmy and he'd just gotten out of the Army. He'd joined the service in hopes of acquiring computer skills but in the end all he'd gained for his six years was a bit of inoperable shrapnel and an obsession with Star Trek. The walls of his work space were cluttered with pictures of different girls from the different Star Trek shows. “Besides we’re the most productive of the three regional call centers.”
“Oh yeah,” Cosmos said, “I bet they say the same thing to the people working at the other call centers.”
Mike shared her cynicism but he hoped she was wrong, he enjoying himself here. It was nice to not spend all day Sunday dreading going in to work on Monday.
“You know just because-” Jimmy’s phone bleeped, he turned his attention to his computer screen as it filled with information, “Thank you for calling Trinity Advance Corporation, I am James your Sales and Billing Technologist. How may I be of service to you today?”
“And anyway,” Cosmos continued, “if they’re all so gung ho for this this place then why haven’t they fixed that leak in the ladies room?”
“There’s a leak?” Mike asked.
“They’re always a leak. They fix it and it comes right back and no matter what they do it always reeks of-” Her phone bleeped, “Thank you for calling Trinity Advance Corporation, I am Cosmos your Sales and Billing Technologist. How may I be of service to you today? Cosmos…no really.”
There wasn’t a leak in the men’s room but Mike had to admit there was a strange, almost salty, odor, and it was always a few degrees too warm in there. Actually they kept the whole darn building a little too warm for his tastes. His phone bleeped. “Thank you for calling Trinity Advance Corporation, I am Michael your Sales and Billing Technologist. How may I be of service to you today?”
“Why is toaster?” The voice on the other end of the line choked and gurgled, “What is the referent?”
“What?” Mike turned the volume of his headset up, certain he’d misheard, “I’m sorry could you repeat that?”
“Clamo, clamatis, omnes clamamus pro glace lactis!” The voice continued, “I can see the Husk Worlds when I close the eyes. Aegri somnia!”
“I'm sorry…” Mike looked around to see his co-workers bent over their keyboards. The SIGIL system hadn't brought any information to his screen, all he saw was a cursor blinking mindlessly, “I'm sorry but I don't understand what you want. This is the Trinity Advance Corporation.”
“Tell me where it plugs in damn you. The port is clogged with heterogeneous matter.”
“Sir I don't understand,” Mike looked to his phone. It was a notebook-sized mass of buttons with a long wide Caller ID screen at the top. The LCD readout however didn't give him any other information except for the words EXECUTIVE SUPPORT along with the time of day and date.
“Just hang up,” Cosmos was standing beside him unwrapping a pack of cigarettes. “It’s a call for upstairs.”
Mike pressed the mute button, “Couldn't I just transfer the call?”
Cosmos explained with an exasperated shrug, “There's no way to transfer calls between here and there.”
For a moment Mike sat there in silence staring at her while the caller sputtered gibberish, “There's no way to transfer calls within the building? That's crazy.”
“That's Trinity Advance,” Cosmos smiled, she only really smiled when she was being sarcastic. “The mighty SIGIL system sometimes routes the calls incorrectly. Just hang up and they'll call back and hopefully get sent to the right place. I'm going for a smoke break. Later.”
Mike un-muted the call and said, “Sir?”
“...meaty psychotronic guise, like love only terrifying. Est deus in nobis.”
“Sir, it looks like you got through to the wrong team, I'm not sure how it happened but I'm not going to be able to help you. I need to ask you to call back.”
“Oh. Ok.” And the line went dead.
A cigarette sounded pretty good after a call like that, Mike punched in the codes for a break and headed out after Cosmos. He snapped his fingers and doubled back, making sure he pocketed his ID card. He thought to himself, If that's the worst this job can throw at me I've got it made.
Jimmy looked up from his keyboard, “You going to the Christmas party next week?”