IN THIS TWILIGHT
By AL BRUNO III
Nine months in
The call center was subdued at night, the noise of a roomful of people all talking at once was replaced by the murmurs of just a few. Occasionally Mike would hear the rumble of the trucks that came and went from the loading docks at all hours. Semis and vans were queued up sometimes three deep to drop off and pick up materials from the research and deployment center. Mike had never seen the labs but Cosmos had told him that they were three levels below the first floor. He wasn’t sure he believed her because none of the stairwells or elevators seemed to have any access to a sub basement level.
Mike’s phone bleeped, his computer screen filled with data, he knew instantly this was the accounting department for a hospital in Los Angeles, “Thank you for calling Trinity Advance Corporation, I am Michael your Sales and Billing Technologist. How may I be of service to you today?”
“Hi Michael, my account number is eight one nine six nine six eight eight one five. I have a little question about this bill we received.”
“Of course sir. Let me look over that information now.” Usually Mike never got calls from the West coast but the overnight team’s job was to handle any overflow of calls the Seattle call center might be experiencing.
There was an LED readout screen suspended on each corner of the call center, it gave workers a constant tally of the number of calls holding and for how long. It also had the time on the East coast and West coast. It was almost eleven o’clock.
One hour and I can go home, he thought as he explained the bill to his caller. Five hours of overtime had seemed like a good way to replenish his savings after paying several hundred dollars to replace the front end suspension of his car. Now he was starting to feel worn out, he couldn’t wait to get home and get to sleep.
And then get up in seven hours to start the whole thing over again.
Well it’s not like I have anyone waiting for me at home. He thought glumly as he concluded the call and moved on to the next one. The whole Christine thing hadn’t worked out. She had made three dates with him and stood him up each time. The first time Mike had assumed it was a mix up, the second time he was bemused but by the third time he’d been too angry to see straight. If she didn’t want to go out with him why didn’t she just say so? Rejection he could handle, being made to feel like an inept junior high school kid he couldn’t.
Mike wrapped up another billing call and waited for the next call to come through. He heard the familiar warning beep on his phone but his computer screen stayed blank, “Thank you for calling Trinity Advance Corporation, I am Mike your Sales and Billing Technologist. How may I be of service to you today?”
“Hi Mike. Are you in the Seattle call center?”
“Uh, no.” Mike checked his phone, sure enough it read EXECUTIVE SUPPORT, “This is the Schenectady call center.”
“Is it Walpurgis night there? Can you tell?”
“I don’t… I’m sorry I don’t know. This is the wrong department. I can’t really help you.” Mike explained.
“Ah. Well these things happen. I’ll try to call back.”
Mike heard the phone clatter down but his caller neglected to actually hang up. Mike heard muffled voices talking, “That was a waste of time. Now hold still, the orifice is weeping in anticipation...”
The Hell? Mike thought as he disconnected the call himself. Another call came hot on the heels of that one, once again his computer’s screen failed to show any data and his phone read EXECUTIVE SUPPORT.
“Thank you for calling Trinity Advance Corporation, I am Mike your Sales and Billing Technologist. How may I be of service to you today?”
The line was alive with squawking and howls. Mike waited for someone to say something and when they didn’t he repeated his greeting. A fresh chorus of piercing cries, growls and the occasional wet slopping sound was the only reply he got.
“I’m sorry,” Mike said, “you’re going to have to call back.”
He disconnected the call and another one beeped through, “Thank you for calling Trinity Advance Corporation, I am Mike your sales Technologist. How may I be of service to you today?”
“Machina improba! Vel mihi ede potum vel mihi redde nummos meos!”
Mike stood up and peered over to the other cubicles and found he wasn’t the only person in his department looking around helplessly. The evening supervisor was shaking his head and talking on the phone to someone. The stats on the call board had been reduced to a nonsense of letters and numbers that flicked and fluttered.
“I’m sorry,” Mike said, “but you have the wrong department. Please call back sir.”
Another call came in, Mike repeated his standard greeting. His screen stayed empty, his phone still read EXECUTIVE SUPPORT.
“Please,” the voice was desperate and furtive, “which fork is the salad fork?”
Mike rolled his eyes.
The rest of his final hour was one bizarre call after another. At midnight he logged out of the SIGIL system got on his coat.
He decided to make a quick pit stop before he headed out to his car. The main bathroom was elegant and sterile looking but no amount of air freshener could ever really conceal that strange sulfurous odor.
There was a man passed out on the bathroom floor, he was scrawny with his long dark coat wrapped around him like a cocoon, his face twitched as he dreamed. His mouth hung open revealing a chipped tooth and flecks of vomit. Mike recognized him. It was Raymond from the Executive Support team