I hope you like it. Tell me what you think.
November 2, Year 3
There’s no sign that anything happened, no sign that Reggie was murdered, when I get to my desk the next morning. The blood is scrubbed clean from the floor, and in Reggie’s place is a smaller, much more timid looking young man with thick black glasses. He keeps pushing them up the bridge of his nose until they’re mashed up against his face. As far as I can see, he’s doing what Reggie did. What I do. Maybe they just moved him from a different desk somewhere in the office. I’ve never seen him before, but this isn’t a job where relationships are built. Besides my wife, Reggie’s the person with whom I’ve had the most contact in years.
I turn away from New Guy and take in my own desk. There’s no sign of Reggie here either. They must have called in a heavy duty cleaning crew or something, because everything is spotless. I turn on my computer, and…there. They missed a spot. On the underside of the monitor is a splotch of something. I scrape at it with my fingernail and it comes away red and powdery. Dried blood. Reggie’s last stand, tattooed on the underside of my computer’s monitor. I leave the rest there. In tribute.
What I do for The Cabinet started out as simple data entry when they were in the process of switching over to the latest operating system. That was almost three years ago. It was supposed to just be a temp job, a source of income to stay afloat. With an entire department working on it, everything had been transferred within in two weeks. I was crestfallen at first—I hadn’t expected to have to look for a new job so soon—when my boss announced that our performance had been satisfactory and we’d be starting on a new task: monitoring prominent insurgent groups that had been cropping up ever since the transfer of power to The Leader.
Okay, so it was a bait and switch job. They still paid, so what did we care?
Things began to get serious though. Wave after wave of clearance checks and documents crashed into us and we began to realize we were all way over our heads here. (Or I did, at least.) What started as a last-ditch effort to pay rent had turned into something that gave me higher security clearance than anyone I’d ever met in my entire life. And it was terrifying. Terrifying. But what was I going to do, quit? Unemployment was at 51 percent. (As I write this, it’s sitting at 57.) This job was a miracle. As…skeevy as it made me feel, I couldn’t afford to not have it. And neither could the family I was hoping to start with Gretchen.
About a year into my job, we nixed the family planning. I knew things. Things that were worse than the world led us to expect and even then, it was pretty awful. You’d have to be monster to knowingly bring someone into this world. To let them watch it grow even worse, without even a memory of the fragmented normalcy that had come before. They’d grow up in a swamp and die in a lake of shit. I worked for cruelty, sure. But I wasn’t as bad as they were.
That’s probably bullshit. I didn’t know everything that went on, but I knew a lot and the fact that I not only didn’t act on that knowledge but also kept learning it every day speaks poorly of my ethics. I probably couldn’t have done anything, but at least then it was a probably. Now it’s a definitely.
So I rub the dried splotch of blood with my monitor while I gather information on the latest group of middle American families trying to protect their rights, and then I email their coordinates to my boss and let him decide what to do.
They’re never on the map the next day, though. Once I send him their location, they might as well cease to exist.
So maybe I am as bad as they are.
I go to the bathroom and throw up again.