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A better version of this short story is in my novel Neurosapiens.

Pzy pecks away at a keyboard, every stroke scrutinized by the center supervisor Mr. Vinngz.
They call the man Vin the Tyrant because he is ruthless when it comes to data entry quality and accuracy. Rumor has it that he fired a woman for getting less than 92% on an accuracy blind exam. She got an A- which meant she was expendable. Pzy does not need that type of stress or pressure. He does need that money though.
Last month he borrowed some money from a less than reputable source on a “sure thing” which flopped. Now was repayment time. Pzy believes he can make quick cash with a company that deals strictly with data entry. No customer service just enter what you see. Easy enough, he thinks. But Mr. Vinngz has other plans.
The man hovers over Pzy as the test commences. He even gets so close that his hot breath fogs the monitor. Serious dude, Pzy thinks to himself, don’t you think you need to backup?
Pzy shutters and mistypes some data. Mr. Vinngz immediately calls him out, “those are the type of mistakes we can’t allow in our department.”
Without thinking Pzy blurts, “do you need to be that close to me?”
Mr. Vinngz laughs and it makes Pzy queasy, skin crawling.
“If me being that close to you is a distraction, quit now!”
Pzy continues to enter data saying it was no problem. Mr. Vinngz claims that he is such a hardass because he wants his team to be able to handle stress in intense situations. Stress and intensity? In a data entry center?
Pzy is dumbfounded by the notion and nearly falls out his chair when an annoying ringing noise breaks the silence. It is the supervisor’s pager. As the supervisor leaves to respond to their call Pzy sighs in relief, a mental burden lifted.

*

Rex bit his fingernails uncontrollably, gnawing them down. He hummed the theme song to his favorite show, and even sipped the Irish Tea that he requested. Talk radio played in the background and a medium sized box-fan was placed right next to him. The breeze from the fan brought the filthy smell of the building directly to his nostrils, but Rex did not mind. As far as he was concerned, he was just meeting up with Big Boss, or one of the lieutenants.
True, he had done nothing, but the Big Boss had requested his presence, handcuffed in an abandoned warehouse and all. Rex continued to hum despite all of this.
Aside from the biting of his fingernails, Rex remained surprisingly calm. He had nothing to worry about, he had done nothing. Then, Traq entered the small, muggy room.
It felt as if God Almighty had punched Rex in the belly, he gasped so loudly. Rex immediately fought back the urge to weep. Traq was a sadistically ruthless enforcer for Big Boss. He wore the darkest and finest of material. If Traq was called in, then the Big Boss was far more furious with Rex than originally believed.
“Hey Traq, when did you get back stateside?” Rex hoped for small talk. As Traq circled the table the tension could be cut like a block of cheddar cheese. Traq set down, placing a small case on the table. Within the case were his tools of interrogation. He smiled and Rex lost it.
“I swear to Christ I did nothing, and said nothing.”
Traq’s beady eyes were like fire and ice, burning Rex’s heart yet freezing his very soul.
Sweat poured profusely over Rex’s body, as Traq gave the cliched ‘stare-down' with his cold eyes of brimstone coal, seeking to intimidate before beginning.
Rex chuckled nervously at the silence. After ten minutes Rex finally broke down, “please forgive me. I will prove I did nothing.”
“No need for that Rex my boy. Big Boss knows you, and knows you said nothing,” Traq finally spoke, wearing a sterile expression.
“What a relief,” Rex said aloud, not realizing it.
Traq smiled unnervingly, “Big Boss wants to keep it that way.” Traq opened his case to display carving and tearing tools, scissors, vials of God-knows-what, and needles galore.
As Traq picked up a needle, Rex wept. “Now now my boy, no need for all that,” Traq patted the table in place of a shoulder for comfort. He filled the needle with an indigo liquid, “Rex, this won’t even sting a bit.”


Submitted: September 01, 2022

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