A collection of short stories, mostly written for 'Screams!'
| The Contract
"So you're the lucky guy," the man behind the desk smiled and nodded towards the seat in front of him.
"Yes, Sir. I can't begin to tell you how much it means to me to be given this chance." Henry sat down on the chair. "When would you like me to start?"
"There's no time like the present. I just need you to sign this document." The man slid a bunch of papers across the desk, together with a pen.
Henry leaned forward, noticing for the first time the unusual feel of the seat covering. Sort of a cross between leather and suede, but a bit more delicate. He was curious, but did not feel confident in asking the man who was the head of one of the world's most successful businesses. There were four or five sheets of text for him to read before he got to the place where he was to sign it.
Henry picked up the papers and pulled on his glasses, then began to read. The language seemed to be hard to make head nor tail of, and he was a fully trained lawyer. Before he had finished even the first of the paragraphs, Henry was frowning.
"You don't need to read it," the man said, steep-ling his fingers. "All it says is that you are fully committed to the company, will not discuss what goes on here with anyone outside of the business, and that you have no intention of leaving, either now or in the future. If you cannot agree to all of those terms, then you do not belong with us."
"Oh, no, not at all. I'm committed," Henry assured as he flipped to the final page and signed his name. Before he felt a temptation to take another look at the document, he pushed it back across the desk and forced a smile on to his face.
"Good, good. Now, I'll just get Pamela to show you to your office, and you can start right away on the accounts."
The office door opened and an attractive woman stood waiting for Henry to join her. Henry stood, reached his hand across the desk to shake that of his new boss, then walked across the room to join her. After closing the door gently behind them, Pamela led Henry along the lavishly carpeted hallway, down one flight of stairs and then another, before she opened another door and stood back to let him pass her.
"Here you are, Mr Phillips, or can I call you Henry."
"Henry is fine. Thank you... err, Pamela."
"If you need anything or have any questions, just dial 484 and I'll try to answer them for you. I think you should be quite comfortable here."
Henry looked around. It was a good sized office, and although the desk was not as big as the bosses, and the carpet was not so thick, he had to admit it was far better than anywhere that he had previously worked. The chair behind the desk was covered in that same strange fabric.
"Just one thing while you are here... I've noticed the chairs are covered in something unusual. What is it?"
"Umm... how should I put this?" Pamela chewed at her lip. "You signed the contract, right? Stupid question really because you wouldn't be here if you hadn't."
"I'm only asking about the seat coverings. It seems quite soft, almost delicate, and yet it also seems strong."
She held one of her hands in the other and pulled at her skin. "Yes, it is pretty resilient."
"You mean..." Henry's face grew pale. "It can't be. I mean, does that look like human skin to you?"
Pamela nodded. "Of course, it has to be treated first."
"You signed the same agreement as every person who has ever been employed here." Pamela said in a controlled tone of voice. "Once that's done, you can never leave. Sickness, retirement, even the boss's desire for new blood, all lead to a certain amount of waste."
"The company has a zero waste policy. But don't worry, Henry. You're young enough."
"He couldn't get away with this," Henry said.
"Mr Phillips, control yourself. You are one of us now, and if you want to have a long career you need to understand. The boss is the most powerful man on the planet, and he can get away with anything."
Pamela turned and walked away. Henry stood in the middle of his office floor. A breath of fresh air, that's what he needed. He walked across to the closed blinds and was about to put his hand on the cord. He paused, did a double-take and backed away, for the blinds were operated by no normal string. Not knowing what else to do, he sat on the floor and threw his head back in a silent scream.