If you fail, it’s your fault. If you succeed, it’s ours.
The words scrawled in pastel pink and blue letters screamed across the interior wall opposite the frowny assistant. Her turned-down mouth seemed to reveal how she felt about sitting across from such a statement for eight hours at a stretch.
I moved into her eye line and smiled. “I’m here for my…”
“I’ll let her know you’re here,” the assistant interrupted. She pushed a button on her desk and spoke into the coiled microphone wrapped like a garter snake around her ear. “Delilah Cruz is here for her first day.”
I took a seat on the bench beneath the words and offered another smile. The assistant stared back with dagger-sharp eyes. “You’re not a tele,” she concluded. Condescending.
“No.” I shifted on the hard orange plastic chair. “A seer.”
The assistant rolled her eyes. “Seers never last long at this job,” she said. “The future is too unreliable.”
I shrugged. Not like I hadn’t heard that before.
“Delilah,” my new boss strode forward on teetering heels. I stood to clasp her small bird-like claw of a hand which gave away an age she was trying desperately to hide. The pulled-back skin of her face made her look like she was standing amid a very fast wind. “I’ll show you to your desk.”
The assistant snorted, incredulous that I couldn’t insinuate the location of my new desk by tele of the boss’ thoughts. My face burned and I thought pointedly at her, “If you’re so smart, why are you still an assistant?”
I mostly never regretted not being a tele myself, except for moments like that when it would’ve been great to hear the response. A response, based on her shocked face, that probably would’ve involved curse words. I collected curse words and was always interested in learning new ones.
My new boss showed me to a desk with a computer and nothing more. She didn’t tell me her name again, and I didn’t remember it.
“So,” my new boss began, “For what amount will I be making out your full paycheck?”
“My full paycheck?” I repeated.
“I’d like to issue your final paycheck now. As a seer, I’m told at this point you must see how long you’ll be here? I’ll need time to find a replacement,” she explained.
I took my time before responding, “Two years.”
“She’s lying.” A pale woman in the neighboring cubicle interjected. “It’s two months. Her thoughts say two months.”
Goddamn tattleteles. One of my favorite curses. The pale woman pursed her lips.
“I’m not lying,” I said. “But the future changes depending on how I’m treated. It was two years. Now it’s two months. It’ll be two minutes if she keeps it up.”
The boss frowned at the pale woman. “I’ll pay you for two months, then.”
The boss wired my account, then left me to my own devices. I booted up the computer. I had no way of knowing what I was supposed to be doing next, only that I had been hired for a communications job (where nobody communicated with each other) writing streaming news content (for people who already knew it anyway). Pretty hard to stay ahead of an audience who knows what’s coming.
I clicked on the cNews program and it prompted me to log in. I had no login.
“That’s why they don’t hire seers,” the tattletele said, noticing my dilemma.
“Ratings are down, right? I’m here to decipher what people want to see on the news in the future.”
The tattletele turned back to her work and clacked at her keys extra hard. Her large gold-hooped earrings made her look like a pirate who had lost a bet and taken a desk job.
I tried the most obvious login: DCruz, password cruz. It worked.
The cNews program consisted of a series of lines and story slugs. It evolved and moved, shaped by a line producer unknown to me but someone somewhere at a desk formulating the rundown. I scrolled and found my name next to a story slug: CELEBRITY DEATHS. I didn’t need the skills of a tele to intuit that I had been assigned the celebrity deaths story for my first day and I had seen the piece on my own news feed enough times to know what it entailed. It made sense to give a seer such a segment.
I closed my eyes and even though I couldn’t see her with my eyes shut, I could feel the stare of the washed-up pirate tattletele in the next cubicle trying to bore holes through my skull with her thick dumb brain. When I reopened my eyes she pretended like she hadn’t been staring at me.
I typed. I completed my script and waited.
A scream and a shout later, the boss stormed over to my cubicle. “What the hellballs is all this about?” She pointed to my screen.
I sat back.
“Is this for real?” She demanded.
I kept my face and my thoughts blank. “It’s a potential future.”
“Everybody out!” The boss called, circling her finger in the air like a helicopter. “Everybody evacuate! Now!”
Bodies swarmed the exit doors. The pale woman grabbed a framed photo of her cat on her way out, earrings jangling.
Outside, looking up at the base of the 100-floor tower for an explosion that would not happen, the boss found me.
“You made it up, didn’t you?” She said with the penetrating accuracy of an arrow.
“I saw what I saw.”
“You’re fired,” she said.
“Works for me.”
I strolled past the pale woman who would never be more than a tattletele with hooped earrings in an office environment.
“You lasted two hours,” she said.
I checked the time on my device. “Guess your hearing’s off, hellballs,” I told her.
Overall, two months' worth of pay wasn’t a bad haul. Next time, I would do better.
I could just see it.
Kelly Kurtzhals Geiger is a 6-time Daytime Emmy-nominated television writer and producer in LA. She is currently pursuing her MA in English Creative Writing from California State University. Kelly has published short stories in the anthologies Hell Comes to Hollywood II and Cemetery Riots, as well as The Northridge Review. Find her on Twitter @kellykgeiger.