You’re looking for work. You’ve just about given up. You see an ad and you answer it. You call the number and they ask, “Can you come down now?” Yes you can come down now. You write their instructions. You walk to the corner and wait for the bus. When it shows up, you step onto it and sit toward the back. You watch out the window as it carries you overland through the neighborhood, through the next neighborhood, and into neighborhoods you’ve never seen. Storefronts and people roll by your window and they’re all unfamiliar. Last stop, the driver says. There’s no one on the bus. You get off.
You’re wearing a suit. You’ve got three copies of your resume. You’re fifteen minutes early. You’re doing everything you’re supposed to be doing.
The sky is dark like the gray before sunrise as you walk into the office building. The girl, the office manager, is knitting. “Would you like something to drink?” she asks. No, you don’t need anything to drink. “This way, then.”
The three words that best describe you are reliable, creative, and detail-oriented. “That’s not really what we’re looking for. Do you understand the nature of the position for which you’ve applied?”
I’d like that glass of water now. Sure thing.
They don’t ask why you left your last position. They don’t ask where you see yourself in five years.
They give you a test, a personality test filled with ethical dilemmas: “You’re driving a school bus on a winding mountain road and come upon a baby stroller in a crosswalk. If you swerve out of the way, you and everyone on the bus will plunge off a cliff and die, but the baby will be saved. Do you swerve the bus?”
Where are the baby’s parents? you ask.
“Do you swerve the bus?” they repeat.
You understand there is probably a correct answer to this question and the correct answer is probably, Yes you swerve the bus. Only a monster would kill a baby. But you can’t understand why this should be the correct answer.
No, I do not swerve the bus.
They present you a piece of paper with a complicated, twining maze. Then they apply electrodes to your forehead, and say you will be shocked with increasing voltage for each thirty seconds it takes you to complete the maze. “Are you interested in continuing the interview?” they ask you.
The first electrical shock feels like a tent stake hammered into your temple and it blinds you momentarily. Your eyes snap slowly back into focus on the still-ticking clock. You take a breath.
You complete the maze in fifty-six seconds.
“We would like to hire you,” they say. “You’re underqualified but we would like to hire you. Most people come to us out of vanity, but you’ve come to us because you’re hungry and have nowhere else to go, and we think that’s a more honest motive.”
“Don’t thank us.”
They pat you on the shoulder and shake your hand and welcome you to the team, and then they take you downstairs.
At the bottom of the office is a labyrinth, and somewhere in the labyrinth is a monster so terrible, no one has seen it and lived. Every year, seven men and seven women are sent down to calm the beast so it might stay underground.
Soon you’ll go inside, and either kill or be killed by the monster. This is your job now.
The girl, the office manager, has offered to spool her yarn to you, to help you find your way out, after.
“Are you ready?” she asks. “Are you scared?”
Since you don’t know what’s inside, there is no way to be ready, and it would be foolish to be scared. I don’t know, you tell her, as you step into the darkness toward the monster.
Christopher DeWan has published more than forty short stories and his screenwriting has been recognized by CineStory, Final Draft, the PAGE Awards, and Slamdance. His debut collection, HOOPTY TIME MACHINES, is coming this September from Atticus Books. Learn more at christopherdewan.com.