Thursday – The ongoing adventures of Call Centre Man

Thursday, last bastion of hope. Make it past today and the weekend is yours.

Mose walked into the call centre and found his chair. Not his own chair of course. A good chair was like gold dust in here and the night shift were notorious chair stealers and head set swappers. Why wouldn’t they be? They have nothing else to do all night. Sitting there on their takeaway-getting-backsides with their mighty uplift and minimal workload, God, how he envied them.

So Mose danced the dance of the Crappy Office Chair. Seeking out a good one without looking too much like he was a chair stealer, finding one that was suitable, he sat down and started going through the motions.

Yesterday had been quiet, normally a good thing in a place like this but it seemed empty. Quiet was good when there was a lot going on elsewhere in your life. Sometimes action was to be preferred, even if that action led to the unknown, maybe especially when it did.

He hadn’t drawn a thing yesterday. All day he had sat and looked at his pad. He had managed a few little scribbles but nothing really. No eyes, no hands. No characters, certainly no monsters.

As he plugged himself into the machine and took out his pad and pencil he, again, came to a realisation. Do I want to spend every day repeating the same mundane actions and spewing out the same boring words as the day before? Was it time for a change? What if Today wasn’t like yesterday. What if Today I insist on something new happening, no matter what?

Mose decided in that instant that he wasn’t going to settle for repetition any more. He cracked open his pad and began to draw. Nothing in particular, just anything his hand wanted to do. He hit the GO READY button on his computer and started taking the phone calls that paid his bills. As he talked to the customers and listened to their pointless complaints his hand drew on his pad. Animals and insects and people and forests and mountains, he flipped page after page and just kept on drawing. It didn’t really matter what he was drawing, he knew what he wanted to happen. He took call after call waiting for the voice, the voice that had called him on Tuesday and shaken his world and stopped him being able to think of anything else since then, the voice that sounded like it was from another world.

He drew furiously, scribbling sometimes and paying more attention to detail other times but constantly drawing something. His workmates around him didn’t pay him any attention, or if they did he didn’t see it. He sat there through his break, through his lunch, not eating anything, sipping from his water bottle now and then when the endless chatter and insincere platitudes that he spouted at the customers got stuck in his throat. He drew ferociously, beasts of all shapes and sizes. Hunters and warriors and gods he drew. He drew from his memory and he drew from his imagination. He drew planets and space ships and solar systems and galaxies and they all blurred on his page they all drifted into one image that never ceased moving in front of him.

The clock must have moved that day but if it did he didn’t notice it. There was a pile of pencil shavings on his desk next to him and page after page of his pad was filled from end to end with images. He drew until his hand ached and he never felt the pain. All he could think about was that voice. He pressed harder, leaning in as he shaded his latest creation and felt the top of his pencil snap. He looked down at it. Reached for his sharpener as he glanced at the clock, 5 minutes to go, he had been drawing all day.

The voice hadn’t called.

He sharpened his pencil again. The tenth time today.

The phone didn’t beep. It had been a nonstop day. Call after call but now, finally, with a few minutes left to go some respite, time to actually think.

Mose looked at all he had drawn, flipping through the pages. There must have been hundreds of them. Some crude, some more detailed but each with something on them, every page covered in something. Are these alive now? Did these creatures and people and objects he had drawn exist somewhere? Or was he just going more quickly mad than everyone else.

All he had wanted all day was that call.

There was one page left in the pad. He folded it over and smoothed it down.

It had to be worth a try.

He blew the dust off his pencil and started to doodle, a large old fashioned telephone, and next to it, in large chunky letters across the last page in the pad.

CALL ME 268587

Silence. The phone still didn’t beep. The clock ticked around. The second hand sweeping towards its destination, the place Mose usually sat and prayed for it to reach without a call coming through. This time he wanted nothing more than the call. All he wanted in the world was for the phone to ring right now and the voice to be on the end of the line and an adventure to begin. Surely there had to be something out there. He ripped off the paper and held it up close to his face, closed his eyes.

The phone beeped.

“Mose? Is it you?” The voice wavered.

He could hardly believe it. Had it actually happened? Had it actually worked?

“It’s me. Its Mose.”

“Mose, we…”

The line went dead.

His eyes shot open.
Philanthropia was standing there, the paper was in her hand, and she was smiling at Mose.

“Hmm maybe, let’s see what tomorrow brings.” She smiled again, turned and walked away.

Wednesday – The ever continuing adventures of call centre man.

Yesterday had been weird. Mose knew well what a normal day was supposed to be like and yesterday wasn’t it. For a start he had forgotten to take his borocca in the morning and then there was the thing with the beings from another dimension coming to life and him having to kill a rampaging monster with his pencil. All in all it had been a weird one.

He decided that the best way was to put it behind him. Forget it had ever happened and focus on today.

Wednesday, hump day. Get over Wednesday and the weekend is almost here. It was a funny way to live he reflected, always just trying to get through another day, just trying to survive until tomorrow. Until you reach whatever tomorrow you are waiting for then start the whole process again. It didn’t occur to Mose that there was maybe a better way. There probably wasn’t. Someone would have noticed it by now. Maybe they would discover one tomorrow.

So he sat at his desk and jacked himself into his computer, put his headset on and got ready for action, going through the same robotic routines that he went through every day.

A few of his colleagues gave him a sideways look or two. It was something he was pretty used to. He had never been a normal person. It was something he was vaguely proud of. Normal was far from interesting wasn’t it, although not too abnormal of course. Stand out from the crowd by all means but don’t stand out too far, someone might notice you.

Mose smiled awkwardly at his workmates. There was little chit chat in a call centre – ironic probably. A room full of people that were paid to speak but they hardly ever spoke to each other. By the time break came it was more desirable to have silence, sitting and waiting for whatever little tomorrow got you through the next spell.

Mose picked up his pencil and pad. He always kept them next to him. Drawing kept him sane. However after yesterday’s…events… he wasn’t sure if drawing was a good idea. He put them away in his drawer.

Philanthropia walked past.

Philanthropia.

She was one of the best things about this job. Mose looked forward to seeing her every day. Not talking to her of course, talking to girls was for normal people and Americans. He could just admire her from afar in a non-stalky way and hope she talks to him eventually. The long game, not as assured of success as other techniques but it had always not worked for him in the past.

“Not drawing today?” Philanthropia said.

This was a new thing. Say something! Say something intelligent or at least well thought out. Pretend to have banter and be using it now. Pretty much any words would do as long as they are actual words. Just an acknowledgement of what she has said. Perhaps start with a little nod. Nothing too strenuous. The important part was to reply.

Mose nodded and pointed at his drawer where his paper and pad were now stowed.

“Gonna draw now.” He managed.

It was one up from “Mose draw now.” at least.

Sadly Philanthropia was nowhere near to hear it and by this time had already walked away. Dejected but not defeated Mose pulled out his pad and pen again. Maybe he could keep on drawing. Maybe yesterday had been a figment of his imagination. He hadn’t been sleeping so well. It could have been a dream or a reaction to over tiredness, which is kind of the same thing.

One thing was for certain. It’s impossible for scribbly drawings on a piece of paper to come alive. That was basic stuff. It was so understood that it couldn’t happen that no one even bothered to tell you it couldn’t happen it was just known automatically. It didn’t need saying out loud. It would be like saying, “hey did you know fish can’t fly?” it would be stupid.

Mose eyed his pad of paper warily. Every day for years he had come in and sat down and started drawing and working, the two had always gone hand in hand for him. He wasn’t about to stop now just because some nonsense figment of his imagination had come to life. That would be like letting the terrorists win.

He picked up his pen. Clicked the GO READY button on his computer screen and opened his pad.

It was a blank page.

Which, he reminded himself is exactly what he was expecting to see. Also he wasn’t disappointed to see the page blank. Not disappointed at all.

He sighed anyway.

The phone beeped. He started working.

As usual.

Tuesday – The continued adventures of Call Centre Man.

The phone beeped, another call came through. This one would be just like the last one. Just like the next one. Mose slipped into auto mode as he eyed the clock suspiciously. It definitely seemed to be going slower today than normal.
He doodled almost constantly on a pad of paper next to his keyboard – anything to take his mind off the job. He folded the page and put the pad to the side while holding the pencil between his fingers and spinning it round and round. He loved the feeling of balance like it was about to spin out of control but he was always able to keep it going.
As he was about to launch into his usual pre-recorded chatter his world began to shatter. Before he could get his company approved greeting out of his mouth the caller spoke.
“Mose is that you? Thank god you answered! Help us!” it said. The voice was raspy and distorted like it was coming from far away.
“I, will try to help you?” Mose said, unsure what to make of it.
“Help us Mose! We are trapped! It is coming, hurry!” The voice drifted in and out, down to a whisper and so loud it was like it was screaming.
It sounded like a prank call, Mose could usually spot them but something genuine about the panic in the voice made him wonder.
“Help us Mose!” It said again.
“How do you know my name? Who is this?”
“I have always known your name. You know mine, you gave it to me.”
He decided this was nonsense and reached his hand out to press the disconnect button on his phone turret.
“Don’t hang up! Mose, I know this must sound crazy to you but I know you are the only one who can help us.”
Mose looked around him; his colleagues were lost in their own little worlds, wherever they escaped to in order to get through a shift. No one was paying him any attention. No one ever did. Mose knew there and then that he had been in training for this moment for all his working life. That he, above anyone else would be qualified to do the right thing right now. He knew exactly what to say.
“My name is Mose, how can I help?”
“You created something, something so terrible that it is causing havoc. It is threatening everything you have built.” The distorted voice wailed again.
“I haven’t done anything! I have never created anything in my life.”
“You have, you have created suns and moons and stars and worlds and creatures to inhabit those worlds. You have created us.”
“What the hell are you talking about? I have been sitting on my ass in a call centre for the last 10 years!”
As he said this he looked at the pad of paper that sat next to his keyboard, where his doodles were. The drawings that entertained him and kept him sane, could this voice really mean…
He reached his hand out, unfolding the paper to see the drawing he had been working on before. A hideous monster with claws and fangs and evil in its eyes, he had spent all afternoon drawing it and even if he did have to admit it himself, it was pretty damn good. It was also gone.
He looked on both sides of the page, where had it gone? Had it blown off the desk? Surely not.
“Did you name it Mose? Did you name the monster?”
“How on earth do you know about this? I just drew it today!”
“What was its name? The voice persisted.
“I don’t know I haven’t chosen one yet, it wasn’t really finished it was a work in progress. Does it matter? Where is it?”
“It is here, it’s in your world and you created it and it is destroying us all. It came today and cannot be stopped. It cannot be tamed.”
Mose flicked through his pad of doodles. Each page showed the same scene of carnage. His drawings, all of them savaged and ravaged. Blood and torn flesh punctuated each page and showed what violence had come before. He hadn’t drawn this! He hadn’t drawn such terrible pictures. He couldn’t even have imagined anything this hideous.
“We know you didn’t do this Mose, we know you didn’t mean to create this chaos but you are the only one who can stop it. You have to catch this monster. You have to tame the beast.”
Mose flicked through page after page of his beloved sketches and drawings, his prized possessions, the only things that meant anything to him in this world. A world outside of here that he could control but now it was falling out of control. Everything was falling out of control and a mystery voice was telling him how to fix it.
Suddenly it was there, in front of him on the page. Not as he had drawn it but bigger, fiercer. Blood stained its skin and teeth and it snarled at him. Wild and out of control, it seemed to come out of the page toward him. Looming larger, it growled inaudibly and its mouth grew wider. Its teeth glinted as it reached out for Mose with its razor sharp claws.
He clamped the pad shut and felt it jolt under his hands on the desk.
“How do I stop it? Tell me what to do!” He said.
“You have to name it, in order to kill it it must have a name.”
“What?”
“Name it Mose! Name it and it can be killed!”
Mose opened the pad again. Rifling through the pages of destruction and death till he reached the page with the beast on it again. It was ripping at some other poor soul, some other creation that he had somehow given life to and now inadvertently was also giving death.
He tapped it on the back with his pencil, it turned and looked at him, dropped the corpse it had been destroying and bared its teeth and lurched toward him. As it faced him he knew its name.
“Kahu.” Mose said it out loud as he quickly scribbled the word on the corner of the page. The beast paused. Life filtered through it, it seemed to sparkle for a second as it breathed deeply and became more animated, more real. It stared into Mose’s eyes and Mose knew it. Knew its fears and wants, its anger and its hope. It was part of him and he a part of it. He felt connected and real for the first time in so long. Here was something that mattered, something that had life and purpose and something that was his and a part of him. He felt alive.
“Kahu.” He said again softer this time. The beast looked up at him, there was a softness and a sadness in its eyes as it stood there blinking and breathing calmly. Then suddenly snarled and lunged toward him. Mose brought his pencil down with all the force he could muster. Plunging it straight through the throat of the monster. It writhed and screamed again. He could hear it this time through his headset. It was so loud the whole world could hear it. He could feel its pain. Its suffering, and the end of its suffering.
The pencil snapped in his hand. The line went dead. His colleagues were looking at him. It had been an interesting Tuesday.

Call Centre

Any. Minute. Now.

Watching the second hand of the clock ticking round for the last time each day was always bittersweet. A sense of relief, almost euphoric, knowing that the shift was over for another day. The continuing realisation that he had become just another clock-watcher in a  soulless building chock full of like minded machine men.

It swung around the clock in the bottom corner of his screen, seeming to go slower now than it had all day. It always teased every millisecond out of this last minute. Like it knew it was being watched, this was its chance to shine.

A silent prayer began, the inner mantra. Please don’t get a call please don’t get a call please don’t get a call. Like he could somehow, by the force of will alone ask the universe to spare him that most dreaded of call centre calamity’s, the last second beeeeep.

Dammit, every single time.

He launched into his intro. It was all autopilot now. Without thinking the necessary words would fall out of his mouth hole and into the lugs of whatever mug it was that had decided calling 1 minute before the end of his shift was a good idea. It wasn’t. He hurried through the spiel with what perhaps to the untrained ear would sound like gusto but was in fact mere haste.

Omitting possibly important information and with only one goal in mind, ending this call, he barrelled through the necessary procedures and said the bare minimum that would avoid him getting fired if anyone ever listened back to this if some customer service got thrown in along the way it would be coincidence.

As he watched his colleagues unplug themselves from the desks and filter out the doors chatting and smiling at each other there was no envy. It was acrid hatred for those that had made it out.

“Why do I feel like this?” he quizzed himself.

Like a soldier that loathes to see his comrades reach the other side of the battlefield unscathed? Why am I begrudging others their liberty? He smiled and waved and did the obligatory, yeah I know, I’m stuck on a call shrug.

“Lucky bastards.”

The customer was prattling on about something, something they had already said but it didn’t land right for them the first time. Said but he had failed to acknowledge properly or give enough verbal nods for them to put it down. So instead like a dog with a bone they just kept on chewing over it.

“That’s right sir, repeat yourself again. Maybe I will care this time round.” His brained offered him a sarcastic little respite as his mouth churned out more platitudes. Nod and smile nod and smile, but without the nodding, or the smiling.

The door swung shut and with that he was the last one in there. The last man standing, or rather sitting.

“This isn’t what I signed up for surely. This wasn’t in the brochure.”

They say call centres are modern day factories. But you can’t throw a stick without hitting a sociology degree in this place and aren’t you able to chat to the person next to you in a factory rather than to some muppet down a phone who signed up for something they didn’t understand and definitely didn’t read the terms and conditions for?

Then it hit him.

No one reads the terms and conditions. You buy into something based on the pretty glossy pictures on the front cover and you just hope it does what you want it to do when you need it to. Growing up he had always been told you can be anything you want to be, be a bin man or a space man. It doesn’t matter, as long as you are happy.

No one ever thought to say, but if you end up working in a call centre it will nibble away at your soul until you are an empty husk of a man. Probably doesn’t look as good on the front cover though.

The customer finally seemed content enough to wrap the call up and finally. After 8 hours of robotic script reading, he unplug from the machine. Untethered himself and sighed.

Well that’s Monday out the way.