Ann slowly opened her eyes, seeing long beams of light cutting through the darkness. She froze, wondering if whatever happened was still happening. But as her eyes adjusted, things became clearer, and simpler. The beams of light were rays of sunlight slipping through the seams between the wooden walls of the shack she found herself in. She sat up and looked around the shack, which wasn’t big, but it was empty, save for her, the cot, and a few planks of wood that ran under the cot, from one side of the shack to the other. But they only covered half the floor. The rest was reddish-brown dirt. Near the far corner was the doorway and more of the dirt stretching far beyond.
She swung her legs over the side of the cot and stood up. Her mouth felt like the floor of a public washroom. She touched the sides of her mouth and felt chunks of partially digested food. “I chundered.” She whispered, embarrassed. She looked down at herself and discovered she was topless. Her arms quickly crossed her chest. “Figures.” She muttered. “The one day I go commando, I get abducted by–“
A creak of metal and the hiss of burning meat stopped her words. She looked back at the cot and yanked the blanket she had been laying on, off and wrapped it around her. She crept silently across the wooden part of the floor to the dirt, and approached the door.
“Yer finally up!” Jack commented. “Ya ‘ungry?”
Ann stepped through the shacks doorway and turned to see the Tasmanian Devil/ man creature standing in front of a propane-powered barbecue. Beyond him was what seemed like an endless expanse of reddish-brown desert. She had never been into the interior of Australia, but was shocked to realize it was just like in the movies, sparse, yet beautiful, especially with the setting sun casting deep reds and purples across the sky. She walked past Jack and saw a smattering of green shrubs, a few trees, and a massive hole.
“Where am I?” She asked absently.
“Lacuna’s Depth. Ya want steak?”
“No thank you.” Ann replied absently as she crept towards the edge of the hole. The closer she got, the dirt thinned out until all she felt under her feet was solid, reddish rock. The hole was nearly a city block across, and deep. She leaned forward, trying to see how deep it was.
A strong, metallic hand grabbed her arm, startling her. “Please be careful Ms. Bricken.” Snap warned her. “It is a long way down.”
Ann turned to see Snap. He was a robot. Behind him was Jack. He was whatever he was. “Oh shit. This is real isn’t it.”
Snap handed Ann a new shirt. “I’m afraid it is.”
Ann looked at the shirt, then back at Snap, puzzled.
“You vomited on your shirt when we teleported you here.”
“Tolja! Chunder!” Jack bellowed before chuckling to himself.
Ann looked at the shirt. “It’s my shirt?”
Snap lowered his head, sheepishly. “I took the liberty of returning to your home to gather a few of your belonging before it was destroyed. Do they have clothes washing facilities in your building?”
“Destroyed?” Ann repeated, the awe and wonder of the landscape now gone.”
“Yes, destroyed. It seems those that attacked the office sought you out at your home. Thankfully, no one was hurt.”
Ann snatched the shirt from Snap and dropped the blanket. She angrily put her shirt on, buttoned it up enough to keep it together, and stormed past Snap, all the while mumbling under her breath. “I knew this job was too good to be true cause now I’ve been abducted by Tasmanian Dundee and an anorexic robot to the middle of nowhere with a giant hole only to learn everything I own is gone–“
“Steak?” Jack asked as she walked by.
“No!” She yelled.
Jack recoiled and went back to barbecuing.
Ann stormed into the shack and sat down on the cot. She thought back on her life and realized this felt like the pinnacle of her failure. Part of her always felt like a failure. She had failed to become an athlete, failed as a girlfriend, was a failure to her parents, especially compared to her brother, and now she was a failure at keeping a sweet, easy job. Correction, she failed to find a normal, decent job where robots and walking, talking Tasmanian Devils didn’t kidnap her.
“I am sorry for everything that has happened.” Snap said quietly, standing in the doorway.
Ann looked up. “For what? Something crappy was bound to happen. I’m a magnet for crappy things. A crap magnet, if you will.”
“I beg to differ, Ms. Bricken.” Snap replied as he entered. “You are a strong, resilient woman. You have a quick mind, you stand by your convictions, and despite the vomiting you have maintained an incredible level of calm. The fact that you can still make jokes in the face of your current circumstances puts you in a rarefied class. That was why Yurlunger hired you. Do you not remember that so-called aptitude test you took?”
“While many applicants answered as to curry favor with the employer, you answered them honestly. That revealed much about you, and caught Yurlunger’s eye.”
“Who is Yurlunger?”
“Your boss, and Jack’s boss, as well as my creator. You actually had a meeting with him scheduled for the fifteenth of next month.”
Ann thought about her appointment schedule. She vaguely remembered an odd appointment appearing, yet not remembering how it got there, or for what reason. “That was you?” She asked.
“No, that was him.” Snap corrected. “He liked what he had observed and was preparing to bring you aboard full-time, with full access.” He stepped in and walked over onto the wooden floor in front of Ann. “Are you still interested?”
Ann looked at Snap, puzzled, and curious. “Is all this real? Is Jack really, whatever he is? Are you really a robot, cause you don’t sound like one.”
Snap reached up and touched a hidden button just at the base of his throat. Ann heard a small click and four small doors in his chest plate opened. Inside, it looked like metallic wires and glowing blue fluid. Near where a person’s heart would be was an inverted triangular pump that circulated the glowing blue fluid throughout his chest and into his limbs. Snap reached into his chest cavity and tapped his triangular pump. It glowed brighter, revealing the incredible details of his inner workings.
“Oh my god.” Ann whispered.
Snap reached up, grasped both sides of his head, twisted it hard to one side, then the other, and his head popped off. He tossed it onto the cot beside Ann. His head came to rest, face down. He mumbled something.
Ann reached over and turned his head so he could look up at her. Her mouth was agape.
“I am quite real. Jack, sadly, is also real.”
“Hey, ah ‘eard that!” Jack commented from outside the shack, followed by more meat sizzling.
“Everything you are about to see, is real, if you are willing to see it. If not…” Snap trailed off as his body reached over, picked up his head, reattached it, and closed up his chest cavity. “We can make you forget everything and return you to your life.”
Ann weighed her options, for about 3 seconds. “Do I get a pay raise?”
Tales from the Infinatum: The Job Copyrighted © 2013 Mark James MacKinnon.
Any use of these characters, without permission, is strictly prohibited. Any similarities to individuals, living or dead, is purely coincidental.