Flash Fiction By Amalynne Olivier Todd Bigley’s placement at Jensen’s Savings and Loan had lasted a decade. Perhaps it was ten year’s worth of paper filing and gray, mundane activities that led to his pronounced paranoia, a constant state of fear in which he anticipated another “abduction”. It happened every day around noon, his eyes would slip from side to side in their sockets, shiftily observing his dull coworkers and with a sudden jolt, Todd would force his back stick straight, staring forward with blank glassy eyes and with a sudden gasp, would limp theatrically onto his desk. “I felt it, you saw, it happened!” the man would cry some minutes later, rousing drowsily from his desk, popping his head over of the cubicle walls to gain the long-lost attentions of his co -workers. These regular “abductions” had lost their amusement in the office as he had been experiencing them for over a year now; however this is not to say his targeted paranoia was not slightly entertaining. Linda, the office manager, was regarded by Todd regularly as the “conniving vulture”, surely placed at Jensen’s Savings and Loan to keep a close eye on their alien test subject. Not a soul in the office was free of these accusations, even the janitor, Ramon, a light-spirited Columbian could not escape Todd’s sly, narrowed eyes in the copy room or suspicious mutterings in a neighboring bathroom stall. His paranoia extended even into the lunch room where he refused to touch the collective condiments, most notably mayonnaise, for its “sinister consistency” and alien origins. His paranoia had started the day of the “sign”. It had been Linda’s contraption; the slippery alien minion had placed it on the door leading to the janitor’s closet. In bright crimson letters read the words “authorized personnel only”, displaying a striding figure, disallowed to enter the closet, or as Todd believed, the “particlilzation chamber”. Around noon every day, Todd had convinced himself that his memory had been swiped at his desk and his fellow co-workers dragged his limp body to the janitor’s closet where Ramon escorted him to the mother ship for invasive tests. Linda’s sign mocked him, mocked him every moment of every day he deigned to enter Jensen’s Savings and Loan. She greeted him cheerily every morning and he avoided her gaze, murmuring to himself words of comfort, “never give up, never surrender”. When he came to 1
stiffly place himself at his desk, swiftly scanning for suspicious changes within his cubicle, his eyes would always land upon the sign at the far side of the office shining red and bright and ominous. It was only a matter of minutes, he told himself, before he was dragged through that door, jabbed with probes by “authorized personnel”, interrogated, tortured to relinquish the secrets of his celebrity protector. Todd’s only comfort in the world came in the form of his “celebrity protector”, a valiant and steadfast human being, impervious to the mind control of the vicious alien intruders. Strength, resistance, perseverance, these were all qualities Todd admired on his path to evade the persuasions of his captors and who better to lead the crusade against mind control than the ever resilient and motivating Richard Simmons. Plastered onto the wall of his cubicle, Todd proudly displayed a full length poster of his celebrity protector and personal motivator. On Tuesdays, in honor of “Richard the Great Motivator”, Todd would sport a celebratory workout headband in the brightest of neon shades—intended to reflect alien mind control. To the increasing displeasure of his co-workers, Todd graced the office on casual Fridays with an outfit in homage to his protector, an obnoxiously and offensively high pair of workout shorts and loose fitting tank top that failed to flatter his flabby physique. It was Tuesday morning and Todd came to his desk, neon headband bobbing over the tops of the slate toned walls as he sauntered to into his cube. The usual round of eye rolls and silent giggles greeted him and Judy Warwick, a desk over in Acquisitions, smirked up with a mocking flick of her eyes. “Purple works for you, Todd.” Todd’s eyes widened suspiciously, awkwardly strapping himself into a newly acquired swivel chair which he’d had modified with a seatbelt after having called OSHA about his regular abductions. He had devised this contraption to limit the ease of capture and had been cleverly secured with a combination lock that he spun around twice for good measure, glaring back at Judy, “Scheming space spawn.” As he uttered these words however he noted that his heavy duty multipurpose stapler was missing and leapt to his feet, chair strapped to his middle as he inspected the neighboring cubicles with narrowed, calculating eyes. The new intern blinked back blankly from the desk across the way, a loud click emitting from the stolen stapler as the young man secured a stack of papers. Todd’s expression grew mutinous and the intern dragged his chair along the floor to return the item, awed and bewildered by the neon headband-chair wearing spectacle. “Sorry, sir,” he muttered in vexation, rolling back into his enclave.
“Never mind Todd,” Judy informed the intern, leaning around the gray padded barrier, “he’s a nutter, but he gets his job done—he’s afraid they’ll probe him otherwise,” she added with a whisper. It was destined to be a common Tuesday, rich with Todd’s ritual “slimmons squats” at ten and his paranoid purge of the mayonnaise in the break room but what was uncommon however was the regional manager’s visit to Todd’s cube at noon. “Hey there, buddy,” said a stately gentleman, clad in a standard dark suit, arm rested casually over Todd ’s cubicle wall. Todd glanced up from his work, gulping as he spun his seatbelt lock yet again for good measure. “Fancy chair you’ve got, happy with it?” the manager asked with contrived courtesy, perfect pearly veneers gleaming against an orange toned tan. Todd nodded numbly, eyes wide and unblinking as he observed the “General of the foul alien order,” the mastermind behind his tumultuous probing abductions. The manager nodded back, smile spreading wider as he startled Todd with an encouraging pat on the back, “Keep up the good work, we appreciate you here.” These words must have been amusingly ironic for Todd’s neighboring co-workers but they sent a raging fear into his heart so that he forced his head down and continued his work with determined speed. As the regional manager passed through the office, Linda stopped him abruptly, glancing with hasty embarrassment back at the top of Todd’s neon bound head. “I’m so sorry sir, we’ve tried to rein him in but it keeps getting more and more—” “Ah, ah,” the regional manager held up his hand, “what on earth are you apologizing for, thanks to that poptart we’re having our best year yet!” Linda’s mouth dropped with surprise, stammering to respond as her arm as grasped firmly by the regional manager, leading her discretely to the front of the office. “Ever since you put up that sign he’s been invaluable. Keep him paranoid at all costs,” he instructed seriously. “But…” “Give him a bonus, give him anything, get him to stay and keep him wide-eyed and bushy tailed, Todd Bigley has to stay!”
Linda looked visibly put out by this news, slumping her shoulders dejectedly as she muttered with toneless compliance, “Yes, sir, of course, sir.” “That’s my girl,” the regional manager chimed, as he made to exit the office, grinning back widely as he proclaimed “Our best year ever, Linda!” Linda watched the man go with a drooping expression, falling into her chair as she heard an outcry from behind the front desk, “Vile, alien scum!” vainly readying herself for yet another Tuesday.