“I hate this part of the job.” he remarked.
“We all do.” The voices replied in unison. “It’s a hard job, Dave.” one of them added reassuringly.
“I don’t think this is what I signed-up for.” he persisted.
There was a long pause and he could sense distaste and disapproval in their silence. “Just give it a shot, kid. Try it on for size to see if it fits.” a voice finally answered.
He wanted to vomit but breathed deeply instead. “Okay. I guess what we probably need to do is to waste the parents but leave the girl.” he squinted uncertainly into the shadows.
There was the hum of ventilation as he resumed his awkward breathing. “Or maybe we just waste them all?” he added nervously.
“Focus on the problem, not the people, Dave.” one of the voices whispered.
“Okay.” he sighed and tried to calm himself. He could be as cold and as clinical as they needed him to be.
“Our problem is with the knowledge of the kid.” he resumed more sternly. “That kid is going to solve the point-rules for the universe all on her own, and her parents have enough cash to support her crazy dreams, but, but, now that’s why wasting her parents makes sense! We could remove the cash without punishing the child!” he gushed on at them.
“Killing the parents DOES punish the child, Dave.” one of the voices replied softly.
“But if we waste the kid we would be punishing her genius while hurting the parents too!” he blurted.
“True enough.” the voice replied simply.
“But THAT’S what I’m talking about!” he blinked nervously into the shadows, “They’re all bad options, but if we waste everyone then at least we’ve removed the grief part from the equation!” he stammered over his tortured explanation.
The silence which followed was interminable. His breathing was jerky and his ears rang in the heavy air.
“Dave, are you predatory by nature, or only when pressured?” a voice whispered.
“What are you talkin’ about? I don’t understand how you mean that!” he cried.
“Why would you butcher innocent people; a family that has done such wonderful things whom you now want to rub-out like bugs between your fingers?” the voice asked blandly.
He was stunned that they were somehow making this out to be HIS problem. “Hey pal, this is your job, your test and your asinine rules of engagement, not mine!” he snapped back harshly, his teeth grating as he squinted into the black void.
“I’m sorry to hear you say that, Dave.” the disembodied voice replied. “Would you like to hear the correct answer before you go?” the voice added.
“Fine!” he removed his headset with complete disgust. It was a rigged test all along, he thought bitterly.
“Fair enough.” the voice resumed, “In the actual scenario we removed the girl’s family pets. Callie became very sad and introverted after that, and we also kept her parents pre-occupied during her time of grief. Callie lost interest in her experiments after that. She’s a smart kid, Dave, and we’re not in the business of snuffing-out bright children, or their parents, for that matter. What Callie needed was a pivotal moment of crisis and diversion, to redirect her away from the course she was pursuing.”
“Isn’t that exactly what I just proposed doing?” Dave snapped at the dark shadows.
“Excuse me?” the voices hissed in unison.
“Her life.” Dave replied, “The one she had earned and deserved to live; you’ve snuffed it out of her completely. At least I was honest enough to kill Callie outright.” he added.
“Dave, Dave, Dave….” a lone voice scolded as everything in the room ebbed slowly towards blackness.
“Order up!” he cried, his own voice startling and jarring amid the smoky scents of a kitchen.
Dave whirled 360 degrees then, staring at his own grasping hands as a clattering of plates and dishes filled the air around him.
“Fuckin’ A’s blew it again!” a dishwasher bellowed from the corner of the room “Hey dickwad, don’t ya’ EVER hear me talkin’ to ya’?” as Dave felt a sudden splash of water against his cheeks and a nearby door slammed open wide before a waitress bearing wobbly trays.
“I need cheese-steak, onion, pickle and curly fries!” she cried, dropping her tilting cargo near the sink with a loud clatter as she grabbed a handful of hot utensils from the drying racks.
“Callie?” Dave scrunched his forehead and asked.
“Yes?” the pregnant waitress paused to look at him oddly.
“Your name is Callie.” he continued blinking with confusion.
“And your name is retard, but we just call you dickwad!” she snapped back with annoyance.
Dave was very confused then. Life was confusing and complicated enough, that much he already knew. Whatever else he knew about life seemed to be eluding his grasp at the moment.
The smoke from his grill was visceral and real, and was the only true sensation left to him, filling the air with acrid scents as his eyes watered painfully. He rotated his orders then, realizing that most of what he’d been cooking had become burnt beyond all recognition.
“I think I may have wasted your dogs, Callie. I’m very sorry.” he added, turning charred frankfurters with an apologetic smile at the girl as she stared wide-eyed, blinking back tears for a long moment before suddenly cursing and hurling a fistful of hot forks and knives at his head.
For no apparent reason at all.
There’s a Farm Up North, Where Dreams Go To Die…