The Iron Writer Challenge 82
500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements
A Arnold Schwarzenegger Commando Action Figure
A New Circle of Hell (meaning you have to make it up and give it a title)
Remember to vote.
The Poll is below the stories.
“This is your first day?”
“Welcome to City Government. We call it the Tenth Circle of Hell. This is where the Peter Principle married the Dunning-Kruger effect.”
“Everyone here has been promoted to his or her level of incompetence, but they all believe they are much better at their jobs than they really are. Have a great time working for the City. Here’s your desk.”
“You need to take that off your desk.”
“The toy, that…”
“My Major Dutch Schaefffer action figure?”
“Looks like Arnold Schwarzenegger.”
“It is. It’s from the movie Commando. My dad gave it to me when I was a kid and I like to keep it around for luck. I’m sorry, I saw other people had knick-knacks on their desk, so I thought…”
“Oh, there’s no City rule against it. But you work with the public and I don’t think that, that, whatever it is projects a very professional image. You have to take it off your desk right now.”
“From now on, you are not allowed to have any personal items on your desk except a framed family photo. One framed photo.”
“Is that the rule for everyone?”
“No, just you.”
“Are you my supervisor?”
“Ex, ex, excuse me. I think I’m allergic to your perfume.”
“Oh. Sorry. I’ll move the atomizer over here to my shelf. Is that better?”
“No, not, really. It’s in the air from all the spraying…”
“Great! I’ll just keep it over here from now on. This is my favorite perfume. I just love it. Don’t you think it smells great?”
“We do it that way because we have to. It’s the law.”
“Then you wrote the law wrong.”
“Can you transfer me to the Governor’s Office?”
“I’m sorry, I can’t. This is the City Government, not the State Government.”
“But it’s just down the hall from you. I don’t see why you can’t transfer me.”
“They are in a whole different building. I can’t transfer you because they are a different organization.”
“I bet you could transfer me if I didn’t have an accent.”
“No, I really couldn’t.”
“Hello, Walmart? I’d like to know where I can get an application. My current position doesn’t seem to be working out.”
Satine struggled to focus in the confines of the bare room. Her wrists ached. She went to rub them, realizing they were clamped to the clinical steel table she was seated at.
So this is how it would play out? She thought, surveying the cell. Her own private circle of hell, Illusory Superiority. Yet, she’d known this day would come eventually.
Earlier she’d addressed the Royal Society, outlining her breakthroughs in pharmaceutical oncology. The vaccine she’d created – poised to consign cancer to history’s catalogue of defeated diseases, and she – poised to become richer than her wildest dreams.
Of course he would choose now to return for payment.
Her address was dazzling. She’d received a standing ovation. A precursor, undoubtedly, to accepting the Nobel Prize. But it was just words. She couldn’t help herself. The attention was like a drug and she yearned for more. So she continued. But the words felt hollow, falling from her lips and landing flapping at her feet where they lay dying between her and her audience. Because she didn’t really understand anything she was saying.
The wise speak when they have something to say. The foolish speak when they have to say something.
She had been so very foolish. She hated chemistry. That’s why she’d made the deal in the first place. But as she advanced, so too did her resentment of it.
Professor Deville entered the cell from the sole doorway. He looked like one of those action figures from ‘Commando’ her brother had once forced her to play with endlessly. Another torture dredged from her past. Of course he’d present to her this way.
“We had a deal Satine?”
“Go to hell”, she spat.
“My dear, I created it. Now, about what you owe me?”
Satine thought desperately. “You’ve had it already.”
“You took it from me when we met, and it’s eaten away what’s left ever since.”
“Don’t trick me with ethical technicalities. I‘ve spent an eternity debating technicalities with Him.” He rolled his eyes toward the ceiling. “Among lawyers, I’m considered a patron saint. Our contract is binding.”
He leaned over her, stroking her hair. His icy fingers burned.
“There was a little girl,
Who had a little curl,
Right in the middle of her forehead,
When she was good, she was very very good,
But when she was bad, she was horrid.”
Satine had been horrid. But, there was something familiar in how he spoke about law, like her own chemistry. Realization. He’s said too much. He’s bluffing.
“Okay”, she relented, “But first, unclamp my wrists so I can freshen up, just a little.”
DeVille hesitated, but agreed. He unclamped her, and she reached into her pocket, drawing out a small perfume atomizer. She waited.
“What now?” DeVille demanded, leaning in.
She sprayed the bottle directly into his face.
He shrieked, staggering backward, hands grasping at his face.
She watched as the mixture of holy water and garlic burned. Perhaps she knew something about chemistry after all?
A. Francis Raymond
“Wow. You’re on time for once.”
Twenty-nine year-old Arnold Berk ignored his co-worker Molly and took his station where the department store opened into the mall. The 10th circle of hell, as he referred to it, was working here. Arnold couldn’t wait till Molly returned to college at the end of winter break. Idiots like her needed that kind formal education. Not like me, Arnold thought.
Arnold pulled a perfume atomizer from his coat pocket. It was the one he managed to slip out the afternoon before.
“Maybe you’ll actually sell some perfume today,” Molly pestered him.
“Oh, I will,” replied Arnold. This was the day. Arnold wanted this shift. He finagled to get it. Some very important vendors were taking a tour of the department store today. All he needed was for them to take one whiff of his special fragrance, they’d recognize his genius, and remove him from this place that represented the essence of hell.
As people walked past, Arnold said: “Try some Magic Spice?” He sprayed, regardless of their interest.
Molly stood opposite Arnold. To her left was the toy store. A display of Arnold Schwarzenegger action figures from the new movie “Commando” was positioned at the storefront again. Arnold, ever fascinated by anyone bearing his name, developed a relationship with the action figures over the last two weeks.
Action Figure Arnold said “Do you have your concoction?”
Arnold thought back “Yes. It’s awesome. Those execs will love it and recognize my natural genius for this stuff. I’ll be out of here by the end of the day and I’ll take you with me!“
Arnold was certain that Action Figure Arnold winked at him.
The “concoction” that the Arnolds’ referred to was a mixture of household chemicals and essential oils Arnold’s mother stashed around the house. He’d created a batch in his mom’s basement where he slept. It smelled like lemon with hints of clove.
An hour passed by. Then two. Arnold started to get anxious. He calmed himself by whispering to Action Figure Arnold. “Soon, soon.”
“What’s that?” said Molly.
“Nothing. I wasn’t talking to you. Hey, you missed someone,” Arnold scolded.
She rolled her eyes and said in a tone barely audible “Fine. I’ll just stop talking to you altogether.” Then louder to a woman who walked by “Try some Obsession?”
The next hour ticked by with no executive sightings. Arnold kept spraying people. His fragrance was running low. He stopped watching the people walk by so he could examine the fluid level in the atomizer.
“That’s the head of Vishny Corporation,” exclaimed Molly in a loud whisper.
Arnold was startled. He didn’t realize the next man to walk into the store was not his intended target. He sprayed.
“My eye! You jackass!” yelled the burly man. Arnold’s unintentional target swung a right hook and knocked Arnold out cold.
* * * *
Arnold saw the fluorescent lights. His face throbbed. He focused and saw Molly and two other employees standing over him.
“Have I escaped this Hell?”
“The mall?” Molly chuckled. “No. You’re still here.”