Don't Shoot The Messenger

Don't Shoot The Messenger

Mon, 4/25: The Boss

It shouldn’t be much of a surprise that there’s a chain of command here. They’re not telling me just how far up this goes, but I know that there are at least three layers to it. I’m on the bottom, obviously. Above me is my boss, though I think she’s technically called my “Handler.” Handlers seem to be in charge of different divisions of the cult (it’s apparently bigger than I thought), so she’s obviously getting orders from somewhere higher up.

She calls herself Tempest, by the way. I think that’s what the TE part in our identification numbers is for: to denote that we’re part of her division. Like I mentioned earlier, she’s a teenage girl. I was hoping I could use this database I’m supposed to work on to find out some more information on her, but it turns out that my access to it is extremely limited, making me wonder why they’re even bothering to make me do that part of the job in the first place. I managed to get a bit of information from Hyde before…well, you know. He didn’t know a lot either, but he mentioned something about her age being due to family ties. It runs in the blood, I guess, because Tempest is a real hardass. Seriously, I never thought I’d actually be afraid of a sixteen-year-old.

She swung by my apartment the other day and dropped off some more paperwork. It generally gets dropped off along with everyone else’s orders, delivered in a manila envelope labeled “NYTE-141X The Messenger.” No return address or anything. Just an inverted white triangle with a vertical red stripe down the center.

“You usually don’t deliver these in person,” I told her as she handed me the file.

“And I usually won’t. I’m largely here so I can check up on you. See how you’re adjusting.”

“Oh. I guess I’m honored you’re taking the time to do so.”

She sat on my couch and shoved her hands into her hoodie pocket. “Don’t be. This is for work. We get a lot of people who run.”

I gave her a glance. She was dressed in a red hoodie and jeans and had her hair pulled back into a ponytail. “Sorry, you just…don’t seem dressed for business.”

“Dress codes are stupid,” she said. “Wear what you want to. I don’t care if you wear pajamas as long as you’re getting the job done.”

I just shrugged. If she’s not fond of dressing up, I’m not going to complain. Especially if she’s giving me permission to wear sweatpants. “Well, either way, I’m not running. You’re aware of my situation, I believe.”

“I’m glad to hear that, but we still have to be thorough. I’m sure you understand. After all, we have reason to believe your roommate was performing suicide by cop.”

This was news to me. They’re not fond of giving me details. “That’s…terrible.”

“Agreed,” she said. “It’s a shame we lost him.” I hadn’t meant that it was terrible for us. “So you’re adjusting well enough?”

“I guess. It’s not an easy transition. I started up a sort of journal the other day.”

“Good. I’d actually recommend that. Many here find it therapeutic.” God, it’s unnatural how much she talks like an adult sometimes. Is her vocabulary always this stiff?

“Any advice?” I asked.

“Yes. Do what you’re told. Play along like you think He’s real, even if you think that’s stupid. Don’t rock the boat.”

A brief, nervous laugh slipped out. “So you don’t think I’m buying it, huh?”

“I know your type,” she said. “I’ve seen them before. We can all see your type. This isn’t a threat, Messenger. It’s an earnest warning. If you give these people any reason to find you disloyal or disposable, they’ll jump on it. I recommend you stop thinking in terms of ‘you’ and ‘us,’ because believe me, Messenger: you do not want ‘us’ as your enemy.”

I just looked away, unsure of how to answer. After a pause, Tempest pulled a few sheets of paper out of another file she had been carrying with her. “Anyway, part of my reason for coming here in person was to administer this test. I need to gauge your mental state. It’s a fairly regular thing we do here.”

“I could just fill it out on my own, you know.”

“I know. That’s what you’ll usually be doing, but I need accurate results this first time. This way I can tell whether or not you’re lying.” The look on my face must have showed, because she continued. “Tone of voice, how quickly you answer things, facial tells…it’s not as hard as it sounds.” She crossed her arms, and it might have been my imagination, but she almost looked insulted.

She asked me a few questions about my background, then read off a bunch of statements I had to answer on a scale from one to five, based on how much I agreed with each one. A lot of questions about how I feel about myself, how I feel about others, and how emotional I am, along with some about recent changes in energy, appetite, sleeping habits, and other lifestyle elements. When she finished the test, she looked it over and gave a satisfied nod without bothering to tell me how I actually tested. Then she stood, thanked me for my time, and excused herself.

Not sure how I should feel about the whole encounter. Threatened? Worried? I don’t know. Between Tempest’s comments and the fact that we have regular mental health checkups, it’s obvious that I’m sitting on a powder keg of insanity. Still, I should be fine as long as I don’t try lighting the metaphorical fuse.

“Don’t rock the boat,” she says. Ha. Like I’d even wanted to set sail in the first place.

Andrew Koerner

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