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Human Realty
Human Realty
by Charlie Fish 2008

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A graduate with six years' executive experience. A proven ability to work well in a team. Highly proficient at Microsoft Office products, with particularly strong customer service and project management skills. Experience of presentations, training, events organisation and working with senior-level staff.

Six jobs in six years. A proven ability to conflict with the boss. Highly proficient at surfing Wikipedia for hours on end, with particularly strong interest in sexual fetishes and school shootings. Experience of long lunch breaks, stealing office supplies, hung over Mondays and pissing off senior-level staff.

References on request.

After fifteen recruitment agencies, four failed interviews and a discussion with a street beggar who earned more than him, Dan Taylor wasn't standing quite as proud and straight in his flashy ex-rental suit anymore.

The familiar urge to jack it all in rose in his chest. The urge to reject the societal contract, to stick it to the man, to climb atop a plinth and rip his clothes off and cry and laugh and never come back.

One more agency, he told himself, just one more. So he found himself at Pan Twardowski's. He noticed something odd from the outset. The window contained index cards bearing bombastic messages, as all the other agencies did, but these cards were not promoting jobs; they were promoting people. Like capitalist lonely hearts. Male, 26, four years' retail experience, always punctual, seeks corporate opportunity, pref LTR. That kind of thing.

Dan pushed the door open and stepped inside. The main feature at the entrance of the strip-lit room was a ridiculously long counter, presided over by a smirking man with slicked-back black hair.

Dan always suffered from terrible nerves at times like this. He took a deep breath and tried to stand up straight, to project an air of confidence. He walked stiffly up to the oversize counter. As he approached, his heart dissolved into his stomach. The countertop was at eye-level.

"Hello?" he ventured.

"Welcome to Pan Twardowski's," beamed the plastic-looking man leaning over the counter above Dan. "How can we help you today?"

"I'm looking for a job," whimpered Dan.

The man's perfect smile loomed larger. "This isn't human resources, sir, this is human realty."


"Yes, like an estate agency. Except we deal in spiritual property."

"What do you -"

"Souls, sir. We buy and sell souls. On behalf of our clients."

Dan stared up at the imposing smile, his own mouth hanging slightly open. The Cheshire smile did not flinch.

"I - uh..." stammered Dan, "I just want a job."

The Pan man tilted his head in a gesture of condescension. "You can apply to work here if you like."

Dan battled an instinct to flee. He really needed a job.

He sighed. "Ok. What do I need to do?"

"You just repeat after me. I pledge my allegiance to Pan Twardowski's..."

"I pledge my allegiance to Pan Twardowski's..."

"...Forsaking it for all others..."

"...Forsaking it for all others..."

"...Till death do us part..."


The man behind the counter paused encouragingly for a moment, then his perma-smile broke into a mirthless laugh. "Well, some people fall for it, we have to try. Right this way please, sir."

A crack appeared in the towering counter, which resolved itself into a doorway. Dan's eyes darted back and forth, then up to the grinning attendant.

"Straight on through," instructed the man, descending a small flight of stairs so that he was level with Dan. "I'll show you to your desk."

Dan crept through and found himself in a characterless corridor. "My desk?" he asked. "Don't I have to do a proper application or an interview or something?"

"This isn't a job," explained the smirk as they walked through winding passageways, "we're going to harvest your soul."

"How are you going to do that?"

"Oh, the usual way. We'll start with the small things; insisting you dress unimaginatively, making sure you don't really know what you're supposed to be doing, not paying you enough. Then just as you're getting really fed up we'll give you a chance of a big promotion - we'll make you work longer and longer hours for it - but there'll be a company restructure at just the wrong moment that frustrates your meaningless ambitions. And, of course, the whole time we'll surround you with thoroughly unpleasant colleagues that have a nasty habit of getting promoted above you. That kind of thing."

Dan thought about this for a few seconds. "And what do I get in return?" he enquired.

"Total abdication of responsibility for your own life."

"Eh?" asked Dan.

"Finding a niche used to be pretty straightforward," mused the man. "Men did their father's job, women kept the family home. Church every morning and twice on Sundays. You were expected to make do with what you had. But now there's the burden of so much freedom. Mind you, it means that souls aren't worth what they used to be. Which is why Pan Twardowski's opened, to help keep up with the demand."

"I've changed my mind," said Dan, stopping in the corridor. "I want to keep my soul."

"Oh, it's too late for that," said the toothy grin.

"What do you mean?"

"Well, you've rent to pay, and bills. You want that video game that just came out. You want to eat at that flashy restaurant. You've got to buy a birthday gift for your friend, and you don't want to seem mean. You're tied into a high standard of living, sir. You're addicted. No use fighting it."

"But - there must be alternatives," Dan entreated, his arms open wide, palms up.

"Of course there are. You could go out and look for a job you'll really enjoy. They don't tend to pay half as well, though, and you run the risk of ending up as a junior administrator for a pet insurance company. Why not sell your soul to one of the major corporations and live well for a while? Look, your desk is just around the corner here."

"It's not a fair deal. I won't accept it." Dan crossed his arms and propped himself against the wall.

"How about a trial period?" snaked the salesman. "Technically, EU regulations require that we offer you the option to reclaim your soul after a contracted period."

Dan leant forward. "You mean I would get my soul back?"

"If you chose to, yes."

"With no further commitments?"

"That's right, sir." The smiling man took advantage of the crack in Dan's resolve, and went in for the kill. "So, shall we sign you up for twenty years, sir?"

Dan arms flew up. "Three years! That's all I need."

"Oh no, I'm afraid I can't go any lower than eighteen years."

"I'll do eight, and that's my final offer."

The man sucked his teeth. "We might be able to stretch to seventeen."



If it was possible for the man's smile to get any wider, it did. Dan, eyebrows raised, allowed himself to be ushered into a small cubicle office. He sat down, and the door clicked closed behind him.

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