Norman picked up the reasonably clean human skull that sat upon the front desk and looked it over. It was lighter than he expected it to be. He set the skull back down and tried to gain the Executive Assistant's attention.
‘Uh... hello. I have an appointment,’ he said meekly.
The Assistant continued scratching something onto a piece of parchment with a black-feather-quill. His leathery green goblin features were anything but welcoming.
Norman smoothed out his longish brown hair and brushed fluff from his rust-colored breeches. His boots needed a shine, but he hadn’t the first clue how to go about that. He felt eyes burning into his back, and he could hear the orc standing directly behind him clank his war-axe against his chest-plate. The sound bounced around the tower lobby.
Norman leaned into the dark wood of the desk. ‘Hello?’ He pinched the flesh of his own wrist to ensure that he actually existed. ‘Can I bend your ear awhile?’ He instantly regretted the ear quip.
The Assistant fixed his sleepy-looking eyes on Norman's slender frame, mostly lost in a sea of tunic fabric. ‘Welcome to The Mouth of Darkness, blah, blah, blah. And you're here for what?’ he spat.
‘I have a job interview. For a position in the mailroom. I'm thirty summers old, but I come from reasonably wealthy stock and my parents passed away recently in a dragon-related incident. They left me nothing. So, I have to earn a living with little to no experience, and—’
‘I do not require the excruciating details of your personal saga. Whom are you here to see?’
‘I don’t know.’ Norman held up a Position Vacant ad, clearly torn from a town noticeboard.
‘And you know we’re an organization of evil and chaos?’
‘Well, you’ve gotta start somewhere, right?’
‘Quite.’ The goblin sat back in his chair and played with the buttons of his black waistcoat. ‘Rich prick, you say?’
Norman grimaced. ‘Not the precise words I used.’
The goblin climbed atop the desk and waddled over to the edge so that he and Norman were standing nose to pointy nose. ‘I don’t care how you see yourself, mate. I’m just here to direct the flow of effluent.’
Norman yelped as something pointy was jammed into the sparse meat of his chest. He looked down and saw that the goblin had stuck a pin into him; a pin carved of material so black, it was almost invisible in the stingy light. Its face was ovular, and adorned with a snake-symbol Norman had never seen before.
‘What’s this for?’
The goblin ignored Norman’s query and pointed a claw to a stairwell in the tower’s southern corner. Norman paused for a moment before a battery of orcish abuse scared him onward.
Norman tried his best to avert his gaze from the gorgon’s generous cleavage. His efforts were made slightly easier by the fact that he had been ordered to communicate with her via a mirror hung on the office wall. She gruffly explained that interviewees being turned to stone had recently attracted the attention of the Workplace Health and Safety Guild.
‘You are here for a job in the mailroom, you say?’ asked the gorgon, twirling a long finger through her serpentine locks. One of the snakes that served as hair bit the gorgon’s finger and she smacked it on the head.
‘Yes. The position is still available, is it?’
‘Oh yes. But that’s not the position you’ll be filling.’
‘I won’t?’ Norman shifted in his roughhewn limestone seat.
‘You've been assigned the Ouroboros symbol by my Assistant. He’s determined you unsuitable for the mailroom; suggesting instead something more in line with your personality type.’ The gorgon slithered in circles on her scaled tail, as though she were pacing on two feet.
‘Oh, I see,’ replied Norman, licking his fingers and running them through his hair. ‘And what would this role entail?’
The gorgon coughed. ‘Um... it’s a temporary contract.’
‘With a chance of permanent employment?’
‘In a word: no. We would cut you open and use your entrails to predict market trends. It’s just good business. Nothing personal.’
‘It sounds fairly personal!’ cried Norman, suddenly standing upright.
‘Auguring with human viscera is a time-honored art form! And what are you living for anyway? You tell me your parents are gone? Don’t you want to join them in the afterlife?’
‘Not like this!’ He lurched sideways, nearly losing his footing. ‘Oh, Gods! I’m gonna be ill!’
Norman’s knees gave out and he collided with the mirror on the wall, causing it to drop from its hook. There was a scream that gave way to a sound, not unlike that of cracking ice. Norman gathered himself and his eyes met the mirror now wedged on an angle between the ground and the far wall. Then he saw the gorgon; the gorgon whose eyes had met their reflection; the gorgon who was now more of a lifeless statue than the Chief Executive Officer of a high-powered Multinational Evil Concern.
The carved Ouroboros skidded across the desk and landed in the Executive Assistant’s lap. The goblin looked up, locked eyes with Norman, and opened his toothy mouth. Norman pushed past a dwarf at the front of the cue and held up a forefinger to indicate that a verbal assault was unwelcome.
‘Your previous boss has been... let go. I’m the new CEO,’ said Norman.
‘Security!’ yelled the goblin. Two muscled minotaurs lumbered toward the scene.
Norman dumped something heavy on the desk and the wood cracked under the object's weight. The gorgon’s stony head sat before the Assistant, its lifeless eyes staring into the void. The guards retreated.
‘An upgrade to your decor,’ said Norman before leaning over the counter and grabbing the goblin by the scruff of the neck. He pulled the Assistant out of his seat and tucked him under his arm. ‘Which way to the mailroom?’
‘That way,’ croaked the defeated goblin, pointing a finger westward, toward a downward spiraling staircase.
The pair made their way into the tower’s bowels, the goblin’s protests falling on deaf ears.
‘I never thanked your company for what you did for me.’
‘Did for you? What does that bloody mean?’ cried the goblin.
‘The dragon. I know it was one of yours. It wasn’t even after my parents—they were just collateral damage.’
‘And you’re grateful for that?’
Norman jumped off the final stair like a happy child and proceeded toward a huge room abuzz with activity. More than a hundred workers, from all corners of the land, stuffed scrolls into the various compartments of what looked like a wooden beehive. ‘Yes. You unlocked something in me. Something... fun. I thought I might have to work my way up the chain, but your kind re-assignment put me right where I wanted to be!’
‘Well said.’ Norman entered the mailroom with the goblin still tucked under his arm, and the mail sorters barely seemed to register his arrival. ‘Hear this!’ Norman yelled. All eyes gradually found him. ‘There is a vacancy down here, I believe?’
A gnome of barely thirteen summers looked up from the wall of pigeon-holes and nodded cautiously.
Norman dropped the goblin, deftly catching him by the belt before he hit the floor. He balled up the Assistant and drew back like someone about to throw a hefty log onto a campfire. The goblin’s muffled screams and cracking bones seemed to please Norman, as he stuffed the creature into one of the smaller mail slots.