After a full forty-five minutes of doing nothing, I declare the meeting adjourned. There's no dissent. Everyone here wants to go home and forget about the office.

Typical meeting, in a way.

Only, it's just me. No one else is here. I get up and walk to the window, and look out.

It's late. The sun has set, and outside there's growing darkness. You can now see the lights behind other windows, flakes of brightness stuck to the metal and concrete. You see tiny black figures, people turned into shadows by the distance. You might even find another figure cut against the surface, someone else looking out, just like you, wondering, What the hell am I doing here?


So I turn around and I am about to walk out of the conference room when I see Ted through the glass-walls coming my way, carrying a pile of papers. He enters the room.

Hey, I say.

Good of you to come, he says, as if I was the one who's arriving almost an hour late. I am in no mood for condescension.

You're late, I say.

He freezes in mid step and looks at me. A smile. Yeah, he says. Sorry about that.

I don't reply.

Ted puts the papers on the table and sits down. We can begin! He says.

I look around, just in case I missed a group of ten or twenty people around me.

No. There's no one else.

Who's he talking to?

Take a seat, Ted says.

He's talking to me, apparently.

I sit.

So, I say, Where are the others?

Yeah, Ted says, The others. In the end I talked to most of them through the day, one on one, you know. It's better.

Oh, I say, as Ted pretends to be really busy by shuffling the papers he brought in.


So, I say, What's the news? You wanted to tell us, I mean, me something?

Ted looks up. Yeah, he says. It's related to your question from before. You see...


There's good news, and there's bad news.

I can see he's hesitating. He might even be afraid. I think I even know why.

Come on, I say, Don't worry. I don't have any ketchup on me.

Heh, he says, then he clears his throat.

Bad news first, I say.

Okay, Ted says, and then smiles, really wide, ear-to-ear wide.

A voice appears in my head, metallic, loud, full of urgency. Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!

Ted says, The bad news is that since we're moving there will be some ... restructuring ... around the office.

I know we're moving, I think. What I would really like to know is why.

We're moving? I say.

Right, right, he says, The company is moving. Out of the city. A better place. Great cost-savings. There are some trees even.

He speaks like this, in a staccato of bad grammar and broken sentences. That way, he doesn't have to worry about diction.

Trees are important, I say. The carbon dioxide generated by employees won't go to waste.

True, true, Ted says, his face a stone, serious.

So that's the bad news?

Well, the restructuring means that some people will be... repositioned, he says.

I should be enjoying all his idiotic rhetoric, his hovering around the point without ever getting there like a summer fly. But I'm not. I'm just tired.

Repositioned, as in firing, I say. It's not a question.

There will be some layoffs, yes, Ted says.


I hate this. I have to get the information out of him as if this was an interrogation.

So, am I fired? I say.

No, not you. You are being relocated.

He says relocated as if he's a travel agent pushing a journey to some amazing Caribbean destination. He goes on, But the others, well, there will be less people.

I think, Come on! Just say it and be done with it!

Who? I say.

Well, everyone else, Ted says.


I say, You're kidding.

He shakes his head.

You fired everyone in the department?

Well, not me, personally, no. I mean, it wasn't my decision.

Really, I say, So what's the good news?

Oh! Right! Ted says, and his eyes light up. The good news is, I've been promoted.

I look at him, but I know that just looking is not enough. He's oblivious. When I was six I broke my leg one summer and I spent it reading comics, and afterwards I used to try to shoot laser beams from my eyes, like Superman. I would concentrate really hard, for minutes on end, but nothing would come out. Ocassionally, I'd get a headache, which I took as a good sign. It never worked. In the end I convinced myself that I didn't really need superpowers.

I was wrong.

Picture Ted's face in flames, my eyes shooting death rays at him, me, laughing like a demented Santa Claus. Picture Ted running around the office looking for water to splash on his face, finally getting to the bathroom. Then Ted is looking at his charred face in a mirror, and getting upset at how he looks without skin on.

Picture him looking down and seeing his suit is a mess. He'll never be able to clean it up.

That's when he decides that life is not worth living.

So? Ted says, face intact, bringing me back to reality.

What? I say.

Ted looks at his watch. Look, I gotta go now, but I'll be back in half an hour. Why don't you get some coffee and think about this for a while and I'll be back? I want to hear your suggestions. I want to talk about your concerns. I wouldn't want you to keep these feelings bottled up.

Then he adds, I can tell you're upset.

This is Ted, the Father Figure. One of the many ways this sociopath relates to people.

Fucking idiot. He thinks he is sensitive. He once walked up to a woman who'd just signed her divorce papers and said as a form of consolation, If it helps, think of me as your husband. She emptied her mug with cold coffee all over him and quit on the spot. After that no one talked to him for a week. He thought we were being sympathetic.

I say, I'll be here, then. Don't worry.

Ted picks up his papers, gets up and leaves. I try to make sense of what he just said, the move, the layoffs, but I can't. I turn around but Ted's already gone. Maybe I should relax for a while. I stretch my arms behind my back, set my feet on the table.

There's flat thud-thud-thud behind me. That dull, half-finished sound of someone knocking on glass.

I already know. Ted, ready to ask me to get my feet down. Yeah, yeah, I say.

I turn around, but what I see is not Ted. I see a smile. Green eyes. Long hair.