All Hail the Printing Press
Michael taps the stack of papers into a neat little pile, sets them on his desk and bumps a stray one back into place. In his drawer is a set of colored paperclips, pink for polished pieces, but he can’t seem to find one.
“Look at this.” A bible thuds onto his desk, slides across and sends the papers into the air with a nice little whoosh. Tommy. Jesus Christ, why aren’t cubicles equipped with doors?
Tommy never leaves home without a sideshow of conspiracy theories. Michael rubs his temples and prepares himself for the latest. Yesterday, Tommy spent a good hour explaining that Baby Shark, doo-doo, was indeed, satanic. While it had been a good waste of company time, he grew tired listening to Tommy explain how it wasn’t a simple child’s song but a ploy to hypnotize children into servitude to Satan through hand motions and subliminal messages.
“It’s a bible, Tommy. We print 168,000 every day.”
“It’s not right,” Tommy says pointing to the red text.
“What do you mean it’s not right?”
“That’s not what it’s supposed to say.”
Michael looks at the text. He’s been with the company for six years, but he doesn’t know what it’s supposed to say. “Typos happen, take it up with Clark.”
Tommy flips to another chapter and stabs a finger at the words. “It’s the entire book.”
Post-its and scrap pieces of paper cram the Bible. It reminds Michael of his Memaw and how she used to highlight entire chapters and scribble notes in every inch of white space. Tommy’s damn near delusional, Memaw certainly was. “What is all that? HR is going to have your ass.”
“Anytime there’s mention of Lucifer or demons, the text’s been…” Tommy searches for the right word, “skewed.”
Classic. Michael rolls his eyes, not sure why he indulged the shenanigans to start. “I’ve got deadlines, Tommy. Mr. G’s up my ass…”
“Mr. G!” Tommy interrupts, “He’s probably behind this… and Clark.” Tommy lowers his voice and inches his head close to Michaels. “We’re the biggest faith-based publisher on the East Coast. If you want to lead people into eternal damnation… we’re your guys.”
“So, the government wants everyone to simmer in hell? Maybe it’s Russia?”
“Jesus Christ!” Michael snatches open his junk drawer and fishes out a rosary he’d won at the office Christmas party last year. He couldn’t do anything about ninety percent of the conspiracy theories Tommy rattled off but, this… this one he could prove wrong.
Tommy backs away, eyes wide. “What are you going to do with that?”
“Turn the watercooler into a spicket of holy water,” Michael says and stomps towards the intersection of cubicles and offices. Once there, he rips the plastic junction that holds the knobs off the watercooler, tosses the rosary in and returns the plastic piece. Water flows as normal but only after running over the rosary first. Instant holy water.
“How’s it hanging?” Clark asks, coming from his office for a water cooler break. He takes a Styrofoam cup and fills it.
“I’m just exercising my demons.”
Clark chugs his cup of water, wipes his mouth with the back of his hand and tosses in in the trash. “Odd thing to say, Mich…”
Between coughs and stutters, Clark looks like a cat with a hairball, retching but nothing comes. His face pales, then blues while he clutches at his throat. His throat… are those blisters? Yes, the trapped liquid boils underneath the skin.
Oh, the horror! Dear God, could Tommy be right?
Clark exhales a plume of steam, twitches and seizes on the floor. From around the room a crowd forms, one shouts orders while the others snap to attention. Where the hell is Tommy?
Michael spies Tommy hunkered down in the cubicle, he slips away from the crowd and into the makeshift bunker too.
“How did you know that would work?” Tommy whispers.
“I didn’t think it would.” Michael says. “Tell me more about Satan and this Baby Shark.”
Lesley Crigger is a regular contributor to Mercurial Stories.