End Shift

End Shift
By Te’Kia Miller

            Nyko waited in the warm summer pre-dawn for the hover shuttle to arrive. He looked at his watch. It was five fifty-five in the morning. Shuttle would show anytime. Fifteen minutes later the shuttle arrived on time. Nyko boarded the hover shuttle and picked his favorite seat. A window seat eight rows back. Being the first on the shuttle line afforded him first seating choice. It was one of the few things he liked about going to work. Nyko settled in his seat, placed his satchel between him and the window out of which he was now gazing.

“Output is down again,” said the driver closing the doors.

“What else is new,” Nyko asked with a shrug, his eyes still gazing out the window.

“You know who they’ll blame.”

“Oh of course.”

“When will this madness stop?” The driver put the shuttle in gear and headed for the next stop.

Nyko’s eyes darted briefly from the window to the driver at the question and returned his gaze. He knew it was a rhetorical question. Why had the madness started to begin with? People were not numbers, they weren’t herds of sheep. They were people. He was a person. His family, friends, co-workers, the citizens of Novacay were all people. The Company didn’t understand that. Apparently neither did this society. Everyone’s running around trying to get more money in an economy that’s broken. Nyko didn’t blame them. The price of everything from gas to groceries had gone up. And what does The Company do? Save their own hides by slashing employees, cutting hours, and keeping wages the same. Classic. Not a lot of creativity at the top if those are always first strike moves. Nyko just shook his head unaware they’d reached the last stop.

Six more individuals got on adding a total of fifteen employees. The shuttle was now filled to capacity and was on its way to The Company. Still lost in thought, Nyko hadn’t even noticed the seat beside him was occupied by a tall woman with dark hair. All he kept hearing was someone rapidly turning a newspaper and muttering something about jerks. It was enough to get his attention. Nyko turned from the window and looked two seats ahead of him to the left.

Instantly Nyko recognized the disgruntled individual sitting in a seat that faced inside. His name was Patrick Fitz, an athletic seventy year old wearing thin glasses with short brown-gray hair. In his hand was today’s newspaper. The front read: PRODUCTIVITY AT AN ALL TIME LOW. Nyko said under his breath, here we go. The tall, dark haired woman now leaned over towards him, looked at him with brown eyes.

“Is he going to be alright?”

“Who Pat? Yeah, he’ll be fine once the workday is over.”

“You two work together or something?”

“No, but we do know each other. He was my training instructor several years ago. That was before he was moved to another department where one of his trainees became his boss.”

“Ouch,” she winced.

“He’s just like the rest of us,” Nyko sighed, “tired of being over worked, underpaid, stressed and being treated like a work horse.”

“Sound like I picked the wrong place to start a new job.”

“You must be new in Novacay,” Nyko said with piqued interest through a pair of narrowed eyes.

“Why would you think that?”

“For one, you’re starting a new job here and-”

“Ah-ah but I could’ve come from anywhere in Novacay to start working here.”

“You didn’t let me finish. Two, your dress code let’s me know you’re not from anywhere in Novacay. Yours is much brighter, casual, easy going. Ours is dull, constricted to suite or uniform. And three, you don’t seem to understand this society very well, otherwise you’d know why Pat over there is having a temper tantrum.”

“Very sharp eye. Okay, so I’m not from your society of Novacay.”

“Where are you from,” Nyko asked.

“From Halcyon.”

“I’ve heard of that place. Seen vacation ads for it too. It’s a shame though.”

“Why is that?”

“People in this society, in Novacay, don’t vacation much. The Company only gives about 13 days out of the year. Other places is only a few more days than that but not many. We’re lucky to even get sick days and we only get 3 of those. Anything after that requires a doctor’s excuse.”

“What,” the woman exclaimed.

“Trying to cut down on the number of people who call in sick when they’re not sick. But can you blame people? So the bunch pays the price for a few bad apples.”

That’s when the shuttle came to a final stop. They’d arrived at the docking port just outside the gates of The Company. Beyond the gates was an architecturally beautiful building extending one hundred stories high with a modern look. Large glass windows not only let in massive amounts of natural light but revealed offices with pristine white floors, cubicles, and countless people moving through the desk mazes.

Nyko grabbed his bag, slung the strap on his shoulder and followed the woman into the isle. Everyone single file piled out of the shuttle and onto the docking port. There they lined up at a designated window for their area of the company they worked in. As Nyko was going to his line, he noticed the woman seemed confused.

“Where’s your pass,” he asked her.

“My what?”

“Your pass. It’ll tell you what section you’re working in. Just tell me your position.”

“I’m working as an assistant to the information security officer.”

“Then you’re in IT. That line is next to mine. Follow me.”

“Thanks, uh…”

“Nyko. Nyko Paulson.”

“Thanks Nyko. I’m Aluna Simmons by the way.” Nyko nodded with a smile and lead her to the line for IT next to his line.

“So care to join me for lunch. I saw a nice place on the way here. I could use someone to show me the area,” Aluna said getting in her line.

“I’d love to but we won’t have time. We only get thirty minutes for lunch.”

“Really?”

“I know, it sucks. The cafeteria is alright though. They cater in the food. It’s not always great but it’s food.”

“It more than sucks. Where I’m from you get two hours in the middle of the day. It’s called a Siesta. Schools and businesses close in the middle of the day. People are home with their family, out with their friends, having lunch, in the park, shopping or napping. Then we come back for a few more hours to work. We close the workday at five in the evening.”

“Sounds nice. I think you’ll find things work a lot differently here.”

“I’m beginning to see that already. I’m afraid to ask what time we get off work.”

“Whenever The Company says so. Productivity is down so we’ll most likely be working mandatory over time. It’ll be the fourth straight week for this crap. Money is good, but only as a slave. It makes a terrible master.”

From then on neither Nyko nor Aluna spoke. They just fell into their respective lines, waited to be checked in and then pass through the gates upon affirmative identification. After that they melded into the crowds that were slowly moving to their parts of the company. Nyko worked in the call center, a position he hated with a white hot passion.

He walked into the lobby floor, said ‘hi’ to a few familiar faces before heading to the elevators. The glass door to the third elevator opened and he stepped in, taking it to the fourth floor. He rounded into the hall, made the trek down the corridor and entered a large room filled with open cubicles. Working his way through the maze he found his desk on top of which rested his computer with a blinking red light.

Nyko dropped his backpack under the desk, whipped his coat off and hung in on the back of his chair. He swiveled and took a seat at the desk, blowing out a sigh as he put his head-phone on and turned his computer on. Using the holographic touch screen, he touched the phone icon to listen to the message.

“This is your supervisor. The Company is ordering mandatory overtime as productivity is low. This is being done to get level back up to speed. Today’s…”

Nyko rolled his eyes. This was ridiculous. He couldn’t listen to anymore so he hit the trash icon to delete the message. Opening his email was first. A slew of tasks overwhelmed him for the first two hours. The next three were spent answering phone calls from annoying and silly customers. By the time lunch rolled around, he was ready to go home.

Standing in line, Nyko saw another familiar face. It was Aluna. She eased up beside him with a smile, her tray halfway filled with a bowl of fruit, a turkey sandwich, yogurt and chocolate milk. Nyko passed her side smile as he took from the array of food in front of him. None of it was to his liking but it was food. After filling his plate with a sloppy joe, fries and a pop the two went to sit down.

“So how is your first day so far,” Nyko asked taking a bite of his sloppy joe.

“It’s not at all what I expected. I’m still not sure about this mandatory overtime.” Aluna took her fork and began eating her fruit.

“Get use to it. Just be glad you have a job.”

“I didn’t say I wasn’t glad to have a job. I said I wasn’t sure about this job.”

“Is there a difference? A job is a job.”

“Is it really? Then why do people bother having a preference or finding a job that suits them?” Nyko opened his mouth to speak but closed it. “Exactly,” pointed Aluna.

“Well, at least in Novacay it doesn’t matter. Everyone here worships the dollar. It’s all about money, especially with those fat cats at the top running The Company. All they care about is money and treat us like sheep. The Company is our bread and butter so we obey like good little herds. They’ve caused us to sacrifice living and our way of life to be servants to those bratty, entitlement attitude having customers. The Company has taken away our holidays, weekends, and evenings just to keep business open so they can make just one more dollar. And what do we get?”

As Nyko was speaking, Aluna sat there slowly eating her lunch. She was a little apprehensive to his ranting. It made her wonder if he should be talking bad about The Company. Her anxiety grew when she saw movement over by the cafeteria door but her attention turned back to the ranting Nyko.

“Well,” Aluna started, “you get full benefits, paid vacation, and sick leave.”

Nyko scoffed, “all a slap in the face. This is NO VACAY. We don’t take vacations here. We spend so much time working, there’s no time for family, vacations, friends. It’s work, home, eat, sleep, then work again day in and day out.”

“You keep saying there’s no time for family. Surely people here have families,” Aluna said.

“Children spend majority of their day in school being taught god knows what. Teachers are babysitters not educators here. Adults live at work, children live at school, figuratively that is. Anytime we do have outside of work is next to none to do anything with.”

“Work, home, eat, sleep, then work again.”

“Now you’re getting it,” said Nyko. Aluna sat astonished by what she heard.

“But time is so precious,” she said.

“Exactly and when it’s gone, it’s not coming back. Now money, money always comes back. Somehow, some way, money comes back. Not time. Time is more important than money. Time with family, with friends, with life, that’s what’s important. Once it’s gone, it cannot be given back.”

“I know what you mean,” Aluna said.

“But do you understand what I mean?”

“I do.”

“Then you are one of few.”

That’s when a man dressed in a dark suit with a dark tie walked up behind Nyko. Aluna watched as the man tapped the still ranting Nyko on the shoulder. He stopped eating and turned behind him. She watched as Nyko’s demeanor change. His mouth stopped moving, shoulders slump and his head dropped. Nyko turned back to Aluna.

“Now we’ll see if I still have a job or not.”

With that Nyko got up with man and followed him out of the cafeteria. Neither spoke as they walked down the long corridor and into the lobby. There they caught the fourth glass elevator up to the fifth floor. The door slid down and they exited, made a left turn and headed down another long corridor before stopping at double limestone doors. The man in the dark suite pulled out his ID card, swiped it in the key swipe and the doors opened up. Nyko followed the man into the large, plushy furnished executive suite.

There was a large floor to ceiling window, fichus trees in the corner, a leather sofa against the wall near the door, and an area run on top of which sat two leather chairs. Beyond the chairs was a chrome desk with a glass top, a desk lap on top along with a holographic computer screen and digital clock. Sitting at the desk was a tall man, lean, dressed in a pinstriped suite with a powder blue shirt and navy blue tie. His brown hair was slicked back, the brown goatee well trimmed and thin rimmed glasses sat on the bridge of his nose. He waved for the man who escorted Nyko to leave. The room remained silent as the man left, leaving the sound of closing doors to echo. A sigh left the man as he waved for Nyko to step forward.

Nyko walked forward and stopped between the two chairs, his hand folded behind his back, t-railing in shoulders. Most people hated this moment. There was a dread people got when called to their bosses offices. Many people work their entire career trying to avoid this, scared to get fired. Scared to get reprimanded in any form in his eyes. He was not afraid. He’d made a decision to never let The Company bully him, scare him or cause him fear. Unfortunately he’d fallen into another trap, the trap of complacency. Numb to the rings of fire The Company had employees jumping through. It was the reason he felt the way he did which brought him to this moment in time.

“Is there a problem Mr. Salvatore?”

“I guess so employee 013. I was sitting here doing my job when our smart security picked up vulgar speech against The Company. Against Novacay really. It appears you have some sort of grievance against The Company.”

“I will not deny it. I do.”

“And why was it a good idea to share such negativity with a new employee?”

“I felt she should know what she’s getting into. At least then she’d have a fighting chance.”

“You don’t like your job very much do you?”

“I have to say that’s a no.”

“So you do not like working at The Company?”

“You heard the security feed and you’re smart enough to make an educated guess,” Nyko replied.

“Well,” sighed Mr. Salvatore, “in these cases The Company requires us to reprimand disgruntle employees like yourself, usually immediate termination. Of course I’ll have to write a report on this incident and so on. But, I think you were just blowing off some steam and you didn’t know what you were saying. At least that’s what the report will say. I will let you go with a stern warning. Don’t let this happen again.”

Nyko stood there for a few brief moments. Mr. Salvatore went back to his work, a sign that the meeting was adjourned. Nyko turned on his heel and headed back to his desk. When he got there he noticed a fellow employee’s desk was being cleaned out. He shook his head. The people cleaning out the desk wore yellow jumpsuits. They only cleared out a desk if the employee was deemed a possible postal employee by the counselor. It was the fifth person this week and he’d heard two others were on time-bomb watch, people suspected of being a ticking time bomb after emotional evaluation.

Sitting at his desk Nyko contemplated logging back in. He’d come so close to getting fired. Could he really afford to lose his job? Was it worth it? Already he’d lost so much time. For so long his allegiance and loyalty was to The Company, given them his life. Money had become his overall goal. More money meant a better life for his family, a family he hardly ever saw. How long had he truly seen his parents? His relatives? Everyone had become so inoculated to the grind that was his daily routine of work, home, eat, sleep, work. It was time to end the cycle.

Nyko pulled his screen up and logged back in. His eyes darted to red square icon that said ‘end’ on it. He looked back at the people in yellow jumpsuits packing up the last items of the terminated employee. This was his madness and he couldn’t take it anymore. He wouldn’t. Nyko hit the red icon and the computer protested stating it would send a memo to his supervisor of the early dismissal, was this okay. Nyko pressed the ‘yes’ icon and the computer shutdown. He gathered his things, slung his backpack over his shoulders and headed for the door. There was once stop he had to make.

He took the elevators to the tenth floor where he found Aluna. She was surprised to see him when he stopped in front of her. Aluna stopped her work and looked at Nyko. She looked at him strange for the smile he wore on his face.

“Let me guess. They fired you.”

“No, I quit.”

“What now?”

“I was thinking about vacation, someplace nice and warm on an island. You know of a place?”

“I may.”

“Come with me. You won’t like it here. Trust me.”

“You’re right. I won’t.”

“This place you may know of, you think my family will like it there?”

“Oh definitely.”

“Then let’s go.”

©2013

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