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Call Center Purgatory
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
  The Malfunction Part XVII

There are times when you think a volume of thoughts in milliseconds. Such as that moment when you're driving and realize you are about to have an accident, or when you are falling from a roof and your whole life passes before your eyes. The one fight I had in high school felt like that, when I finally decided to punch the guy, everything slowed way down.

In this moment, staring down something truly fearsome, it was the same, time slowed down. Do I run? Do I fight? Will I die? Is any of this real? I miss my wife. I hate the call center-why am I running towards it?

I remembered all that Brown had reminded me of. How I had started my life ready to make a difference in the world, and now I was so lost. My life could have been incredible. I could have helped so many people, but instead I allowed myself to drown in the mundane, in the everyday excrement of bills, commuting, mowing the lawn and TV.

Inside of me, rage finally built beyond what I had ever known. It was anger at myself, anger at my own cowardice, anger at my own laziness, anger at the nothing I had let myself become. Common sense and self preservation became like voices down a deep well, while something more primal transferred all my anger, all my frustration to these creatures that had been stalking me for the last five hours.

Without thinking I lifted the crowbar in my right hand and the hatchet in my left. I leapt at the creature on my left, bringing the crowbar squarely down on his head with such force I heard a dull crack and felt the skull split and the creature fell slack to the floor. The creature in the middle darted forward and tore at my thigh with his teeth. I started hacking at his spine his spine with the hatchet. Blood squirted from his neck and splattered my face. It yelped, then shook violently as it finally died and released my thigh. The third creature leapt at my head, snarling and snapping.

Somehow, I dropped to the ground as he flew over the top of me. The creature hit wall and was dazed for several seconds. I hobbled at him frantically and began to pummel him with the crowbar. It was a blur of blood, fur, torn skin and cursings and shrieks until the hatchet lay lodged in his throat and I was covered in cuts, bruises and bites. I felt like I had lost half a pint of blood.

It was quiet, except for my heavy breathing and the muzak system playing "September Morn" by Neil Diamond. Certainly not my idea of an appropriate soundtrack for battling Hell-hounds or whatever these things were. Someone has a really warped sense of humour or just bad taste in music...

More after the Labor Day holiday,

Part XVIII

Thanks for reading,

AC

Anonymous Cog

 
Monday, August 28, 2006
  The Malfunction Part XVI
"I got to keep movin',
I've got to keep movin'
Blues fallin' down like hail,
blues fallin' down like hail.

Umm mmm mmm mmm
Blues fallin' down like hail,
blues fallin' down like hail.
And the days keeps on worryin' me,
there's a hellhound on my trail,
hellhound on my trail,
hellhound on my trail."
~Bluesman Robert Johnson

This time I ran longer than before. I had not seen what was chasing me, but I could hear a growling, shrieking noise that let me know curiosity may not be the most healthy choice. It sounded like there were three of them, whatever they were.

I had cleared three sets of double doors, and about five hundred meters when I came to a lobby. I had not locked the doors behind me since it had not stopped them before, and seemed to only piss them off.

I looked around for my next move while I put my hands on my knees and gasped for air. Like the courtyard, the main exit in the lobby had been blocked with cement blocks. Looking around I saw three signs with arrows that read "New Wing Under Construction", "Records" and "Call Center".

Could it be that easy to get home?

I sprinted in the direction of the call center just as my pursuers burst through the double doors. The explosive shrieking burst in the air, making me stop to cover my ears.

I looked up and finally came face to face with my pursuers, three creatures that were unlike any thing I had ever seen. They had a dog's face, but longer teeth, and a mouth as large as a Kodiak bear. The eyes were that bright copper color I had seen, but it was a color that was both bright and cold at the same time. Their bodies were the size of a timber wolf, except their shoulders were more massive, almost like a hump. Their legs were massive and ended in huge paws with long claws like a Bengal Tiger. The claws were what caused the clicking noise in the hall. Whatever they were, they weren't anything I had seen in National Geographic. These were something supernatural.

They took advantage of my shock to block my way to the call center wing. They shrieked like a cougar, but they weren't moving to attack.

Part XVII

Thanks for reading,

AC

Anonymous Cog

 
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
  The Malfunction Part XV


I entered the long hall again and began to walk toward the smaller numbered rooms. After ten minutes of walking, the muffled noises in the halls around me resumed again. The noise was so muffled and faint, but it was like there were several people or something else walking slowly through halls. The footfalls were not loud, but at the end of every footfall was a click that echoed in the halls. I turned around and strained to see anything in the distance. Then I saw a flash of two copper colored lights in the distance, like shining a flashlight at two new pennies. The lights remained for five seconds, and then disappeared. I started walking again, picking up the pace a little.

I don't know why, but I sprinted for about two hundred meters and then stopped, and listened. The noises sped up and I saw the same flashes of copper in the distance, but this time, there were six of them. I had to catch my breath, I'm a middle aged desk jockey and this was much more activity than I was used to. The noises stopped again, but the flashes of light remained at the same location, about 600 meters down the hall.

Whatever it is or they are, they aren't trying to overtake me now. They are staying back. It didn't make it any less frightening. I was being watched, even stalked and it was not necessarily by another human being. I had no other options but to keep walking. Maybe I could come to an exit where these keys I found would work. Maybe Brown would finally return and explain all of this to me.

I continued walking for another hour. The numbers were going down, but I was still in the 300's. What changed was that the lower the numbers got, the newer the building looked. The walls were now a little dingy, but there was no pealing plaster and less and less trash. As I passed number 325, I came to a double door in the middle of the hallway. I looked through the glass and could see carpet and fluorescent lights, but still no people. The doors were locked, but one of the keys from my ring opened them. I locked it behind me, hoping that might stop whatever was following me.

The carpet under my tired feet felt soft. I hoped I wasn't going to bump into some doctor or nurse or worse yet a security guard while I was outfitted like the Call-Center Worker of the Apocalypse with a hatchet and a crowbar, but I had nothing to fear. There was still no one around. The hallway turned to the left and I heard something: music. There was a speaker above me, playing a muzak version of a Neil Diamond's most horrible of songs, "Sweet Caroline". If I could find the controls for the muzak, I would use my hatchet for sure.

Up ahead was a small alcove, with a couch. I sat down and rested and closed my eyes. I was tired, spirit, soul and body. I actually missed the call center and wanted this whole experience to end. From around the corner and 300 meters down the hall to the double doors I had locked I heard a crash. Whatever was following me had gotten through the doors and was howling and screeching.

I jumped to my feet and began to run...

Part XVI

Thanks for reading,

AC

Anonymous Cog

 
Monday, August 21, 2006
  The Malfunction Part XIV


I walked down the long hallway for what seemed like three hours. There were junctions every three hundred meters, but they were all exactly the same, stretching out as far as I could see, no exits, no open doors, nothing. The light from the bare bulbs was swallowed up in the distance of the halls, making it seem darker and dingy, it was like putting a mirror to a mirror, looking at the endless line of mirrors getting darker and darker.

In the distance, I started hearing new noises, as if things were moving slowly in the halls all around me, but I still saw nothing. I was too afraid to go down the side halls to investigate, the same way a little kid thinks the monsters won't get him if he stays under the covers. If this was a real place, I still needed to go in one direction or I could get lost.

Finally, I came to a grey door with an exit sign half lit, flickering with an irregular rhythm. I pushed on the bar and it slowly opened to the outside.I walked out into a courtyard with a slate gray sky and brown grass. There was a small grove of sad trees with several crispy leaves hanging on.

Directly ahead was an ornate arch that probably led away from the building, but had been sealed up with cement and gray cinder blocks. The walls of the courtyard were over ten feet tall with razor wire that tilted in to keep people from getting out, instead of tilted out to keep people from getting in. It was a dead end. I would have to return to the endless hallway and the strange noises echoing through the halls.

One thing caught my eye. In the corner was a storage shed, probably used for the groundskeeper. What was even more surprising was that the padlock was left open,hanging on the hasp. Inside was several shelves of grimy bottles of weed killers and insecticides, but hanging on the wall were some tools. I took down a slightly rusty hatchet in a leather belt sheath and a well-used crowbar. The hatchet fit on my belt and I found a shoulder strap from a weed trimmer that allowed me to carry the crowbar over my shoulder. I looked down to find a big screwdriver and a cheap pair of pliers in a white 5 gallon bucket on the floor. These fit in my back pocket. Behind one of the cans of raid was a small box of matches and a large candle in a jar, the sort of candles that Catholic mothers always buy in the supermarket, with a picture of a saint on the front of it.

I looked around the shed one last time. When I was 20, I spent a summer as a groundskeeper, it was a pretty good year, I liked smelling cut grass and dirt. I remembered my store-room when I was a groundskeeper. Then I saw it: a rusty Maxwell house coffee can, placed way back on the top shelf. Inside I found a ring of keys, and a pack of Lucky Strikes. I remembered the day I lost the keys to the building I worked at that summer, and how my gruff boss chain smoked luckies. I almost got fired that year for losing those keys, but he stood up for me. Why is this place so foreign, and still familiar?

At least now I had some tools, keys and a something to use as a weapon. I would have preferred a Glock .40 caliber pistol, Leatherman tool and a D-cell Mag-lite, but it was better than nothing...

Part XV

Thanks for reading,

AC

Anonymous Cog

 
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
  The Malfunction Part XIII

The soft grey shapes sharpened into focus. I was in a long hallway, with plaster peeling from the walls and ceiling like skin from a sunburn. The doors on both sides of me were either locked solid or torn off the hinges, leading to empty rooms with the same peeling plaster. The smell was musty, wet and sour.

It was not ancient. It may have been abandoned twenty or thirty years ago. It was a sad and depressing place. As if to punctuate my opinion, a low, moaning wind blew down the hall, stirring up the plaster and bits of trash on the floor.

There was some light. A weak forty watt bulb flickered every thirty feet of the long hall. In the rooms nearby there were no bulbs, only a little bit of grey light peeking through some holes in the boarded-up windows. The windows were boarded up in such a way I could not open them without a crowbar.

I felt alone, but could not be sure. Noises came from all around the building, plaster falling, more wind blowing, noises that told me the building was open to the outside somewhere, even though the windows I saw were boarded up tight. It creaked as if the damp was starting to rot the insides of the structure. Every noise echoed down the long halls, making it seem like a very large place.

I was still unable to find Brown. After searching the rooms around me, it became obvious there was nothing in this part of the building. The only thing I found useful was that each door was marked with a room number. The ones behind me were lower, and the rooms ahead of me were higher. Though I could see no end to the hallway either direction, it made more sense to head in the opposite direction. Maybe when I got to zero there would be an intersection, or lobby of some kind.

I started walking down the long hall...

Part XIV

Thanks for reading,

AC

Anonymous Cog

 
Monday, August 14, 2006
  The Malfunction Part XII

We sat down on a long bench and listened to younger AC speak. He took his sermon from I Samuel 17, the story of David and Goliath. His main text was verse 45. He explained how all of the weapons that Goliath had were real, but faith in the power of God was more real. He went on to talk about how that faith is more real than substance, because faith in God's word, his own faith created everything around us. Literally, every thing in this world was made from something we cannot see or feel, but exists nonetheless,(Hebrews 11:3).

He spoke like I had never seen him speak before. He was a shy guy, who stuttered in front of groups, and who was never very confident, but this guy had something come over him that made him a totally different person. He had authority, and he spoke clearly and logically.

He soon called for people to come up to the front that wanted the power of God to be real in their lives. Five people went up, including the waif-like girl. He prayed for them fervently, like it really meant something, like he expected things to change. They all began to cry.

I felt something warm on my cheek, but then the light from the campfire faded and soon everything became charcoal grey and silent. Without going through a door or portal, Brown had brought me to another place, but it was not warm, or cold, and all was dark grey.

This time, I was alone with no one to guide me...

Part XIII

Thanks for reading,

AC

Anonymous Cog

 
Saturday, August 05, 2006
  The Malfunction Part XI

Brown waved his hand and time sped by into the night. My two cans of Cherry 7-Up´s and Cow Tail Candy I had stolen from the trailer was gone. Brown laughed out loud, now he was really grinning.

We were at the back of a large group of teenagers around a campfire. It was hot and humid, but the smoke kept the bugs at bay. There was a young girl from South Africa with a guitar that was leading the song service. We were standing next to the younger AC and he looked more nervous than his wedding day. He had his bible open and was still trying to look up one more scripture for his first sermon.

I don´t know why or how I remembered, but when he looked away for a minute, I turned the bible to II Corinthinans 3:5-6, and then slapped the back of his head. He looked around shocked, then turned back to look at the page. He was confused how it had changed, but then he saw the passage.

The change I remembered had finally happened. Young AC finally stopped thinking how he would speak, how he would do something greater than he had ever done. He realized he had to trust in something bigger than himself if anything good was to happen here tonight.

The music finished up and he strode to the front, ready to do something he had never done before.

Part XII

Thanks for reading,

AC

Anonymous Cog

 
Thursday, August 03, 2006
  The Malfunction Part X

There was a log nearby. Brown and I sat down to listen. Listening to yourself is always strange. Its a combination of embarrasment, fascination, and pride,(if you are doing ok). This was a different AC than I was now. He was excited about the bible and the things of God. He had a passion for what he was doing. He was not beat-down or depressed, he was happy and funny.

He was talking about how to keep your relationship with God fresh and new. He talked about putting aside things that kept you from God, about prayer time, and the power of the Holy Spirit in your life when he was allowed to reign.

There was a girl in the front near the left. She was a thin, pale, waif-like creature, who reminded me of Angela. There was a look about her that is hard to explain. She looked like an animal that had been beaten, but was hoping that they would find some kindness, somewhere. After the lesson ended, she lingered around, shyly asked the younger AC a couple of questions about the lesson, then left quickly with her friends.
"There's more to see here, do you want to stay around for a while?", Brown asked.
"Yeah...This was a good time."
We followed AC through the rest of his day. He chaperoned at the pool. He worked in the cafeteria, and when they were gone at crafts he snuck away to a little travel trailer where the counselors went for quiet time. Inside was an air conditioner and a refrigerator with a 12 pack of Cherry 7-Up, it was a blissful relief from the Oklahoma heat and humidity. He started studying his bible and writing down some notes in a notebook.

"Do you know what he is getting ready for?"
"He's speaking at the service tonight. It's really the first time for him to preach."
"Is he nervous?"
"Petrified. He's somewhere between wishing he could crawl under a rock with embarrasment, and yet feeling like its Christmas Eve and he has a huge present under the tree that he can't wait to open."
"Why is he so nervous?"
"Besides this being the first time, he stutters when he gets nervous. He turns red. He still has some self-esteem issues. He's still so young. He still feels like a kid, even though he's almost 20."
"Let's leave him alone, we'll see him tonight."
"Hold up, let me test something."

I opened the fridge, took out 2 of the Cherry 7-up's and a cow tail candy stick. I let the door make a sound, he didn't even flinch. I walked out of the trailer and popped the lid and felt very smug. Brown just shook his head, but he was still grinning.

Immediately, I remembered a feeling from those 20 years ago. I remembered thinking, "Where did all the pop go? I thought I had more!"
Scary...

Part XI

Thanks for reading,

AC

Anonymous Cog

 
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
  The Malfunction Part IX

We walked out into a grassy path around a pond fed by a babbling brook. It was about 85 degrees out, and humid. Brown pointed towards the right where another path went through the pine woods. We walked through the woods out onto a road and started walking up the road towards what looked like the entrance to a ranch of some kind. As we got closer I could finally see the sign.

"Glory Ranch: Christian Summer Camp For Ages 12 to 19,
Cinnamon Creek, Dacoma, OK"

There was a big red barn through the gate, and several horses in a white fenced corral next to the barn. I could hear kids laughing and yelling in the distance. I finally remembered where I was. After my second year in college, I had worked for pretty much nothing at a Christian summer camp for several months. This was after I had the experience on the bridge.

Brown spoke up, "Let's look around some more. I wonder what's going on over there, by the fishing pond."

By the fishing pond was a campfire area, it had benches all around it, leading down to the fire. There were about 20 teenagers there listening to someone teaching them a bible lesson. What was so unusual was they were paying attention, and some even taking notes.

The teacher was me...

Part X

Thanks for reading,

AC
Anonymous Cog

 





Exploring the mind numbing insanity and childish corporate culture of an unknown call center employee.
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Purgatory: A place of suffering and torment with an unknown duration. In Roman Catholic Theology-the place where the dead are purified from their sins.
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Email:anonymous.cog at gmail.com
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