From: firstname.lastname@example.org (nikolai kingsley) Newsgroups: talk.bizarre Subject: The Sketch Date: Mon, 1 Dec 1997 19:59:36 +1100 Organization: anarchartists/FDP Lines: 103 Message-ID: <MPG.email@example.com> Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org X-Newsreader: Anawave Gravity v2.00.753 I thought it had been a pretty clever idea, putting the job advertisement where it could only be found by people who'd be qualified for the job, but as it happened, no-one found it because no-one knew it even existed. So we posted a message in half a dozen different newsgroups, and it all turned into a scavenger hunt. Bah. It couldn't have been done in a more half-assed fashion if we'd planned it. There wasn't any way around the problem of having to sort through hundreds of written applications, but we made it as easy as possible. We rented a post office box for a month and picked up two week's worth of letters, abandoning the rest. We went through them, throwing out any with grammatical or spelling mistakes (and we were vicious in this; I personally kicked two letters for poor subject-verb agreement), then we threw out all the twee ones; the pastel-tinted paper, the ones with fold- out sections and the three perfumed ones. "It's called the 'kick-in-the-balls' school of job application," Lisa said. "It relies on grabbing the attention of the clients." I held up the photo of some maniacally grinning system administrator. "This grabs your attention in the same way that a charging rhinoceros does. How is it supposed to convince us to look at his application?" "Better burn that one," Lisa agreed. When I opened the last letter, a square of blackened paper fell out; a pencil sketch. I stared at it for a full minute before the others looked up and wondered what was going on. It had elements of Giger and Bosch, swirled together to the point where you couldn't tell exactly what it was, but the overall impression was very nasty. I felt like wiping my fingers after I'd put it down on the table. A pair of slit-pupilled eyes stared out from the middle, and the torn bodies immediately below them somehow gave the impression of a faintly smiling mouth full of jagged teeth. It was odd; ordinarily, I appreciated that kind of artwork, but there was something repellent about this, something in the way the elements were intermingled, or in some cases simply thrust through each other. Real Lovecraft material, this. I put it aside and tried to concentrate on the other resumes, but that sketch kept dragging my attention back to it, to the eyes. Of course they seemed to follow you about the room; as well as that, they seemed to be looking about on me for a good place to insert a sharp knife. In the end I sandwiched the sketch and the application letter between two water- damaged sheets of Eckersley's illustration board and buried it in the bottom of the filing cabinet, between several dozen Microsoft Office licensing agreements and the tax forms from three years ago. I locked the cabinet drawer. We decided on someone eventually, and they settled in, but that sketch wouldn't leave my mind. I could feel it humming silently to itself whenever I went near the filing cabinet; at times, I imagined it was trying to get out. One week after starting work with us, the new guy left with no explanation apart from an email which said he didn't want to work for people who kept dead rats in the filing cabinet. Lisa looked through them all but didn't find any deceased rodents. She did find the sketch, though; she wrinkled her nose as her fingers touched the illustration board. I reached in and took it out of the drawer; the moment I touched it, I could see why the new guy had thought there was a dead rat in there. It smelled like a compost bin full of bad things. I dropped it on the desk and one of the boards slipped off. The sketch lay there, all swollen, broken limbs, open wounds and claws sunk into throats. For a second I imagined that the eyes were closed, but only for a second. Lisa fished the application letter out from behind the sketch. "Let's give Miss Rebecca Oberlinn a call," she said hesitantly "She seems qualified." "Yeah," I muttered, "and she can have that fucking sketch back, too." She turned out to be a completely ordinary young woman, mid twenties, wire-rimmed glasses, short hair, not a trace of Ye Olde Ones about her. I tried to imagine her sitting up at midnight, carefully crafting that sketch, dragging the sharpened end of a 6H pencil over the paper, pouring gigawatts of Magickal Intent into it and muttering foul promises to Those Who Live In The Spaces Between; it didn't seem likely. Her interview went smoothly, and we took her on then and there. My throat was suddenly dry as I handed the sketch back to her. "You might like to have this back." She glanced down as if in embarrassment and gave a nervous half-grin. "I put that in to show that I'm multi-skilled." Yeah, right. She reached out to pick it up off the desk and I noticed that the fingernail on her right hand was almost two inches long, filed to a point and lacquered the colour of dried blood. I was glad she was working for us, and not against us. nikolai --- hi, goss!