From: (nikolai kingsley)
Newsgroups: talk.bizarre
Subject: The Sketch
Date: Mon, 1 Dec 1997 19:59:36 +1100
Organization: anarchartists/FDP
Lines: 103
Message-ID: <>
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 

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 

"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.

hi, goss!