If You Could Be Any Mythical Creature, What Would You Be?

Once upon a time, I had a boss who thought each employee on his team might benefit from sitting in on an interview. At the time I was working as a Quality Assurance Engineer for coded litigation documents. That fancy title meant I wore the most comfortable clothes possible without their being pajamas, worked in a cubicle corner that looked more and more like a cave every day, and frequently talked to my coworkers so that we didn’t start gnawing the upholstered walls out of boredom.

Quality control is mind-numbingly dull.

I was thus attired and thus mindsetted when said boss (we’ll call him Jim) alerted me to the interview and his expectation that I be there. I had no training in what to say but certainly knew I ought to have put on something fancier than jeans and a sweatshirt. At least I had shoes.

And so I went, attending my suit-clad supervisor. We met an expectant young man in the conference room. His name was(n’t) Mike. He also wore a suit. We shook hands all around and sat and organized papers and I pretended to know what I was doing.

“I see from your résumé that you worked at X…” Jim began. Fortunately, the questions and responses ran just like I’d seen in movies. I nodded at appropriate points, looked stern and interested at others, and added a (hopefully) relevant query when requested.

We were nearly finished, when Jim asked, “If you could be any mythical creature, what would you choose?”

Mike thought for a few seconds, then responded, “A ninja tiger.”

Besides the usual gamut of “Where do you see yourself in five years?,” “What experience do you feel you bring to X Company?,” and “Have you ever been in a stressful situation and how did you handle it?;” I knew some quirky interviewers pulled out a random question for fun (or, to my paranoid mind) for psychological assessment. When Mike, by all appearances a QA nerd, answered the way he did, I was surprised.

But Mike was/is a bit of an odd duck. I knew that because we hired him and I worked with him for at least a year. He enjoyed sitting at home and introvertedly watching hours of television, yet also bowled. And was quite good. He was quiet and reserved but walked the halls in a sort of sliding fashion. Yes, like a ninja. I believe he told me he had a black belt in karate despite having the physique of a toothpick.

Yes, this could very well be a post about judging people. Bad, bad Chelsea. Don’t judge.

I’m more interested in answering the same question posed to Mike: If you could be any mythical creature, what would you choose? I’m interested because of how that classifies us. People are complex beings. Sure, we relate to certain groups and often lump ourselves together with similar personalities and interests. Through a simple question about preferences, however, we can reveal a deeper aspect.

We can reveal a ninja tiger.

I’m not that cool. Most days I behave like a Grick, a “darkly colored worm or snake-like creature” that lays around caves and waits to grab things with its tentacles. Since I get to name my own preference, though, I’d love to be a phoenix or an imp or a dragon.

Flying, right? No-brainer.

How about you? What mythical creature would you choose? For bonus interview points, what do you think that might say about your personality?

Draconika

—————-

In the real world, here’s what I wrote last week:
Wednesday, May 15: Wrote “Just Another Day in the Life,” and learned that I need to stop dusting.

Thursday, May 16: “Suddenly Spring,” a poem about …well, suddenly spring.

Friday, May 17: Winner of the Weekly Terribly Poetry Contest. Congratulations to Deb Whittam!

Saturday, May 18: Announced the 26th Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest. The theme is engineering failures, real or imagined. PLEASE ENTER!

Sunday, May 19: “Tree Search Exclusive Tours, Ltd.,” in response to Carrot Ranch‘s prompt.

Monday, May 20: An inspirational quote by Timothy Leary.

Tuesday, May 21:”Wilhelmina Winters, Ninety-Four.”

Wednesday, May 22: Today.

I also posted all this week at my motherhood site. I wrote “Don’t Be so Hard on Yourself,” “Special Projects Take a Lot of Time and Mess,” and “A Poem, I Think.”

 

©2019 Chelsea Owens

Why Do You Write?

I wasn’t certain of what I’d find when I started blogging. I thought to write an initial story; polish it, edit it, re-write parts of it, and timidly make it public. I planned to use snippets, poems, and short fiction pieces I’d already posted on Facebook for most of my posts. I vowed to publish to the blog every day for a year.

When one person liked something I felt surprised.

When another re-blogged my scary story I felt embarrassed but pleased.

When I saw that another writer was following me, I followed back. I read all she wrote and commented on her posts. I did the same for the 10 others who followed my site.

In gaming terms, I was such a noob.

The real question, however, is Why did I even start writing? It’s a favorite to ask authors, besides When did you write your first story? and What’s your secret to successful writing?

I began writing seriously because I was working on a book. After spending nearly two years on WordPress I’ve learned this is not a unique situation nor an unusual reason to be writing on here. I continued writing because I felt it would help my writing overall and give me connections to people. Maybe those people would read my book one day.

Y’know, if I wrote it.

But life happens. In my case, the thick of life is happening. The book hasn’t been revisited for a while, though I felt inspired to open up another blog using my proposed title for its URL: I Didn’t Want to Be a Mother.

Also like many writers, I now feel stuck. I feel overwhelmed. I feel intimidated and lost in a gigantic pool of talent and time, without the will to paddle. I probably shouldn’t have thrown my compass overboard during that one depressive episode last year…

Until I find my North Star, or even a lost kite, tell me: what is your motivation? Why do you write? How do you keep writing?

thought-catalog-354861-unsplash.jpg

—————-

I lagged a bit and back-posted, but we’re counting all I wrote over the last week:
Wednesday, April 24: Wrote “Where Did THAT Come From?” after pondering about heredity and genes with mental illness.

Thursday, April 25: “The Cure for Depression: Journal, Meditate, and Pray,” another suggestion in a series originally posted over at The Bipolar Writer Mental Health Blog.

Friday, April 26: Winner of the Weekly Terribly Poetry Contest. Congratulations to Bruce Goodman!

Saturday, April 27: Announced the 23rd Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest. Spread the word! Enter! This week we’re doing rap.

Sunday, April 28: Re-blogged Frank Prem‘s fantastic “(what if I hear them) whistle and cry.
And posted “The Author of a Long Night,” to Charli, hostess at Carrot Ranch.

Monday, April 29: “Wilhelmina Winters, Ninety-Two.”

Tuesday, April 30: Inspirational quote by Og Mandine.

Wednesday, May 1: May Day!

I also posted all this week at my motherhood site. I wrote “Steal Your Kisses if You Have To,” “Me Time Just Might Be Wishful Thinking,” and an okay limerick about kids making me late.

Photo Credit:
Thought Catalog

Skinwalkers, XLV

The workers maintained their precise, quick pace through the remaining steps of membrane construction. Nearly a half-workcycle passed before the room’s red light illuminated a 10 centimeter square strip of perfect, useable synthdermal material at each station.

Nathan continued his roving inspections throughout, beginning them as a vulture and ending as an eagle. The team’s satisfaction was palpable. The judging executives’ surprised pleasure and respect was apparent in Stone‘s occasional nodding, Pul’s outright grin, and Caill’s pursed-lip jealousy. Nathan, himself, felt proud enough to burst through his Fantastique-owned skin.

He had passed the inpracticum, the second interview stage. He had to be the top pick; no other applicant would possibly think to change the program nor to watch for tricks.

“Set the bar so high, no one has a chance to even think to get a step stool,” his lab leader in Advancement Studies had told them all. Good old J. Wilson, onetime founder of the now-controversial Skinwalkers Corporation. “Never trust the skin you see,” was another of his. Nathan frowned, remembering the brilliant man. Too bad J. Wilson hadn’t applied his own advice about trust when public opinion went South, and Skinwalkers’ Heads needed a man to blame.

“Set your samples in suspension,” Nathan announced. The six workers complied, storing their scientific art in the appropriate bay beneath six desks. He watched and heard six pairs of hands disinfect just below the work surface, then clasp expectantly atop the same surface.

Almost in unison, they and Nathan turned to Stone, Pul, and Caill. There was a pause as the three in charge held a silent conversation. Stone nodded, and spoke aloud, “You may return to your normal cycle duties.”

Nathan felt a slight drop in the room’s happy environment as his temporary team accepted their perfunctory instruction and rose to comply. On impulse, he said, “Excellent work, everyone.”

The backward glances and pleased, hidden smiles of the workers touched him, even while the confused and shocked (in the case of Caill) expressions of the executives brushed against his conscience at the same time. Their preoccupation with his audacity served to distract from a final, grateful look Quý sent to Nathan just before exiting.

He morphed a potentially-sappy smile into a more grim model as he turned to his three judges. He strode forward and was pleased to see them recoil somewhat at his approach. “Your tablet,” he said, offering it to Stone. Stone took it; an automatic gesture. Nathan worried the man might forget to keep his hold upon it, as Stone swung it back to his side while keeping his attention on Nathan.

Nathan returned their stares; allowed their confusion. As usual, Caill recovered first. He could watch her thoughts push across her face as her furrowed brow, eerie in the room’s dimness, cleared to realization then drew together in determination.

“I trust,” he said, beating her to vocalization, “This means we are finished.”

“Oh!” Pul responded. “O-of, of course.” Caill shot him a poisonous look. “Erm, are we done?”

Stone moved his head downward in affirmation; he was obviously fond of expressing himself that way, Nathan thought.

“Yes, of course,” Caill said, as if they had not all been delaying. “Pul, guide N. Reed to departure.”

Nathan hid his amusement from all but his eyes, trusting in the poor lighting to shield his feelings from Caill. At Pul’s guiding gesture, he stepped past her and Stone and out into the much brighter corridors of Carapace.

 

Continued from Skinwalkers, XLIV.
Read to Skinwalkers, XLVI.

Skinwalkers, XLIV

Six workers stood; six red-shadowed forms walked quickly to where Nathan had directed. Once seated, the six hurried to retrieve necessary intra-dermal materials from their new stations’ storage bays.

Nathan walked round them in a pattern designed to appear even and fair, yet focused his attentions on the worker named E. She had exhibited the most hesitancy and the longest working time, not to mention the most attention from Caill -as unobtrusive as Caill thought she was being in paying those attentions.

Despite those concerns and observations, Nathan saw no negative reaction from D, the young man who stepped up to work with E’s matrix. Considering, Nathan cleared his throat. “Due to the more intricate nature of this step, you will have a full tick’s time to complete it.” He continued walking as he spoke. “Subdermal construction is a specialty of mine, and I will be closely monitoring each worker’s efforts.”

E’s left hand twitched away from her task and she stole a glance at Caill. Nathan saw this but pretended he had not. He circled the redlit, wedge-shaped amphitheater in measured steps. His slipshods made little sound in the soft flooring but he knew that even the three executives felt and dreaded his approach.

Each of the six workers responded with a tensing of shoulders or arms, a rush to pull the material he or she needed, or a quick turn of head toward his bent scrutiny.

Each of the three persons monitoring the proceedings, meanwhile, responded according to personality. Stone did not change expression; Nathan’s more shocking announcements caused the stoic man to move his hand-clasping from behind his back to his front, or the reverse if he found them already before him. Pul, for his part, took to bouncing on the balls of his feet and a twitching of head and facial features into exactly what feeling struck him. Caill’s reactions were the most interesting for Nathan to observe, since the woman persisted in both shielding her emotions and being ignorant to how obvious that shielding was.

Her hands would jerk forward to wring around each other until she realized what they were doing and desisted. Sometimes, she caught them before contact; other times, not till a full jiff or two later. Their progress depended on the severity of her reaction. When hand-wringing was not enough, she paced a step or two -the distance, again, depending on severity.

Nathan made up his mind. After looping near D and stopping to admire his handiwork, Nathan strolled to E’s station. The woman grew more intent upon her model. He leaned down quite near her to watch.

In a voice just beneath a whisper, he said, “Whatever you have been told, I assure you: completely destroying your assigned step will ruin the materials for not just one, but six dermal samples.” Her hands shook and her eyes darted to his hovering face. “Do not look to Caill for approval,” he added, before she could. “You and I both know that she will discard you faster than a defective membrane if outed.” E snorted a silent, somber laugh but pretended to keep her focus on the task at hand.

“You also know the Heads at Carapace will not appreciate such an expensive waste of materials,” he continued, raising a hand to point at her sample. To any visually eavesdropping, he ensured their exchange had the appearance of casual instruction or curious query. “If they do not terminate this entire team, they will assuredly ask for the one responsible, and Caill is not the sort to volunteer for termination.”

“Now,” he moved his finger to a more specific location, “Let’s remove this ‘vessel’ and choose a more lively one.”

E jumped a bit. “Of course,” she said, barely audibly but with more composure than her previous actions had indicated. Picking up a pair of tiny tweezers, she extracted the plastic tubing she had inserted in place of an actual vessel.

“Thank you,” Nathan whispered. Without changing expression, he gestured to another area and asked, “What is your name?” He saw Caill pacing. Toward them.

“Quý,” E breathed.

“Thank you,” he said again. He rose and straightened his suit. In a normal tone, he said, “Excellent layering. Your placement will ensure a seamless tissue integration.” Caill paused and feigned an interest in C’s progress, to her side. She then turned and paced back the other direction.

Nathan smiled, the sort he saved for victory.

 

Continued from Skinwalkers, XLIII.
Read to Skinwalkers, XLV.

Skinwalkers, XLIII

Crude as Nathan’s rented outfit might have been compared to the skins used by Caill, Stone, and Pul, it served its masking purposes well. More than once, he felt enough of a burning stare from the three executives to elicit a rise in body temperature. Nathan’s normal epidermis, he was certain, was flushing and sweating. Not that he’d rented the cheapest skin possible, of course. Otherwise, the sweating alone would have ruined any adhesion and left him looking like a melted candle.

Nathan couldn’t help but picture such an image under the red glow of the inpracticum lab lights, the tenaciously trusting glances of the workers, and the ever-present scrutiny of the three in charge.

Still, the group assigned beneath him was skilled. He felt grateful to the state of the current job market for that, although not for much else. Once equipped with new supplies for the task, Workers A-F crafted with a rushed efficiency that surprised and pleased him. He felt his natural intellect and past education surfacing from a half planetcycle’s disuse, barely keeping up with the flying fingers, tools, and computer-generated figures before him.

A lesser man might have recoiled from the challenge. A lesser man might have considered leaving the room at the first sign of a dark, enclosed space and the expectation of impossibility. Nathan Reed was never a lesser man.

“Set your matrix, and prepare to relocate,” he announced after a half-tick. All but E were finished; E close enough to move within a jiff. Five expectant, redlit faces lifted to his, joined by the sixth after a pause. “You will move across and up, with the exception of the back position,” he said. Raising his voice for the benefit of his judges, he continued, “When directed, A will move to B, B to C, C to D, D to E, E to F, and F down to A. The success of your creation will be judged by the one who comes after you.”

He stopped to allow them to think on this. Not wishing to obliterate a necessary amount of teamwork, he added, “The ease and exactness with which you craft your portion will result in six working samples within the same space that mediocre teams make only one.”

The rotating model of a dermal matrix floated above the front of the room. Nathan stepped below it. Still holding the tablet Stone had given him at Caill’s direction, Nathan swiped the display to show the next step. Colored demonstrations of cell and vessel integration replaced the first step over his head. “Are there any unfamiliar with this process?”

His gaze locked briefly with each worker. Each face returned a similar expression of cool experience, though A and E also glanced at the large display or at Caill. He made a mental note to watch D’s reaction to E’s work after the switch. One faulty cog would make for complete failure, but he knew no better way to expose a trap set for new applicants.

“If your current matrix is set, rise and move to where you were directed.”

 

Continued from Skinwalkers, XLII.
Read to Skinwalkers, XLIV.

Skinwalkers, XLII

Nathan needed only a brief read-through to learn the basics of his task, though he knew he’d have to return to the screen for specific biological terms. One didn’t naturally memorize references such as dermal fibroblasts as easily as collagen bundles, after all.

He also knew he could not work with a team from the center of a stage. Determined, he walked to the nearest workstation on his left. “I am Nathan Reed. What is your name and skill set relevant to dermal bioengineering?”

The worker stole a look at the three executives before answering. “I guess I can go by A.” Her voice reminded Nathan of a balloon he’d played with once as a child, one that had developed a leak. “I have many skills but I’m tasked with matrix prep -preparations.”

Nathan nodded. “Thank you.” He moved to the next desk on the right. “Are you assigned as ‘B,’ then?” This worker nodded, her ponytail bouncing with the movement. “And what is your task?”

Calm and collected but barely audible, B said, “For this ‘cycle, cell and vessel ingrowth.”

Nodding and thanking B, Nathan moved to the next worker. He turned out to be D; the person to his left was C. Nathan thereby learned that each worker was an assembly-line step in a basic synthdermal construction.

With the exception of a few disagreeable glares aimed his direction, Caill and her associates kept to their position of observation during his interviews. He wasn’t certain they would maintain this silence with his next announcement.

Returning to the stage at front, he stated, “Our inpracticum is simple, given the advanced skills and knowledge that you all clearly possess.” He allowed the praise to sink in for a jiff and a half before dropping his bombshell. “Therefore, and to avoid waste and boredom, we will be addressing the assignment in a different manner.”

He tapped at the tablet screen, expanding the first step. Grasping the space just above the surface, he pantomimed pulling then flicking into the air above and behind his person. The image complied. Three-dimensional models of dermal matrices floated where all could read them. “Is there a technician here who does not know how to construct a matrix?”

No one raised a hand nor spoke aloud. A few tugged at an ear or scratched at a cheek. Most looked around to see what the others might do; particularly, the suited ‘others’ who were usually in charge.

“Excellent,” Nathan said, in his best managerial tone. “Then, we will all be doing the first assignment. Synchronously.”

“N. Reed!” Caill began, “I do not-”

“Furthermore,” he continued without interruption, “When that step is complete, you will move to the side or down and work on your neighbor’s matrix when we begin cell and vessel construction.”

The workers were very intelligent and skilled persons. They blinked back at him in a bit of a shock.

“Any questions from those who will be working?” If Nathan had thought Caill appeared diabolical in the redlight, he would have appreciated seeing his face just then. A protest had been forming on Caill’s lips before she caught his look. He saw her intended censure; saw, with satisfaction, its retraction.

“Excellent,” he repeated. “Then, we begin.”

 

Continued from Skinwalkers, XLI.
Read to Skinwalkers, XLIII.

Skinwalkers, VIII

“We had many applicants for this assignment,” Caill moved along, pretending they were engaged in everyday business; and not, as Nathan easily felt, a psychological battle. These were the only situations in which he felt grateful to his father’s unethical methods of child-raising. He might offer some post-mortem prayer of thankfulness, had he not known that the man had no altruistic motives behind the lifelong abuse.

Outwardly, he straightened somewhat and met Caill’s stare. He almost forgot to blink, since the sensation to do so had been removed with the eyedrops. Caill was equally cool; he suspected she needed no solutions to maintain her composure. Even her body language stayed in control. Given just the half-tick he had been in her company, he would not have been surprised to learn that she controlled internal body functions one normally classified as autonomic.

Stone shifted slightly. “Tell us what you would bring to Carapace,” he said, also focusing on Nathan. To his side, Pul assumed a similar posture.

You’re on, Nathan told himself. Blessing his naturally-deep voice, he began his practiced speech. “Carapace is the leader in epidermal attachment procedures, by known reputation. Any person or entity in need of the latest advancements knows exactly which company to contract with.”

His words had echoed powerfully back from the hard surfaces of the bathroom at home, when he’d said them repeatedly since the interview notification. Here, he fought the muting of fabric surfaces.

There, his own pale features had watched him from the mirror. Here, three impassive faces reflected minuscule reactions.

“My goal is to bring Carapace to the forefront of any report; to finally ensure it receives the deserved recognition for being the foremost in its field.” Pul let out a small gasp, though Nathan was certain all three understood the import of his words. “My team will only raise the image Carapace shows the commercial market. They will understand hard work. They will work for the taste of winning. They will succeed.”

He realized he expected the lingering echo of his bass tones, as had happened during practice. Mentally crossing his fingers, he awaited the executives’ responses.

Caill thawed from the effect of his answer first. He pictured her like an arctic wolf, shaking his words from her thick coat like irritating bits of snowy fluff. Thus relieved, she warmed to conversational repartée. “Those are strong ambitions. I’m not certain you know the impossibility of such a goal.”

Her observation nudged Stone toward a similar realization more quickly than his mental abilities would have otherwise. “Our legality section has studied report recognition since Carapace went public -” he began.

“All the more reason for action,” Nathan cut him off. “We need to move before their influencers embed even more limitations. We need quick, precise solutions or Carapace will never be #1 as it deserves.”

Caill opened her mouth; closed it again. Clearly, he thought, she was changing tactics. She couldn’t know that he had anticipated any she might consider. “How exactly would a person of your situation and background expect to achieve that, or your other goals?” She tried to sound casual, yet haughtiness tinged her tone.

Nathan couldn’t help but smile, though he managed to release it as a determined, knowing smugness. He felt extremely pleased that Caill had phrased her insult so subtly. Clearly, she acknowledged his intelligence in the delivery, though she fought dirty in the content.

“My background is in detailed reference research, epidermal conditions, and institution management,” he began. Caill waved a perfect hand to interrupt, but he ignored her. “Besides this information, what you will know from this meeting is that I always do what I say.”

 

Continued from Skinwalkers VII.
Read to Skinwalkers,  IX.

Skinwalkers, VII

Nathan found his attention diverted by infinitely more distractions on this level, though he forced it to focus on the three executives he walked behind. They set a rapid pace, clearly accustomed to scenes he was not.

After leaving the plant-furnished area beyond the entry doors, the hallway they took had immediately entered a large, busy working space. Unit after unit filled the areas to his right and left. Their raised screens pulsed and shifted with information. Figures and graphs rose and dragged with data collectors’ finger swipes. A talking reporter described current events, was paused, then resumed.

A growing excitement built inside Nathan at the sight of it all. His mind easily fell back the few short years it had been since he was last immersed in technological industry, during Advancement Studies. Simultaneously, he tasted the bitter regret of his forced, premature removal.

This time, he thought, No one will take it from me. He’d made it on his own, now. He would make it the rest of his life on his own merits.

The suited backs he had been following paused momentarily outside a window wall. A panel moved and they entered. Nathan followed, entering likewise. Four chairs rested around the sides of a hexagonal touchsurface table near the space’s middle. Three of the chairs were closer together, and to those the executives drew.

This side of the window walls was tinted in some fashion. Nathan suspected them to be dimmable, like the natural daylight of the entire complex. These details were noted from his peripheral vision, and he strove to maintain a businesslike composure and not move his attention from his interviewers.

He sat as quickly as he carefully could, across from the triad of black suits. The woman crossed her ankles, folded her hands in her lap, and gave him a critical inspection. The men to her side chose a side-by-side foot position, relaxed hands on thighs, and less-sardonic expressions during their scrutiny.

Nathan waited. His wristwatch chose to beep again, which startled his examiners. They spent a few jiffs locating the source, then relaxed once the watch was identified. Man #2 laughed outright. “Why do you have that?” He demanded.

Keeping his face straight, Nathan replied, “To tell time.”

Now was the woman’s turn to laugh. As Nathan suspected, the sound was that of a suddenly freed bird: surprised, uncontrolled, and unnatural. “Ask a stupid question, Pul,” she rudely teased the man who’d first spoken. The left corner of Pul’s mouth pulled downward as his eyes sullenly registered her insult.

“It’s an interesting artifact …like your outfit,” she stated. She gazed at Nathan, challenge in her eyes. He couldn’t tell if she was referring to his skin, the suit, or even his behavior. This woman was tricky. Whether she was fully skinned or no, he bet she could hold that stony exterior in any situation.

Confidence, he told himself. I can play this game. Aloud, he answered, “Thank you.”

He thought he saw surprise cross her face, if briefly. The latest model of skin, then, if present.

“Now that we’ve discussed what a wristwatch is,” the woman continued, “Let’s begin where we traditionally do, with introductions.” She squared her shoulders, sitting up more fully. “I am known as Caill.”

“I am Stone,” Man #1 immediately offered.

“And I’m Pul, as you heard,” Pul ended. His discomfort at Caill’s blatant reprimand was still written in his lips and his glowering eyes.

Mentally, Nathan flexed his muscles. Caill was clearly a difficult one, but he intended to show her he was up for the challenge. He would play her games, and he would win.

 

Continued from Skinwalkers, VI.
Read to Skinwalkers, VIII.

Skinwalkers, VI

In truth, the smile was still not the sort Nathan was accustomed to seeing in his mirror at home. Another man’s high cheekbones lifted slightly, a stranger’s ears shifted, and someone’s symmetrical features were the ones expressing pleasure.

It was his eyes, he realized. Despite the effects of his eye drops, a sort of relaxed, inner light shone through. He’d assumed there was nothing left inside, nothing he would describe with words like light, anyway.

He looked down, unnecessarily adjusting his antique wristwatch.

Merely jiffs after closing, the lift sang its pleasant tone again. Nathan watched his reflection shimmer and pull to one side, to be replaced by the reception area of whatever level he’d been ferried to. This one also held plants, swaying and contributing to the delectable taste of unpolluted air.

The artistically arranged plants stood a balanced sentry against a paneled, daylight-glowing wall. Exiting and turning to look around, Nathan noted a vacant podium of sorts to his right. It stood near two large, closed doors. Accordingly, he approached. He withdrew his comm and ran it along the top and sides, but nothing activated.

He frowned, and walked to its backside. Still nothing. He looked, instead, to the wall-sized entryway. How would he get in?

Nathan paused for a few seconds, indecisively. Then, he recalled his morning-long mantra of confidence. He walked forward, and pushed at the doors. They moved inward, without any resistance. If he’d been in his own, lightweight skin, he would have fallen forward onto his ugly, imperfect face.

He would have landed right at the feet of a small audience, as well.

Three well-dressed, well-shod, and handsome business executives stood waiting. They seemed completely unsurprised to see him, a sentiment Nathan did not share. Suspecting surveillance equipment of some sort, he chanced a careful half-turn to look behind. The doors he had moved so easily were nearly transparent.

He looked back to the waiting party; attempted a level expression. The woman stepped forward slightly. “N. Reed.” Her cool voice said. It was a statement. “Welcome.” Nathan returned her greeting with a barely-perceptible nod. She smiled an executive smile, the sort that lifts one’s mouth but never reaches above that point.

One of the men straightened and clasped his hands together. “Well,” he began in a deep tone, “Shall we?” In eerie accord, he and the other two turned and began walking down the hall and away from Nathan.

This was it. will do this, Nathan reminded himself. Squaring his shoulders and suit, he followed the crushed carpet footprints of his potential employers.

 

Continued from Skinwalkers, V.
Read to Skinwalkers, VII.