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29 August 2013 @ 02:57 pm
LJ Idol Exhibit B: "People Skills"  
People Skills
LJ Idol Exhibit B | week fourteen | 1890 words
Not a f*cking people person (This is an intersection with the amazing lrig_rorrim, whose entry is here. Mine should be read first).

x-x-x-x-x

Zlork hated Mondays.

Even though his own planet's equivalent came around every six days instead of seven, Earth Mondays were worse. First, Zlork had to stuff himself into the subway (All Ybblex citizens are ambassadors of our planet, and must set a good example). No matter how tightly he wrapped his tentacles around himself, someone invariably stepped on them. Then, once he arrived at the Office Of Human/Alien Relations, he had to wedge himself into the too-small chair inside his dreadful cubicle (All Humalia employees are required to use approved, standard office furniture) and begin doing battle with the onslaught of paperwork, procedures, and his utterly aggravating coworkers.

The woman at the next desk made him want to devour his entire workstation. She talked endlessly, all day long, about nothing. He soon learned that keeping an eyestalk pointed her way and randomly bobbing it from time to time was better than enduring regular interruptions of, "Zlork. Zlork, are you listening? Hellooo? So anyway, what I was saying was…"

Today, his desk's holo-vid unit started up as soon as he sat down:

The vacationing Mfflert family has been detained following an incident yesterday in which their visit to the downtown shopping district culminated in eating many of the locals' pet dogs. The Mfflerts have an appointment this afternoon at three.

Zlork peered more closely at the picture. Hideous family. Their middle-year youngling appeared to have a weight problem and a severe case of Rytrtek rot. And why did visitors never read the warnings in the brochures?

Volchurt Plern caused a scandal at the city aquarium late last night by climbing into a display tank and attempting to mate with one of the specimens. He is being held by the city police.

Zlork sighed and knotted two of his tentacles behind his head.

Mother of Zlork left a message and would like Zlork to call.

Not again! Zlork's mother—or more accurately, her absence—was the only thing he really liked about being seven light years from his own planet. Later, Zlork thought. He could only ever cope with his mother "later," and there was plenty of work to be done already.

He opened up the online forms for official apologies and liabilities on behalf of his planet's citizens. The Mfflerts would be fined, sent back to space dock, and barred from future travel for a minimum of seven years. Zlork's government would have to make reparations to each of the dog's owners, but the real price would be the damage to his planet's reputation. Tourists. They were a never-ending source of trouble.

Zlork typed information into the forms (convinced that human keyboards and their tiny buttons were invented to thwart him). He transferred the forms to a tablet for the Mfflerts to sign, and began working on his next case. The office was growing noisy—or at least, the woman in the next cubicle was. Stacy. Horrible, relentless Stacy. When she wasn't talking, she was generating various other kinds of noise. He hoped she'd be taking a coffee break soon, before the stabbing pain at the top of his middle eyestalk spread all the way down to his neck.

Zlork hated this job. Hated it. But he didn't have much choice. It is the duty of all healthy Ybblex citizens to serve in interspecies relations for a period of not less than three years. Why couldn't he have gotten a position on his own planet instead of Earth? At least then he wouldn't be stuck sitting in this viciously uncomfortable chair.

He turned his attention back to Volchurt Plern's transgression. Plern was a diplomat, which mean that Zlork would need to coordinate his handling of the situation with the Ybblex Embassy. He squirmed. Cooperation was not in the genetic makeup of Ybblexians, any more than diplomacy, really. His species should have stayed in their own, quiet corner of the galaxy.

A horrible smell suddenly assaulted him, so awful that for a moment he was too nauseated to even identify it. Stacy. This had to be her doing. She worked in a job where she was expected to understand alien races and their various differences from humans and each other, and yet she was spectacularly incompetent at applying any part of that information.

His nasal passages quivered, on the verge of closing themselves off in self-defense, as he cited the employee manual restrictions on offensive-smelling food.

“What, this?" Stacy said. "It’s just watermelon! You’re welcome to a piece or two if you want.”

As if Zlork would partake of a substance that smelled like the dung of the large scavenger birds that plagued his planet! The odor was overpowering, like being trapped in a cave filled with ten years' worth of excrement. He reeled at his desk, refusing the offer with as much politeness as he could muster.

It was completely unfair. Most of the food he brought in from home had to be consumed up on the roof. Even dried, reconstituted splik, a fish much favored by his people, was not permitted indoors because humans claimed it smelled like rotten meat. Zlork had been forced to spend many a pathetic midday break eating perfectly ordinary Ybblex meals in the heat and rain.

Stacy persisted in—what did humans call it?—taunting him, until Zlork lost his temper and stormed off to douse his head in the bathroom sink. Calm, he told himself, calm. The universe was collapsing in on him. First, the cute little Brblink he'd been dating had broken up with him last night. Then his mother wanted something, who knew what, and no, he still hadn't called her back. Now Stacy had contaminated the entire vicinity of his workspace with her dungfruit.

Zlork gripped the sink with his tentacles and tried to concentrate on breathing slowly. He accidentally tore the sink loose from the wall instead. It fell, crushing three of his arms beneath it.

"Yarrrrgh!" Zlork bellowed.

He threw the sink against the far wall and flomped around the bathroom trying to shake the pain out of his limbs. What he really wanted was to pull down every door and piece of porcelain in the room, and fling it through the window. But that would not be proper behavior for someone in his position:

Humalia employees are to maintain a sense of decorum at all times. Insults, outbursts and vandalism will not be tolerated.

Someday, Zlork's rotation in this assignment would finally be over. Then he could return to Ybblex and take any job he pleased. He could sing the evening Sea Supplications, or run tours of the Ancient Kingdoms. Even working in a sorting factory would be better than this. But all of that was still almost two years away…

The pain finally subsided, and Zlork was dismayed to realize that it was almost time for his shift at the front counter. Customers. Stupid, ridiculous, demanding customers. They were even worse than Stacy.

All of Humalia's alien employees were required to work counter duty for two hours a week. This was another reason Zlork hated Mondays. Even had he not despised the very idea of having to assist dim-witted humans with their insipid questions, his tentacles were also ill-suited to standing for long periods of time, especially in Earth gravity.

Much of his time at the counter was spent fantasizing about killing his customers instead of helping them.

His shift started in just two minutes, and Zlork was obsessively punctual. He hurriedly moved the broken sink back to the wall where it had been attached, and left it on the floor below. Then he slipped out of the bathroom and casually shuffled out to the front office. It was as noisy and hectic there as ever.

Zlork gloomily donned the humiliating hat and nametag all on-duty personnel were required to wear. The hat was shaped like sea fungus and was much too small, so it frequently slipped off his head. Baring every one of his teeth, Zlork stepped up to the service terminal and tried to look friendly. "Next. Please."

"Yeah, hi." A bald man in vile orange and green shirt stepped forward. "I'd like a travel visa to go to Uhblech."

"Ybblex," Zlork said tightly.

"Yeah, that. I've heard the golfing is really good there."

Deep inside all three of his hearts, Zlork cursed the members of the Interplanetary Tourism Committee who had decided Ybblex should cater to that particular human hobby and the sort of visitors it would bring in.

"Have you already filled out the application forms?" he asked.

"Forms? Uh, nah. Not yet."

Zlork gave the man an enter-all tablet and pointed him to a table where he could work. "Next."

A woman with an unhappy-looking child approached. "Little Johnny needs his vaccinations."

The tentacle Zlork was resting on the counter found its way around a potted plant and crushed it. "Medical Services is two doors down the hall."

Every. Single. Month. Could no one read anymore?

An old woman in a purple cape sidled up to the counter before Zlork even summoned her. She was covered in cat hair.

"I would like to request asylum on your planet," she announced.

"Reason?" Zlork said.

"Earth culture prohibits me from practicing my art."

Zlork's stomach rumbled. After that dreadful smell overtook his cubicle earlier, he had forgotten to eat lunch. "Your art."

"Multichordal screeching," she said. "I also knit."

A venom sac began pulsing inside Zlork's neck. "I do not—"

The old woman demonstrated her vocalization technique just as the man in the odious shirt pushed past her.

'Hey, squid-man, Zok, whatever your name is," the man said, yelling to be heard over all the noise. "This whole section on employment history is a violation of my—"

"Yarrrgh!" Three of Zlork's tentacles shot across the counter and picked the man up, then stuffed him headfirst down Zlork's gaping maw. Two quick bites, and the man was gone. "Hrah, hrah, hrahhh!" Zlork exulted, tentacles curling high overhead in a gesture of triumph.

No one else so much as moved.

The employee handbook didn't cover this type of scenario, but at the moment, Zlork no longer cared. There were no disciplinary reviews or rehabilitation that could ever resolve that.

He pushed off from the floor with his rear tentacles, and scrambled over the countertop and out the door. He didn't have a destination in mind. He simply ran because at the moment, it seemed the thing to do.

Screams filled the air behind him as he barreled down the sidewalk and leaped over cars in his single-minded push to get away. The authorities would catch him eventually, he knew that, and he would wind up being a case file for some other human-alien-relations person like himself. But a tiny part of him decided that maybe that wouldn't be so bad.

He would probably be incarcerated on Ybblex for a while, but so what? There would be no Earth or customers or coworkers, and after that he would finally be free.

The disgrace, the punishment, what were those compared another two years of dealing with humans and their dreadful, smelly little planet? The sound of sirens rising in the distance just convinced him all the more:

A quiet, predictable career at his home city's sorting factory would be a veritable Paradise after this.



Well, the voting for this round is not at all what I expected, and nobody's happy about it. If you enjoyed this entry, you can vote for it along with other offerings here. Pay attention, though—this round has an ugly twist. :(

 
 
Current Location: The office.
 
 
 
blahblahblah, whateverkathrynrose on August 30th, 2013 02:46 am (UTC)
Zlork sighed and knotted two of his tentacles behind his head.

It is probably no surprise that when I first read this, I read it as "testicles." (ouch!)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on August 30th, 2013 03:04 am (UTC)
!!! I'm not sure Zlork even has those. At least, definitely not on the outside. :O

But yes, that would hurt!
☾witches on August 30th, 2013 07:17 am (UTC)
read this earlier but had no time to comment - this was adorable and funny <3
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on August 30th, 2013 07:12 pm (UTC)
Thank you! Poor Zlork-- pushed beyond his limits. But in a situation like that, it was bound to happen. :O
(no subject) - witches on August 30th, 2013 09:21 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - halfshellvenus on August 30th, 2013 10:46 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - witches on August 31st, 2013 04:52 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - halfshellvenus on August 31st, 2013 06:01 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - witches on September 1st, 2013 07:55 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Awesomely creepyagirlnamedluna on August 30th, 2013 02:36 pm (UTC)
Even as a human I *completely* understand Zlork. Cubicle work, front office, tourists and demanding customers are HORRIBLE. At least he ate one.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on August 30th, 2013 07:13 pm (UTC)
I would feel the same way as he did-- that's too much aggravation piling on in one place. The front-desk duty alone would probably do me in. :O
Desireex_disturbed_x on August 30th, 2013 03:18 pm (UTC)
I wish I had time to leave a longer response but this was hilarious. I love it when you write things like this. :)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on August 30th, 2013 07:14 pm (UTC)
Thank you! It's funny, even thought there are aliens (with tentacles), I can say that this one is not quite crack. But the level of humor sure isn't what makes the distinction. I think it's the insane unlikeliness, and this seems more like "realism" for an unlikely character. Or something. :O
alycewilson: eat mealycewilson on August 31st, 2013 02:30 am (UTC)
Terrifically funny. The alien reminds me a lot of the squid-like creatures on "The Simpsons," who are equally bad at human-alien relations.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on August 31st, 2013 02:35 am (UTC)
Oh, I love those Simpsons creatures, with their drooling and desire to eat everybody!

I think they only show up in the Halloween specials, don't they? Though those are often the episodes I remember best. The Scottish janitor turned mower/combine/bagpipe-spider is one of my favorites. :O
(no subject) - alycewilson on August 31st, 2013 02:40 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - halfshellvenus on August 31st, 2013 03:08 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - alycewilson on August 31st, 2013 04:14 am (UTC) (Expand)
cindytsuki_no_bara on August 31st, 2013 02:54 am (UTC)
i love that he flomps around the restroom. FLOMP. and it's kind of depressing that soul-crushing jobs are the same whether you're human or alien, but zlork's terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day did make me giggle.

(i pictured him looking kind of like the blobular see-through green aliens from futurama. kind of.)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on August 31st, 2013 03:12 am (UTC)
Haha-- I'm so glad you noticed that word! It seemed to perfectly describe how he'd be moving at that point, in his awkward fury/pain tantrum. :D

I think of Zlork as solid, a fairly decent medium green (his eyestalks, anyway), and with a mouth kind of like a Boov or the Simpsons aliens. Bigggg.

So, you've seen the Futurama Omicron Perseides aliens, haven't you? I find them oddly cute, with their chubby little dinosaur-like bodies and their little spikes. :D
Celtic_Forestceltic_forest on August 31st, 2013 09:41 am (UTC)
Loved this! :D
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on August 31st, 2013 04:12 pm (UTC)
Thank you! It'll be a tough vote this week, that's for sure.

Nice to see you around again! :D
lriG rorriM: distant worldslrig_rorrim on August 31st, 2013 04:52 pm (UTC)
There's so much I love about Zlork and your descriptions of his terrible day. Todd actually read your story out loud to his co-workers, to their great delight. The "Hrah, hrah, hrahhh!" is probably still my favorite part. It's just so very him.

Thank you again for teaming up with me this week! <3 We make a great team, which is why it's exceptionally unfun to be opposing each other so directly in the poll. Sigh.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on August 31st, 2013 06:06 pm (UTC)
Haha-- I'm glad Todd and his coworkers liked it!

There's a fine line between being one of the coworkers that would drive Zlork nuts, and feeling like you have met (or worse, worked with) that person and know exactly what they're like!

The "Hrah, hrah, hrahhh!" is one of those things that happen when you're up late and the subconscious part of your brain is doing a little more of the work. It just falls out. Along with a few of the missing letter typos you caught, so there are pluses and minuses to that situation. :O

I so enjoyed working with you on this, and especially in less strained circumstances than the double-travel Intersection extravaganza earlier. I do hate the evil machinations that befell us afterward, but how were we to know? And these two stories never would have come out otherwise. :)
whipchickwhipchick on September 1st, 2013 06:31 pm (UTC)
I loved reading this! The voice is so clever and fun, and I loved all the little asides - "made him want to devour his entire workstation" was great. And her name being Stacy!

What I enjoyed most is that it's all the things I don't like about my job, but funny and with aliens :)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on September 1st, 2013 06:36 pm (UTC)
:D So, you still come across some of these things even though you're not in a traditional office environment? Though really, clueless and obnoxious customers can pretty much hit you anywhere. ;)

Have you seen the dreaded Idol voting twist? Some of us are actively hoping to tie in each one-to-one competition, because he hate this so much. Though if you hadn't accidentally missed that one deadline, I would have been doing this "surely this is an Intersection!" with you. :O Sorry we didn't get the chance, all the same. :D

I've missed seeing you around. A LOT. Too much travel? Busy-ness? More writing of the book in your downtime?
Pr0n Swansonacalculatedname on September 1st, 2013 10:31 pm (UTC)
A super fun read, and it all just goes to show you that mandatory civil service programs never work.

Now adding "Dungfruit" to my list of bandnames I must someday use somewhere. (It's definitely funnier than just calling ourselves The Durians.)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on September 1st, 2013 10:38 pm (UTC)
mandatory civil service programs never work.
No kidding. Especially ones where patience with the public is needed. Not everyone has that knack, or can even be trained to it.

It's definitely funnier than just calling ourselves The Durians.
:D That stuff is so vile. The one variety I've been exposed to smelled exactly like rotten meat. HOW do you make yourself eat that? And who was the first person to think, "Every part of my body is telling me this will kill me, and yet I think I'll try it!" Wow.
(no subject) - acalculatedname on September 1st, 2013 10:46 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - halfshellvenus on September 2nd, 2013 01:00 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - favoritebean on September 2nd, 2013 12:20 am (UTC) (Expand)
favoritebeanfavoritebean on September 2nd, 2013 12:19 am (UTC)
Poor Zlork. He really should be allowed to tell his side of the story to the authorities. Maybe they'd let him off easy. This brings up the issue of inter species and interplanetary law.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on September 2nd, 2013 06:53 am (UTC)
Unfortunately, once you've eaten a customer I don't the authorities much care why.

Even if dealing with dreadful customers would obviously make most people crazy. ;)
Donnellejexia on January 15th, 2015 01:44 am (UTC)
So glad I decided to look at previous seasons! This is GREAT!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on January 19th, 2015 10:13 pm (UTC)
How nice of you to check it out!

This was one of the most fun things I wrote during Exhibit B, and lrig_rorrim was such a wonderful partner to work with. :D