“I fucking hate this city!”
I breathed as I surveyed the spot where my car should have been. I was sure that I had parked in the company owned strip behind the building. Instead of my vehicle, all that I saw was an 8 foot wide patch of wet asphalt book ended by other cars. There was no parking meter and I had made sure to put up the I.D sticker on my windshield. The sun was long gone and the street was lit by a scattered light of flickering lampposts. I cursed and pulled out my phone, intent on checking the bus schedule.
“Last bus at at… 10!? Fuck.”
“That where you parked?”
I turn to see an older Asian man in a business suit pointing at my vacant spot. I nodded and raised an eyebrow. The man, whom I remembered seeing around the office, walked past me and pointed to the inside of the curb.
“They had to take out the sign when they repaved the sidewalk but you can still see it here.”
I followed him and looked where he was pointing. In faded white lettering I could just make out Vice President.
“Was he even in today?!”
I said in disbelief. The guy gave a short, humorless laugh.
“Does it even matter? Someone got it towed. Best hope it was just some PA looking to brown-nose.”
He turned and headed down the street, leaving me to stew in my impotent rage. One month in this hellhole and I was already about to crack. I can’t believe that I let my sister’s husband talk me into this corporate bullshit:
“It has great pay Anon”, “There’s health insurance included”, “I bet you’ll love the city”.
Well, it’s too late for regret now. I needed to focus on getting home. God, I wished that Uber would finally get to our city. With the huge population of monsters, the money to rape ratio wasn’t worth it, and taxis this late would cost a Goddamn fortune. Integrated cities were rife with job opportunities and reckless Monster girls looking for fresh meat. I pulled out my phone and booted up the GPS app. Home was only around 3 miles with a couple of turns, so the walk itself shouldn’t have been too much of a problem. It was more what I was going to meet on the way that worried me. Sighing angrily, I start to walk, occasionally glancing at my phone for guidance. I knew that I looked like a total asshole relying on my phone for directions, and my wrinkled business suit and worn dress shoes don’t really scream “tough guy.” I hunched over and picked up my pace, almost wishing that it would start to rain again. At least then no one else would be around.
After a block or two I heard a strange echo from behind me. I turned to see lights followed by a decked-out, bright orange Civic drift around the corner. The car make the turn and drove towards me, slowing down until it was parallel with me. The automatic window lowered to reveal a 20-something Asian guy wearing shutter shades and a prominent grill.
“Hey man, watcha’ doin’ out round’ here? Bit dangerous fo’ someone lookin’ like you do ta’ be round’ here now, huh?”
I was frozen in my tracks, and words caught in my throat as I struggled to think of a response.
“Yeah, I guess…”
I croaked, unable to think of anything else. I nervously readjusted my grip on my briefcase and cleared my throat.
“Are you gonna’ offer him a ride or what?”
A second voice chimed in from behind the guy. The man smiled and flipped on the car’s passenger light to reveal a redheaded lamia adorned in flashy jewelry.
“No I… just around here. I mean I appreciate it but…”
The man chuckled deeply and shook his head.
“Man, come on. I mean my girl pointed you out so I gotta’ be helping ya.”
He noticed my blush as the Lamia readjusts her dress.
“Plus, she thinks you cute. Maybe we can work something out?”
Nervous and confused I muttered some half-hearted apology before starting down the sidewalk. The man frowned and started to move, matching my speed.
“Man, you’d make dis’ a whole lot easier if you just get the fuck in.”
I knew something was definitely wrong, so I broke into a run in the vain hope of somehow escaping the car. The man suddenly sped up, hopping the curb and pulled in front of me, blocking the way. He beeped the horn twice and stepped out of the car.
“Now we gotta do dis da hard way.”
I started to back up before something smashed into the side of my knee. An explosion of pain blinded me, and I fell to the ground clutching my leg. In the dim street light I could see several dark shapes above me, not all of which were human. I yelled out as something hard hit the back of my head, my vision swimming. For several seconds I didn’t do anything but hold myself in the fetal position as blows rain down on me. I begged for them to stop, but a kick got around my arms and hit my temple. My arms turned to jelly and I couldn’t move, even though I wanted to scream. As the blows stopped I kept my eyes closed and prayed to any deity that could help me.
“Keep dem eyes closed motherfucker!”
I could smell the stench of weed as a voice whispered into my ear. I didn’t move, curled up, and waited while the men smashed my briefcase open and rifled through it.
“Dis ain’t him.”
“Watcha mean ‘dis ain’t him!?”
“I mean, look at dis shit. Does this look like Martin and Trust to you!?”
The name rang a bell, the small bank on the first floor of my building. I yelped as the brief case bounced off my ribs, and quickly froze as I felt the cold, metal barrel of a pistol pressed against my forehead.
“You didn’t see nothin’ motherfucker. Keep that fucking mouth shut!”
I didn’t move, even after my assailants are long gone. I cried, I’m not afraid to admit that. I probably pissed myself too, it was too hard to tell with all the blood and pain. Someone must have called the cops at one point because after what seemed like hours I was surrounded by uniforms loading me into an ambulance. The next few hours were a fever dream of flashing lights, pain and white ceilings. When I finally come to it was in a hospital bed in a dark room. I lay there for a while, just trying to remember what happened. Glancing down at my body I could tell that I didn’t get off easy. My torso from the chest down was tightly wrapped by gauze. One arm is in a cast and the other was extremely bruised. I gingerly lifted my “good” arm to feel my gauze wrapped head, and flinch back. Even with the painkillers that they must have pumped into me, it still hurt like hell. I gritted my teeth and waited until the pain dulled before scanning the table next to me. Spotting a call button, I reached over and used my cast to press it. Almost immediately a busty kobold nurse walked in and greeted me, smiling. Glancing over her tight uniform I inhaled sharply, before sending myself into coughing fit. I could feel my teeth rattle in my skull and the room began to blur. The nurse gasped and ran over to me, one hand on my back and the other on my chest. I groaned and laid back, wishing that I could just pass out again. The nurse slowly slid her hand out from behind me and started to check the numerous machines that I was hooked up to. After a quick vitals check she asked if I was in decent enough shape to talk to the authorities.
It took an entire week in the hospital for the doctor to authorize my release. The police had to come and drop me off at my apartment, no way that I was getting my sister to pick me up. The cop that had driven me back ended up being the same one who I talked to at the hospital. When I asked he said that there was no real progress on the case. He told me to be glad that they had gotten the wrong person. If I had worked for the bank I wouldn’t have been as lucky as I was. I forced a smile and kept silent until we got to my building. At least the work insurance had pulled through. I had four months of paid leave and the CEO had even called to ask about me. I guess the company wasn’t as shitty as I first thought; that or they were afraid that I would sue. Whatever the reason, that left four months of time to fill. Sure, healing would be a priority, but being inside all that time would be miserable.
The next few weeks went by surprisingly quickly as I had TV, my phone, and a fuck ton of painkillers. The third week is when I was finished with TV. By the fourth week I was going stir crazy. Thankfully I had gotten my car back, the vice president had even payed the towing fee after hearing about what happened, and I took long drives outside the city as a way to get out of my room. Five weeks in and I was at a point where I could move around without much immediate pain, and so obviously I spent most of my day on the computer. Between manga, music, videos and porn (most games were just too awkward to play with 1 ½ hands) I was getting tired of it. After a month and a half I had taken to walking around my immediate vicinity and even doing some light yoga to pass the time. In between all of this I had lost a bit of weight. Before, I had been pretty pudgy, outright fat even, but with the whole moving-any-part-of-my-body-causing-pain thing, food had become an afterthought. I had taken to just eating cups of ramen or frozen meals once or twice a day. The entire incident had given me a reason to take care of myself, and with nothing better to do I spent most of my time working out in some way. Yoga, kickboxing, tai-chi, P999X, anything that I could get hands on to practice in my apartment I did. I passed a whole month this way, in a trance of single minded fitness.
Knowing that I would soon have to return to work I began venturing outside, jogging early in the morning or walking to the supermarket, small things to acclimate myself to society. I still felt nervous about going out after dark but I was determined to face my fear. When I returned to work I was a new man. Before I was a mound of clay, now I was carved out of wood. My hair was down to my shoulder and my beard engulfing my chin. I barely fit into my old cloths anymore and looked like a hobo masquerading as an accountant. People stared at me as I made my way to my old desk; which turned out to have been given to a new guy. Some scrawny dude around half my size stared up at me with fear in his eyes.
“W-what… what can I help you w-with sir?”
He stammered out. Suppressing a smile I gripped the edges of the desk and leaned down to look him in the eyes.
“You’re at my desk.”
He began to sweat and look around the office, having no idea how to react. After half a minute of tension I burst out laughing and slapped the guy on the back. I apologize and asked where my boss was, and he nervously pointed me to the break room. I sauntered over to the room and peaked my head in. I spotted my boss immediately as he was loudly shaking the vending machine and cursing. I walked up to him and tapped him on the shoulder. He quickly spun around to face me with anger in his eyes but his expression instantly changed to one of surprise as he recognized me.
“Nick, glad to see you back on your feet! I uh, didn’t know you’d be back so soon.”
He looked a bit nervous as he spoke, almost as if he hadn’t expected me to be here. I let the pause extend for a bit, in case he had more to say, but he just smiled uneasily and shifted his weight from foot to foot.
“This was the day that I was supposed to come in right? I’m not late am I?”
I asked in earnest. He cleared his throat and took a sudden interest in his shoes.
“Well, our systems have been messed up for the past few days so you might not have received it but… We uh…”
He took a deep breath and looked up at me.
“We don’t be needing your services anymore! We thank you for your few months of hard work and regret having to let someone of your talent leave. We took the liberty to clear out your desk and have given all personal effects to Susan at the front desk. You can collect them on your way out.”
He sighed like a heavy weight had been lifted off of him and smiled apologetically.
“Sorry man, with what happened to you, it’s only been rumors around here. We can’t afford to spook the others you know? You were just supposed to get the payed leave and never come back. I’m sorry you had to find out this way.”
Stunned, I just stood there, arms at my sides and eyes staring straight ahead, even as my now ex-boss made his way around me. After a few moments I collected myself and turned around ready to start firing off questions when I saw the 3 security guards blocking the doorway.
“We’re here to escort you out sir.”
One of them stated flatly. Defeated, I sighed and walked out under the piercing gaze of the guards. Even with newfound muscle, I wasn’t one to make a scene. Especially when that scene could end in a tazing. The succubus receptionist disinterestedly handed me a cardboard box full of the CDs and random trinkets that had accumulated on my desk during my brief stay. The elevator ride down was as uncomfortable as you would think, with all three guards eyeing me as if they expected me to go postal any second. As the lobby door closed behind me the reality of the situation began to sink in; I had just been fired over getting the shit kicked out of me after being mistaken for someone more important. I didn’t see how things could get any worse.