Tuesday, April 8, 2008

001: The Assignments

Today felt special, Charleston had to admit. He had no idea why this was so, but there was just something that made it unique. He'd have to be a bit more careful today, then, since the last time he felt odd some goblin creature tried to gnaw off his leg. In any case, it was time to find out what he had to deal with today. He logged onto his company's website and followed the arcane hints to the current assignments page. He allowed his mind to wander for a second as he recalled the story behind the hints.

Long ago, his branch of the company had a fellow called the Dispatcher. In the days before computers, he ruled over the mail room and sent up messages most urgent to the various insurance agents. He had a bit of a knack for knowing which agent was best suited to which job. As the technology improved and the Dispatcher grew older (and he was quite old to begin with), he learned all the skills he needed to keep his job. Once the company started allowing employees to log in from home, he began making sure only employees and the exceptionally sharp could make it into the system by instituting the hints. It was a good system, and it kept out the riff-raff. Unfortunately, no one had seen the Dispatcher for several years, and it was widely believed that he had either come up with an advanced artificial intelligence to handle the chores of dispatch, or that his soul had entered cyberspace and haunted the company's web site. Charleston had very few thoughts on the matter, and was simply glad the system worked. A bit too well, however, as he had four assignments waiting for him.

There were two kinds of assignments, really: the appointments and the ones where they just arrived. The first assignment was one of the latter: a man had recently purchased a house that was somewhat deep in the forest. There were reports of him walking in his sleep and trying to pry the iron grate off an abandoned well, and the whole thing reeked of some sort of possession. Charleston groaned, because you never knew who was doing the possessing. He jotted down "Possessed Somnambulist Homeowner" into his notebook.

The second assignment was from a rural area, and unsurprisingly, had to do with crop circles and mutilated cows. Apparently, there were also unconfirmed reports of UFO activity. The smart money pointed to aliens, and so Charleston wrote down "Clich├ęd Aliens" in his notebook.

The third assignment was a cryptozoological thing, with rumors of some sort of giant bipedal frog mucking about. Charleston wrote down "Giant Frog" and wondered why the heck anyone would need insurance against a giant frog. Perhaps the area had some insect farms or something.

The final assignment was actually requested by the potential customer. She was sure her house was haunted, though she could be just paranoid. Charleston recalled that seventy-five percent of last year's appointments ended up being false alarms. Which is not to say that they weren't fruitful: people prone to calling up the company were also prone to buying insurance. After pondering this for a moment, Charleston wrote "Potential Haunting" in his notebook.

Charleston logged off and closed his computer, pondering over which assignment to take...


Everett Volk said...

Are we supposed to vote on the assignments? If so, I say giant frogs!

Mike P said...

Indeed you are, with the poll on the side if you've not done so already.