Free Flash Fiction: “Notes On My Recent Job Interview With Your Firm”

Started in 2013, recently revised, and finally (I think) just right. 1130 words.

Notes On My Recent Job Interview With Your Firm

Dear Nancy from HR,

I am writing with answers to the survey I found attached to your letter. I realize they were mailed to me several weeks ago, but I was unavoidably detained during that time, and unable to respond earlier. I have been advised by medical professionals that answering your questions in depth may only amplify the strong feelings of unease I have been experiencing since my interview, but lately I feel oddly compelled to complete any paperwork put in front of me.

Please bear with me, as your form has limited space for additional notes. Some answers continue on the back.

1. How clear was the information you were given before the interview?

C. Moderately clear

After a pleasant phone call asking me to appear for an interview with your firm, I was emailed an itinerary which included the names of staff members I would be meeting, as well as a schedule of events. While I admit that a few of the items seemed strange, I assumed this was your department’s attempt at job-related humor. In hindsight, the schedule was extremely accurate, and I accept the blame for not realizing “Enter Applicant Tracking System” meant I’d be injected with a radioactive tracer. (The bruise has mostly faded.)

I gave you a score of “Moderate” here because the directions to get into the building were confusing. I arrived outside of the Tower fifteen minutes before my appointment, only to find that none of the entrances opened from the outside. I circled the entire complex, knocking on doors and even a few first floor windows. I barely made it back around in time to see an employee gain entrance through the door I’d started at. He heard my yells, I’m certain, but did not wait. Luckily, I was able to squeeze in before the door shut behind him, and make my way from there to the receptionist’s desk.

2. How long did you have to wait before your interview began?

A. No time at all

I’m torn here between “no time” and “extremely long”, because even with the help of talk therapy and medication, I am still uncertain as to whether the entire course of events was the interview, or if it never actually began.

3. How did the staff great you?

D. Slightly warmly

The young woman behind the front desk greeted me by name when I arrived, but refused to leave her station to direct me to the elevators when I asked, even though the lighting in the hallway was flickering in and out. After much insistence on my part, she stood, took two steps in that direction, and stopped suddenly. With a pained expression on her face, she pointed toward the darkness, and said, “Fourth floor”. I never did find out what the clanking noise under her desk was.

4. Did you meet with the staff member(s) listed on your itinerary?

It’s possible that I did meet with the correct staff, but at no point did anyone identify themselves by name. At least one portion of the interview was conducted by large figures in hooded robes.

5. Did the staff answer all of your questions?

E. Not at all

I was never given an opportunity to ask questions. I attempted to find out, for example, why I needed to fill out an application form while suspended over a tank of what I can only assume were thousands of piranha, though the frothing water made it difficult to be sure. No one answered when I begged for help climbing out of the snake pit after successfully alphabetizing the files you inexplicably keep there. However, when I screamed, “Oh God, no, not the kittens!” during the unusually violent grammar examination, I did hear a voice call out, “That’s an exclamation, not an interrogative!” so I admit it’s possible I was phrasing my questions incorrectly.

– Please excuse the change in ink color. The other pen was rendered unusable during my last episode. My time in your building was understandably stressful for me, and I cannot blame the orderlies for acting quickly given my reaction to Question 5. After taking some time out to think about what I’d done, Dr. [REDACTED] and I feel I’m ready to continue with the survey. –

6. List five adjectives which you feel would best describe your experience at our company:

Confusing, menacing, disturbing, dangerous, life-threatening.

7. Was your experience at our company better than you expected it to be, worse than you expected it to be, or about what you expected it to be?

E. Much worse

Nancy, I cannot express to you how horrible the events of that day were, even though we’ve decided to increase my dosage until I’m ready to be moved to an outpatient facility. I do have several drawings that I made during art therapy. I think they express my emotional state better than words could. Dr. [REDACTED] needs to keep the originals for my file, but he has promised to make copies and send them along with the completed survey form.

8. How likely are you to recommend our company to people you know?

E. Extremely unlikely

Your employees are easily startled by strangers and bright lights, suggesting a Vitamin D deficiency. At one point I attempted to escape through a window, but found them to be hermetically sealed (I believe this is a violation of municipal fire codes; you may want to look into that). No one working nearby made any effort to assist me. If the interview is any indication, your firm’s work environment is profoundly unsafe. After careful consideration, I do not believe my coworkers from my previous office would have survived.

9. Would you like us to keep your resume on file and consider you for other positions?

A. Yes

The police did inform me that no one has ever filed a complaint about your hiring practices before. The employees they spoke to cited both job security and opportunities for advancement as benefits of working there. The competitive salary and benefits package listed in your advertisement certainly seem appealing, and in this economy, that’s not to be taken lightly. I have carefully considered this answer, and despite my therapist’s desperate exclamations begging my to reconsider, I would like to schedule another interview, at your convenience. During my remaining time at the Center, I plan to focus on the relaxation and hand-to-hand fighting techniques which will surely make me a more effective candidate.

Thank you, Nancy, for this opportunity to review the events of that day while in a nurturing and medically-supervised environment. I look forward to hearing from you again, soon.

Reviews of my Apex Magazine story, “That Lucky Old Sun” (with a note about Editor-in-Chief Jason Sizemore)

In 2016, Apex Magazine published my short story, “That Lucky Old Sun”, to my great delight. You can still read it online for free, here. You can also buy the whole issue for Kindle here. AND it was made into a radio play by Redshift in 2017; you can listen to their performance of it here.

Before I talk about the story, I want to mention their publisher/Editor-in-Chief, Jason Sizemore. He’s been going through some health problems – Bell’s palsey, a painful cyst, required surgery – and chose to use the current issue to find inspiration in the darkness. You can read his editorial online here.

Apex Magazine has been publishing for years and has given us work by some amazing writers. While Jason’s surgery tomorrow shouldn’t affect their ability to keep publishing, maybe today is the day you subscribe? You can choose whichever format suits you best:

Apex (monthly recurring)
Weightless (ePub/mobi/PDF – traditional yearly billing)
Amazon (US) (Kindle – monthly recurring)
Amazon (UK) (Kindle – monthly recurring)
Patreon (monthly recurring)

I know that I look forward to reading each month. I hope you do, too.

Now, about my story…

Apex Magazine, Issue 80. Jan 2016. Cover art by Matt Davis.

(If you haven’t read “That Lucky Old Sun” yet, be warned that there are minor spoilers below.)

I was nervous before “That Lucky Old Sun” came out; it’s the longest short story I’ve published to date, and it plays with an old SF trope in a way that readers might either love, or hate, or not notice at all. You can never tell until a story ends up in the world and out of your hands. I was more nervous because this story is important to me. They all are, of course, though some of what I write is fun, some is dark, some is about projecting the future – I’m usually pushing at the edges of what I can do in a story, but the boundaries I’m pushing aren’t always the same.

In classic, golden age SF, we have these grand stories about building rockets, escaping doomed worlds, blasting off into space with limitless potential in front of us. I could write that again a hundred times, and who would question it? We know that tale. We’ve all read it. With this story, I wanted to talk about the people who get left behind. Not the rocket scientists or astronauts or the child looking out the porthole at a dwindling blue marble that used to be his home. Just regular, everyday people. Families. Neighbors. Small town folks, faced with things much bigger than themselves.

I am so happy with how it’s been received.

Amelia Crowly said:

This really gave me chills.
I love the way it *seems* to set the scene at once, only to become darker and more intriguing as the story progressed.

On Twitter, @robertired said:

It’s amazing. Subverting old school sci-fi is something that should be done more. Congratulations.

@ScottMBeggs said:

Beautiful short story from (via ). Uses the familiar to deliver the unexpected.

@MariaHaskins called it:

Wonderful, creeping-up-on-you #scifi

And @LaurenLykke said:

Just read and LOVED your story in !! Got me all teary-eyed!

Over at Tangent Online, Kevin P. Halett said:

Carrie’s “end of the world” science fiction story is time and world ambiguous, telling this often-told story from a new perspective. The protagonist is a small girl, innocuously spending what could be her last day with her loving mother, who knows what’s coming. The author touchingly portrays the mother’s loving patience and the girl’s innocence in this easy to read tale.

Telling the story from the little girl’s perspective made it darker and more compelling. I found the writing engaging from the very beginning and it continued to hold me even though I could guess where it might end; a pleasing new variation on an old theme.

Lastly, and with the most spoilers… At Quick Sip Reviews, Charles Payseur said:

………….okay then. Yeah, this story is a bit dark, a bit…well, a bit very dark, about a child, Melanie, and her mother as they sort-of wait for the end of the world. The setting is vaguely futuristic and also rather dystopian, a place where people are judged based on their skin but not exactly the way that they are now. Here it’s not exactly race it seems but something in the blood that changes the skin’s color and might do other things to it. Whatever the case, it means that there are vast systems in place to try and “contain” it, mostly by reporting on neighbors and living in a police state and it’s an all around not-good scene. And yet the “problem” persists and so the government decided to just bomb everything. Bomb it all and then return to reclaim the wiped slate. And that the story follows a mother and her daughter on this day is bleak as fuck, but also I rather enjoyed it. There is something to be said about this, that this is where fascism leads, that this is where intolerance and bigotry lead. That there are “understanding” people who are just part of the problem and that everything is built on hate without reason, hate because that’s all it is, and in the end it tears everything apart, tears families apart and lets the central lie of the story fester and burn like the fires of the bombs being dropped. Because a large part of the story is the absence of the father, who is “pure” and who has the chance to survive. It’s a wrenching story and a sad one, very much worth reading but maybe prepare some cat videos for the aftermath. Indeed.