I once lived and worked in an enormous steel labyrinth—daily traversing dark corridors cut through man-made canyons. In a city like that, you would never notice the absence of the sun. I was shielded from it by the blasphemous towers that stretched skyward. There were so many huddled peoples there. A continuous babbling in many dialects and tongues surrounds you. I was too busy to notice any of it. I was occupied. By the sweat of my receding hairline, I earned my keep. My right to call myself a New Yorker. I seemed happy there. I really did. At the Firm.
My name is Samual Flotman and I’m a workaholic. I thought it was different than being any other kind of -aholic, because it was something actually useful. You can lose your life at the bottom of a bottle wrapped in brown paper, but if you spend all day in an office, at the end of the week, you’ll always have a paycheck to show for it. There is no shame in being a workaholic. That was my thinking at least. A city that never sleeps needs tireless toilers—people like me. It’s a city that worships its fatted calf—it even has a Golden Bull. It’s located right where my job was:
Manhattan’s Financial District.
Eventually, people noticed though. They noticed what a good, hard worker I was—as if that needed noticing—and they said things about me. I never minded the bad things people said about me. About how I’d taken someone on a terrible date. About how I had disgusting table manners. Or how I smelled. Like an old man. Like broccoli. My work ethic spoke louder than the rumors of any. No. Those things did not worry me. It was the Good Things. They thought I should be rewarded for my trials and tribulations. What worried me then, was how I knew they were going to do it…
I remember how it happened. It was dark when I came into the break room, so I switched the lights on. They popped out then. From the kitchenette corners. From behind the door. From beneath the linoleum table. From out of the coffee counter’s cabinets. I looked up and saw the banner that read, Happy Birthday, Sam. Those biscuit-eating clever folks in Human Resources. They were real sneaky about it this time.
I don’t celebrate my birthday. Or rather, I should say that I don’t see it as a reason for celebration. It’s just an excuse for us to get another day behind. Short another dollar. Like New Year’s. Valentine’s. Or Labor Day. Even Thanksgiving is superfluous when you think about all the money you’d sink into a plane ticket to your Mother and Father’s ranch—driving all the way out to it—on the edge of the desert—in my native Tucson. Christmas, on the other hand, is special—Easter too. Those are days in which we must reflect, on Our Savior’s Birth and Eventual Death.
They pinned a hat on me. They made me play stick the tail in the photocopied and laminated smiling jackass. Its smile, I might add, was only rivaled by my own sardonic grin. We formed a Conga line and snaked our way through the cubicles. All I could think of throughout that infuriating sound and those unyielding tom-toms was, This isn’t about me. It was never about me. They wanted to have a party today. They knew it was my birthday and if it was somebody’s birthday, that meant they were going to eat birthday cake—for Pete’s sake, it was owed to them.
My Bearded Boss prestidigitated—what he called—a Productivity Award. They all presented it to me—indignity of indignities—it was a Goliath-Sized Travel Ticket. I was being forced to—suffering of sufferings—endure a vacation on the Company’s dime.
Before I knew it, my things were packed and I was waiting in the West Side’s terminal in Hell’s Kitchen. I watched an enormous man take hold of my bags there on the dock—intermingling them with those of the Teeming Others. I had no choice then, but to brush my suitcases—and shoulders—amongst them. A boat full of people And not a single co-worker of mine among them. It was as though I’d been transferred—without any warning, I might add—to another department entirely. Whose idea was this of a joke? Did they think I wouldn’t complain? Did they think it was funny? I had no prior training here—I would have to learn on the go.
I tried to have fun. They told me I was supposed to relax. I tried in the Pool. By the Pool. In the Lounges with the string quartet. On the massage table in the Spa. On the treadmills and rowing machines in the Gym. In the Library of stock literary classics and hodgepodge of other titles—left behind and unclaimed by passengers of previous voyages. I even tried to relax in the Casino. I took one look at those people feeding their hard-earned coins into machines and craps tables and felt sick. I almost voided my stomach then and there—of everything I’d eaten at the Midnight Buffet of the Lido Deck—on that nice red carpet. Instead, I managed to do it in a nearby potted plastic plant. The crew was most distressed and anxious to cordon me from the passengers right away—establish a quarantine. They manhandled me with gloves and fingers slicked with sanitizer. To their relief, my condition was nothing contagious.
Just the usual bout of seasickness, Mr. Flotman, the ship’s doctor informed me. He prescribed me a Scopolamine Patch, which I placed, like a sticker, just behind my right ear. I wanted to tell the Doctor it was homesickness—nothing a patch could cure, but for the most part, he was right. I never felt sick again. Only the restlessness. I’d tried to relax. I really did. It never came. Something else did.
The morning it happened—the day It came—I was ready. I’d been ready for anything—absolutely anything—to come and end this all. I was wide awake—watching dolphins race ahead of the ship, playing in the knife we drove through the current. I was staring into the abysmal sea and contemplating—shame of shames—Mortal Sin. Seagulls were laughing down at me.
My People make a practice of being ready for the A Certain Day. Father and Mother prepared me for It's Coming. Nobody else was. That’s why they’re all dead now.
Rising together from the depths, It proved neither whale, nor cephalopod—It was both. I saw the Behemoths’ Backs—two continents of flesh. One was barnacled and grey with a single blowhole—the other, rubbery and pink in a vulgar spear-like shape. The two giants were locked in combat. It was a ballad of ungentle creatures.
I looked right into the squid’s glassy eye—saw myself, the whole ship and the Entirety of His Grand Design. On one side a mighty tentacle was raised. On the other—a tail like a tidal wave plowed down. Together, the duo scissored the ship into clean thirds.
There was no time to get people into lifevests, to get them to their stations, or to get them into lifeboats—as we’d all had to practice in the mandatory drill before setting out. There was no time even, to sound a single alarm. The Beasts entangled themselves in the vessel and it became their battlefield. Beneath they went—all three of them.
By some means, I was thrown clear—plunging straight down into the water, instead of hurtling through the air. I avoided splintering bits, the confusion of corpses and general debris by the strangest luck.
I drifted there in the open—the alone. In happy fragments of woe.
Of how long I treaded water, I cannot say for certain. I can only assume that I did not attract any sharks because they were too busy feasting—in an attack-frenzy—on what remained of the non-Elect. I had indeed eluded the fate intended for them.
When all evidence leads you to conclude you should be very dead, and yet, here you are—alive—there is only one possible explanation. Miracle.
I thanked the Almighty for the Leviathan. Both of them.
I thanked Him for ordering the destruction of the boat and providing me with what was surely a Divine Sign that He was on my side. I’d been spared in this small Demonstration of the Coming Rapture. I would not go back to New York. I would not go back to that sleepless city—at my desk at the Firm—in that maze with its very own horned beast. No. I belonged back home with my family. To make further preparations. It was coming now. The End.
I drifted, for a time, amongst the refuse, contemplating my place in His Magnificent Creation. Then, after gauging the position of the sun—it was still in the East—I discovered the Westering Way and began my swim.