Interview – By E W Morrow

This here’s a little story I wrote several months ago. I’ve been looking at it again, wondering if I should to some edits. Or rather, realizing that the story needs edits and wondering if I should devote the time to it or just kinda leave it. I’m not super in love with it anymore. Like I said, this was months ago, back when I had first started writing as a hobby again (several months before I even considered starting a blog as a matter of fact.) Anyway, I thought I’d post it, see if it gets any feedback. I personally think it’s strong points are the descriptions of the characters and setting, and general mood creation/retention. I think the dialogue is weak and the plot kind of lacking. I’m not sure what to do about the latter, what to add to make it better, and I’m too lazy to fix the former unless I know I’m going to do a full re-write. Think of it as a modern day vampire story that never get’s around to the vampires.

So yeah. I’ve been working on other stories recently, but I wanted to post something for you all to read. Like I said, this was months and months ago that I wrote this (beginning of the summer I think, maybe just before summer began), so if you think I’ve improved at all (with the other stories I’ve been posting) I’d love to hear about it.

Interview (working title) – by EW Morrow

Mister Millingsly stood in the corridor perfectly still. For a man of his advanced age this was, in and of itself, an impressive feat. It was even more impressive to those with certain information not readily available to the casual observer. Perhaps this is because the casual observer was more likely to be impressed by the view. Behind the old man was a wall of glass that looked out onto the city. Just now, at the death of the day, the sky burned orange and the sunset cast long shadows so that skyscrapers swept mile long trails of darkness across the urban sprawl. And it was against this backdrop of widening shadows that Mister Millingsly stood silhouetted and perfectly still.

Mister Millingsly was a thin man. He looked like the kind of man who didn’t exercise and ate very little; he had no muscle and no fat. There was almost nothing to him but skin and bones and a suit. The suit was well made but aging. If it had ever fit him properly it was long ago and now it hung loosely on his fragile frame. His necktie, a drab gray affair, was loose around his stick-like neck. Even his skin looked as if it had been merely draped over his skeleton so it sagged under his chin and anywhere else there wasn’t bone to hold it up. The only parts of Mister Millingsly that were firm or fixed were his posture and his hair, silver-white and slicked back with a thick tooth comb.

There was a short electric tone from far end of the hallway. Then there was a hiss as an elevator door slid open. An ordinary man, after such silent waiting, might have stood up straighter or compulsively checked his jacket for lint one last time. Mister Millingsly blinked.

A young, healthy man in a well tailored suit stepped out of the elevator. He had broad shoulders, dark brown eyes and a firm, strong jaw. Not a single strand of hair was out of place except for the ones that had been carefully placed there. He wore a light gray shirt with a slight sheen and a bold blue tie that was confident without being aggressive. He was, in short, exactly the opposite of Mister Millingsly.

The man began to straighten his tie unnecessarily before he realized he was being watched. He turned and stared for a moment at the little man-shaped silhouette at the end of the hall before he put on his most winning smile and strode confidently across the marble floor.

“Hello, my name is…” he began.
“Yes, Mister Parker, we’ve been expecting you.”

The young man only paused for a moment, but he covered it well. His smile returned quickly. It was good, wasn’t it, that they knew his name?

“Excellent,” he said jovially. “Would you be Mister Tepes?”
“No,” replied the old man in a voice that was surprisingly deep for one so small. Deep, but soft. “No, I am his assistant. You may call me Mister Millingsly.”
Parker had come close enough now to get a clear view of Mister Millingsly. With the exception of speaking, the old man hadn’t moved a muscle. Parker tried to look him in the eye but found it difficult. The old, rheumy blue eyes held Parker in a gaze of such casual intensity that Parker felt like a slab of meat under the scrutiny of some draconian government inspector. Parker wished the man would blink.

In a slightly less confident voice he said, “Mister Millingsly? Right, well it’s a pleasure.”
Abandoning his attempt at eye contact Parker opted instead for a firm, friendly handshake. He held out his hand in front of him and tried his best to smile. Mister Millingsly did not move.

Then, Mister Millingsly blinked. Parker wished he hadn’t.

It was an unnatural blink, as though the tiny action had been some sort of concession on the part of the old man. The lids had sullenly and unevenly slithered down his eyes before snapping up, noticeably wider than before. A second later he had relaxed them to their normal size. Parker realized he was still holding his hand out awkwardly and slowly lowered it to his side.

“I’m sorry, I hope I’m not late,” Parker mumbled. Mister Millingsly actually smiled a tiny smile.

“On the contrary, Mister Parker. You are early. You will have to forgive me for not shaking your hand, but then again I seldom ever do. I am sorry to say that I have a rather rare blood disease. Severe hemophilia. Men such as yourself tend to have very firm handshakes, and I am not sure my old body would survive the experience.”

“Oh. I’m sorry. I didn’t know, I…” Parker began to stammer. Mister Millingsly held up a hand, and Parker was shocked into silence by the relative enormity of the gesture.

“That will not be necessary,” the old man assured him. “Please, step this way. The master will see you now.”
“The master?” Parker asked, falling into step somewhat farther behind than he normally would have. He no longer seemed quite so confident in his stride, hours of practice and preparation retreating behind a wave of nerves.

“Ah, yes,” Mister Millingsly chuckled. “Forgive me. Old habits die hard. My family has been a member of the servant class for many generations, and I often find myself speaking with my father’s voice. I did, of course, mean Mister Tepes will see you now.”

Servant class? Parker wondered about that as they rounded a corner. He thought that Mister Millingsly had a vaguely foreign accent but he couldn’t pin it down. Russian? Possibly, or perhaps some other Eastern European country. The type of accent that was used to speaking to royalty.

“I thought it might be necessary to bring another copy of my resume,” Parker said to fill the silence. He almost reached out to hand the document to Mister Millingsly but thought better of it. Surely this was treating the old man far too gently, perhaps even disrespectfully so, but it paid to be careful. He hoped it would pay a lot in the end.

Besides, he thought, the old man probably couldn’t read it in this light. They had left behind the corridor with the plate glass windows and the receding daylight they offered. The walls in this part of the building were papered in deep maroon wallpaper, patterned with even darker floral designs, and trimmed in dark, stained, expensive looking wood, probably mahogany or walnut. The lights in the hallway were remarkably dim for this time of day. They must be going green, Mister Parker thought as they rounded a second corner.

“Thank you, but it will not be needed. Mister Tepes has always preferred an entirely—oral selection process.”

Mister Millingsly walked the same way he spoke, softly and at a measured pace. Parker found it odd that the man’s arms didn’t sway as he walked. It was as if the man never moved any part of himself unless it was absolutely necessary. He never gestured or even turned his head when he spoke. Parker had a feeling the man wouldn’t even sit down unless he knew he wouldn’t have to get up for a long while. And that blink…

They turned two more corners in silence. Parker wasn’t be certain, but he couldn’t remember passing a single office or door since he’d left the elevator. It was almost like the entire floor was just a network of dark corridors, like a maze the size of a city block. He was about to remark on this when they turned yet another corner and he came to a sudden halt a few inches behind Mister Millingsly, nearly crashing into him. The old man had stopped at the mouth of the corridor which came to a dead end about ten feet ahead. At the end of the hall was an embossed brass elevator door lit from above by a single light bulb in an ornate fixture. Parker couldn’t quite make out what was etched on the door from this distance.

“I go no further,” Mister Millingsly stated. Slowly, he turned around and then looked up into the face of Parker who was still only inches away. Then he blinked his hideous blink. Parker nearly fell backwards.

“Upstairs,” Mister Millingsly continued, unshakable as ever, “you will meet Mister Tepes.”

“But, I thought we were already on the top floor,” said a confused Mister Parker.

“We are on the top floor,” said Mister Millingsly matter-of-factly. “It helps if you think of it
as—the attic.”

“The attic…”Parker repeated, still trying to come to grips with this.

“Yes. Do you have any questions?”

Parker considered this. Nothing came to mind. Which is to say that absolutely nothing came to Parker’s mind. No questions. No ideas. Nothing. He just stared down the corridor at the bronze doorway and the intricate light fixture above it. After a few moments he shook his head.

“Any advice?” He asked, for lack of anything better to say.

Mister Millingsly blinked again. Parker flinched.

“Yes,” he replied. “When you get up there, it would be best if you did not give much consideration to the others.”

“Others?” Parker asked with a note of panic in his voice.
“Yes. There will be others. Board members and some senior stock holders. My advice is to ignore them unless they address you directly. They all listen to Mister Tepes in any case. It is his opinion, and his opinion only, that matters.”

Parker nodded, more to himself than to the old man. He took a deep breath and almost took a step forward before he stopped.

“Anything else?” he asked hesitantly. Mister Millingsly smiled a little smile that did nothing to reassure the younger man.

“Mister Parker, do you know why you were chosen for this opportunity?”

Parker answered with silence.

“Allow me to explain. Do you know why I occupy the position I do and not someone else? I have held my position, Mister Parker, for longer than you have been alive for one reason. I am qualified. In fact I am the ideal candidate in every regard. You are here because it is likely that you possess the proper qualifications for the position you have been offered. Tonight you will either prove this to be true or false.”

“And if I don’t?” Parker asked, as though the possibility hadn’t occurred to him before.

“Oh, I wouldn’t worry about that if I were you.” Mister Millingsly’s smile returned.

“Why not?”

“If that eventuality should come to pass, then there is nothing you can do.”

Still smiling, Mister Millingsly turned and gestured down the corridor to the elevator. Parker took a deep breath and attempted to regain some of the confidence the old man and the dark hallway seemed to have taken from him. He dropped the useless resume on the floor, and strode down the corridor. When he reached the brass elevator door he stopped and looked at the carving that had been etched there. It was a coat of arms. A sable shield took up most of the door’s surface area. In the bottom half of the shield there were seven towers. Old, stone towers, not the towering steel and concrete skyscrapers of today. The top half was occupied by a bird of some sort, wings spread wide. At the tip of the left wing there was a stylized sun, and on the right an equally stylized moon.

Except, if you looked too closely, it wasn’t really a bird at all. Or rather, it was a bird, but also something else. An optical illusion. It could either be a bird facing towards the sun with it’s beak open wide, or it could be a man facing the moon. In that case, the beak became a pair of wicked, curved horns. A winged man with horns, facing away from the light.

Suddenly the elevator door slid open. Inside there was a giant of a man, nearly seven feet tall and pale of skin, with a wide, rounded chin and and and extremely pronounced brow. He was wearing a round, pillbox hat and a uniform of gray and red that looked at least sixty years old. He was standing next to a large lever, one of the old ones they used before elevators had buttons. Parker forced himself not to stare as he stepped inside. The doors slid shut as the elevator attendant pulled down on the lever. Only as the elevator began to rumble upwards did Parker wonder what sort of man would man would consider severe hemophilia an essential qualification for a servant.

One hour later Mister Millingsly was still standing at the end of the dead end corridor facing the brass elevator door, perfectly still. In one hand he now held the discarded resume of Mister Parker. Suddenly, the elevator doors at the end of the hall slid open. Mister Millingsly blinked.

Without a word the elevator attendant lurched forward. He was alone and dragging something heavy behind him as he went. As the attendant passed him, Mister Millingsly held up a hand and the attendant stopped. Mister Millingsly bent down beside the twisted lump behind the attendant, brushed aside a bold blue tie, and with great care folded and placed the resume of Mister Parker into the breast pocket of a light gray shirt that had a slight sheen.

“It would seem you did not possess the proper qualifications,” Mister Millingsly whispered dispassionately to the ashen, bloodless corpse sprawled out before him. He stood up slowly and nodded at the attendant who returned the nod and continued on, dragging the body through the maze of corridors, into the darkness beyond.

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One thought on “Interview – By E W Morrow

  1. Pingback: Going forward | E. W. Morrow

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