by Robert Scott
Illustrated by Mali Read

I should feel happier. The days of rain have ended. There is sunlight.

There is also the wonderful aroma of freshly brewed sulawesi toraja coffee. Beetroot-coloured, butterfly-like triangularis leaves flutter about my ears. Piped trip-hop evokes idyllic beach scenes with the promise of wild parties later on. The conceptual artwork is indescribable, as it should be. Best of all, I can twirl in my perfectly padded, deluxe ergonomic chair as much as I want. And no one can stop me.

Mid-morning, and my co-workers – youngish, attractive, plugged-in – are hard at it. Co-workers, but I never met them before today. Plus, they’re working and I’m not. I’m just looking at them, and for a job.

It feels like I’m in a kinda-cookie cinema ad; ukulele playing, everyone on a natural high. After a series of jump-cuts through zeitgeitsy scenes, the camera lands on me – Problem Guy.

I am Problem Guy because, as my last real-life co-worker, Sandy, advised,
‘A PhD doesn’t get you a job; you do.’

The past five weeks have proved Professor Sandra McDonald correct. Hence, here I am with my ‘new way of working’, costing £22 a day, free coffee included.

The others are getting their money’s worth.

They get it. To my left, a twirling multi-coloured hologram cube. To my right, Matrix-like streams of digits. Over in the corner, what looks like a beat poet’s scatter-gunned chunks-of-magic.

My Word docx. worth of CV is dullness personified.

But, hey, at least I have my wee pal. He’s sitting in his usual spot, loyally urging me on.

Frenetikov’s enormous eyes stare up at me, his big teeth clamped atop his shield. The real Uig-Lewis chessman warder sits in the local museum. My one’s from the shop.

For the past three years, brothers-in-arms, we fought battles: deadly submissions, brutal revisions, terrifying vivas against formidable opponents. Finally, we shared the glory of (my) graduation and (my) doctoral-ness. It was only Frenetikov’s companionship and Viking berserker intensity that got me through.

He was my new way of working once. But I sense the magic has gone. The mission of jobhunting heralds a new kind of warfare. Time to find a new ally.

I refill my reusable cup.

Goodbye, Frenetikov.

Robert Scott lives in Edinburgh, Scotland, UK. He has short fiction in East of the Web, EllipsisZine, Nymphs Publications, Bandit Fiction and in Popshot Magazine.

Mali Read is a graphic designer located in Manchester. Her work has been featured on the Drum, Design Week and Creative Review and she has been awarded a German Design Award.