by D.M. Jewelle
(This begins a string of my favourite chapters, I hope you have fun reading them!)
Once upon a time there was a God named Finnegan.
He still lives, by the way.
Today Finnegan had to do something Very Special; he had to explain an expense claim to Accounting.
As Gods have a tendency to rack up ridiculous amounts of bills all under the pretense of world-building, Accounting has since had a field day calling up Gods to justify their expenses. Some auditors have a camera on standby under their desks, waiting to whip it out and snap a God tugging at their collar, sweating bullets and staining the backs of their shirts (especially the male Gods), cheeks flushed pink and red, shifting in their seat, attempting to stare at the blinds behind the auditor’s high-backed black leather swivel seats. Many a God have surrendered, leaving expenses to their own pockets, safe from the vast wealth of The Vaticanny Place guarded by these ruthless knights of the Calculator Order.
Finnegan looked at his recently-polished shoes, then at the platinum plaque on the door across the carpeted hallway. He checked his hair with the reflection, brushing back stray tendrils. He removed his glasses to get a better look at his eyes, pulling the lower lids down to check for dirt, then finally pulling his lower left eyelid and sticking his tongue out at the sign for good measure.
Next to the door was a bulletin board. He expected a glass slab, mounted by chrome bolts, with messages written in elegant block lettering; instead the plastic-and-foam board was overflowing with frontal shots of flustered, flabbergasted, exasperated Gods bathed in powerful camera flashes (Finnegan had to wonder if accountants were just born rich or the reason the Gods seldom got money was because the accountants were taking it all for themselves), held up by bright map pins. Above the board was “BEST PICS” written in big cartoony letters on manila card and sticky-taped to the wall. One picture caught Finnegan’s eye – the subject was tilted and blurred, but the outstretched arms, claws out for the photographer’s throat, jaws lined with rows of sharp carnivorous teeth, and the overall angry expression made it pretty obvious that it was one of the…less humanoid…Gods. Were they the ones in the South Wing? Finnegan never really cared to know his fellow God-mates. Half of them were neurotic, and the other half were worse. Safer to mind one’s business, he figured.
The heavy-looking brown door slid back, nary a scuff on the carpet. An olive-skinned woman peered out, all smiles.
“Mr. Finnegan, you may come in now,” the friendly and casual tone betraying all cruel and heartless intentions to come. Finnegan picked up his file from his chair and entered.
The room was dark, too dark. A fluorescent desk lamp illuminated the plastic yellow folder on the solid-looking red lacquered desk. The wooden table was impeccable; stationery arranged in a container, paper clips and staples in shallow plastic trays, an opaque plastic in/out document tray unencumbered with overflowing piles of papers, and a flatscreen monitor and keyboard with no trace of messy wires completing the arrangement.
The door clicked, the woman walked past him, pushing her cornrows back. She slid into the chair with a soft squeak and opened the folder, her finely manicured nails clacking on the plastic cover.
“Make yourself comfortable, Mr Finnegan,” she continued, ceasing eye contact. Finnegan straightened his back, taking care not to lean too much against the backrest nor to sit too far from it. The leaners were overconfident, self-assured pricks who never left Accounting alive while the edge-sitters projected a fear so strong the auditors could see the sign “FRESH MEAT” festooned with strings of neon lights flashing over their heads a mile away.
By right, Finnegan had nothing to fear – he’d gone through this before; he wasn’t asking them to pay for a new mansion that had absolutely nothing to do with work, this would be the same as last year with a different auditor. Last year he managed to get all collateral damage to his World paid for, including “accidents” caused by Sedna’s persistent attempts at romantic reciprocation.
Then again, last year’s auditor was a mouse in a grey suit with thick black square spectacles with swirls for eyes. This year’s auditor was actually humanoid, for starters.
“I’ve been looking through your claim, Mr. Finnegan…” The dark room and focused lighting cast a menacing shadow over her face. Earlier she looked like a normal young lady; now the shadows looked like warpaint under her eyes…did she really have THAT evil a grin? Finnegan wasn’t sure anymore.
“It is to my understanding that about 2 months ago, undue actions occuring in your World, code number LL-0317-1969, have caused permanent damage to a coastline and destroying a fishing village with the resulting tsunami.”
“Yes, that’s right.”
“And you want to submit a claim for this unnatural natural disaster?”
“I’d like to point out that the damage was a result of my assistant.”
“Have you ascertained that your assistant was the responsible party, officially verified his confession by two peers and two superiors, complete with official seal?”
“May I have the report?” Finnegan reached into his file and passed the auditor a piece of X-tra Wite A4 paper, the report typed with impeccable grammar in Times New Roman, double-spaced. Her eyes gave a quick sweep before returning the document.
“Did you conduct any damage control?”
“Rule Four Clause A-Three states that unless damage radius exceeds three hundred and seventy-five million square kilometres, the Non-Interference Rule is to be strictly observed.” Finnegan unfolded and spread out a map on the table. “As you can see, the village of Asterwick including the ocean area affected comes to less than 0.090 square kilometres total.” He pulled the map away from under her nose and quickly refolded it.
“My request for financial compensation is within legal boundaries, following all protocol and procedure, therefore I foresee no problems having my claims verified.” Finnegan stifled the smug grin creeping up to him – he’d been quick, efficient, and prepared, there was no away the auditor could to deny him. Stop looking at that folder, look into my eyes and concede, you have no chance, he thought.
The auditor cleared her throat, eyebrows raised. “So it would seem, Mr. Finnegan…just pass me a copy of your current insurance statement and you’re done.”
The auditor finally looked up, “Your updated World Project insurance, Mr. Finnegan, we need it so that we can give you your money and deduct it from your income tax.”
Finnegan grabbed the armrests, leaning forward to get a closer look at the folder she held, “It’s not in there?”
“Nope. All we have is last year’s statement.”
“Lemme take a look-” Finnegan reached out with his right hand, but the auditor pulled it closer to her and swivelled away. “No.”
“You’re pulling this out of your ass aren’t you,” Finnegan demanded, hand still outstretched, butt no longer on the chair, half his body across the desk.
“No I’m not, there really is no record.”
“I paid my insurance dammit!”
“Whatever the case, we don’t *have* it with us. Maybe you didn’t submit a copy to begin with-”
“Stop playing mind games with me, I can see through your foul tricks!” The chair wobbled back a few inches as Finnegan pointed accusingly, his voice rising.
“We’re well aware that the Gods hate us very much, but I assure you that we have better things to do than actively deprive you of money, as much as we enjoy doing it.”
The blinds failed to conceal a group in office wear, pressing their faces at the window partition that ran from the ceiling to the floor. One balanced her coffee mug on top of an anthropomorphic velociraptor in a pencil skirt, who was studying the scene with her bright yellow eyes. Two men in their thirties – one with close-cropped black hair, the other had fins for ears – were chatting and pointing at Finnegan, with the grey-suited auditor rodent from last year perched on fin-man’s shoulder, describing something that required waving his arms a whole lot. Probably recognised him or something.
Finnegan’s eye twitched. “Don’t you guys have a lounge to rot and fester in?!” He stomped to the blinds and folded them out of sight, muttering, “Frickin’ busybodies..”
“I know I submitted a copy to Accounts, that’s why I didn’t bring it-”
“Syr Finnegan Renovo Ortus, Deus Inferior de Concilium, you have five minutes to retrieve a copy of your updated insurance statement for your financial record or this claim will be rejected,” she said, removing a stamp from a box previously unseen.
“Five minutes?? Do you know you assholes are TEN minutes away from Parliament House??”
She brought the hinged cover down onto the box. A sharp click signalling the end of the discussion; Her stare cold and unflinching. A chill ran down his back. Her stamp was poised over his claim application like a sword of Damocles.