Calling

by Rohan Parekh

Part 1

“Face the wall.” The homeless man says while pointing a gun at us.

All ten company vice presidents, including me, do not hesitate to obey. We immediately turn around and stand facing the wall.

“Capitalist pigs.” The homeless man spits. “You don’t give a shit about the common person.”

What’s the point in having security if anyone can walk into an office building with a gun? We’re in the conference room and the door is locked shut. We were having a meeting about budgets when this guy literally walked right in. He mentioned that his name is Quentin.

“What do you want?” I ask him.

“I’m not sure yet.” Quentin replies.

I hear his footsteps, he’s been pacing back and forth for a while now.

“Do you want money?” Ted asks. “Take our wallets. Just put the gun away.”

Quentin ignores the question.

Ted and I are rivals. We joined the company at the same time and we’re always trying to one-up one another.

“How much do all of you make a year combined? 10 million? 20 million? More?” Quentin shakes his head. “Whatever it is, it’s too much. While you pigs get millions in corporate bonuses, the rest of us live in a pile of shit.”

“Look, I can sign a blank cheque for you right now.” Ted says. “Put whatever amount you want.”

“Don’t you ever shut up?” Quentin asks. “One more word out of you and I’ll put a bullet up your ass.”

Ted’s face contorts with rage. I can’t help but grin and feel grateful to Quentin for putting Ted in his place.

“I need to think.” Quentin says.

And for the next one hour Quentin says nothing. God only knows what he’s thinking.

The ten of us are standing, staring at the wall, and we’re thinking pretty hard about what the hell is going to happen. Have the cops been called? Are there snipers on the rooftops, waiting to shoot Quentin at the right moment? The blinds are shut so I’m not sure if they can get a clear shot. We’re literally stuck in a death trap with no idea what’s happening outside.

Suddenly a phone rings. Its Jack’s phone. Jack is one of the younger VPs, well-educated and always polite.

“Whose phone is that?” Quentin growls.

“Can I please answer that?” Jack asks. “It’s probably my wife. She’s at the hospital. She’s pregnant and hasn’t been feeling well.”

“You’re gonna be a father?” Quentin asks.

“In few weeks I hope.” Jack says.

“Boy or girl?” Quentin asks.

“We don’t know. The wife and I wanted it to be a surprise.” Jack replies.

“You know, I grew up without a father.” Quentin sighs. He pauses before continuing, “Your child will learn what that’s like.”

Quentin shoots Jack in the head. The gun hardly makes any noise, it must be a silencer. We all duck for cover. Jack’s blood is all over the place.

“Stand up! Face the wall!” Quentin commands.

We rush to obey.

“My mom had a tough time raising me and my brothers.” Quentin says. “Maybe I’ll tell you about it.”

Maybe I won’t be alive to hear Quentin’s life story. Jack’s dead. Who’s next? Where the hell are the police?

And that’s when I wish that I had chased my dream job instead of going into finance to chase money.

 

Part 2

“I’ll keep it short.” Quentin says. “It’s a typical sad story and talking about it just makes me relive the pain all over again. But I’ll tell you a little bit, because the only difference between you and me is a little bit of luck.”

And the only difference between me and Jack is also luck. But how long will my luck last?

“My mom was a prostitute.” Quentin says. “One of her clients knocked her up and out came me and my brother. A year later, another brother. She could barely afford to feed us so we lived on the streets most of the time. One brother died from a drug overdose. My younger brother ran away and I never heard from him again. Mom died from AIDS. After that life got harder. The kind of hard you people know nothing about.”

I’m tempted to ask Quentin if he knows how hard it is to hold your bladder when you really have to pee.

We’ve been in this damn room for over two hours and I haven’t gone to the washroom even once since I reached office at 7 am. Quentin took us hostage after lunchtime. Oh and I skipped lunch too.

No time to pee, no time to eat, all because of one deadline after another. Maybe it won’t be so bad if Quentin puts me out of my misery.

“Turn around.” Quentin says.

We turn around and face him.

“Have any of you ever slept in the rain?” Quentin asks.

Everyone either shakes their heads or says ‘no’ quietly.

“I have.” Quentin says. “In a sleeping bag. No tent, no shelter, and in the morning I was soaking. Some folks were lucky enough to find space under a bridge but I wasn’t so fortunate that night.”

“You’re not going to get away with this.” Ted says. “Even if you kill all of us.”

Thanks Ted. Thanks for encouraging Quentin. Just another example of Ted’s brilliance.

Quentin smiles, “Who says I wanna get away? Where would I even go? Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve been indoors? And do you know when the last time is that I spent so much time indoors? Even if I told you, you wouldn’t believe me.”

As soon as Quentin finishes his sentence, one of our VPs, Michael, begins running directly towards Quentin.

Quentin fires the first bullet at Michael’s thigh but Michael keeps heading towards Quentin. Michael ends up tackling Quentin to the floor. Quentin fires again. The second bullet enters Michael’s stomach.

Michael’s body is partially on the floor and partially on top of Quentin. The other VPs are cowering on the floor, the gunshots scared the hell out of them. They’re facing the floor with their hands over their heads. I’m the only one still standing.

As Quentin struggles to push Michael off and stand up, I decide that this is the best moment to strike. Michael’s sacrifice will not go to waste.

I rush towards Quentin. Quentin tries to fire but thankfully misses. I reach Quentin and kick him in the head. We’re on the ground, struggling to overpower one another.

I manage to grab the gun and fire a bullet directly at Quentin. I think Quentin’s dead. The VPs are still cowering on the ground.

And that’s when I notice that my colleagues cannot exactly see who is holding the gun. All they heard were gunshots. They do not know who is currently alive or dead. They are still cowering, facing the floor, hands over heads.

I can see most of the VPs pretty clearly. I see Ted extremely clearly. And that’s when I carefully raise the gun and fire a bullet at Ted.

The bullet hits Ted right in the face. Nobody will know it was me. I’ll tell everyone that I shot Quentin in self defense but before his last breath he managed to grab the gun out of my hand, and attempted to shoot me, missed and hit Ted. In response, I snatched the gun away from him and shot him once again, blowing his brains out.

With Ted out of the way, it’ll be easier for me to climb the corporate ladder, even though I never wanted to work in a fucking corporation. I wanted to be a writer.

 

Epilogue

Three Years Later

Three years ago, a group of armed homeless people stormed into an office building and took several employees hostage, including me. Security was caught with their pants down. They were completely unprepared and even the police were slow to react.

I survived but a number of employees were killed. I’ll give the police some credit, they managed to subdue most of the homeless without killing them. Quentin was one of the leaders of this armed invasion and I was lucky to take him out.

I don’t blame Quentin and his friends for doing what they did. If I was in their place, I would’ve done the same. I’ll admit that I struggled while growing up, but it’s nothing compared to what a lifelong street dweller goes through.

My parents couldn’t afford to send me to college, so I worked part time at a restaurant. Plus, I wasn’t even sure what I wanted to study in college. So, while I spent years working and saving, my friends went to college. When I finally made it to college my friends had graduated and landed well-paying jobs. I was always a step behind.

I eventually got into corporate finance, sold my soul to the gods of capitalism, and after I earned enough money, I quit. I quit about a year ago. Whatever money I made I invested wisely so now I never have to go near an office building again.

If I hadn’t killed Ted and gotten away with it, I would’ve had to slave away for a few more years because he would’ve been promoted before me.

Was it worth it?

I don’t know.

I miss my college girlfriend. We’d bonded over our love for writing. But she followed her dream while I followed dollars. I didn’t make enough time for her because I was too busy making money. That’s why she left me and married someone else.

If I could do it all over again, I wouldn’t have been so obsessed with money. I would’ve struck a balance between my love-life and my money-life. But I can’t change the past. And neither can you. So be careful about what choices you make. As for me, I’ll make better choices with the time I have left. There’s only one thing left for me to chase: happiness.

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