AW Flash Fiction — “Devil in the Details” — 3/7/10

90 minutes from reveal of theme word until posting of the final product at AW.  Not one of my faves and ironically I just used this tagline in the Flash of 1/3/10 call “Honor”.  But here’s last night’s go at it:


Damien sat nervously chewing his nails waiting for the HR manager to call him in for his appointment. It didn’t look good. Layoffs abounded. Everyone knew the company wasn’t doing so well. Not well at all. He hoped he’d contributed enough to save his job but the fact that he was here and not working at his cubicle did not bode well.

“Mr. Natas?”

“Yes, right here,” he replied as he shuffled the trade journals he’d been pretending to read back into their immaculate arrangement. He tweaked the edges but they still failed to line up as perfectly as they’d been before he disturbed them.

“This way please,” Madeline Black said as she pointed to a small conference room in front of them.

Damien preceded her and took the seat nearest the door. He folded his hands on the table top and waited as Madeline arranged herself and her files.

“So…Damien,” she began. “You know that the company has been struggling for some time, right?”

Damien nodded. His throat began to constrict choking off any words he might have offered.

“Right…well, the bad news is we are forced to cut staff and I’m afraid your position has been identified as one that will be eliminated effective immediately. For severance, you will receive two weeks plus two additional weeks for every full year of service, in your case three years for a total of eight weeks. The company will also provide outplacement services compliments of Inferno Recruiting, LLC.”

Madeline paused and regarded Damien, who sat mute and motionless, his face an unhealthy ashen color.

“Do you have any questions, Damien?”

Damien gulped then croaked, “Why? Why me?”

“We took a number of factors into consideration such as performance ratings, longevity in the position, alternative skill sets and I’m afraid you didn’t make the cut.” She gave him a tight-lipped smile.

“What was wrong with my work?” Damien asked. His face began to show some color, a slight hint of pink in his cheeks.

Madeline opened her file and shuffled through the stack of papers within before withdrawing his last performance evaluation. She slipped on her reading glasses and read, “According to this last evaluation dated…June fourth, your supervisor wrote, ‘Damien has a good work ethic and demonstrates a solid understanding of the company’s overall goals and objectives–‘ ”

“That’s a good rating!” Damien bellowed, slamming his fist on the table. The pink in his cheeks had darkened to nearly crimson as had the rest of his face.

“Mr. Natas, please calm down and let me finish.” She motioned with her hand. “What I was trying to point out was the following part of your review, ‘However, Damien frequently makes minor mistakes that individually are not that severe. Collectively they contribute to inconsistent work products and necessitate frequent work corrections.’ ” Madeline removed her glasses and cast a stern look at Damien.

“But those are just minor mistakes. Everybody makes them.”

“Mr. Natas, you drew up the contracts for Mr. Dahmer, Mr. Gacy, Mr. Ramirez and Mr. Jim Jones did you not?”

Damien gulped. He knew his goose was cooked. “Yes,” he whispered, but those weren’t my fault. I only–”

“And you are aware I hope that those men are not here with us now?” She frowned at him and tapped her pen on the table.

“Well yes, but they were all executed in some form or fashion, surely that counts for something?” He knew he was grasping at straws but he had to at least try.

“Yes, it counts for something but my point is, Mr. Natas, they aren’t here.” She gestured with her reading glasses. “You failed to close all the loopholes in their contracts and they all escaped on technicalities. While we lose the occasional soul from time to time, you’ve lost four top notch souls in three years.”

“But those were such trivial things, I never expected–”

“As you know, we pride ourselves on injecting our stamp of iron-clad thoroughness in all that we do and we can’t afford to lose these kinds of souls because of a failure to pay attention to details. Therefore, I am very sorry but–”

“I can’t believe this! This is so unfair! It was only four…only four!”

“Mr. Natas! Silence! For the last time, let me remind you how critical it is for Demon Contracts, Inc. to command the details as much as the overall contract objectives. Our client is extremely demanding and has not outsourced soul negotiation to us on an exclusive basis. We’ve been losing a lot of business to Devilry Deals lately and simply cannot compete until we bring our quality level up and our costs down.”

Damien hissed at Madeline then rearranged his tail. “Fine! When do I get my check?”

“If you’ll just sign this termination agreement here, we’ll be happy to take care of that for you,” Madeline said as she withdrew a three page document and pushed her glasses back onto her nose.

Damien sighed and scribbled his name on the line where indicated. Madeline checked it over and tucked it inside her folder then smiled.

A small blast and flash of white light followed by a raging inferno consumed the shrieking figure of Damien Natas, leaving nothing but a tiny whirlwind of ash and echoes.

Madeline Black stood and brushed off the flecks that fouled her sleeve. “When will they learn? Never sign a contract without reading it thoroughly. The Devil is always in the details.”