Into the Woods

The next morning, Calypso managed to catch Hel on her way back from a meeting. She listened to the request, then nodded. “Good idea. Get him in.”

She turned to leave, then paused. “Be sure to document the submission experience from your would-be early birds. That article’s gone out too far to pull back so we may as well learn from it. Ganglöt needs to understand where the friction points are.”

Tish snorted. “The friction point is that far too many of the applicants don’t bother to read.”

Calypso bit her lip on a smile and composed an email to Dionysus.

Heimdall phoned her that morning and talked her through the hidden lock on her computer. At the end of the call, he said. “Your friend in Milan is something of a character.”

Calypso smiled. “She is. She’s smart, strong-minded and independent. She’s also fun, funny and supportive of her friends.”

He replied. “She said much the same of you.”

And hung up.

The questions were coming thick and fast, in-person, phone and email.

Tish started a spreadsheet, tracking and classifying the questions into groups. She also ranked them according to level of stupidity. The end result was a clear outline of where the main areas of confusion were and, Calypso had to admit, even the stupidity ranking was helpful.

She talked Tish into sending it to Ganglöt at the end of the day and Wednesday morning began with a pleased flush on Tish’s face as she read the reply.

Calypso’s emails that morning included one from Dionysus, and she arranged for some time the following week. She also arranged for three of the candidates on Pythia’s list to come in for interviews.

Tish said. “Can’t you get any of them in to talk to tomorrow?”

Calypso replied. “And who would back you up here while I was interviewing? We’ve still got too many people coming in with the wrong date.”

Tish huffed, but subsided. It was busy enough that both of them spent very little time on anything other than repeating the same instructions, and the correct date, over, and over, often to several people at once.

Calypso blew out a breath. “I’m glad I’m not going to have to be going through and assessing these when submission does come around. There are going to be thousands.”

Tish replied. “I’ll bet at least half will be dumped straight away for not following instructions.”

She smirked. “In fact, on Friday, we should put a rubbish bin on the counter and label it ‘submissions’.”

Eos wandered over in time to hear the last comment. “That sounds a bit harsh, why would you do something like that?”

Calypso told her. “They’re not due for another six weeks and all submissions have to be done online. We’ve already had five people try to hand over paper copies.”

Tish snorted. “The best one was the hand-written piece, decorated with rainbow unicorn stickers.”

Calypso rubbed her brow. That had been a difficult, and shrill, discussion.

Thursday was more of the same, Friday morning found a couple of people waiting for the building to open. Both wanted to hand over physical copies of their submissions. Calypso told them the correct date, repeated it three times, then directed them to the nearest library, which had internet access, computers if necessary, and a scanner.

By mid-morning, Tish had posted large signs around the reception area, and on the front door. Yggdrasil is only accepting applications via the online form. The submission date is still six weeks away. No in-person submissions will be accepted, then or now.

The sign had to go through five significant edits before Calypso let her print and put them up.

Eos wandered across with coffees. “What time does the make-believe early date cut off?”

Calypso replied. “Midnight tonight.”

Tish eyed her suspiciously and Calypso said. “No, you don’t need to stay late, I’m taking the Saturday train this weekend.”

Tish’s expression suggested she’d grown an extra head. “You’re staying at work till midnight?”

That made her laugh. “Not on your life. I’m going to stay an extra hour, then meet some friends at the pub.”

The day was every bit as chaotic as expected. Heimdall’s security guard proved invaluable when someone tried to submit their application in person, attached to a life-sized cardboard cut-out of themselves.

Eos helped calm the hyper-ventilators, stress-criers and anxiety attacks with tea and chocolate caramel brownies.

As the end of the day rolled around, Eos left with a wave and a grimace. More people came by as they finished work. Tish looked at the clock, looked at the people, sighed, and stayed.

Even at the end of the extra hour, people were still wandering in. Calypso asked the security guard to close the doors, then dimmed the lights and slumped back in her chair.

She looked over at Tish. “Thanks for staying.”

Tish shrugged, and focused on closing down her computer. “This way I’ve got more data for the spreadsheet. You weren’t even close to recording all the questions you got.”

Calypso sighed. “True. Get the guard to let you out and try not to get too annoyed by anyone hovering outside. I want to check in with Hel before I go.

She headed for the lifts and level one.

Scanning the floor, she found Hel standing in front of a large screen, with numbers and messages scrolling past.

Hel didn’t look around. “People are finally getting the message. Although next week will still be busy.”

Calypso asked. “With people wanting to submit late?”

Hel gestured to the screen. “No, with people who think they’ve beat the system and made it into the secret early round wanting their results.”

Calypso groaned.

Hel nodded. “I’ll see you on Monday.”

She focused on the screen again and Calypso retreated to the lift. She slipped out of the front door under the stern eye of the guard, whose flinty glare kept the pair peering in the windows from darting forward.

Once the door was closed, though, they called after her. She kept walking and they ran to catch up, one trotting each side of her.

She groaned, it was the floppy-haired men again.

Stopping abruptly, she glared at both of them. “I am not at work now. I am going to meet friends. Keep following me and I will report you for harassment.”

They pouted, but left, and she made her way to the pub with no further encounters. Clio, Calliope and Adonis waved from their usual table.

She slid into a seat next to Clio, who greeted her with a hug. “When I heard about Narcissus and Thalia’s silliness, I was worried you wouldn’t want to hang out any more.”

Calypso smiled. “It’s fine. They’ve both apologised and I’m sure it was done with the best of intentions.”

Calliope filled a glass of wine and pushed it towards her. “While I appreciate how forgiving you are, can I put in a special request to lock all your ‘nice’ in a box when it comes to whatever discussions end up happening on your house?”

Adonis quirked a brow. “Are you allowed to advise the opposing party?”

Calliope replied. “I’m not assigned to the project, vested interest and all that. Ares expects me to say something – it’s what he’d do – so that’s what I’m saying.”

Calypso nodded thoughtfully. “I haven’t heard anything, but I’ll keep it in mind.”

Calliope smirked. “Most people in your situation would be beating down the door and demanding the property, and compensation, and anything else they can get. Your continued silence on the subject is making our esteemed leaders very nervous.”

That was good to know, because she did not have the time, space or energy to think about it.

Thalia arrived, wrapping Calypso in a choking hug and wanting to know how to make it up to her. Then Narcissus, with an awkward duck of his head, asking if he was forgiven.

Calypso went into his hug. “Of course, but maybe let me choose my own nightwear in future.”

He brightened. “Of course! Anything! Choose whatever you like from the current range – I’ll put it on my allowance.”

An idea flashed to life. Could she? She set her nerve and replied. “It sounds silly, but I’d prefer fabric.”

The whole table looked puzzled. She shrugged. “I promised Jason and Hercules I’d do a bit of redecoration on their flat. And then there’s the new place Herne’s moving into, he’s asked me to help get that properly furnished. I’m going to need to get back into my sewing.”

It was true, after all, she’d promised to help with both homes.

Narcissus clapped his hands together. “Perfect, I’ll wangle a fabric file out of Arachne and we can play pick the curtains next week.”

Clio’s eyes lit up. “You should video yourself making them and create your own channel. People love that stuff.”

Thalia chimed in. “And then she can do a series where she comes in and does home makeovers for people.”

Calliope said. “Would ‘people’ include you by any chance?”

Thalia replied. “Of course! My flat needs all the help it can get.”

Jason and Hercules arrived in time to catch the last of the conversation and were brought up to speed.

Hercules looked thoughtful. “If you’re wanting to get back into all that, we’re going to need to unpack some of your boxes. Your sewing machine at the very least.”

Calypso groaned. “But there’s no room.”

Adonis said. “You can borrow my spare room. I’ll only charge you one set of curtains and some throw cushions.”

She laughed. “I’ll keep that in mind, thank you. Let me have a think over the weekend. There may be some spaces in other spots that mean I’m not having to disturb people.”

She mentioned the conundrum to Amy while she was on the train the next morning. “It feels wrong to trespass on Adonis’s good nature when I’m doing something that’s likely to annoy Z Corp. I was thinking of asking Hel for the use of a back corner on the lower level while it’s being re-done.”

Amy replied. “Or, I ask Maria-Philippa to set you up in one of the spare rooms in the London house. She’d love to have someone else to fuss over, none of us are there nearly enough.”

“Oh but…”

Amy was insistent. “At least let me ask her and if she’s not comfortable with the idea, we’ll say no more. But if she’s happy, promise me you’ll at least go and look.”

Calypso said. “I promise.”

“Good, now tell me more about your business plans. Are you just going to go for soft furniture accessories, or are you looking at other pieces as well?”

Calypso protested. “It’s just a thought exercise so we can see what the applicant experience is like.”

Amy snorted. “Of course it is, so let’s make it nice and realistic.”

They chatted for several more minutes about crockery and toothbrush holders, winding up when Joshua woke.

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