The First Trial

She entered the office, trying to ignore the feeling of a hundred pairs of eyes boring into her back.

The owner of the voice was the elegant woman from the college corridor, Aphrodite herself, Eros’s mother. Psyche fought an irrational urge to curtsey as cool blue eyes looked her over.

Finally, Aphrodite spoke. “You’re here to complete some tasks that need doing, but which my team don’t have time for. Once you complete one, and provided I’m satisfied with the outcome, you will proceed to the next. Failure, of course, means the end of your internship and any hope of ever working at Z Corp.”

Psyche squared her shoulders. “I understand. What would you like me to do first?”

Aphrodite stood, the smile on her lips anything but reassuring. “Follow me.”

She led the way across the office, her smile growing as they neared a door at the far end, and the murmurs and whispers behind them intensified. She paused in front of it, and a perfectly polished acolyte darted forward, opening it and all but bowing their department head through.

It was a storeroom, painted dull white, with cupboards of the same shade against every wall, reaching to waist height, then shelves from shoulder to head height. Every surface, including the floor, was covered in piles and bags of envelopes and parcels.

Aphrodite’s wave encompassed the room. “Fan mail. It needs to be sorted into separate collections for each recipient. You have until the end of work on Friday.”

She swept out, closing the door behind her.

Psyche’s bag hit the floor with a thud. She slid down the wall beside the door a moment later, staring at the mountains before her.

A door in the wall to her right opened and Hermes appeared though it with a large sack. He spotted Psyche and smirked. “Fancy meeting you here, Persephone’s friend. I’ve another of these downstairs. Of course, I can pretend I’ve never seen it if you tell me where she is.”

Psyche snorted. “Because that’s going to make such a difference to my workload. And I can’t tell you, even if I wanted to, because I don’t know.”

Hermes shrugged, dumped the bag and wandered out of the door again.

Psyche waited a couple of minutes, then crossed the room and opened it. The lift well was in front of her, she was on the opposite side of the building from where she’d entered the PR office area. Well that was one good thing, She’d be able to slink into, and out of, the room without being stared at by all Aphrodite’s minions.

She stepped back inside and started clearing a space on one of the counter tops. Hermes reappeared with two more bags, sniggered, and left.

Her phone buzzed, Neela. So how’s it going in the long lunch and champagne world of PR?

Psyche sent her a photo of the store room with the caption. Fan mail, to be sorted by the weekend or no more Z Corp for me.

Neela’s reply was short but graphic, followed by, Do what you can till lunchtime, we’ll join you then.

That was kind but even having her and Jamal helping out in their spare time wasn’t going to make a dent. Still, the support felt good, and Psyche told her about the back way into the room, then started making small piles of envelopes with different names.

Except Neela hadn’t been referring to just herself and Jamal. She powered through the door at midday, glared around the room and said. “Work out a chart of the people most likely to get letters, Jamal’s picking up boxes from the facilities guy.”

Psyche pointed to the space with the piles. “Most of it’s for the models, especially Adonis and Narcissus, with maybe six or so of the top management people getting some as well. At least that’s from the batch I’ve been working on so far.”

Jamal staggered through the door clutching a large pile of collapsed cardboard boxes, tape and a packet of marker pens. He stopped when he saw the piles of letters. “Woah.”

The three of them reassembled the boxes, writing a name on each one, and dropping Psyche’s letter piles into them once ready.

Neela checked her phone, then sent a message. Five minutes later three people Psyche recognised from orientation walked in, gaped, then got to work. They stayed for fifteen minutes or so, then left, but they’d already been supplemented by two people from the grad lunch and someone Psyche hadn’t met.

Every time a new name appeared on a letter or parcel, a new box was made up and every time someone had to leave to go back to their official job, someone else would drop by for a few minutes. Neela and Jamal popped in and out a few times, but it seemed the system that had been created didn’t need a manager.

People swarmed everywhere, sorting and giggling over scented paper and lipstick kisses. Psyche tried to hope, but there was so much more than could be done in snatched moments of an afternoon, even if Neela seemed to have a relay of every intern and half the grads in the company.

One of the grads hustled her towards the door into the main office at the end of the work day. “You need to sleep, and you want that lot to think you’re struggling, so they won’t come and check.”

Psyche shuffled through the office area, head down, clutching the strap of her bag. Now the eyes carefully avoided her, and the whispers seemed sad.

She took the same route the next morning, carefully closing the store room door behind her before looking around and gasping. More people must have been in overnight, the piles were half what they had been. The handle on the other door jiggled, Psyche unlocked and opened it to find Hermes on the other side.

He handed her another bag of mail, then spun and left with a smirk. “Have a fun day.”

Psyche tipped the contents of the bag into a clear area and began to sort. The helpers kept coming, ten minutes here, half an hour there; by the end of the day, there were sections of tiled floor visible.

The following day was Friday, and the deadline. Psyche came in early and set to with a will. Hermes delivered two more bags and tried to peer around the door.

At four thirty that afternoon it was done. Neela dropped the last package into Apollo’s box and dusted off her hands. “As soon as I leave, lock that outside door so Hermes can’t get in with a last-minute delivery.”

She grinned at Psyche. “I’m totally adding this to my CV. Make sure you tell us all what happens when that woman finds out you’ve done it.”

Neela left, Psyche clicked the lock into place and waited. Just before the clock ticked over to five, the handle rattled. She held her breath. It jiggled again, and she could hear someone swearing on the other side.

The door to the office swung open, and Aphrodite appeared, her superior smile in place. She looked around, and sighed. “Dear child, just putting the mess in boxes isn’t enough, they must be sorted.”

Psyche walked to a nearby box, one with ‘Zeus’ emblazoned across the front. She kept her eyes on Aphrodite as she reached in and pulled out a letter, turning it to show the name on the front. She dropped it back in, and pulled out another, then another.

A tiny crease appeared between Aphrodite’s brows. She reached into the huge box labelled ‘Adonis’ and pulled out a letter, it was addressed to Adonis, then another, and a third, this one from the very bottom of the container.

She stepped back and her face smoothed to impassiveness. She snapped her fingers and said without turning. “Have these boxes delivered to their owners.”

Several of her team members trotted in, gaped, then picked up boxes. The murmurs outside became questions and exclamations, and more people came in to gawk and carry.

When the room was empty, Hermes stomped inside with the bag he’d failed to deliver a few minutes before. Aphrodite’s glance was not pleased. She spoke past him, to the assistant who’d collected Psyche from the lift area on Wednesday. “Have proper boxes set up and labelled, and the letters sorted as they come in, I’m disappointed we had to have an intern show you all how to organise a mailroom.”

Harmonia winced and made notes, Aphrodite turned to Psyche. “Youthful energy and enthusiasm is delightful in its way, but will only get you so far. We will discuss your next project on Monday. Do make sure you’re on time.”

Psyche couldn’t help it, she grinned. “Of course, yes, thank you, I’ll look forward to it.”

She edged her way towards the office door, then when the path was clear, all but bolted.

Her report to the message group was met with pictures of fireworks and grinning faces. She took a deep breath, sent a heartfelt thanks to all of them, and went home.

Related posts

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s