Your Next Assignment

Robin yawned as she turned on her laptop. It was eight in the morning and she was busy shoveling eggs into her mouth as she waited for the computer to boot up. She had finished her previous temp assignment a few days earlier and she was starting to get nervous. She was sending out applications for real jobs but several days of no pay wore on her nerves. She could also feel herself getting too comfortable at home as the days passed from when she last went to a job and acted semi-professional. Her computer finally booted and she brought up her e-mail with her stomach tightening at the potential of interview requests or requests for additional information.

In fact, there was none of that. Robin did not have time to be disappointed, though, because the only e-mail she had received overnight was one from her contact at the temp agency, Stacy. It was really vague but it talked about a new assignment. She looked for a date and time and the other usual details but that was the odd thing. There was a request from Stacy for a meeting and it was not an address she was familiar with. She asked Robin to show up dressed casual and the time was ten in the morning on the current date. That last bit made Robin’s eyes go wide and she nearly spit out some eggs. That did not leave much time to get dressed and get to the meeting. Casual dress probably did not include pajamas.

After a quick shower and a change of clothes, Robin hopped into her beat-up car and headed toward the meeting. In the frenzy of getting dressed, putting on makeup, and climbing into the car, she had had no time to consider what this job might be. She was used to tedious office work which was occasionally interrupted by actual research work where she felt a little like Nancy Drew combined with Indiana Jones. This was way out of the usual parameters and Stacy usually let Robin know exactly what was happening. This was weird and it set Robin on edge. She had spent her life making sure that her interactions with weird stayed strictly in fiction. Experiencing it now gave her a sour feeling in her stomach.

She arrived at the address and it was a series of storage lockers with no sign and nobody around. It did not even look like a business and instead looked like the kind of place junkies would shoot up. She warily got out of her car and that is when Stacy stepped out from behind a wall. The mousy office girl looked totally out of place in the worn neighborhood.

“Hey Robin,” Stacy said, looking up from a clipboard. “Welcome. I’m glad you made it.”

“Just barely,” Robin said. “You’ve got me really curious about this job, Stacy. I’m kind of feeling weird about all of this.”

“Well,” Stacy said. “I can understand that. Unfortunately, the name of the employer that is contracting you is to be kept confidential.”

“Umm,” Robin said. “How am I supposed to get my orders?”

Stacy smiled. “Well, I do have a solution here. The employer has included a journal in the welcome package that they say will tell you everything you need to know.” She held out an old leatherbound book and handed it to Robin. Robin looked it over an flipped it open and the pages were blank. She was more confused than ever. “Additionally, I am to give you this key and point you in the right direction.” Robin took the key in her hand and instantly felt strange.

“Point me in the right direction?” Robin asked. She felt as if she was suddenly underwater, all floaty but under pressure.

“Yes,” Stacy said. “In there.” Stacy pointed at one of the storage units and Robin felt herself nod.

Robin started to shamble toward the storage unit without another word. The world started to tilt side to side but she kept an eye on that storage unit door. She was still clutching the key and the journal as she struggled to walk toward that storage unit. Each step became harder and harder. As she approached the sliding door it slid open and she found herself desperately walking into the darkness.

It seemed like a moment later when she woke up and she realized that she was in a speeding car, heading down a highway she had never seen before. She reached down to grab a cold bottle of water and sipped from it as she drove. She held onto the wheel hard as she tried to look for some signs or some clue as to where she was. She looked down and the key from before was in the ignition. The journal was open on the passenger seat but she had no time to inspect it further. There was a post-it on the dashboard that said “turn here” and she almost missed the exit. She kept driving until she saw an open field to drive onto and she turned off the car and tried to breathe.

After a while, she took her seatbelt off and opened the driver’s side door to get out. As she started to slide out, something nudged her leg. She reached down to grab it and found that it was the hilt of a sword. What the Hell was going on? She settled back into the driver’s seat and grabbed the journal and as she did she saw a pen and a stack of blank post-its. She wondered what that was about. She looked at the journal and where it was blank earlier, there was now writing. A passage caught her eye.

“To slay the beast, grasp the sword and do not back down”

She shook her head and slipped out of the car but grabbed the sword and drew it from its sheath. It looked really old so what was it doing in this car she had never seen before? She had no chance to think about it further as she heard a growl behind her. She turned to see some sort of dog creature, crouching in the tall grass. It charged and she dodged to the side as it sailed by. It lunged again and instincts took over and she slashed at it with the sword. It fell to the ground still and bleeding. There was a sudden pain in her arm as she watched a tattoo of the dog creature form. What was going on?

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