Beware: Thursday the Twelfth
Today there was a meeting. Not all employees were to attend; only those working on one project. That happens from time to time as it does in all organizations. Not everyone has to attend every meeting. But today, there was a meeting and I was one of the people who had to attend.
I looked around the room and counted: 8 chairs. One was for the presenter. The guy operating the computer for the slide presentation got one. Project management got one. The two managers each took one. Project management from another project got one. I wondered why she showed up, actually. The president and vice president also came, but neither one took a chair. That left two empty chairs that nobody wanted to sit in. Seeing as last time I attended a meeting and had no choice but to stand, leaving me with cramps in my toes, I decided to take one of the two chairs. Shortly afterwards, the president took the chair beside mine.
The lights were turned off for the presentation. The man pointing out what went wrong had one of those voices that droned on and on. I’m sure you have heard such a voice before. It’s the kind that you have to be so ultimately interested in the subject of the presentation just not to doze off quietly. Staying alert and attentive was going to be difficult at best.
I took a deep breath. The slide wasn’t changing. Each sentence repeated the same statement: test properly before passing it all off. Suggestions to make the testing more robust were met with suggestions on how this should be done; these last suggestions were waved aside as if irrelevant and illogical. I shook my head in bewilderment. It all depended who said what. If you were management’s favourite, the message was, “Your idea is noted here and we will look into it.” If you weren’t part of the favourite team, management merely dismissed you.
Being among the unpopular employees, I sat in my chair and wrote a few notes to myself. Some notes were about the meeting. Some notes were for work I have to do after working hours.
As I made my list of things that I needed to catch up on outside of this office, I heard a small hiss. I looked up discreetly. I looked about the room from my chair. It was ever so quiet. By the looks of the other’s faces, I could tell I was the only one who heard it.
The hiss seemed to come from the computer. The man controlling the slides from the computer was fast asleep, but the hiss was not coming from him; he was very quiet. I looked and looked. I studied each person’s face. I looked back at the computer guy. I studied his movement. I studied his breathing. I studied the immobility of the computer. I followed the wires all the way to the projector.
Yes, the current modern-day projector is nothing more than a light bulb attached to the computer, used to amplify the picture on the computer. Nothing spectacular. I mean, how spectacular is a simple light bulb to make another picture bigger? The only difference nowadays, compared to when I was a child, is that you don’t hear a loud clinkity-clunch with the change of pictures any more. Even that would have helped to keep this audience awake. Was I the only one, besides the computer guy controlling the slides, who was this bored?
The projector continued to burn brightly onto the wall. The hiss grew louder. I looked closer at the projector. I thought I saw something white slither out from the light. It slithered onto the table. It slithered all the way up to the front of the conference room. It stopped at the edge of the table. It hissed. The presenter continued his speech, as he paced back and forth in front of the table and the hissing serpent.
No one seemed to notice the little white serpent at the edge of the table. Were they all that mesmerized by the one last slide that had been up for at least fifteen minutes by then? Were they that enthralled and amazed by what the head engineer was saying to them? That would be so unbelievable.
The creature stood up on its hind legs. Its slender body stretched upwards like a cloud of smoke. Wings spread open from its back. They flapped a few times, then closed. The creature turned around. It looked me right in the eye and then raised an eyebrow with a small smirk on its face.
“There be those who respect my kind. There be those who don’t,” it said as it walked towards me. “There be those who will always protect. There be those who won’t.”
Now here was a dragon in the conference room and it seemed like I was the only one who could see or hear him. Somebody definitely was in trouble. This little dragon seemed engulfed with the thought that some people don’t like dragons. His eyes glowed a brilliant yellow, while he spat flames here and there.
He jumped up into the air and flew about the room.
“Who will be first?” he chuckled as he flew by.
Everyone else in the room continued listening to the head engineer in front and ignored the little dragon. Sometimes someone would brush their hair with the back of the hand as he dragon flew past. Maybe they were merely ignoring him because of the importance of the meeting.
It stopped right in front of me. “Protection of all dragons—at all cost,” it said to me. “Your heart speaks of this all the time. You never deny it.” It came close and left a small dragon kiss on my forehead.
As it flew around the room towards the head engineer, it opened its tiny mouth and licked a few colleagues along its way. It stopped directly in front of the head engineer. It smiled an evil smile. It grew a hundred times its previous size. It blew smoke right in his face.
“Protection to your people, yes! But you forgot your other promises: protection of all dragons—at all cost; protection of your heart’s love—never to be lost.” It opened its mouth and swallowed the head engineer in one gulp.
Just like that. I sat there for a moment in the chair—in silence.
The dragon plucked a tissue from the tissue box and wiped his mouth.
“OK, people,” the Vice President said, “you all know what you need to do. Consider this a kickoff meeting of things to change around here in the immediate future. Back to work.”
The remaining colleagues shuffled out of the conference room. They walked quietly and slowly. Their faces possessed a dazed quality.
I was the last to leave the room. I turned and looked. The dragon lay upon the projector and smiled at me. “Respect my kind. Protect my kind. Most of all, believe in my kind and all will be fine for you.”
Then, it slithered back inside the projector.
A few seconds later, the projector turned off. I touched its top. It was hot, but not as hot as I had expected it to be. There was no more light coming from it. I listened hard. There was no sound.
I turned around, turned off the conference room light, and started back towards my desk. The secretary pulled me aside.
“Did anything happen in there?” she asked me.
“Well, it was a meeting,” I began.
“No, I know that. Did you see it? A little white creature?”
“Yes. How did you know?”
“Simple. It’s Thursday—the twelfth.”
“And so?” I responded confused.
“Every time it’s the twelfth of the month and it’s a Thursday, a little white creature appears and a few of our employees disappear. Somehow, it has become my responsibility to explain for the missing employees and ask for a rehire.”
“How long has this been going on?” I asked.
“Twelve years. How many disappeared this time?”
“One. The head engineer.”
“I can’t tell you I am happy it was just a head engineer that was swallowed up this time,” she mentioned.
“Have you ever tried to explain the disappearance of a Vice President or President? Not a simple task—that’s for sure. Hush now and make like nothing happened.”
“It just will be easier for us all.” And she turned to go back to her desk.
I stood in the hall for a moment, thinking. It was a good thing I have always loved dragons.
One thing stayed on my mind for the rest of the day, though. What did the head engineer do to deserve being swallowed? Does anybody out there know?
Witness: Oscar DiLogicielo