Appointments must be kept..........
“Your call is very important to us. Please stay on the line and one of our technicians will be with you shortly.”
Maveth drew a deep breath, blowing his cheeks up like a balloon. He held it a moment before letting it out slowly. This was taking forever. He had work to do and this tech issue had set him back by half a day.
He had switched from hard copies of his appointment lists to electronic access recently, attempting to ‘move with the times’ as his counterparts on other continents had encouraged him to do.
It’ll be easier, they said. It’ll be more efficient, they said.
Well, it was.
Up until the system crashed.
So much for technology making his job easier. He would now have to work double to make up for lost time. If he could get his damn lists off the computer at all. He got restless just thinking about the number of client appointments he must has missed already today.
Maybe he should just ask Achlys to access his sheets and fax them over. It was all her fault.
Maveth sighed and mused out loud. “This was all so much simpler before the lists went digital...”
“Sorry? Were you talking to me, Sir?” Talk about timing. The tech had finally picked up his call just as he was talking to himself like a crazy person.
“No, I was just.... talking to myself.”
“Oh. Ok, well. I can see here you're having trouble accessing documents on your application. Have you tried turning your device off and back on again?”
He gritted his teeth and closed his eyes for a moment. It wasn’t the tech’s fault. He had to ask these questions.
“Yes. I have. Twice.”
“Have you uninstalled and reinstalled the application?”
“Yes, I have. I also checked for updates at the same time.”
“Alright.... Does the device you are attempting to access them on have adequate charge?”
It took a supreme effort to suppress another sigh. “Yes. It does.”
“OK. Well, I’m going to need you to turn it off and turn it back on again.” The tech sounded bored now. Mav felt sorry for him. His job was really tough some days, delivering news to people very few ever looked forward to. But this guy’s job must have bored him to tears, reading questions off a flowchart script.
If yes, follow left branch and ask another frustration-inducing question. If no, follow right branch and piss off the person on the other end of the phone who may very well start cursing you.
“Is this really necessary? I’ve already done it and I need this issue resolved so I can get on with my work.” He may have felt sorry for the guy on the other end of the phone, but he could also feel time ticking steadily away.
The tech was silent for a moment. “It is because most people say they did when they actually didn’t.... Look, I shouldn’t do this, but..... I’ll just say you did it. I need some details so I can remotely access your device.”
“Thank you! I really, really appreciate this!” Mav gave him all the information he asked for without hesitation. It took a while longer for the tech to gain access. It turned out his name was Dave.
“Hmmmm, I’ve been able to recover some documents from your system. You won’t be able to transfer them to your mobile device though. To fix your issue, you will need a tech to come out. It’s an issue with -”
Mav interrupted him. “Please don’t think I’m rude. But it’s all gibberish to me. You just tell me what I need to do and I’ll do it, Dave.”
He could hear the chuckle in Dave-the-Tech’s voice when he spoke again. “No problem, Mav. I’ll send a technician out to you first thing in the morning.” He paused. “We have emergency appointments we normally keep in reserve.... but I really appreciate you being so patient and understanding through all this. I’ll book you in for seven A.M.”
“You are a lifesaver! Thank you. I promise to leave a good review for you.”
Dave chuckled. “Thank you. We don’t get alot of those. It’s not our fault we have to tell a hot-shot businessman that his laptop is non compatible with a pot of beer spilt on the keyboard. But he certainly leaves that out of his one-star review.”
“Mm, I get the feeling yours is a job where you would regularly be accused of being less than helpful despite it ultimately not being in your power to fix their problem.”
Dave laughed properly this time. “You sound like someone who gets the same raw deal. I’ve sent the documents I could recover to your printer. Should be there in a sec. How do you make your living, Mav? Those documents look like client lists. Names and phone numbers. But the numbers don’t look right. I’m just wondering if the document has been corrupted?”
Mav pressed his lips into a thin line. He had to admit, technological advances meant he had less contact with people in general. Dave couldn’t see his facial expression meaning he wasn’t going to give himself away in a lie.
Careful to keep his tone even, he gave the tech a carefully cultured response. “I work with an insurance company investigating claims. Those are encrypted details for the clients.”
“Ooooh! Neat! Its a pretty good deal that you can also work from home.” Dave sounded jealous. “I wish I could do that.”
“Thank you for your help, Dave. I appreciate it. I really need to get cracking on the work I’ve missed today.”
After he hung up from the phone call, Mav retrieved the sheets from his printer. It was worse than he thought it would be.
He was so far behind; it’d take days for him to catch up in between his other appointments. Bloody technology.
Running his finger down the list, he arrived at a line with an appointment he had yet to miss. Hope Bates. He grabbed his coat from the hook in the hallway and dashed out the door, stuffing the printed lists into his pocket as he went.
♤ ♡ ◇ ♧
She was already sitting at the end of the bar when he arrived. It looked like she had been sitting there for a while. Atop the bar sat her laptop which held her complete attention. She didn’t even look up when he sat down a couple of stools away.
Placed neatly around her laptop, were things that gave him the impression she had been perched on her stool for a while: a glass carafe with lime slices and crushed mint leaves floating atop the water, a matching water glass on a water damaged cardboard coaster, a half-eaten bowl of sweet potato fries, a note book with a pen laying across its open pages and a phone.
“What can I get you pal?” The barman placed himself squarely in Mav’s line of sight, blocking his view of the industrious woman.
He got the impression that was not by accident. He gave the barman a polite smile. “Just water, thanks.”
“Nope. You want water, go to the restaurant next door. If you are sitting at my bar, you order something stronger.” The barman, whos name was Pete according to his name tag, placed his hands flat on the bar and hunched his shoulders. Mav surmised he was attempting to be intimidating. He raised his eyebrow and leaned sideways around the guy, looking pointedly at the woman.
Pete glanced over, grunted and looked back at Mav.
“She’s a special case. Now order or get out of my bar.”
Mav made a point of avoiding alcohol. It didn’t really effect him, but he generally disliked the taste.
“What have you got port wise?” He had fond memories of evenings early in his career sipping a lovely, smooth port with his mentor while discussing the philosophical aspect of their tasks and existence in general.
Pete stood up straight and levelled Mav with an appraising look.
“I’ve got a 1980’s Tawny.” It was his turn to raise an eyebrow when Mav wrinkled his nose and shook his head.
“Or I’ve got a 1940’s barrel aged. But it’s not cheap.”
Mav smiled. “You get what you pay for with alcohol. I’ll have the 1940’s, please.” He slid cash across the bar.
Pete took the notes eyeing him critically and glanced at the only other occupant in the bar before going to get the drink.
A ping from his pocket drew his attention. His phone was the latest, because their resident tech fan, Achlys, had convinced them all it would be helpful for the Nexus to have up-to-date technology. She was right, of course. She usually was. Not that he would ever admit that to her. It made communicating much faster and easier. Mav had grown up with parchment though and he missed the simplicity some days. He could concede the phones were a good idea. But he flat out refused to wear the damned watch she had sent with his. It was still in its box in a cupboard at home. He hated the stupid things.
He sighed. Rocco had sent an encrypted message through the Nexus network. Probably an enquiry as to why there were expired appointments on Mav's lists. He had sent several messages today actually, but in the hassle of getting his I.T. issues sorted, Mav had forgotten all about them. No time like the present. He opened the app needed to check Rocco’s messages and let out a moan.
His password didn’t work. He tried again.
Username or password are incorrect. 3 attempts remain before app will lock.
“Damn it!” He muttered.
Pete slid the glass of port across the bar to him. “All good there?”
Mav looked up from the screen and its accursed login page. “I’ve forgotten my damned password, again. I only changed it a couple days ago and I’ve forgotten it already.”
The barman laughed. “Yep, happens to me all the time. Good luck with that.” Pete left him to his troubles to serve new arrivals, a young couple at the far end of the bar.
“I always use the same password and just change the number at the end.” The new voice came from his end of the bar.
She met his eyes over the edge of her laptop. He was startled into inaction for a moment, something that never happened to him. There was an understanding behind her gaze. A knowing that he didn’t often encounter, let alone in one her age. She looked to be in her late 20’s.
He smiled. “This system won’t allow me to do that. I have to change it to a totally new combination of numerals and characters every time.”
“How often do you have to reset your password?”
“Every three months. It’s a serious pain in the butt.” Mav smiled ruefully. “I’m not good with remembering them at the best of times.”
The woman gave him a lopsided smile. “I can relate.” She paused. “With a safeguard like that, it’s definitely not Candy Crush or anything so mundane.”
“No, it's a program for work. Contains some sensitive information.” He saw her expression and rushed to explain. ‘It's nothing huge and it’s all encrypted anyway. We just like to take every precaution.” He switched off the screen and pushed the phone into his back pocket. “I’ll call our administrator later and get him to send a reset email again.”
“I wonder if they would set up one of those systems for you where you have to enter a randomly generated password on a key chain fob.” She sounded like she was musing out aloud.
“Anyway. My name is Hope.” She reached across the bar to shake his hand and he reached back.
“The name’s Maveth. But most people call me Mav.” He clasped her hand in return, feeling her fingers wrap around his.
“Nice to meet you, Mav.”
“Nice to meet you too, Hope. So, this is.... working from home?” He gestured to her open laptop. He had intended it as a joke, but her happy expression fell for a moment before returning to a smile, though somewhat dampened now. The expression made him regret his attempt at humor.
“No..... I’m writing a book. It’s just about finished actually. I should be able to wrap it tomorrow.” Now her smile looked genuine again.
“Oh, that’s great, congratulations! That’s quite an effort!” Mav's heart sank a little. This was the worst part of his work.
He forced himself to smile convincingly. “What is your book about?”
Hope smiled, though he could see the start of tears welling in her eyes. “It’s not really... about anything. It’s an anthology of letters to my baby boy. One a year....” She swallowed hard, fighting back the tears.
“He was our miracle baby..,’ her expression pleaded with Mav for understanding, ‘by the time they found out what the problem was, I was too far along in my pregnancy for an operation. The risk to him was too high...” She stopped and took a sip of her water.
Mav let her words wash over him. It was hard to hear, this part of his work never got easier. But his mentor had always advocated for allowing a client to purge. It forged a connection between a Nexus Harvester and the client. A reminder of what it meant to be human.
She put the glass down and started packing up her makeshift workstation.
“It was an impossible choice to many. But not for me.” The tears were back under control now. He had to admire the strength of this one. The strength of Hope. “Risk killing my child, the one I’d fought so hard for a chance to bring into the world. Or risk killing myself. An easy choice really.”
She paused in her narrative again, while her concentrated on her task.
“Phillip was born healthy and happy. He is six months old now. By the time I gave birth, it was too late for me, they couldn’t do anything about the weakening in my artery. One day, I will just .... drop dead. The specialists don’t think it will be long now, kind of a borrowed time thing.”
Hope slung the bag over her shoulder and looked at Mav. “I come down here because I can’t focus in the apartment. Pete is a friend of my husband's and he keeps an eye on me. I get so wrapped up in spending every moment I can with Phillip, which is selfish. I’d forget all about writing the letters for him. He won’t remember me when I’m gone. This way, I’ll always be there for him.”
He watched her in silence. What could he say? He had a job to do.
As she walked past him, she stopped, looking down at the floor and spoke softly.
“I know who you are and why you are here. I just need one more day. I know you must hear it all the time, but I just need one.” She bought her head up to meet his eyes. “I’m prepared. I’m ready. I just need to finish the last letter. I’ll finish it in the morning. I promise. Just one more day.”
This was not the pleading for time he was used to. A client’s begging was usually desperate, sobbing and broken. Even if they got an extra hour, it would never be enough. The client would just start begging all over again after the borrowed time was up.
Hope was different. She really was prepared for this. And despite the pain it caused her, she had used her last days constructively.
Mav sighed. “I’ve had no luck with my technology at all today.... and of my lists are on the system I can’t remember my password for. I suppose, anyone on my list up until I can get my password reset..... will have to have their appointments postponed for a day. There isn’t much I can do about that.” This was the second time he had lied today. He knew the time of her appointment. They both knew he knew. He was really just ironing out the lie he would tell Rocco, the Nexus administrator.
She looked at him for a long moment and nodded.
“Thank you..... I’ll see you tomorrow.”
He downed his port in a single shot as he watched her leave. Lending time was not permitted without just cause, but it happened sometimes. The Nexus Harvesters were supposed to only lend if a situation met a strict set of requirements. And Hope did not them. The original Grim Reaper had used his own discretion, but since the Nexus with its Harvesters had been formed to help deal with the worldwide population boom, things had changed.
Approved or not, this would be Mav’s first loan in more than 100 years.
He pulled the lists out of his pocket as he exited the bar and looked them over. Not another appointment for more than an hour. Plenty of time to call Rocco and get him to send a reset for his password. He shredded the sheets into confetti and dropped pieces onto the wet sidewalk as he went. What Rocco didn't know couldn't hurt Mav.
No one said Death couldn’t be devious if the situation warranted it.
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Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
Compelling and original writing
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This is awesome and a great take on the challenge Lilly.
That's awesome! I really enjoyed it. Totally taken in. Fabulous!
What an interesting twist. 😮
interesting take on the challenge, good job
That is a wonderful take on the challenge, but it says fifteen minutes to read which seems a bit over, but I thought it was a great read.