The Youth Mongers
News reports across America are shouting that interns are being taken advantage of. But not like this!
By Jeffrey Bishop
Tell Time: 5 minutes
Scare Rating: 2/5 Ghosts
“Send Hank, your intern, up to see me,” the boss’ voice bellowed from Jerry’s speakerphone. The manager looked across the office to where the young college student sat in a small cubicle. The intern had heard the order, and stood up to go. On his way out, he looked back at Jerry; his expression conveyed his thought simply and clearly, if silently:
Jerry sat across from Bob and Cheryl, fellow managers and professional confidantes in their shared suffering and success at Xenon Corps. Usually the banter was trivial — about office gossip or which of them had the best odds of moving up a rung on the corporate ladder first. But the conversations of late had been much heavier.
“It happened again today,” Jerry said with clear exasperation. “Every day, at some point, the old man takes my intern for an hour or two. The kid’s energetic and hard-charging all day, up to that point, but when he comes back, he’s drained of all energy and life.”
“Probably the boss is testing new speeches on your intern,” quipped Bob. “You’ve heard the old man drone on and on about new policies and procedures at our town hall meetings.”
“I know, right?” added Cheryl. “The animal cruelty folks would be very interested in this case if they knew what he was being subjected to!”
Jerry’s one arched eyebrow conveyed real concern — and no interest in jokes on the matter.
“What in the world do they talk about?” Bob added, more seriously.
“That’s the thing; I have no idea. I’ve asked my intern and I’ve asked the boss, but all I get from my intern is general statements about ‘mentoring,’ and all I get from the boss is baloney about ‘investing in the youth of this company and the future of our planet.’ Pretty high-minded fluff that doesn’t help me get work done and that doesn’t help Hank build a résumé. I lose him for that time, and for the rest of the day as well, because he’s worthless and drained from that point forward!”
“Whaddya gonna do about it?” asked Cheryl”
“I don’t think I can do anything,” said Jerry. “I guess I’ll have to lump it. But I don’t like it.”
Sooner than he thought, Jerry got a chance to no longer lump it. And though he was glad for it — and for Hank — he still prayed daily to forget all that he’d learned.
“Send him up, Jerry!” barked the boss across the phone line. Hank was looking rather haggard compared to the fresh, exuberant young man who’d started with the company only a couple months prior. As always, he complied — as much as he dreaded the now-daily “face time” with the executive, he needed the experience on his resume. He couldn’t risk a bad recommendation. Not after all he’d given over the summer
“Oh shoot, Hank, take this with you — it’s the Langstrom contract. We need to get the boss’ signature on it and get it couriered across town by noon.” Jerry’s request was met by silence; Hank had left before he could stop him.
Jerry got up and headed toward the elevator to try to catch up with Hank. He strode into the executive suite. Alice, the receptionist, was away from her desk, but Jerry could hear the boss addressing his intern on the other side of the heavy mahogany door to his office.
“Let me just pop in for a second and take care of this,” Jerry said to himself. “And I can see what they talk about for all this time, too!” he added under his breath.
Jerry tapped lightly on the door, then twisted the handle to enter — as he’d seen Alice do countless times. What he saw on the other side was mortifying.
As he entered the room, he approached from behind a large, green insectoid-like creature standing over Hank, who was seated facing the large desk. The thing wore a dark suit and a red power tie, and it’s voice sounded strangely like the boss’, but with a raspy, metallic clang on random syllables.
“You interns, with your youth, are so precious,” said the creature. It’s tendril-like antennae danced rhythmically in time with the speech. “You have boundless energy, and we are soooo hungry.”
Jerry was spellbound. His paralysis broke into action when he saw the monster slide a large vial from the young intern’s neck. It raised the vial to its mouth and poured the contents — a purple liquid that gave off a strange green-blue glow — into it’s many-pincered mouth.
“Noooo! Stop!” shouted Jerry, reflexively. The monster swung around in surprise and let out a high-pitched, guttural yell.
“Let the boy go!” shouted Jerry again. He strode toward the duo, knowing that he must do something, but with no plan at hand. His adrenaline was pumping hard, and the entire room disappeared in pure, dry white except for the dangerous scene before him.
The alien critter let out another carnal yell and took a swipe at Jerry with a claw-like hand. Jerry felt pain deep in his skin — did it cut through to bone? — a pain that helped him clear his head.
The next swipe came from the other arm, but Jerry saw it early and easily dodged it. In his retreat, he rolled toward the desk and when he rose, he found an opportunity. On the leader’s desk was a heavy antique brass telescope. Jerry swiped it up and swung it baseball-bat-like into the ant-thing’s head.
The blow went deep into the monster’s central nervous system, causing its legs to buckle and sending it face-first into the deep-carpeted floor before the desk.
Exhausted and shaking with bio-chemical-induced energy, Jerry turned to a groggy, disoriented Hank. The youth was okay. Jerry steadied himself against the dark-stained desk behind him and tossed a weak smile to his young protegé. They would be alright, the look said.
Moments later — many minutes too late, Jerry thought — the room filled with a covert special ops SWAT team, which covered over the dead thing while another group quickly whisked the office workers from the room and into a black van parked at curbside.
As they were taken away for interrogation and memory remediation, Jerry heard the lead commando grunt:
“Nards! It’s a Xenonite!!”