The end of the world came quietly last week and landed in the sea. No one’d noticed a mediocre meteor, or saw what was crawling from it. Humanity was busy with hunger and profit; tight deadlines and luxury goods. Some people, like Alex Hansen, were busy making a fortune.
Alex worked in a corner office in a New York corporate. Dialling another sales lead on his desk phone, he watched golden daylight pour between the skyscrapers. The sea was a line in the distance; a sunlit heavenly glow. Alex saw it all from his windows, as the phone spoke a dismal Hello.
‘…Tom, do you know what human flesh tastes like?’
‘But I have your attention.’
‘You do. Who is this?’
‘And about… seventy percent of you wants to put the phone down right now. Twenty percent of you wants to know why anyone would start a call like that. But that last ten percent of you…’
‘Wants to know what it tastes like.’
‘Bingo. And Tom… it looks like we’ve got a conversation on our hands.’
‘I guess so.’
‘And now I know you’re curious enough to stay with me, and to find out where this is going. I’m a huge fan of your work, by the way.’
‘…Do I know you? Are you trying to sell me something? Do you realise how disturbing this is?’
‘C’mon, Tom. Let’s not cheapen this. I had your attention.’
‘Did I mention I’m a fan? I have one of your signed movie props actually, right here in my office. Paid an ungodly amount for it too.’
‘Heh… Really? Which one?’
‘The Hand of Draugr’s Doom. Complete with autographs, glass display case and official laser-etched incantations. I’m on your website right now, actually. I want that Feathered Man miniature. The gory version, obviously. In terms of character design, you guys freaking nailed it.’
‘…Heh. What the hell. So what’s next on your sales script there, huh? Now you want my interest, right?’
‘I think we already passed that, didn’t we Tom? You want to know who’s wasting your time talking about human flesh. I’ve already got your interest.’
‘Heh. Guess so.’
‘And you already know the next step in the process.’
‘You got it, Tom. So what do you say? You buying?’
‘I don’t even know what you’re selling. If it is human flesh, I’m calling the cops.’
‘Heh. No, it isn’t human flesh, Tom. Something even better.’
‘Ha. …Alright. Out of morbid curiosity, you’ve got your thirty seconds. Pitch me. I just wanna see if you can dig yourself any deeper.’
‘Tom, why do people buy from your company?’
‘We’re the leading brand.’
‘We put millions into it.’
‘Wrong. That’s after the fact. I wanna know what triggers the sale.’
‘Exclusive IPs. We’re the best at solving the problem. The easiest way to supply the demand.’
‘Half-right. But what comes first?’
‘Certainty, Tom. That’s why people buy from you. Or buy from anyone. It’s why some people need years of advertising to persuade ‘em, while others just buy on the spot. Because you didn’t make them buy anything. They had to know they were gonna buy from you, in their heart and soul. Certainty. They were certain, so they bought. And my team just found a new way to engineer that level of certainty. As in, double-the-conversions level of certainty, with software fully tailored to you. See, I want to get rich, Tom. Extremely. Obscenely. Offensively, rich. And the only way I’m gonna do that, is by making you even richer. I’m greedy, Tom, and I know you are too. And I know that doesn’t offend you, because just look at the empire you’ve built. Look how many jobs you’ve made. I’m just calling to make you more. I want to get something of yours into every home in this nation. Just like I have in mine. I want to raise your income. Massively. Today.’
‘Nope, that’s my line, Tom. You tell me. You want to grow your business, so put a number on it. Tell me what level of action you want me to take. I’ll get a proposal to you, today. A contract too, if you hate wasting time and opportunity as much as I do. No one else has access to this caliber of software. Not yet. I wanted to call you first, both as a salesman and your loyal customer, to offer you exclusive access in your market. Unless, of course… you’re happy with the conversions you already have.’
‘…What the hell. Email something over, I’ll take a look. I wanna see case studies, obviously.’
‘Thank you, Tom. I really appreciate your time.’
‘So if it turns out you’re legit, and if I do sign a contract, down the line… you gonna tell me what human flesh tastes like?’
‘If you sign that contract, Tom, I won’t have to. We get this software rolled out for you, you’ll eat your competition alive.’
‘Heh. …Well, uh, Mr.–
‘Hansen. Alex Hansen.’
‘This is… one of the more original sales calls I’ve ever taken, Mr. Hansen. Y’know, you’re lucky I don’t take that stuff about flesh too seriously. But I really wouldn’t use that kind of sales script outside the horror industry, son. Whoever taught you to sell like that should be in jail.’
‘Well sir, I’m just glad that I held your interest. And please, accept my apologies, if my enthusiasm got the better of me. Really, I’m just a huge fan. I’ll get that proposal to you this morning.’
‘You do that, Alex. Despite that opening line, thank you for the call.’
‘Thank you, sir. I’ll make sure it was worth your time.’
Alex hung up his desk phone with a confident clack. Smiling widely, he typed an email to someone in the open-plan office outside:
Further to our Zero-Fucks-Given Challenge, you dared me to open a call with the words ‘human flesh.’ Well, the guy still wants to see a proposal. Don’t believe me, look it up. Call’s recorded. So I guess you owe me ten grand now, don’t you?
If you ever want to see that money again, (and I’m sure your fiancée will,) I dare you 12K to open a cold call with the c-word, and still get to client proposal. And probably think realllll long and hard about your job security before you do. I warned you when you started this, that shit could get out of hand. It’s your call. Literally.
I want that ten grand in my pay app, today.
Kind regards, yours gloatingly,
Freestyle Sales Demon
Fuck You and Your Stupid Dares Incorporated
Alex hit Send on the email, slumping in his seat with a sigh of satisfaction. His gaze lingered on his desk for a second. On a framed photo he’d taken of Lindsey, last summer; grinning gorgeous while that elephant in Thailand had trunk-hugged her. She was caught by surprise and shrinking from it; laughing with her eyes closed. Those experiences together, like that… or even just the dumb stuff they mumbled in bed, when they both felt too tired to fool around… she’d made everything in his life ten times better, and made it matter. These past few months, he’d wanted more and more for that to be every day with her. A life of adventures together. Striving through the shitty times, so they could glory in the good. To him those thoughts were rocket fuel. Now that he was finally in the habit of habits, and tracking them, to hit real goals that he wanted… he’d never felt this good before.
…Like everything’s going to a plan. Because, for the first time in my life, I’ve actually made one.
Opening an app on his cellphone, a progress ring popped up and wheeled around brightly into green.
98% to Money Goal, he told himself, reading the popup text. I don’t know what I love more about these little targets. Hitting one-hundreds, or perching on the edge of ninety-nines. It was just a circular thing, he supposed. Like this savings app; like the seasons; like everything. Cyclical. Anticipation, then satisfaction, then motivation into fresh anticipation. The Great Flywheel of Everything. That cycle drove sales, because it drove people. Want, work, and reward. He’d learned it, and tapped into it, and now it was paying off. Someone’d said once that his thoughts were jumpy; hard to follow sometimes. He didn’t really mind, though. He knew what he meant.
Taking out his leather wallet, Alex tugged an aging piece of card from its inside sleeve. It’d been a few years now, since he’d written those words. The card’s reverse was brightly coloured; a piece of cheap cereal box. The message he’d penned was getting pale and faded. Those goals he’d set, he’d achieved.
LEARN SALES. GET WEALTHY. MOVE US TO N.Y.
KEEP FAMILY SECURE, SETTLED & OFF THAT SHIT.
…It’s human nature to be addicted, for better or worse, he told himself. We only get to choose what we addict ourselves to. And choose whether the addiction helps, or harms. Smiling to himself, Alex ripped up that old piece of cereal box and tossed it in the wastebasket. His new goal, he wrote on the blank side of one of his own business cards; his name and title were stamped in bright gold foiling.
Funny… this one card must be worth a few boxes of cereal by itself, he pondered. Smiling at the thought. Penning his new goal carefully, Alex studied his handwriting as he put it in his wallet, to set it firmly in his mind:
BUILD A LIFE WITH LINDSEY.
BECOME A MILLIONAIRE.
Standing and stretching, straightening his tie, Alex paced in his bright office and flipped through a few promising sales leads in his head. Assuming that he’d closed that last call, he gave himself permission to use the coffee machine. Started muttering his next pitch to himself, for some guy he’d gotten talking to who’d been down on his luck.
Certainty sells. Certainty, sells. Mine then theirs. How do I help ‘em? How do I help ‘em more than their money ever will? What’s the problem they aren’t telling me? For the sake of a few stupid dollars, how do I give them and their families the life of their wildest dreams?
Alex sipped his coffee in the sunlight, and grunted gladly at the flavour. But it wasn’t about the coffee; he wasn’t a connoisseur. He didn’t give a shit where it came from; only that it tasted good, because it cost so much more. Same with eating grass-fed organic, and living around expensive shit. Like his real-estate value went up along with it. This coffee, in this designer cup… it was like… taking a taste of that whole thing. The Big Idea. Blessed with it; possessed by it. A five-star lifestyle, just to get as far away from shitty as he could.
His ramen days were far behind him. Because of him. Years of double-jobbing, and leaving the lights off, and jogging around his closet-apartment instead of turning on the heat. Early zombie mornings; self-teaching at 4am. Buzzing by five on cheap instant coffee, that tasted just like burnt dirt. Pinching any penny, stacking every cent, because ketchup could be pasta sauce and subscriptions robbed you blind. He’d put all that behind him, and left his so-called friends, to get where he was going. For him; for his family. He’d strived to lift them out of where they were, and the layoffs, and what they were getting dragged into. Most importantly he’d done it here, in the city of sleepless dreamers.
…I fucking love this place. Outside his high-rise windows, New York roared eternal. The towering engine of all his ambition; he wouldn’t stop until he’d carved off a great bloody piece. When he wasn’t sleeping, he was working. Climbing. Eyes on the summit. His boss was just warming his seat.
Some people wanted the quiet life, and that was fine. He’d tried that; his family’d come from that. It sucked ass. Rusted factories, and insidious addictions, and the lucky ones got to work themselves to death.
…No. He was another breed, and they came here. To the swirling, striving, sky-scraping clockwork soul-centre of everything. No one came here to just get by. No one boarded those ships, in long-gone years, because they were content with what they’d come from. Those people? They were heroes to him. They went out and seized the day, then beat it up and took its lunch money too. They made life give them more.
…They looked up and moved forward, he told himself. Demanded better for their families. They looked here, to richer lives. Helped themselves and helped each other. Because they worked for it, and they made it, and they deserved it. Here and only here, he told himself, watching the River and its tour boats in the distance. Lady Liberty gazed out over the bay.
The weather was gorgeous today; he wanted out of here by lunch. Wanted to take Lindsey on a new first date, right back to that café where they’d first met. That’d be the best place to do it. It was… cyclical, like it made total sense. It just felt right.
…I’d better make some more calls.
* * *
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