I look up from my desk at the beige clock hanging on the wall. 12:45 P.M. Fifteen more minutes of making spreadsheets, then it’s lunch break. I open the document and re-check all the items listed under ‘expenses’. After that’s done I walk out of the building with a friend, Mona for lunch.

I’m an accountant at a large multi-national corporation. I handle records of expenses, income and taxes. Or like my eight-year-old nephew says – I make boring Excel documents. Boring or not, it pays well. I’m lucky to have this job.

We reach the fast food joint and I order my usual sandwich. Mona orders an exotic new salad. She’s always trying new things; I’m always trying to get the regular.

Mona’s telling me about the new dog-bed she ordered online for her Chihuahua. I nod and smile as she describes the pastel pattern on it and how she fell in love with it. It’s only the two of us. Mona told me point-blank on my second day at the office that she couldn’t stand the sight of me eating my wrap alone in the cafeteria. “You’re coming for lunch with me, and that’s final.” And so I have.

As we’re going up in the elevator after lunch Mona tells me how sick she is of Tina. “She’s just so annoying,” she says.

“I don’t mind Tina,” I say mildly.

“Yeah, because you’ve never had to listen to her talk about all the valuable skills she learnt at Columbia, an Ivy League school and how she, an Ivy League graduate personally feels about the state of business ethics in the twenty first century. It’s so…”

And it goes on.

I reach my desk and start working on tax returns. A group of guys pass my cubicle on their way to the balcony. Off to take a smoke break and try to waste as much time as possible, no doubt. I look down at my desk as they pass and then get back to work. They know not to ask me by now.

Three thirty brings with it an emergency meeting. From what I gather from nearby conversation, someone in advertising has messed up and the boss is pretty angry. It’s going to be a yell-at-everyone meeting.

Ansh passes me on his way to the conference room. “Do I have to come?” I ask.

“No, you just do the accounts, Jay,” he says. So I do.

By five o’clock I’m done for the day. I leave the building alone; everyone else is still in the meeting. The weather outside is stormy; it’s been threatening to rain for the past hour. As I’m exiting the building I notice the wind has picked up again. Trees bend backwards, dust flies around. My tie flaps in the wind.

The sky brightens with a flash of lightning and I hear a clap of thunder. I hurry to find my car in the parking lot. Suddenly a lightning bolt flashes almost above my head. I freeze. I look up and realise that it’s right above my head. I’m going to die is the last thought I have before I pass out.

I wake up on a hard surface. Hard and icy cool. I open my eyes and take in my dim surroundings. The walls around me are black with neon green lines running across them. It’s like a glow in the dark maze. A conference table of sorts sits in the centre. The whole room seems to be a sphere, so technically the floor must be curved, but I’m sitting on it and it definitely feels flat… Weird.

I don’t understand how I got here. The last thing I remember is the lightning bolt coming at me… I decide to think about the mystery later and look for an exit, but I don’t even know where to start. The curved walls of this room are seamless – there are no visible doors.

Just as I’m beginning to panic I hear a strange twittering sound behind me.

The high pitched sound seems eerie and out of place. I start to panic in earnest. I slowly turn around and see a strange creature. It’s eight feet tall, bony and skeletal, with neon green skin. I look up at its ovoid head. Two large, shiny black eyes the size of my hand stare back at me. Its small mouth seems to be pursed.

I take a few rapid steps backwards, hit my hip painfully on the table edge but continue backing away anyway. My back bumps against the wall (again, looks spherical, feels flat) and I hold my hands up in surrender.

The creature seems to be trying to smile in a friendly manner now, only its razor sharp mouldy teeth kind of ruin the effect. Suddenly it calls out something unintelligible in a high pitched voice, then continues looking at me pleasantly.

What is it calling for? Am I going to die?

Another such creature appears out of nowhere and hands him a small device.

The first creature accepts it and gestures for me to sit at the table. I don’t see any seats but I don’t want to question him. I lower myself till I find an invisible seat. He sits across and I wait.

The alien fits the device over his mouth and begins speaking in an unfamiliar language. “Χαιρετισμούς, λογιστής. Εκ μέρους της φυλής μου σας καλωσορίζω στην αίθουσα συνεδριάσεων μας.” He looks at me expectantly. I look at him blankly. “Καταλαβαίνεις τι λέω?”

He sighs in frustration and rips the device from his mouth. He makes a series of high pitched sounds and the other alien appears again. Alien 1 points at the device and shakes his fist. Alien 2 seems to be trying to back away now. He disappears and hastily returns with another device.

Alien 1 fits the new device over his mouth and begins again – “Greetings, accountant. On behalf of my race I welcome you to our conference room.”

He bares his teeth again in an approximation of a smile so I nod.

“I apologise for the unsavoury manner in which you were taken from your planet; the intergalactic shuttle was out of service. We understand that human corporations have accountants to manage their affairs. We believe this could be a beneficial service for our people. We need you to, well, account.”

“O-okay.”

“Do you have any questions?”

“Um…When can I start?”

This isn’t too bad, I think as I open up a spreadsheet. Aliens seem to have human technology. I’ve been provided with a laptop and a pile of papers (in English, thankfully). I have to organise the information in columns, just like at work.

I type up the first title – humans abducted and write the total below – 476.

Humans recruited – 1005. I work in peaceful silence for an hour or so. Accounting is something I’m used to.

Just as I’m tallying the numbers for human experiments an alien walks in. “Um, hey… what’s up with ‘human experiments’, by the way?” I ask. The alien gives me a sharp look. “I mean, not that anything’s wrong with it, you don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to…” I mutter, embarrassed.

“Just do the accounts, human.” So I do.

Another half an hour later I’m done. I really want to go home now but I don’t want to bother anyone, specially not after upsetting that alien with my

questions. I sit there and wait for someone to show up, and in ten minutes, they do.

Alien 1 materialises and says, “Are you done accounting?”

“Yes.”

“Good. My people thank you. You’ll be transported back to Earth.”

I’d rather not travel via lightning bolt but by the time I bring myself to say something the room is already disappearing in a flash of bright light. Not again is the last thought I have before I pass out.

I wake up on a hard surface. Hard and blistering hot. I open my eyes and notice bright sunlight. I’m back in my office parking lot, lying on my back on the road. I pick myself up and look around, dazed. People are going about their usual business – getting into cars, making phone calls, walking and talking.

There’s no sign of the storm.

I stand up and see Mona walking towards her car. She sees me and says, “Jay?

You’re still here? What were you doing all this time?”

“Just some accounting,” I mumble, and get into my car to drive home.

By Ashira Shirali from India



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