She simply would not stop calling. It was every forty-five minutes with Annalisa. Genmai let that one go to voicemail. The poor girl hadn’t given her so much as an hour to herself with calls about updated meeting schedules, messages that had been left for her by Mr. Furyo, and one particularly dire voicemail asking for the building’s wifi password again. She had worked for Miss Genmai for six weeks. She should have been fired after three days. This behavior was more than unprofessional–it was tiresome, it was draining, it was suffocating her. She had an emotional vortex for a secretary.
Firing her, or anyone for that matter, was not as easily said as done. A soft heart had its drawbacks.
Especially no good was the fact that she was out to lunch with Sencha and her new boyfriend, Mugicha, and their friend Bancha. Discussing the latest gossip, enjoying cucumber sandwiches with tea, they were sitting outside, beneath the shade of a flappy red umbrella, Mugicha’s sixth floor balcony overlooking the streets leading into the heart of Nicky Town. It was a wonderfully modern apartment, the décor minimalistic and sharp.
A light breeze rippled through her hair. Flashing her teeth at Bancha, who was supposed to be her date, she gulped down the last of her tea. He was alright, she supposed, but nothing out of the ordinary, or enough to hold her unlingering attention. More handsome men than him had courted her in the past. She felt the buzz of her phone in her pantsuit pocket. It was Annalisa. Sighing, she got to her feet, taking out her phone, the blue light blinking urgently. They all knew what that meant. They weren’t plebs, after all.
“I’m so sorry, love,” she said, patting Sencha on the shoulder. “I have to take this. My apologies.”
“Don’t be long now. Mugicha was just about to recount an exquisite tale about a homeless man trying to steal his new navy blue trofeo Zegna down on fourth street. Hah! Imagine that. A bum wearing an Ermenegildo Zegna. What a rabble!”
“Preposterous,” smirked Bancha.
“I’m sure it is. Please excuse me.”
She smiled at her date once more, laying it on thick. He was studying her without much warmth, as if he were appraising a mannequin. Still, the day was young. She was not convinced that he would be a good match anyways. Nevertheless, it had been so nice of Sencha and Mugicha to help her out like this. Her work hours had only seemed to increase since hiring a secretary. For a woman in her mid thirties, Genmai had neglected her personal life. She needed to find a husband and start a family soon, or all the good ones who remained would leave her behind for the allure of younger partners. She was not the least bit deluded about her looks. She was above average, but no stunning beauty. Finding a man to suit her would not be so difficult if she put some effort into it. If Genmai was being honest, she would have preferred to procrastinate on that issue for another decade or more.
Try though she might, the woman was finding it hard to care about him, from what little she had learned of him so far. He was a contractor, making a good deal more zeni than she was. However, he had no hobbies to speak of, no passions, and nothing about him was memorable or enticing.
Annalisa had wanted to know if she would confirm a lunch with Miss Aspen on Thursday, at twelve thirty. Begrudgingly, she agreed, and told the girl not to call her for the rest of the day, unless absolutely necessary. Her tone might have been a tad harsh; she regretted her mood after hanging up. The lady freshened up in the restroom, looking over the various parts of her face in the mirror, silently telling herself to get it together, reapplying her soft matte peach lipstick. Bancha was not so bad. He might just work out if she put some effort in.
The unmistakable sound of a car crash could be heard through the open window, and someone was screaming. Damn pedestrians made her smudge her application. She turned the faucet on and washed it off, deciding it was best to start over. By the time the faucet was turned off, the screamer had gone silent, thankfully. She re-applied the lipstick, this time putting slightly less effort in. Bancha wouldn’t notice. She had been going over how she would react to Mugicha’s story when she got outside, rehearsing the conversation in her head meticulously. She would giggle, but not so much as to put Bancha off. She was an elegant woman who kept her emotions in check, and though she could find humor in things, she would not debase herself in the manner of reckless excess as the commoners often would.
Returning to the balcony, Miss Genmai began tittering to herself at the door, working herself into what she was going to say as she opened it. “Silly girl just doesn’t know when to quit,” she began, stepping out into the sunlight. “Oh, what I would give for a different…”
Her blood froze. She gasped, covering her mouth with a hand. Their seats were empty, though their clothes had remained behind. Sencha’s tea was still steaming, and Mugicha hadn’t finished his third sandwich. The truth of the matter hit her quick, and it hit her hard.
“No!” she said in a hollow voice. “Wait, you guys… you can’t… you can’t! Oh no, oh no!” Tears were forming in the corners of her eyes. She ran to the table, then jumped back, as if it were a biohazard. She didn’t know what to do. “No, no, no! How could you leave me here? I was good. I want to go to Heaven! Please…! I’ve been a good person!”
She couldn’t believe it. She couldn’t so much as put together a coherent thought. Genmai fell to her knees, her fingers shaking. Memories of her life sprung forth in a blur. She tried to parse out any grave sins, anything she had done that could have led to this happening. Nothing came to mind. She had been rude on occasion, had lied, had stolen some small items from clothing stores. Sencha was no better. How had she been saved, and Genmai left behind? It was not fair.
“It’s the rapture!” she sobbed, sniffling heavily. “Oh no! Oh rats, oh poo! I’ve been left behind!”
She had never been a decidedly religious woman, though she attended church on the big holidays. Work was just so stressful. She couldn’t take off every Sunday morning. There was always business to be done. Kami had to know that. She was a good girl; her heart was kind. She hadn’t fired Annalisa, even though she had wanted to. She deserved to go with them.
What could she do about it? The mere thought of her position exhausted her.
“Heheheh,” an inhuman voice cackled from behind.
“Oh kami, help me!” she screamed, looking over her shoulder to behold a tall green-and-black demon waiting for her. His face was like a bug’s, his eyes like a stoner’s, and he had a pair of black wings. “It’s Satan come to claim me! No, I won’t go! Get away from me, demon!”
“Heheheh, stupid woman.”
She went to run, but in high heels, she only managed a few steps before stumbling and falling onto her stomach. Panic set in. Something pierced her in the back, and she could no longer move. By the time she felt the pain, there was blood welling up in the base of her throat. Genmai tried to throw herself forward to no avail. She would be this demon’s plaything for eternity. The thought spooked her good. Her vision began to dim, and she was finding it impossible to breathe, to keep her eyes open, to remain present in the moment.
Just as Miss Genmai’s eyes began to shut, she felt her phone vibrate in her pocket again.