Need girl. Must type. File. Mail. Collate. Keep office clean and make coffee. Hours: 5 pm - midnight. Paid breaks. $15/hr. No experience.
If this opportunity sounds ideal to you, please send your resume to:
T.P. Earthenhouse Rare Coins, Bouncers and Public Art Installations
Sun Life Tower, Subbasement 3B
or fax: (416) 555-2346
Viktoria Baxter is an eighteen-year-old high school graduate, at a loss of what to do with her life. Socially inept (she hides her shyness with a sharp tongue), she fell through the safety-net of cliques at school and went through her years as a loner. She dresses in Goth attire: long, black, flowing dresses; her carrot-hair dyed black, her face pale, vampire lipstick on her lips. She wears a pair of cats-eye glasses without any glass in them, just because. She doesn't really know who she is or where she is going. To give herself time to decide, and to make a little money, she decides to take a year off and work before going to University. But where?
Then this opportunity presents itself: secretarial work at a company with an interesting-sounding name in an interesting-sounding location at interesting hours. She wouldn't need to deal with people (much). So, she goes for an interview, and experiences much more than she expected. Let's see what you can guess judging by this scene segment which takes place after the interview. The setting is downtown Toronto, financial district, and the time is almost midnight...
Viktoria burst onto King Street and stared up at the financial heart of Toronto. The glass towers gleamed in the reflected city lights, and the night-sky behind them was pitch. Cars passed, and a distant streetcar rumbled, but she was alone. She glanced up and down the sidewalk, shouldered her rucksack, tossed her hair out of her eyes, and struck out for her streetcar stop, skirts swishing and sneakers silent.
Well, that was the weirdest interview she'd ever attended. This T.P. Earthenhouse character was a complete crazy, a total goner. Maybe it was the facial deformities. If I had to look at that face in the mirror every day, I might make up stories to say that I wasn't alone. Was denial easier than plastic surgery? Cheaper, probably.
But still, did he hear himself speaking there? If I went on about how my race was everywhere, under the human race's collective noses, I'd put myself in a straight-jacket and head off to 999 Queen Street West until I spoke sense.
Her gangly pace slowed. She chanced a look back at the Sun Life Tower and the reflections it made of the streetlife, and her frown deepened in thought. You know, somebody who could pay for an office that big could afford to be a little crazy. And with pay that good and hours that intriguing, I could afford to put up with a little insanity.
The gargoyles on the cornice winked at her. Viktoria wrinkled her nose and turned back towards the streetcar stop.
She passed a corner courtyard left beyond by two glass towers too stingy or too artsy to build all the way to the corner. In the middle, someone had placed a fountain. She glanced at it as she passed, and found herself staring.
It was a grotesque stone bull, with a heavy forehead and glowering eyebrows, staring at the corner in the middle of a reflecting pool. It sat on its haunches, holding its forelegs like chicken-wings. Instead of hooves, its legs ended with hands and stubby fingers. Two fish on either side of the pool were frozen in mid-leap, jets of water shooting from their mouths, bathing the sitting bull's armpits.
Viktoria clicked her tongue. The statue may have been appropriate given its proximity to the Toronto Stock Exchange, but the art itself was still in questionable taste, with that question being: had the artist lost his mind? The things they clutter the streets with these days.
She turned away, and almost stumbled into a homeless man, shambling forward with a shopping cart and mumbling in madness. The stench of him pushed her off her path as effectively as a force field. She quickened her pace, avoiding eye contact or any engagement. To her relief, the homeless man took no notice. At last she was at her streetcar stop, standing on tiptoe to see if any were enroute. One was, ten minutes away. She wouldn't have to endure the homeless man's slow-departing presence for too much longer. Ah, the joys of the big city.
The homeless man rolled across the courtyard, chuckling gutturally. As the traffic ebbed and flowed, she caught snatches of his words. Despite herself, she found herself listening to his creaky voice.
"Jesus saves, you know." Guttural chuckle. "The world is his oyster." Another guttural chuckle. "Moses spoke to the Samarians in the great white desert. His first commandment: thou shall eat salad. Right: feeding time, Gunther!"
Viktoria turned on her heel and stared, mouth agape. The change in the homeless man's voice had pulled her around, and she saw him standing before the stone bull, erect, focused and intelligent, holding out a head of wilted lettuce.
"C'mon Gunther," he continued. "Don't keep me waiting; I've got my rounds."
Before Viktoria's eyes, the bull shook itself awake, peered at the lettuce with its beady eyes, gurgled, and opened its mouth. The homeless man grunted with approval and tossed the lettuce straight into its maw. "There ya go! Here's another!"
The bull bobbed with pleasure, slavering. It opened its mouth and gestured for more food.
"Yeah, it's a good selection today," said the homeless man. "Loblaws just threw out its stock. To think the food banks don't want this stuff."
Viktoria snatched off her glasses. It didn't help. It was still feeding time in front of her 20-20 vision. She put the glasses back on, and pushed them further up her nose, but to no avail. She must be losing her mind.
The homeless man tossed in the fourth head of lettuce. Gunther gnashed it, then held out its hand, palm out, refusing a fifth toss.
"No more?" The homeless man gave the lettuce a shake, then set it in the cart. "Oh, yeah, your diet. How's that going?"
Then the bull tensed, and half-turned towards her. Viktoria could hear its warning rumble resonate in her chest. She staggered back, then flinched as a passing taxi sounded its horn. A streetcar drew up to her stop and opened its doors, but she didn't turn towards it.
The homeless man turned slowly around and looked at her across the courtyard. Viktoria saw his face in silhouette and caught his baggy cheeks, its protruding chin and its long, hooked nose. She saw a flash of scraggly, grey teeth.
Behind her, the streetcar driver called out. "Hey? You getting on or what?"
The homeless... whatever it was, reached up a gnarled, long-boned hand and tipped its hat to her. Its matted blond wig came off with it. She saw pointed ears, and tufts of wiry hair beneath.
She turned, then, and dashed for the safety of the streetcar. She paid her fare and swept to her seat. When she got there, she looked back through the window. The bull had resumed its chicken-wing position in the middle of the fountain, and the homeless man shambled slowly away towards Front Street, pushing his cart ahead of him.
The bull may have glanced at her; she couldn't tell. The streetcar pulled away eastward, and the glass buildings pulled across her view, blocking the reflecting fountain from sight.
All I have at present for The Night Girl are one excellent supporting character, an intriguing heroine, and a possibly intriguing human supporting character. I have no plot, other than a vague idea that the story will be about finding yourself and accepting who you are in spite of your differences. Or whatever. When The Young City finishes, I'll have another project to work on, and this one has some definite possibilities...
A useful resource: A reference to Toronto's PATH -- its Underground City.