Thursday, June 15, 2017
Flash Fiction # 255 -- Wilder Places
One day Kimberly walked away.
She hadn't planned to escape, but she'd had one too many snide emails from fellow office workers and far too many demands for something Right Now from higher up the chain. The last had been an entire contradiction to the type of report the boss had demanded an hour before.
She'd read the note, considered mayhem, and then took her purse and walked out. This was not the first time she'd made such a choice at a job. Kimberly had walked out on pretentious professors who acted as though she hadn't a brain, to an obnoxious restaurant manager at peak time.
This had not been a conscious decision -- just something took over and kept her from screaming, throwing the computer off the desk, and maybe throwing a few things at others. Martha, who had the desk by the door, saw her heading out and gave a slight nod and a sigh. She'd probably seen such escapes before. No one could be happy working for the ill-named Better Life Company.
An hour later Kimberly walked through a shaded street. The older maples and oak trees formed a canopy over her head, blocking out the harsh light and at least giving the pretense of cooling the world around them. Summer in the city did not appeal to her.
I could shed my clothing, shed this human skin ... shed my assignment? Give up my wings?
Someday I'll fly away.
This wasn't the first time she'd said those words to herself, either. She held up her human hand and tried to remember it furred and clawed, a weapon to use against those that would intrude on a griffin's territory.
If only the humans had been content with their own place. If only they believed in magic. If only....
The trees did help. They reminded her of the far wild places -- there were still a few -- where her kind, and a few other shape-shifters still roamed. Those places were already marginal, though. They needed to be able to survive living with humans. She knew her work was important. So far, she'd been one of the few who could stand to be around humans for any length of time.
She even liked them when they were not being pretentious, over-bearing monsters with delusions of grandeur.
Jonathon met her at the door. She hadn't expected him to be home, too.
"I could sense you for about the last mile," he said with an unexpectedly bright smile. "I take it work did not go well?"
"I need to send an email resignation so they don't start looking for me like the last job," she said. "We don't want that mess again."
"True," Jonathon said and smiled again.
"You quit your job as well?" she asked.
"Oh yes. I have welded my last weld. I also told the boss what he could do with his welder."
"You have spent far too much time with humans."
"Maybe so, but tell me you didn't at least think something along the same line," he said as they headed into the kitchen.
"Maybe I'll put it in the email," she said. The idea appealed to her. She got a soda -- had taken a liking to those the last few years, along with the caffeine -- and sat at the table. Jonathon grabbed one as well. He still smiled. "You look far too happy considering we just failed again."
"Maybe so," he admitted. Then he shrugged. "We've been approaching this the wrong way, Kim. We've tried to be human in human places."
"I thought that was the idea."
"Yeah, but I think we need to make an adjustment and try for only half the equation."
"Not be humans in human places?" she said with a snort.
"Ha. As much as I'd like to go wild ... no. I have a better idea. How about if we go human in wild places instead?"
Jonathon pushed a paper over that had been sitting on the edge of the table. She hadn't noticed that it must have been reading it before now. It made no sense to her, though. She didn't know enough about human culture to see the chance he was offering.
"We can volunteer at one of the National Parks, Kim," he said with a touch of his hand on hers. Human contact still bothered her sometimes, and this one shocked her. "Their wild places, my friend."
"Volunteer? We don't get paid?"
"You have been spending far too much time in the human world. We don't need money. We can get what we want with magic. We can get the positions we want with magic, too -- just like we have been before now. We go to the wild areas, Kimberly. We go to where we can be ourselves, at least part of the time."
She had never seen such longing in him before and she let his emotions wash over her. Wild places. "Yes, let's do it."
A year later, she was still at the job. She even enjoyed helping humans and answering questions about the forest and mountain area she'd come to love and know so well. Others of their kind worked at various parks. They'd even used enough magic so that they didn't take jobs from the humans who deserved a chance to enjoy these places as well.
One day she saw a man and woman -- and the woman recognized her. "Kimberly! Look at you! I am so glad to see you are doing alright!"
Martha, who had sat at the desk by the door, hugged her like a long lost sister.
"You look good, too," Kimberly said. "Did you leave?"
"A week after you. And a month later the place closed down and two of the bosses are still in court over irregularities in their paperwork. I'm surprised no one contacted you. Though maybe they couldn't find you out here in this wilderness!"
"Maybe," she said and then smiled brighter. "Let me show you my world."