“Why am I even in here?” the shade whined. “It’s not like I hurt anyone.”
I’m professional, I reminded myself. I was not going to reduce her to ghost dust. I was not going to cause an incident in my own office. “Calantha, you know Dis’ policy on harassment.”
“Zero tolerance means zero. I know you didn’t have a concept of zero when you were alive, but we incorporated it centuries ago, and this is the third time you’ve been in my office this decade.” All I really wanted to do was grab this shade’s translucent shoulders and shake her until she understood, but I kept my voice even and my feathered butt in my chair.
The shade’s eyes welled up with tears. Which was honestly impressive, considering she hadn’t had tear ducts in almost a millennium.
“All I did was give Lord Hades a backrub! He’s so tense all the time, always hunched over all that paperwork. And it’s not like his wife is here to do it for him, so I thought—”
“Did Lord Hades ask for a backrub? Explicitly ask you to rub his shoulders for him?”
“Well, no, but—”
“Then you did not have permission to touch him,” I ground out. “Just like that satyr didn’t have permission to goose Clio last decade. You remember what happened to him, don’t you?”
She gave a small hiccup. “But it’s different. I—”
“No, Calantha. It isn’t. And quite frankly, the only reason you aren’t being thrown into Tartarus right now is because our esteemed Lady is on the surface with her Mother. And I’m sure you know that.”
She started crying. Hard. I indulged myself in the idea of throwing her to Tartarus anyway. It was a petty thought, worthy of me, but no. I had a different plan.
“Look. Lord Hades has expressed that he’s not comfortable with you continuing your current position, so we’re going to have to remove you from the House. You’ve got two choices, you can return to Asphodel with the other unemployed shades, or we can see if there’s a position for you in the file room.”
She stopped crying. Like someone had put a rock in the waterwheel. “What? But I’ve been working in that House for centuries! You can’t do this—”
“I’ll think you’ll find I can.” And just to drive the point home, I flexed my claws, scraping indents into the top of my desk. Her eyes flicked down to them, fear flashing in her eyes. Shades could still feel pain, and it was common knowledge that I’d been in an entirely different management position not that long ago.
She swallowed — force of habit, I guess — and let her gaze fall to her lap. “I understand. I’ll take whatever you can find for me in the filing department.”
And thank dark and inestimable Chaos for that. I hated cases like this. Every so often you got someone who thought they could get a better afterlife if they just cozied up to the God of the Dead. Seduction attempts never got far, since most were too afraid of Lord Hades or Lady Persephone’s temper to try anything, but humans and their hubris. As if my Lord would ever go against a fair and just sentencing.
Calantha was just lucky Lady Persephone was soaking up the sun right now. Last person who tried what she did got turned into a plant. A plant Lady Persephone plucked every morning to make tea.
I nodded once, stamped her file, and had Calantha sign the contract stating she understood the reason for our meeting and agreed to the demotion — and it was a demotion, the file room was a damned mess — and stamped it on three other pages.
“Alright, go clear out your cubicle and head down. I’ll send a memo to your new supervisor. You’ll be under Sisyphus.” I’d recommended him for the position a couple decades ago, since, well, if anyone knew anything about unending thankless work, it was him. “And don’t let me see you in my office again, understood?”
She nodded quickly and stood, thankful to be leaving my office unscathed. And I was thankful to be seeing the wispy back of her. I gave myself a moment just to breathe, then put her file back in the cabinet, divided by name and death date, and prepared myself for my next appointment. Gods, this job made me miss the days of divebombing some guy every time he tried to eat supper.
But hey, I thought. Maybe this appointment would be about something easy, like a question over vacation days (none) or someone seeking advancement (quarter century reviews were coming up soon). Maybe I could tell some deserving shade about an opening in the House. It’d be nice to deliver good news for a change.
Kori Klinzing (she/they) lives in Chicago and is slowly being crowded out of their apartment by their roommate’s houseplants. In her spare time, she writes, edits, and is currently working on an array of TTRPG projects. She has edited for Goreyesque, was an editorial intern at Blood Bound Books, and you can find their writing in Orca Literary, Shroud Magazine, and Abyss and Apex. You can also listen to them play TTRPGs twice a month on the Just Roll for It Podcast. Find her on Twitter at @nvulnerabletide, or at theinvulnerabletide.com.
If you enjoyed this story, show your support on Patreon.