Today’s short fiction experiment: The Well of Souls
In Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove, General Ripper says that the act of ejaculation robs a man of his essence, by way of his bodily fluids. They say every cigarette reduces your life by eleven minutes. The first is a crackpot theory. The second is an over-simplification of complicated science.
But there is something that takes something away from you every single time. Job interviews. Every single time, they steal a little bit of your soul.
Some of it’s obvious. It’s a couple of hours out of your life that you’ll never get back. You have to research what the company’s about. You have to rehearse what you think they’ll want to hear. Then you actually have to go somewhere, wait for them, and then sit down and chat.
But there are parts people don’t think about too much. What do you wear? You’re supposed to dress for the job you want, not the job you’re interviewing for. That means spending a pretty significant amount on clothes. Particularly if you’re between jobs and hard on your luck, that’s a huge burden. Even a cheap suit could look more like 20 hours of minimum wage work, and if you’re struggling to even find work, that could mean it eats the first week of pay even if you do get the job. Even if you can get away with wearing a $20 pair of dress shoes, you might not have a presentable pair. That’s a few more hours.
Realistically, interviews eat a lot of time, and that’s demoralizing, especially if the job doesn’t pan out. Somewhere around the twentieth interview, being told “company policy says we have to take an internal applicant before you, sorry” is just plain fucking heartbreaking.
But this is just the mundane stuff. The part they don’t tell you about is that this time isn’t just wasted—it’s sacrificed. Not all job interviews are sacrifices, but most are. The modern job interview was pioneered by Thomas Edison. His 1921 written test featured 142 seemingly random, trivial questions which existed, supposedly, to judge a candidate’s intelligence. Famously, even Albert Einstein failed this intelligence test, because he didn’t know specific trivia like the speed of sound off the top of his head.
Anyone who knows about Thomas Edison knows that he wasn’t a very good inventor, but he was very good at taking others’ ideas and running with them. So, who wrote this taxing, time-wasting exercise of a test?
Adannu-Azag is the time serpent, a spirit who feeds on wasted time. Or, more appropriately, he feeds on the lost life of those who have wasted time. The Akkadians attempted to erase Adannu-Azag from existence, banning all references to it and punishing those who wrote about him.
Edison was notoriously ambitious, and would take any shortcut to renown and success he could. So when a literal demon, a monster from the spirit realms, came to him to offer him just that, how could he say no? He enacted his ridiculous test, and when it leaked to the New York Times, his name gave the test gravity and weight it otherwise wouldn’t have deserved. After all, in 1921, who but a renowned academic like Edison could ask job-seekers 146 ludicrous questions and not only avoid ridicule, but be applauded for the effort?
Others tried emulating him, or, more appropriately, emulating Adannu-Azag. The questions became more eldritch. The question-asking process became in-person so it would waste two people’s time instead of one. Interviewers required greater and greater dress requirements from less and less skilled applicants. Every year, Adannu-Azag fed on millions more hours than the previous year. The tribute to Adannu-Azag became more egregious as it spread to other parts of the world. For example, every Spring in Japan, new high school and college graduates flock by the millions to interview with batteries of companies, to the point where there’s a job interview industry, and publications catering exclusively to interviewees. Walk the Springtime streets in Tokyo, and you will see swarms and lines of interviewees standing around, waiting for their turn to sacrifice an hour to Adannu-Azag’s bottomless stomach. Businesses now exist worldwide to coach applicants on interviewing skills, where job-seekers can sit for mock interviews, or to watch others interview in order to critique and digest their interviewing skills.
The true tragedy is, Adannu-Azag gets bigger with every hour he eats. As interviews become more elaborate, and more demanding, his feast grows more and more exacting. As people have to compete more for fewer dwindling jobs in the face of automation and recession, Adannu-Azag wallows in a wassail of wasted time, growing ever still. What is his end goal? Does he exist explicitly to consume? Or does he have greater plans? Will he ever grow so enormous that he threatens the world’s future? Or is he simply breeding and cultivating a herd to produce, produce, and produce? I fear we may find out soon.
Have you picked up your copy of Blood Flow yet? You should.