“I’m sorry,” I said, for what had to be the tenth time since the interview started. “What am I here to do, again? Exactly?”
The manager of the IKEA, a pugnacious and pot-bellied little man settling unpleasantly into middle age, turned his head to glare back at me. “Get rid of the pests!” he repeated, clarifying absolutely nothing. The fluorescent lights glinted off his bald egg of a head, piercing through the meager hairs that attempted to cover the expanse of sweaty scalp. “You have pest experience, yes?”
I winced. Back in college, as I worked far too optimistically towards my liberal arts degree, I’d had to deal with several rodential beasties that infiltrated the half-dilapidated house where I’d landed such a compelling deal on rent. My skills at catching rats with overturned laundry baskets and swatting bats out of the air with tennis rackets soon became well known among the female community, and landed me several invitations to sorority houses (although they never turned out quite like my imagination suggested).
It had been my buddy, Nate, who suggested that I stick this fact onto my resume. “Come on, at least it’s something!” he pointed out, crumpling up another beer can and tossing it onto its fellows in the recycling bin. “And really, no one reads resumes any longer. They just look to see if they’re ‘busy’ enough.”
I sat at the table nearby, wincing as I tapped my pencil against my lips, looking down at the sadly empty page. “Yeah, okay,” I finally decided, jotting it down. “Maybe I’ll just have to go to Home Depot and pick up some traps.”
Now, following after the manager as his yellow shirt led me deeper into the bowels of IKEA, I had the sneaking suspicion that I’d made a terrible mistake. Each time I looked down at the implements he’d pressed into my hands, this suspicion grew stronger.
“I’m hunting pests,” I repeated. “But shouldn’t I be using traps? What’s with… these?”
The manager just snorted. Apparently, I no longer deserved the use of words. Equally apparent was that I was the only candidate desperate enough to take on this job.
And he was right, there. Months of failing to land any cushy office work eventually led me, at my wits’ end, to start casting a wider net. And hell, at this point I was more than happy to sell a family with screaming toddlers on a crappily made, overpriced set of living room furniture if it meant putting food in my sadly bare fridge.
“Yes, we have one,” the manager suddenly announced. He spun on one foot, so quickly that I nearly collided with him. His finger stabbed out, pointing to one of the objects he’d shoved into my hands. “See the glow?”
I stared down in shock at the metal crucifix, which I’d assumed that I was putting away where it would be for sale as the Bjorn-Tuun. About eight inches in length, it now emitted a pale glow, and felt slightly warm in my hand. I nearly dropped it.
“What’s going on?” I stammered. Was this some sort of a joke?
The manager, meanwhile, was looking around. “Ah! There!” He pointed down a hallway between two shelves stacked tall with boxes. Following his finger, I thought I caught a glimpse of movement in the shadows. “Pest!”
“What? Is it a rat or something?”
“No! You go, get rid of it!” And he gave me a shove in that direction with a sweaty hand.
I had no idea what was happening. I guessed that the smart move here was probably to drop the crucifix, as well as the other object the manager had shoved into my hands, and get the hell out of here. Maybe working for McDonald’s wouldn’t be quite so horrible, after all.
But I’m kind of known for making stupid decisions. Why stop now?
I shifted around the objects in my hands. I held the crucifix in my off-hand, and tugged at the handle of the other object. With a soft hiss, the blade slipped free of its scabbard, which I dropped, not having a third hand to hold onto it.
The sword was a little under three feet long, with a cross-shaped hilt. It felt strangely light in my hand. I had no idea why IKEA believed that a sword was a good idea for killing rats, but if I impressed my boss, I could get the job – and then switch over to normal rat traps.
I came around the corner of the warehouse. The glowing crucifix freaked me out, but it at least provided some illumination. I held it up, seeing movement ahead. I hefted the sword, getting ready to strike at-
-at a tiny little red humanoid, squirming around as it flapped tiny batlike leather wings, waving what looked like an oversized fork??
“What the hell?” I gasped out, jumping back, staring down at the thing with wide eyes.
“Yes, Hell!” shouted the manager, from behind me. “Strike! Pest!”
The little demon – and what else could it be? What was going on, was I losing my mind? – cackled, a high little tone that grated at my ears like nails on a chalkboard. Hefting that fork – no, a trident! Three tines! – it leapt at me.
Instinctively, I swung the sword at it, even as I struggled to not close my eyes.
Somehow, I hit.
The sword flashed through the demon with a sound like steam escaping from a kettle. There was a brief flash of white, and then the little red creature was falling back. Even as it lurched away, its body disintegrated into a tiny little pile of ash.
“What the he- heck is going on?” I cried out, spinning around to look at the IKEA manager. “What was that? Was that a demon? Am I being drugged?”
“Drugs?” he repeated, frowning. “No drugs. We test for that. But yes, you did a good job with the pests! You are hired! You kill these when they come. Cross shows you where they are.”
“But where do they come from?” I asked, sensing the man was about to turn away.
He frowned at me, like I’d asked an especially stupid question. “Hell, of course. Demons. Summoned by name.”
“But who’s saying their names?”
His finger stabbed out. “You! Stupid shoppers, cannot even pronounce the names of the furniture! Summon demons instead!”
“What, when we say Torboonsin, it’s summoning up-”
I didn’t even finish the sentence. A loud poof went off near me, and something cackled near my ear. Instinctively, my hand came up – the one holding the sword.
“See?” said the manager, as dust rained down on me. “Your job is to get rid of them. And don’t let customers see!” A glint came into his eye. “Fifteen dollars an hour, if you keep your mouth shut!”
I didn’t hesitate any longer. That was worth any amount of weirdness. “Deal.”
“Great.” He turned away. “Talk to HR at the end of the day. And don’t let them lick you.”
“Wait, what happens if they lick-”
But the manager was already gone.
I looked down at the crucifix in my hands. I’d never been especially religious, but maybe the cross didn’t know that? In any case, it was still glowing.
I tightened my grip on the sword. Oh well. Time to go to work.