My first job out of university is as a personal assistant to a web designer in Berlin, where I moved because I didn’t know where else to go. The web designer answers my application email in all lower-case and I show up to our interview in a sweat-drenched button down. I am the only applicant.
He’s an alcoholic, so besides sending emails, most of my job consists of returning his empty bottles to the supermarket. In return, I buy myself expensive cheeses, and I notice that after a few weeks, my biceps have gotten really toned from carrying the bags. I grocery shop for him a few times because of his withdrawal tremors, and I get the week off when he goes to rehab.
The second job I find on Craigslist is wiping the butt of a three-year-old whose favorite food is salami. No one tells me three-year-olds need help on the toilet, so this comes as a surprise. We get in a fight over the last bread roll one afternoon and I quit.
My third job is as an online English teacher for French aristocrats. My webcam is fuzzy, so no one can tell if I’ve brushed my hair or not, and I never wear makeup. Sometimes I can’t see my students, so we just talk on the phone while I explain vocabulary words with dramatic gesticulation, like a school-themed peep show. While I’m teaching, I often find my hand slipping below the waistband of my pajama pants off-camera. I come, once, face stoic, while listening to the French salesperson explain back to me the difference between the present perfect and past simple tenses.
My next job is through a blossoming startup with the official title ‘freelance plant lifespan consultant.’ I’m paid well below minimum wage but am promised fresh fruit and coffee, which turns out to be just a bunch of tinned peaches. I am fired after two weeks for killing all the plants.
The next promising ad I spot on Craigslist is for a ‘stay-at-home poetry writer,’ which sounds perfect for me, probably because I posted the ad myself. I happily send my resume to my own email address and wait for a response, which takes only a few hours.
“Yess!!” I write back. “U r the employee we have been waiting 4 all along!”
I am hired. It’s a nice job, although it costs me about eight hundred euro a month in soy cappuccinos and vegan döner kebabs, and I wake each morning with an inexplicable sense of dread in my chest. I get a service dog to help with the dread, except the dog is a swan and it won’t stop attacking me with its beak, which surprisingly does help with the anxiety, though not with the bleeding.
I decide I will feel better if I get out of the house more, so the next job I find on Craigslist is in a big, sleek office building with an endless maze of copy machines and filing cabinets. My main task is to type each letter of the alphabet and then the numbers twenty-two through thirty-nine as many times as I can in eight hours. I email the document to an account called email@example.com, and then I delete it. I get paid €550 a day doing this, which is good, because I am in debt after my run as a poet. I feel a lot less anxious working at the office, though after a few weeks, I lose the vision in my right eye.
Later, when my vision returns, I notice an ad titled ‘boat drivers wanted 4 tropical resort. no experience necessary.’ I figure it’d be good to see a bit of the world, so I apply.
Well, a month into the new job chaperoning mysterious cloaked figures back and forth between the banks of the river Styx, I start noticing some strange physical symptoms. My hands and feet have turned green, and I feel the unmistakable sensation that I have a rodent living in my chest. I develop a severe cough trying to coax it out, and also, I start growing cobwebs between my legs.
Morally, I don’t feel great about my next job, but a friend suggests I check out a post for ‘lonely, hot girls in Berlin.’ I video chat with Swedish businessmen and get paid hundreds of euro for each clothing item I remove. I do this for a few weeks until one day, I end up face to face with Satan on Skype. His face is red and my bedroom suddenly smells like dead herring, but aside from that, he looks like a pretty normal guy.
“Hey girl,” he says. “I know you need the money, but these guys aren’t worth torturing your soul over.”
He claps his hands over his heart, dramatically.
“I know,” I answer. “I feel all slimy inside, but I don’t know what else to do. It seems like nothing I try is working.”
He tells me he’s looking for a new intern, since his last one went missing. I mention my stint on the river Styx and he claps his hands together with glee.
I learn a lot as Satan’s intern, like why swans exist and what those emails with the alphabet were for. I guess a lot of the job could be described as grunt work, like making coffee, sending letters, and collecting wheelbarrows full of snakes, but it feels good to be doing something concrete again. When the internship is over, Satan shakes my hand and tells me he’ll write me a recommendation letter for any job for the rest of my life.
On the day of the apocalypse I send Satan a panicked text message and he tells me to meet him at the footbridge by the canal. He’s wearing a black hoodie and sunglasses, for anonymity’s sake, but everyone is so busy looting the corner shops for gummy worms that they don’t notice as we link arms and disappear into the ether. I don’t know where we’re going now, but he says not to worry. He says it’s going to be alright.
Anna Geary-Meyer lives in Berlin. Her fiction and poetry can be found around the internet at Unbroken Journal, the Olentangy Review, and CHEAP POP Lit. She was a finalist in the 2017 Bath Flash Fiction Award and in The Reader Berlin’s Summer Short Fiction Competition. She organizes and hosts Queer Stories at Another Country Bookshop and her backyard is a cemetery.