by Jake Christie

a story.

It was a pleasure to shred. For Guy, shredding was an almost religious experience. The feel of the paper in his fingers, tugged away by the metal blades; the ozone smell of the electric motor grinding away; the screech of the documents being rent to pieces. After he finished destroying a stack of documents, Guy would often shred blank pieces of paper before he finally, reluctantly, turned the machine off.

For exactly this reason, Guy was not the least bit worried when Jeff, the boss at DocuPocalypse, called him into his office. Guy had always liked Jeff, always gotten great feedback on his performance, and his spirit had been buoyed by rumors that some new positions were opening up in the company. It wouldn't just be a chance to move up in the hierarchy – it would be a chance to turn shredding from a mere job into a career.

Jeff stood and walked around his desk to shake Guy's hand, then reached around Guy and shut the office door. “Have a seat, Guy,” he said.

Guy took a seat and smoothed his pants on his legs. He admired the company logo framed on Jeff's wall, a cartoon piece of paper with a terrified look on his cartoon face, his waist frayed and tattered. The message was clear: you go through the shredder, you don't survive.

Jeff returned to his seat and folded his hands on his desk. “We need to talk about some restructuring within the company,” he said.

Guy smiled. “I thought so,” he said.

“Did you?” asked Jeff. He looked at his hands. “Then you might have guessed what this is about.”

“I have a few ideas,” said Guy. He thought of a fleet of mobile shredding units at his command. He thought of an endless roll of paper going through a shredder with incorruptible blades into a bottomless wastepaper basket. He thought of exciting new titles to give himself, either “Head Shredder” or “Shredmaster.”

“I'm sorry,” said Jeff. “Terminations are never an easy decision to make, but we have to do what's best for the company. You will, of course, receive two weeks severance pay--”

“What?” said Guy. “Are... are you firing me?”

Jeff looked at Guy again. “Well, yes,” he said. He blinked. “Didn't you know that's what this is about?”

“I thought this was a promotion,” said Guy.

“A promotion?” echoed Jeff. “Guy, all you know how to do is run the shredder.”

“I love to run the shredder,” said Guy. It seemed like an important point to drive home.

“No mechanical experience, no sales experience, no customer service,” said Jeff, marking them off on his fingers. “We'd love to keep you on, Guy, but your skills aren't diverse enough. We need people at DocuPocalypse who can do more than just shred documents.”

“But I love to shred,” reiterated Guy. His visions of shredder blades took on a nightmarish hue, and he stared at the logo behind Guy. Instead of feeding an endless roll of paper into the blades, he felt himself being pulled down, his body being torn apart. You go through the shredder, he thought, and you don't survive. His pieces could never be fit together again.

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