9 to 5
rating: +20+x

Katie woke up, already tired and bored from the day that was no doubt ahead of her. She picked up her work uniform, the only clothes she seemed to wear these days, out of the pile of dirty clothes she kept on her bed. It's not like anyone really cared how clean she looked. Underwear, a bra, black pants, black steel-toed boots, a black shirt with "GREAZEBURGER" written on the upper left breast in yellow. She tied her left boot's laces, her right boot's laces were broken. She waited around at home for her shift to approach, not doing much, mostly collating her reports on Greaze for the Foundation's Investigation Team, though there was little to report these days. She watched some recorded tv shows on her Foundation issued laptop, made herself some pasta, sauceless. Before she knew it, it was time to go. She left for work, driving in her banged up blue Toyota with all the warning lights on and the gas low (she'd have to scavenge for some more later, she hated doing that) listening to her radio, since she couldnt be bothered to put on any of her own music from her phone. As VKTM whispered sweet madness into her third ear she careened down the road. At least the roads were empty, mostly, she mused. That car that she had honked at the other day for not turning left for three light cycles (she had assumed, because the road was rather busy) was still there, and still had its signal on. Turned out it didn't have a live occupant, really (that was annoying, but hey, what could you do). The parking lot was mostly empty, as usual, with a few stragglers shambling around the lot. For a moment, Katie sat in her car with the air conditioning, for all the good it did her, she had the time to. Katie arrived at the store early, because if she didn't she knew she'd show up late, or maybe even not show up at all.

Katie really hated her job. She deserved it though, really she did, she was the worst of her clone siblings. While her original was some sort of big shot with the Foundation, apparently, working on some sort of big time cloning project for the Overseers, Katie couldn't get it together enough to be given any sort of important job. They'd been put through accelerated college curriculum, aptitude tests and the like, her and her sisters, and most of them had made out like bandits. Ten was a doctor, Eleven was a vet, every one of the C series were made soldiers. Even Eight was left to futz around in her existential dread to find her own place. But not lucky number Five or was it Threeve? Twour? Theta? she was never given her number for some reason, but she took a name like the rest of them, and took a number too. Still, it could be worse, she supposed, she could be D-Class. Though she wasn't technically cleared to know about D-Class anymore. She wasn't even technically cleared to know about her own existence, she mused, given the cloning project that made her was Level 3 or 4 classified.

The time on her car's dashboard awoke her from her reminiscing, she would be late after all. She really needed to get a handle on her sense of time. Quickly walking inside the grocery store, she passed some she managed to arrive less than five minutes late and signed in under the careful watch of the Greazeburger All Seeing Eye, greeting her coworker Maria and signing in. She'd long ago stopped worrying with any regularity about any write-ups she might receive for this, she only ever got Written Up when Management was otherwise upset, and felt there was little she could have done. She went down her checklist, both for the Foundation and for Greazeburger. Checking refrigeration temperatures, taking pictures of the counter and the kitchens, moping up grease, silencing the screams, the usual.

Having completed her meager checklist, Katie stopped, immediately bored out of her mind. She chatted for a moment with the flesh of her coworker, within sight of management, slowly cleaned the counters, and then, when there was nothing else to do (and there rarely was) she took her position directly under the Eye, in its only blind spot, and took out her Foundation issue telephone. Neither Greazeburger nor the Foundation liked her doing that during work hours, a previous coworker had even gotten Written Up for it, but fuck those guys what the hell else was she supposed to do? The grocery store was almost never busy, and the few people, the real people who came in scavenged from the store and didn't even notice the bizarre counter that she called work. No real difference from before the apocalypse, except she couldn't get discounted coffee or sushi anymore from across the store. Oh yeah, the apocalypse, Katie barely ever thought about that. Some sort of XK this or that, she wasn't cleared for that information, apparently, even though she was living it. Bureaucracy, am I right? She could, however, read a fair few other documents from the database, more than her clearance should allow, and that passed the time, to an extent. She passed her days reading bureaucratic documentation for projects she'd never be a part of. Cryogenic mammoths, cellphone ghosts, talking grapes ,God Greaze she wished she worked anywhere but here. Hell at this point she'd accept a transfer to the Department of Other if it would get her out of here.

That is if they even still existed. The Overseers were no longer Earth-side (at least not this Earth) and the VIPs were all evac-ed, even some of her sisters. She still sent in reports, so nothing had changed on that front, really, as far as she knew. Though she hadn't heard from her bosses for a while. Maybe she should check her emails? It'd been a while since she had, she was never very good at making that a habit.

Just as she was about to do that, however, a Customer came. With their gray skin sloughing off of the bone, fungal like growths engorging their left ear and stomach, a hideous Hawaiian pattern dress shirt and sunglasses, they looked like any other customer Katie could recall dealing with. With squirming meat in hand, glacially slowly, the being asked for a fork. They hadn't purchased anything from Greazeburger, but, Katie supposed, it would be easier to just grab a bag of cutlery than it would be to tell them no, it's what her boss Assistant Manager Gene typically did and Assistant Manager Irene before him (she'd try to send Maria, but she had already vanished). Since they were out of cutlery in the front, Katie ventured behind back into the bowels of Greazeburger.

As she entered the Hallway of the Damned her nose scrunched up, and she had to suppress a gag reflex from the stink of the trash and debris emanating from the dumpster cart. The bastard cooks had again filled it with trash juice and loose food items, in addition to their usual trash bags. Oh, and look, a severed mandible on top, charming. The mechanical whirring of the bleeding refrigerators didn't help matters. Katie passed the first four occupied kitchens before slithering in to Kitchen Five, which, as usual, was unoccupied (the Guardian was likely out for a bathroom break or a smoke). Feeling though the sizzling void she found purchase on crude plastic which she knew to be the silverware. Re-entering the hallway she passed and was greeted by Joe from Kitchen 2, who offered her a bottle of Cherry Concentrate. Exiting the yawning abyss, prizes in hand, Katie presented the tool to the being who proceeded to groan out a "Thank you sir" before devouring their prey which squelched and screamed. Katie forced a smile and let herself imagine the feeling of their neck in her hands, whispering "not a sir" under her breath. Katie wished she'd have put on some makeup, or some nail polish, she certainly had had time in the morning. But she never did think about these things until it was much too late. This was what got her into shitty situations constantly, which she never could get out of. She was sick of people misgendering her, and sometimes even getting her species wrong. She had pills that were supposed to help with that, make her appear more like the human female she was. Well, she was supposed to have pills for it, but her inattention, her procrastination, her fear of doing such things had meant she didn't do the proper tests to get more pills sent her way, and now it would be months before she had them again. Their lack left her feeling off kilter, floaty, tired, distant, and with one mother of a headache. Less human. She took a sip of cherry concentrate and set the bottle in the void beneath the counter. She gazed at her telephone screen again, before another Customer walked up to the counter screen, this time, actually desiring to order. As he ineffectively pawed at the device in a feeble attempt to purchase sustenance, Katie took pity, offering aid. The being ordered nourishment, chattering with joy at receiving the perpetual five dollar off coupon. Katie then shooed them away with a promise of an omen when their food was birthed.

Katie began to pace, there was only so much she could do on her phone, and she didn't want to remain out of view or the Eye too long lest she gain the ire of the true Manager. She had once been told by her former Assistant Manager Irene that Management couldn't tell sporadic movement from work, and so got in the habit of doing so every few minutes within clear view of the Eye. She missed Irene. Irene never misgendered her, and in fact helped to build Katie's confidence to correct others. She was like a mother to Katie at a time Katie didn't really feel like she had a family, or, well, anyone. But business was bad (probably because the Earth was in the midst of an apocalypse, but what did she know) and Irene took the blame. One day the Manager Kimberly swooped out of the air with her painted talons and her laser eyes and Fired Irene, who went out with a chortle and a peace sign. Shortly after Gene appeared as if he had always been there. Katie suspected he was a Greaze clone, but it could be hard to tell in this line of work. She had never had concerns about Irene, in the end, she was as human as they came. Maria gave her some chocolates on Katie's behalf, and ferried back a message, kind but talking down to her all the same.

As she ceased her reminiscing and came back to the present she noticed the hands had wandered through the office supplies, as she meandered past, and they were currently balling pieces of tape in her hands and dropping them on the ground in a sort one dimensional breadcrumb trail. She'd have to pick it up later, she knew. She sighed. For a moment she stopped and watched the people beyond her stage. Fighting, chatting, eating, fucking, dying. Living. She hated them, she wished she could be them. She noticed her left boot was untied. She tied it, the right boot was too big.

The screeching of steel on steel could be heard as from the maws of the great and terrible machine appeared buckets of chorizo stew sloshing with greaze, the Customer's order. Katie sent them an omen, but they were already here, the order was gone.

Her coworkers gibbered away as usual, speaking in tongues not for the ears of mortals, and Katie died a little more inside, losing that additional bit of human connection. She hadn't even noticed they were there. In anticipation of more boredom, Katie requested to go to the restroom, which was approved. She jogged through the Hallway and exited out the other side into the grocery store, before entering the Employees Only double doors which led to the employee restrooms. The employee restrooms were gross, but at least they were gender neutral and mostly mundane. She went back to work. Her left shoe was untied, she didn't fix it.

Not long after (what is time?) desperate for a task, she heard a siren for a Code Green. Time to take out the Trash. There wasn't much, but it was best to respond rather than to pray to the Gods for access to the Dumpster later on. She speedily acquired the sacrificial greaze and plastic from the kitchens. Exploring every fold of their receptacles, sussing out every inch of treasure. She put them in her cart, which now engorged prepared to follow her to the back. Katie and the cart dodged the many obstacles and corpses on the way to the Back, passing the same double doors deeper into the cavernous tunnels, tinkled by the plastic entrails hanging from the ceiling. She arrived late, forced to wait in line behind the dead men with their rotting organ-grinders, before losing patience and squeezing past them and their bone crusher.

Katie launched bag after bag into the dumpster, fancying herself a shotput thrower Olympic athlete, until, inevitably, a bag tore. Unbaptized by the greaze and the child blood another woman might have weeped, Katie wished she would have. But she gazed at her pants and they were dry, and her gloves were only skin after all. So she went back up and she tied her left boot, her right toenails hurting.

She paced, she walked, she chewed her hair, she read until she felt she didn't exist anymore. She requested a ten minute break, it was accepted. She sat down she stood up, the break was over. Coworkers passed and spoke to her, she didn't remember what they said in her hollow mind. She took a swig of cherry concentrate, and spat it out by mistake tasting sweet bile and spaghetti. A chef from Kitchen 4 told her there were no more Mr. Greazeburgers, they were out of buns. She tried to sell those beyond on the restaurant, on the concept. They feigned understanding and kept walking. She gazed at them lustfully, not in a manner befitting a Greazeburger employee, she never looked them in the eyes, frightened she might see herself in them.

The conveyor spat out another order, must have been for delivery. Katie stapled the onion rings closed, nobody would pick them up. The corporate phone rang, Katie answered : "Hello, Greazeburger Earth, how can I help you?". There was no reply. She hung up. She gazed into the void, where mortal minds were not meant to see, her soul goes up in smoke. The corporate phone rang, Katie answered: "Hello, Greazeburger Earth, how can I help you". The voice on the other end repeated it back to her. She hung up. More food is birthed by the kitchens, a labor of love, Katie had forgotten the Customers. Time for lunch.

She searched for her wayward coworker, finding her in the jaws of the bunless beast of Kitchen 4. They returned to the front. A to go driver picked up the final Mr. Greazeburger, the sound of childlike sobs is heard. Katie fumbled her claws and clocked out. She'll have to report this to Management to get the time sheet corrected. Katie with her gnashing teeth quickly devoured her raw fish and liquid sugar, her mind repairing itself as her body reeled from the sudden fulfillment of its needs. Katie becomes more like herself. She listens to a song over the intercom, a good one for a change. Katie then regurgitates the food to taste it again. Back to work.

As she meets with her dear coworker Maria once again, seen chatting joyously with a Customer, Katie clocks back in. It is nearly time for Maria to go home, it won't be for Katie for many more hours. Then, though it may seem impossible, the real lull began.

The absence grew, consuming the space between people and unpeople alike. The void gazes back at the husk that was Katie, and takes root, filling her with Greaze and regret. Static blared through the once lively speakers of the store. Line-cooks doze around the fires of their stove-tops dreaming of Socratic dialogues and noble pursuits. A spider builds its home between the abandoned food sacks. More emerge, birthed into a world that never wanted them, never cared. Katie stapled shut their mouths to stifle their wails. Katie sprints to and fro desperately making motions with her hands, playing with the forbidden office items she should be worshiping. The stapler bites her, she leaks pink light. She gulped the cherry concentrate like a dying man might gasp for air. The syrup stuck to the bottom of the bottle, no matter how it was tilted, refusing to embrace her. Katie thinking she heard the conveyor, or the phone, dropped the bottle, but she had just imagined it .

Katie stopped and wondered, not for the first time, why she was made this way, because she was made this way. Why was her mind made to leak out information and have trouble focusing on even the most important things. Why did her body move so much, why did it feel so sluggish why did it feel so wrong, why was it made wrong. She didn't have the clearance to know, or even ask. Her sisters might tell her, but she had let them all drift away, never keeping in touch. They were her friends, her family, these other lives of hers, and she let them go. Oh how she envied them, these better lives that, but for a roll of the dice could have been hers. They never understood her, never tried to. Always the forgotten sister, never the favorite. Even Eight, so much like her, her younger sister, never truly did. The slacker got to parade around the Foundation on some sort of journey of self discovery while Katie worked for a living. Oh how she envied her, oh how she hated her. They had the same problems, really, the difference was Eight had hers recognized, she had help, support, Five didn't. She couldn't help but feel like her clone-mother, would be disappointed in her. Then she felt black bile in her throat, and was back to the present.

Katie idly wondered if the pills would have helped her remain focused on the present. Or could it be Greazeburger, with its mind-numbing sameness, day after day nothingness that was doing her in. The apocalypse? Katie thought to wrote this down on her Foundation device, then realized she already had. Screaming internally she sent her notes to her sisters, to her bosses, to the Foundation, claiming she feared memetic tampering, there was no response. Her phone began to die, her one friend in this world, and she had no way to charge it. She baptized it in Greaze and prayed for a Resurrection. The Greaze had never let her down, the Greaze had never forgotten her. The corporate telephone whispered sweet nothings into her ear in her own voice, the voice of her sisters. She recalled all the times she felt warm and safe with Gene, Maria, Joe and all the others. Sweet moments in a Greaze family album. She wasn't fooled.

She might not be neurotypical, she might not even be human, but she wasn't stupid. Foundation or Greazeburger, corporations are all the same. They don't care about you, they care about money, they care about power, they care about control, and about keeping those things. Yes she'd had some good times with Greazeburger and its people, with the Foundation, but when push came to shove she was thrown out into the cold just like any other rube, and another cog took her place in the machine of capitalism. But hey, it's a living. She picked up the tape she thoughtlessly threw on the ground earlier in the day, and started to close up shop. She took out the trash, throwing away the leftover spaghetti (after munching on it a little). Didn't even need to pray too hard for once, she called and the doors opened. She turned off the lights and went to her car, and then drove home. VKTM played a radio ad for Greazeburger. Tired from a hard day of hardly working, Katie pulled out her laptop and typed up her formal report. After a while, she gave up, there wasn't terribly much to write about. Instead she went back to the television series she watching earlier today. Her dead eyes watched television from a dead world, and she was happy, for now.

Later, she would sleep, and then wake up to live the day anew, never getting any closer to solving the mysteries of the apocalypse, never reconnecting with her sisters, never receiving more pills, never receiving a transfer.

Well, never say never, there's always the Weekend* after all.

*Greazeburger Incorporated does not believe in weekends.

rating: +20+x
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