Corporate Man is called in to investigate reports of vile, unethical business practices at Great American Business Company. What he finds there just might destroy him (except we all know the ending to The Tragic Death of Corporate Man so it should be fairly obvious that it can't really destroy him, though it can come close).
Enslaved by the Bonus Whores is an all new Corporate Man Adventure Serial. Chapters will post every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
The Tragic Death of Corporate Man
a hero for capitalism;
champion of the working class
by Tom Landaluce
Bull/Bear, the Crash, and the Bowels of the Building.
When considering the urban myths attributed to floors thirteen, twenty-six, and thirty-nine, a special note should be made about the layout of the floors immediately above and below floor thirty-nine. Specifically floors thirty-seven, thirty-eight, forty, and forty-one.
Architecturally, there is no reason for these floors to be devoid of central offices and corridors. If one could locate accurate blueprints of the
the impression one might get
is that middle section of each floor is, indeed, accessible. However, if one found themselves exploring,
they would be hard pressed to locate any office space occupying that area or
any hallways traversing this central region. Jacob Center
The phenomenon is less obvious on the thirty-seventh and forty-first floors as the diameter of this inaccessible space is much smaller than the floors above and below, respectively. It has been reported that as one nears this middle ground one can detect the sound of ringing bells and a clamor akin to the applause of a sporting event. This has led to a belief that this central space houses a secret horse track and the bigwigs entertain large groups of foreign investors at illicit racing events. Suspiciously absent, though, is the odor of horse manure. This casts the horse track theory into question amongst those concerned.
“We can’t just leave him,” Business Woman shouted.
“He’s gone, sister. There’s nothing we can do for him,” said Commander Credit.
“Lift up this ladder and let’s go down there.”
“Can’t. It’s sealed off. Frozen. Probably by an electro magnet or something,” the Commander said.
“So we abandon him?”
Commander Credit said nothing.
“What about Fair Wage,” asked Supply. “Do we go on without him, too? Without trying to help?”
There was a long moment in which none of them spoke. Then Commander Credit said, “They’re both dead. We press on.”
“We don’t know that,” said Supply. “Fair Wage could be–”
“Torn in half,” said Commander Credit. “From the inside out.”
“But he could–”
“No,” said Corporate
Man. “He’s dead.
Fair Wage is gone.”
asked Business Woman.
“I don’t think there’s anything we can do for him now,” said
“Come on. We should keep moving.” Corporate
He climbed the metal rung ladder up through the elevator’s ceiling and disappeared into the dark.
Also in the dark, but in the other direction, was Franklin Buck. And he was falling. Not straight down a shaft, but in a curling tube, like a water-park slide, only much steeper. And without the benefit of the water. Or the enjoyment.
The slide didn’t alter its course, remaining on a continuous downward corkscrew. The friction had burned for the first few minutes but the tube walls eventually became greasy. This decreased the burning sensation but increased the speed of his descent. With the added velocity came the nausea. He’d been falling long enough to be sick once already and he could feel t queasy roiling in his stomach return. Still, at least it didn’t burn so much anymore.
He felt bad for the next person to fall down this tube. They’d have to slide through his puke. Then his mind, through a process of deduction, pieced together a solution to a question that was, he hadn’t realized, nagging him.
Where had the grease in this tube come from?
The solution that assailed him involved the breakdown and decomposition of vomit ejected by previous riders of this dark corkscrew drop. The greasy smear that would result. And he was forced to admit that there was a dank stench in this place. He was also forced to endure another set of wracking heaves as his stomach added to the lubrication all around him.
“How much longer do you think it will take them to reach the top?” asked Business Woman.
Senior Executive shrugged. Corporate Man and Commander Credit had gone on ahead, climbing the metal-rung ladder into the darkness above while the rest of the
Union waited on top
of the false elevator at the bottom of the shaft. Discussions had lead them to a conclusion
that this was the best course of action considering their experience with the
ever descending staircase between the lobby and the thirteenth floor.
Senior Executive reviewed his portfolio on his smart phone and Business Woman chatted with Supply, their discussion often returning to the relationship of Supply and Demand. Demand tried to ignore them but couldn’t help feeling irritated by divulgences of matters he considered personal in nature.
A beep sounded on Senior Executive’s phone.
He read the text and said, “They’ve made it. They’re on the 39th floor.”
There was a feeling of relief and an urge to celebrate. This was immediately crushed by the realization that they now had to undertake a dark, thirteen story climb up a ladder of metal rungs.
When sliding down a waterslide one can affect the direction of one’s body enough to send it up the wall of the slide. This may be a nominal and futile effort in avoiding the ultimate destination of the descent but it is, in fact, true.
Also true in fact was the number of exits from the corkscrew tube that were in existence as it drops from the twenty-sixth floor.
That number would be two.
One such exit would deposit the unwary traveler on the ledge at the top of the ever-descending staircase leaving him or her at the entrance to the thirteenth floor. The other exit places the traveler in a much more… subterranean location.
A third relevant fact has to do with the corkscrew tube’s composition and pattern. At a point conveniently on level with the thirteenth floor the material of the tube changes from black PVC to white and levels from falling corkscrew to a relatively flat cruise. At this transition point there is a knob shape, something akin to a handhold on one of those indoor rock climbing gym, in the upper part of the side wall. In order to exit at the thirteenth floor one would need to reach out, snag the knob shape as they slid by thus shifting the momentum of their body up toward the ceiling of the tube. The inevitable downswing that follows would hurl them up the opposite wall and into a rounded hole-like opening.
If successful the thirteenth floor stair would be gained. If not, the traveler would encounter a sudden dip at the end of the relatively level area. They would then plunge down a nearly vertical freefall.
It was Franklin Buck’s misfortune and ignorance which caused him to sigh with relief when the corkscrew leveled off into welcome white and then glide right past the knob and the alternate exit and finally to his downward fate.
The metal-rung ladder ended at a platform which was much like a miniature, wrought iron version of a train station platform. There was a door against the back wall and a small plate on the door which read: Members Only.
Senior Executive knocked on the door and after a few moments the “Members Only” plaque slid to the side with a flick and a pair of small, tight-set eyes peered out from inside.
“Who’re you?” a deep voice asked.
“You don’t recognize us?” said Senior Executive.
“No. You members?”
“Would we be here if we weren’t?”
After an uncomfortably long pause the voice asked, “What’s the password?”
Senior Executive glanced at Corporate Man, then Business Woman, then Commander Credit. His eyes flared slightly, seeking a plausible response to the password question.
Corporate Man stepped forward and said, “What password? We don’t need a password. Open the door you fool.”
“Good,” the voice muttered. “There’s no password. Still, that don’t show that you belong.”
“Of course we belong,” said Business Woman.
“How am I to know?” asked the voice.
After another hesitant moment Business Woman said, “You must be new so we’ll cut you a break. Take a look at his portfolio. That should tell you all you need to know.”
Senior Executive and Business Woman exchanged a volley of looks in which Senior Executive silently asked Business Woman what on Earth she was thinking, where did she come up with her scheme, and his beliefs that it, whatever it was, would never work. Business Woman, in her gestures and expressions, conveyed a message which implied to Senior Executive that it sucked to be him right now.
Senior Executive moved to the window, held up his smart phone, and showed the eyes belonging to the deep voice a series of financials which were quite impressive.
A latch clunked and the heavy door eased back.
“My apologies, sir. Gentlemen. Ladies. Please come in,” said the voice.
There was a metallic hum as the door slid inwards and then to the left. The
inside but there was no doorman or attendant of any sort. Affixed to back of the door, at the same
height of the “Members Only” plaque, was a clunky black box. A yellow extension cord dropped from the box
and ran to a nearby wall outlet.
“So… I guess we just make ourselves comfortable then?” said Business Woman.
There was a long arched corridor extending from the doorway, a procession of fluted columns flanking either side. A burst of yellow-orange light flared from the fluting. No benches, seats, or stools with which to make oneself comfortable, stood anywhere along the passage.
“Well, no use loitering about, right?” said Corporate Man stepping forward and striding confidently down the hall.
At the end of the hall was a massive set of doors. Senior Executive tried to open them but they were locked. Adjacent to the double doors was a smaller, less grandiose hallway with a modest door at the end. Perched above the entrance in bright neon green, a sign advertised: The After Hours Lounge. There was no discussion amongst the
and barely an exchange of glances pre-empted a simultaneous shrug, followed by
a uniform migration toward the lounge.
Franklin Buck was growing bored with his terror. Would this, by all guesses, fatal plummet ever end? Not all of the descent since that first drop off had been free fall. A majority to be sure, but after a while he’d noticed a gradual leveling off, some wide corkscrewing, a few more chasm-like drops, and even a wiggling zigzag sort of motion. The final result of all that had been impatience.
During part of his fall the fact that he was dropping toward his death had slipped his mind. He found himself wondering if his lawn needed mowing and, if so, could he get by for another week or so without doing the edging.
A new structural element in the shaft brought
attention back to his current plummeting state.
The tube’s color shifted to a bright purple and arched upward and over,
throwing Franklin into a series of
dizzying loops. His speed decreased
dramatically. Then he was poured into a
green, translucent section of tubing which traced a lazy, shallow, downward
track. He could see through the tube
wall, but there wasn’t much to see.
Concrete, pipes, and the occasional section of green, translucent, human
His feet bumped against something soft and his forward progress stopped. He looked up and saw a round hatch. There was a silver lever on one side of the hatch door and a towel rack on the other with a plush beach towel hanging from it.
“Welcome to the After Hours Lounge,” said a man in a very expensive suit. “Am I correct in assuming that you are virgins to this establishment?”
“This is our first time here, yes,” said
The well dressed host escorted them into a large room with a very long bar along one side.
“I’m afraid you’re a little too late to beat the dinner rush and a bit too early to benefit from the settling up. As soon as something becomes available, I will seat you. I’m sure you will find the bar to be an adequate distraction.”
The host shuffled away and the
Union approached the long counter. An amber light bathed the dark stained wood
and brass fixtures. Recessed in the wall
behind the bar were thousands of bottles of various shapes displayed in a rich
cobalt light. Five or six bartenders slid
and writhed from customer to customer, mixing up every kind of cocktail
“You think there might be some food at the bar?” Demand asked.
“Why don’t you guys find out. And get us some drinks,” said Business Woman. “Me and Supply are gonna run off to the ladies room.”
The women quickly strode away, Business Woman muttering something about how she should have peed when they were in that fake gym and that she was shocked her bladder hadn’t burst.
Corporate Man and Senior Executive went up to the bar to get the drinks and make inquiries about food while Commander Credit and Demand sought out and empty space and stools enough to seat them all.
“Junior? Junior is that you?” a man snorted as Senior Executive tried to flag down the bartender. The man was large and stout, like an aging football player or an old professional wrestler. His face was bovine and thick.
Senior Executive looked at the man and then, after a moment, he said, “Bull? God, what are you doing here? And it’s Senior Executive now.”
The man tilted his head, eyes rolling, and made an exasperated sound. “Oh you won’t believe the things I’ve been through in the past few– Wait. Is that… Is that Corporate Man?”
Corporate Man smiled and said, “Good to see you, Bull Market.”
“Yeah, I’ll bet. This all started because of you, you know?” Bull Market said, shaking his head. “These guys in suits came up to me saying, ‘Codename: Bull?’ I said, no. That it was just, Bull. Bull Market to be exact, but that, yeah, that was me. And these guys rough me up, pop me into the trunk of their car.”
Senior Executive gave Corporate Man a puzzled look. Corporate Man shrugged and said, “I’m sorry you got hassled.”
“No. No. It all worked out. They took me to their base and this hard-assed bitch on the east side of town ripped her boys new assholes when she saw me. Said something about how she’d nearly sent out a report announcing the capture of Codename: Bull. These guys tell her that I said that I was the Bull and she said, ‘No. This is Bull Market. He worked with Corporate Man, but he isn’t Corporate Man.’ Well, I was about to get into it with them, seeing as how we’re teammates, when she dismisses her lackeys and buzzes for a sniveling secretary guy who apologizes to me, assures me that they meant me no harm, and that they’d like to invite me in on a little business opportunity to make amends. Anyway, long story short, they brought me here and I’ve been making bank ever since. I see they finally found you and got you involved, too.”
Corporate Man narrowed his eyes and took a slow breath. Then he said, “Yeah. Something like that. What can you tell me about this place Bull?”
“You don’t know?”
“We just arrived.”
“Oh. Awesome! Come with me. I did really well today and booked a private booth in the back. I’ll explain everything.”
“Wait a second,” said Senior Executive. “We need to get the others.”
“Others? Who else is here? Oh! Is Business Woman with you? I’d kill to see her again.”
The After Hours Lounge was initially established in the 1980’s when the typical businessman was typically male. Not only was the industry of commerce a completely male dominated enterprise, but those males were of a variety whose egos could only be stroked by a steady flow of objectified women and mass amounts of cocaine. Therefore, when the After Hours Lounge was commissioned, the only logical form it could take was that of a lavish strip club with mirrored coasters and plenty of bathroom stalls to powder one’s nose in.
Subsequent generations have all but abandoned the notion of sex and drugs as their ego booster of choice; their primary one at least. Whether this is to be attributed to the influx of women into the corporate environment, the steady emasculation of the male gender, or the proliferation of twenty-four hour sports channels into popular culture is hard to say. The After Hours Lounge, however, has gone through similar changes. Gone are the seedy accoutrements of the flesh trade, replaced by the glitz and hype of the sportscaster set.
Where there once stood a long stage, with dirty dance poles at either end, now sits a repurposed bar area with a bank of plasma screen televisions. Each private booth, once the abode of indifferent lap dances and other, less reputable jobs, contains a wall mounted, hi-def flat screens. The bathrooms, likewise, feature high resolution monitors on the backs of stall doors and above urinals. The overabundance of media screens were provided by management for the express purpose of catering to its clientele’s desire to watch replays and play by play analysis of the day’s trading.
These days, the patrons of The After Hours Lounge would much rather watch themselves make money than see their hard won gains disappear into the g-string of some cheap entertainer.
“So apparently these booths were used for lap dances in the old days,” said Bull Market squirming around chairs that rode up against glossy leathered walls and crowded around a small table. “That’s why the room’s so small. Normally there’s only two or three chairs in here at a time. It’s not so snug then. OH! Here it is. Look.”
Bull Market gestured to a television screen which hung from the wall like a framed landscape. On it was a man making a series of complex gestures and emphatic facial expressions. That man was Bull Market. Text scrolled across the bottom of the screen displaying financial figures. Pie charts and graphs popped in and out of the upper right corner.
“Watch this. I dump a tech stock just before the price plummets. Made a killing.”
The image reset, displayed the same footage, but this time in slow motion. A voiceover, which was far too excited for the material being shown, offered a play by play of the event and then went on to examine gains figures and percentage yields. He passed it back over to the studio and three people in slick green blazers discussed the amazing portfolio of the man called Bull Market.
“Awesome! Wasn’t that awesome?” said Bull Market. Before any response was made, a waitress, dressed like a very skilled secretary, arrived with food. The
how starved they all were, forwent politeness and etiquette and converged on
the platters like chortling pigs.
“Good God, when did you guys last eat?” Bull Market asked.
“Thirteenth floor,” Business Woman replied.
Bull Market looked confused.
“What day is this?” asked
Bull Market looked even more confused.
“I… I don’t know,” said Bull Market. Then he smiled. “I haven’t thought a lot about dates and stuff. You know, with all this money making I’ve been doing.”
“Yeah, you mentioned that. And we saw you on the instant replay,” said
“But what is this place exactly? It looks like Wall Street.” Corporate Man.
Bull Market laughed. “Wall Street’s like a backwater, country road compared to this place. Everything happens here first. If the Dow Jones drops, or NASDAQ shows a gain, you can bet it’s because of what we did here the day before. This is the true stock market.”
“Can you show us?” asked Senior Executive.
“Well, yeah, obviously. I mean you guys wouldn’t be here if they weren’t going to let you compete.”
“Then let’s go,” said
“Wait, wait, wait. No rush. I’m still eating,” said Business Woman.
This comment spurred a collection of head tilts, deep sighs, eye rolls, grins, and even some nods of approval. Those nodding followed the gesture with an increased shoveling of food into mouth.
“Market’s closed right now,” Bull Market said. “It’ll open up again in the morning.”
A moment of silence followed. As much silence as can be expected while at a table full of heartily eating business types.
“Are there hotel rooms on this floor?” asked Senior Executive.
“Oh yeah. Hey! You should all come back to my suite,” Bull Market said.
“That’s tempting, but we should get some rooms and get some sleep,” said
“I don’t know when any of us has had a chance to sleep recently.” Corporate
“No, you got to come. Besides, these rooms are huge. We could have them bring in a few more beds and we’d all fit. With room to spare.”
As mentioned previously, The After Hours Lounge was designed to cater to powerful, obscenely wealthy men with outlandish, hedonistic needs. Therefore the available lodgings for these lust swollen entrepreneurs required a great amount of square footage in which to house all of these seething, nigh ritualistic, orgies that were sure to take place. A supply of extra beds ensured that, should multiple platforms of sexual conflagration be required, then guests would not be left wanting.
Though the sexual impetus had evaporated, the extra space had not been retroactively converted into additional units or broken up into more useable, or economically logical units. Current clientele found the ample floor area an enhancement to that superstar feeling they craved and often found the need to host large, post trade parties for select associates in which recordings of the days financial events might, once again, be viewed and appreciated.
Franklin Buck was sweating. He wished he still had that beach towel. Then he could wipe his dripping forehead or fashion some sort of head wrap to collect all this perspiration. The sweat that came with all this running.
He streaked down bejeweled corridors, with gilded molding. The gems were, most certainly, foil-backed faceted plastic and the gold probably cheap spray paint. He’d learned that much.
Behind him, in full pursuit, was a band of heavily armed guards with shiny scimitar swords. The personal guard of the Nigerian Prince. Why scimitars?
All this trouble for simply trying to help.
gritted his teeth and the ache in his side worsened.
He never should have accepted that check!
As it turned out, Bull Market’s wish was granted. Partially. There was only one available room left when the
Union made their accommodations
so it was decided that the ladies would get their own suite and the guys would
bunk in with the Bull.
Bull Market found this slightly disappointing, and more dissatisfaction came his way when his much anticipated guests began falling asleep during the second replaying of his bright and shining fiscal moment. Disappointed, he gave up and they all turned in for the night.
He woke them in the morning with a vast, room service catered breakfast during which they watched the replay of his successes of the previous day complete with analysis of same and forecasts for the coming day. Bull Market had taken the liberty of having the
clothes laundered and pressed during the night so they would all be fresh and
clean and sharp for the days trading. Couldn’t
go in with blood stains and torn fabric after all.
“Why don’t you come with us?” said
“What do you mean?” asked Bull Market.
“Well, we aren’t here to trade stocks, we’re trying to get to the top. Find the man upstairs if you will, the one responsible for it all,” said Senior Executive.
“Are you kidding? This is the biggest and best thing that’s ever happened to me. I’ve never made more money,” said Bull Market.
“Yeah, we get that,” said Business Woman. “But when are you gonna go home and do something will that money?”
Bull Market looked puzzled. He’d never considered this. “I don’t know. When they ask me to leave, I guess. I mean, I can’t stop now, right? I’m winning. I’m on a roll. You’ll see. Let’s head to the floor and take up positions. Once you feel that buzz, score that first big trade, then you’ll see.”
Franklin Buck preferred the running. At least that made sense. This debtor’s prison made no sense at all. After that enormous, meandering escalator he’d found himself in a small lobby with a popcorn machine and free coffee. There was a teller window, behind which was a door. On this door was a sign indicating a stairwell leading to the lobby. The only way to get beyond the teller window and continue his efforts to find the lobby floor was to sign up for a free checking account. As soon as he’d signed his name and had been issued a debit card, a team of burly security guards slapped cuffs on his wrists and hauled him into a dimly lit corridor where they tossed him into a cell.
An hour later a piece of mail dropped into his holding pen, through a slot in the wall.
It was an account balance statement alerting him to an overdraft of funds. Apparently, upon the opening of his account it was noted that there were insufficient funds which, and the terms of the free account clearly stipulated (in paragraph twelve of subsection thirty-two of the sixteenth entry under the heading account parameters), that should an account carry a balance under five hundred dollars then a twenty-five dollar fee would be applied. Furthermore, there was an additional twenty-five dollar convenience charge for the pleasure of speaking with a real live teller. The debit card was free, but another twenty-five dollar fee had been tacked on for the assignment of a personalized PIN number.
“Hey!” Franklin Buck shouted. “This is bullshit! When I signed up you only asked me for a hundred bucks. And speaking to the teller? You kidding me?”
He read on. With twenty-five dollars left in his account, guards were proactively summoned to haul
off to debtor’s prison because the twenty-five dollar fee for summoning said
guards would bring his account balance to zero.
Additionally, a seventy-five dollar convenience charge would be tacked
on for each live guard as well as a rental fee for the cell in which he was to
be detained. Meals would result in fees
as well. The statement went on to
document twenty-five dollar overdraft fees which were to be applied to each
charge following the zero balance due to the insufficient funds in the account to
which all charges were being attributed to.
walked through the set of double doors into a room the size of an arena. It was bustling with people in suits, runners
in collared shirts, and polo-clad coffee fetchers. Everyone made complex hand signals at
everyone else. A smell, covetous and
sweaty, like a locker room papered with decommissioned dollar bills, permeated
the space. The noise was overpowering, like
the engines of a private jet to the basic rights of the needy.
“Ah… This is where it all goes down,” said Bull Market.
He led them through the sea of people to a small platformed area sectioned off with velvet ropes. Here were gathered those whose previous day’s trading had garnered acclaim and this slightly elevated place of honor was their reward.
The arena space was so massive that more than one member of the
wondered how a place with ceiling so high could fit on one floor. Even if that floor was the equivalent of
three floors combined. Giant
tele-screens hung from huge steel rafters and electronic ticker displays scrolled
in every direction the eye could possibly look.
“When’s the big show start?” asked Business Woman.
“In a couple of minutes,” said Bull Market. “Apparently, they’ve got a guest speaker coming in who’ll kick things off today. Rumor has it that it’s the President.”
“Barack knows about this place?” Corporate Man.
“How could he not?” said Bull Market. “This place is the economy.”
There was an eruption of cheers and applause which replaced the already roaring sound in the arena. At the far end of the arena was a tall stage with huge speakers flanking either side. The lights dimmed and a spotlight flashed upon a lone figure as he walked toward center stage. He wore a large brown Stetson hat, spurred cowboy boots, and a man-sized disposable diaper.
“Oh god,” said Bull Market. “Not him. Not him!”
“What? Who is it?” asked
“Ah shit,” said Business Woman. “That’s W.”
“As in George W? asked
“Yep,” Business Woman said, her head shaking instead of nodding.
Bull Market scratched nervously at his neck. And then his forearm. And then his scalp.
“This will not end well,” he said.
There were too many levels, too many rooms. He needed to go up, but it seemed as though these passages always went down two or three levels for every one ascent.
After escaping the boudoir of the irresistibly seductive Pink Slip, Franklin Buck found himself at the offices doors of a business called Pinnacle Inc. The walls of the place were of quarried sandstone and strange Egyptian-like hieroglyphs marched across all the surfaces.
Before he could enter he was forced to buy a franchise business, but the purpose and operation of the business was never made clear in the paperwork. The only thing that was made clear was that it was expected of him to “sign up customers” upon whose fees he would earn residual income and, more importantly, to “sign up representatives” upon whose customers he would each additional residuals.
After that he’d entered the crazy sandstone structure.
And now he was lost.
Every stairwell he discovered was guarded by a sphinx and the sphinx demanded that he sign up five additional customers or one rep before he could gain entry to the ascending stair.
“Prosperity. That’s the key folks. Once we prosper, then we’ll find that we’re not disprosperous anymore,” said George W. Bush, tilting his head and cocking his cowboy hat in a reassuring manner. “Tax cuts will ensure prosperity and deregulation enables businesses to take advantage of this prosperity and grow. And growth is the only way …” He jangled his hand as if jostling man-fruit. Then he redoubled the intensity of the movement to emphasize each of his next statements. “Prosperity. Tax cuts. Deregulation. Change my diaper. War on poverty.”
The crowd roared. The applause of deafening. George W. adjusted his diaper in quick thrusting movements and the crowd roared again.
“Did he make these kind of speeches during his terms in office?” Corporate
“Yes,” said Business Woman, jaw clenching.
“And he got elected for a second term?”
Business Woman sighed and said, “Yes. People are that stupid.”
Bull Market paced frantically, scratching haphazardly. “This is not good. Not good at all.”
“We all want the same things, right?” George W. Bush continued. “We want to live life, have our things, be happy Americans, and kill terrorists. Am I right?”
Cheers from the crowd.
“Sure I’m right. No terrorist left behind!”
An earthquake of crowd noise.
“The only way we can do all that is by prospering and the only way we can prospersize is by fixing this economy and then only was we can fix this economy is by having a conversation. Starting a dialogue with economists and trusting in our business leaders who are already very prosperous because they know how to do it. And we can all follow their example. So spend money. Stimulate the economy. And trust in the system. Let the economy correct itself. Prosper. And that alone will create prosperity. And prosperity for the nation means that we can continue our war on children.”
The response to this was disparately flat. A secret serviceman shuffled onto the stage and positioned himself behind and to the side of George W. Bush. He reached a tentative finger toward the waistband of the former President’s diaper, pulled it open slightly, and peered down inside. His brow furrowed and his lips pulled back from his teeth. The agent nodded and was joined by more secret servicemen. They carried W. off the stage.
An alarm bell sounded, signally the start of trading.
Bull Market charged forward shouting, “Sell! Sell! Sell!”
The arena became a frenzy of aggressive activity and overpowering noise. Everyone trying desperately to outmaneuver and out hand-signal each other. Bull Market’s cries were drown out by the crowd and he was swept away into a boiling mass as mob panic consumed the floor.
Tele-screens and digital tickers displayed falling numbers as the market plummeted. A noise, like a high pitched whine, pierced the air then grew higher and higher.
“Oh damn. This is bad,” said Business Woman.
“We gotta get out of here,” Senior Executive hissed.
“It’s too late,” said
“It’s here.” Corporate Man.
Commander Credit’s eyes gleamed and smile cut across his face. He checked the weapon systems on his arm and said, “Yes. And it’s about damn time.”
Franklin Buck was running again. He’d navigated through the Black Market and defeated the Prime Mortgage Lenders in a three fall cage match hammer battle. Now the Foreign Investors were after him, trying to maneuver him into complex financial death traps arranged in various back room spaces, secret hallway access tunnels, and lavish hotel lobbies.
He ducked into a maintenance closet and held his breath as footsteps passed him by. Franklin Buck exhaled and was about to open the door and continue on when something in the room flickered. He turned and on the top shelf, next to the toilet bowl cleaner and drain declogger, were two small cardboard boxes.
The flickering light was coming from inside these boxes.
One light was a luminous silver.
The other warm and golden.
A huge, hulking behemoth dropped from the arena ceiling and onto the stage. A shockwave rippled from this man-shaped bomb’s epicenter, buckling the stage and toppling market traders and coffee fetchers.
There was a series of deep clunking sounds that followed and whole sections of the floor fell away at random but oddly precise intervals. Desks, chairs, paperwork, and traders were tossed into gaping crevasses.
When the shuddering stopped, Corporate Man stood up, expecting to see the chaotic wreckage normally associated with an earthquake. This was not the case. There was a pattern, a maze of elevated walkways. The remnants of floor sections that had not fallen away in the shock’s wake. He peered over down into the newly formed chasm. A similar pattern was evident in the depths but as a labyrinth of high walled trenches.
On the far side of the maze, roaring like a conquering warlord amidst the splintered ruins of the arena stage, stood the hulking form of The Crash.
“I’ve waited years for this, you son of bitch!” Commander Credit shouted. He bolted past Corporate Man across the smooth, carpeted surface of the elevated maze. The Crash ceased its emphatic bellows, glanced down, and spotted Commander Credit. The monster grinned and flared its eyes. With a burst of speed incongruent to its bulk, The Crash leapt from the stage and charged across the surface of the maze seeking and avenue that would lead to its quarry.
Corporate Man turned to Business Woman, but she wasn’t there. Neither were Supply and Demand. Bull Market was also nowhere to be seen.
“They fell,” Senior Executive called out. He was perched on the surface of the maze, a trench separating him from
“Down there, somewhere.” Corporate
“We need to help them,” said
“No, we need to stop The Crash. The can take care of themselves.”
“We help our own first,” said
“Business Woman! Supply!
Demand!” Corporate Man.
“We’re here!” Business Woman called out from somewhere in the depths of the labyrinth. “A little bruised, but I think we can manage. How do we get out of here?”
“I don’t know. It looks like some sort of maze.”
“What about The Crash? That thing isn’t down here with us, is it?”
“No,” said Senior Executive. “It’s still on the surface, coming this way. Commander Credit rushed off. He’s trying to make his way toward it.”
“Well get out there and give him a hand. We’ll try to find our own way out.”
“Alright. We’ll come back for you when we can,” said Corporate Man, flipping his necktie cape over his shoulder and leaping upward. The ascent of leap crested when he was over the center of the open trench. Then the descent began. He flailed and groped as he slammed into the sidewall of the maze, fingers gouging into the commercial grade burber at the top of the trench wall. Senior Executive grabbed Corporate Man’s wrist and pulled him up onto the platform.
“I forgot that that happens when it’s around,” said
The two men regarded each other for a moment and then sprinted across
the top of the maze toward The Crash. Corporate
“Anything broken or sprained real bad?” Business Woman asked.
“My shoulder,” said Demand. “But nothing that’ll keep me from moving.”
“I’m fine,” said Supply.
Business Woman looked around. It was dark in the trench. The walls were charcoal grey and there were marks, like cliff shearing, scraping down them. She pushed her way past an errand boy and a couple of day traders and called out, “Bull! Bull Market? You okay? Are you hurt?”
She rounded a corner easing past two of the polo-clad sect as they helped a fine-suited trader gain his feet. Both had visible injuries. A gashed and bleeding head, a leg that seemed to attach incorrectly, a broken nose, and extremely dislocated fingers. Beyond them was Bull Market. He was doubled over, writhing and moaning.
“Bull, buddy, what’s wrong?” Business Woman asked, ignoring the pleads of the injured day traders nearby.
“Get away from me,” he grunted. “Go! While you still can.”
“Bull Market, listen to–”
“Go! I can’t stop him. He’s coming. Run!” Bull Market screamed. Then his back arched and something deep inside him cracked. He howled, in agony, and tore at his chest, ripped open the buttons of his shirt, and yanked frantically at his tie.
“Oh shit,” said Business Woman. She turned and ran back down the corridor, shouting, “Go! Go! It’s nineteen eighty-seven all over again. Run!”
“What is it? What’s happened?” Supply said as she and Demand took their cues and ran. Several of the more intelligent day traders followed suit.
“It’s Bull Market,” said Business Woman. “He’s gone Bear!”
Bull Market’s thick, bovine face contorted unnaturally as he shrieked. Hollow, wet sounds, like rocks scraping together in a bowl of oatmeal, grated beneath his skin. His blunted teeth cracked and then splintered into sharp, jagged points. Tufts of coarse, musky hair sprouted all over his body. His suit, ragged and torn, clung to him in tatters.
And then Bear Market roared.
A couple of the less intelligent day traders, having ignored Business Woman’s subtle hints that they should vacate the area, caught sight of Bear Market. Realization came too late. The beast was upon them, clawing and gnashing and growling. Jagged teeth ripped away huge chunks of spurting flesh.
Blood and screams painted the dark walls of the labyrinth.
The Crash charged along the narrow pathways of the maze’s surface, beating and battering the day traders unfortunate enough to find themselves sharing space with the behemoth. Some leapt into the trenches below and were gifted with broken leg bones or dislocated hips. A few unlucky ones met a coarse-haired blender with jagged teeth. Pieces of these unfortunates found their way back up on the ledge accompanied by a crimson mist.
Commander Credit ran along the top of the maze firing gold cards from the launcher in his cybernetic arm. Negotiating the confusing pathway did nothing for his aim and the majority of these cards pocked against ledge walls, or snagged in the tight curls of the carpeted surface. A few found purchase in their intended target, sinking into The Crash’s flesh like arrows into a stampeding buffalo. Blood, black and tar thick, seeped from wherever the credit card blades stuck.
The gaps between the ledges narrowed. Commander Credit thought the move might bring him closer to his quarry so he leapt the trench and continued on a new path.
The Crash picked up a polo-clad coffee fetcher, used him like a bat to whack a small group of day traders into the labyrinth, and then flung the now unconscious man across several sections of the maze at Commander Credit. The body thudded against the ledge wall, face and arms slapping across the platform like a wet towel.
Senior Executive and Corporate Man continued to pick their way through the maze as fleeing packs of day traders rushed by haphazardly and almost knocked them into the trench. Senior Executive punched the keys on his smart phone when he could risk a glance toward it. Ahead they could see the distance between Commander Credit and The Crash narrowing.
Deep bellowing growls echoed through the labyrinth accompanied on occasion by high-pitched, blood curdling shrieks.
“We’ve been this way already,” Supply said.
“No we haven’t,” said Business Woman. “I don’t recognize… Oh wait. Yep. That dead guy over there. I’ve seen that poor bastard before.”
Pieces of torn up day traders lie scattered about their feet. A metal, gamey smell clung to air, intermingling with the scent of terror loosened bowels. The deep roar sounded in the corridors again. They could feel it vibrate through their chests.
“We’ve got to move,” said Demand. “Quickly.”
“Yeah, but which way? Where is that thing?” said Supply.
Business Woman peered tentatively around a corner and then motioned for her companions to follow. When the path split they paused to consider their options. Someone nearby screamed. This was followed by a loud roar and more screaming.
And then wet sounds.
Gurgling choking sounds.
Business Woman led them toward the disturbance.
“Wait? Why are we going toward it?” asked Supply.
“We don’t know if this path leads toward that thing or not,” said Business Woman. “The other direction might double back and put us right in Bear Market’s jaws.”
They turned another corner and saw a bear-man eating a day trader.
Supply jumped and Business Woman shifted into a defensive posture.
Financial stats scrolled beneath the image and the scene played again but this time in slow motion.
“That’s it,” said Business Woman pointing to the huge telescreen hanging above the far end of the corridor. “This whole place is jammed with TVs. Everything is being filmed. We should be able to get a fix on Bear Market once they cut back to live footage.”
Another slow motion replay of a particularly gory encounter appeared on the screen. A group, consisting of two day traders and an errand boy, ran afoul of Bear Market. The chivalrous day traders let the errand boy have first go at the snarling beast, shoving their younger colleague forward and then, in a further display of generosity, allowing him ample space for the impending exchange by turning quickly and running down the corridor. Luckily, the day traders were not refused a part in the fray as the errand boy held up as well as wet toilet paper against a circular saw and Bear Market was on top of them before they could disappear around the first corner.
Several statistics flickered across the screen and the stock ticker continued its ceaseless scrolling. A wide angle, bird’s-eye shot of the arena replaced the slow motion brutality. The Crash stamped along the top of the maze, bulldozing the scurrying day traders, trampling a few unlucky ones and knocking several more into the death trench.
Bear Market was visible at the edge of the screen. A red fog seemed to hover around him.
“He’s a couple of walls that way,” Business Woman said, gesturing. “And it looks like we can get to the end of this maze if we keep heading the way we’re going, then take the second right, followed by the third right, and then a quick left before – Ah! The screen changed. We’ll just have to find another TV when we get that far.”
They moved down the corridor, through echoing growls and screams, hoping that Bear Market wouldn’t roar into their path.
Commander Credit skirted another corner on the surface of the maze and found himself looking down a long, straight pathway. At the far end loomed The Crash, bellowing and beating its chest with the bloodied torso of an overused day trader.
Commander Credit let loose with a piercing war cry and then screamed, “I’m gonna cancel your ass you huge pile of shit!”
He cocked a lever on his cybernetic arm and charged. The Crash roared and thundered across the ledge. Seismic shudderings pulsed through structure of the maze. Commander Credit fired a steady stream of platinum card’s at the monster’s face. A few bounced off, but the majority stuck like porcupine quills in a curious dog’s muzzle. The Crash swiped at the cards, ripping them from its face, the uprooted blade edges black with sticky tar-blood.
And then they were upon each other.
The Crash tried to charge through his opponent, but Commander Credit leaped up and off the edge of the maze, fired a small barbed shaft from his mechanical arm. There was a thick cable that connected the barbed shaft to the interior housing of his arm. The other end jabbed deep into The Crash’s shoulder.
Commander Credit activated a toggle switch on his mechanical arm sending a pulse of electrical current through the cable. The voltage was minimal and had not direct effect on The Crash, but it activated several pneumatic pistons within the barbed shaft and caused the housing of the shaft to expand fifteen to twenty-three percent in size. Commander Credit gripped the cable of the variable-hook and used his momentum to swing out over the trench and back onto the maze ledge, landing behind the enraged creature. He punched a PIN number into a keypad on his arm and a sharp, magnetic strip popped out, running like a blade from his elbow to his wrist. He slashed at The Crash’s exposed ankles. Spurts of thick, greasy tar burst from severed Achilles. The man-creature howled, toppled forward, and slid across the pathway where it teetered on the edge of the trench and almost fell into the labyrinth. Its mammoth hand slapped and locked onto the wall across the void, halting its descent. Thick fingers dug in, splintering the hard material.
Commander Credit leapt forward, slashing. His black magnetic strip slicing into The Crash’s exposed foot.
The hulking creature clamped its legs together, its knees snapping shut on Commander Credit like a rat trap. There was a popping sound and all the air went out of Commander Credit’s lungs. His mechanical arm was pinned up against his neck, the magnetic strip blade and the gold and platinum ordinance inside, now all but useless.
“You…” Commander Credit wheezed.
The Crash tightened its leg vice.
“I’m…” and again he couldn’t utter an additional word. He needed a good quip here. Something defiant and snarky. Something to show that he had met death and was spitting in its eye. But he couldn’t even gasp, or wheeze, let alone be clever.
The world turned grey.
The labyrinth didn’t necessarily follow the same path as the ledge-maze above. For instance, there were circular doorways that tunneled through sidewalls allowing passage where, up on top, there was no such option. More than one corridor that at first appeared unbarred became impassable when the walkway became a decline, dipping far beneath floor level, and terminating at a steep wall. And there were pits in the floor that dropped away into blackness. If one were to test the depths of these dark holes by dropping something down one of them, a dismembered hand of an unlucky day trader for example, it would be an unnerving amount of time before a thudding report sounded from the bottom.
“Damn that’s deep,” said Business Woman, wiping blood from her hands on the suit of a nearby, hand-amputated corpse.
“Can we jump it?” asked Demand.
Business Woman tilted her head, shoulders slumping, and said, “You want to try?”
“Well... not really.”
“What are we going to do?” asked Supply. “Go back? I think Bear Market’s back there.”
“Yeah. Can’t go back,” said Business Woman.
“I could grow and get you guys out of here. There’s often an excess supply of luxury items during a crash so it wouldn’t be that difficult.”
“No. Then you’d be trapped down here alone and we’d still be lost but up there with The Crash. Maybe if you were big you could see better and lead–”
Business Woman stopped. She stared at the pit and bit her lower lip.
“Well we can’t–” Demand started.
“Hold on. Give me a second here,” said Business Woman holding her palm toward Demand. A low, rumbling growl echoed off the trench walls. It sounded close. “Okay. Demand. Focus on increasing the demand of a particular commodity.”
“I don’t know,” said Business Woman. “Just pick one.”
or something?” Demand asked.
“Sure. Whatever pops into your head first.”
Demand scowled and took a deep breath. His jaw clenched and his hands bunched into fists. The floor vibrated, a slight tingly hum are first, and then an excited, pleasure-bed shudder. A section of floor rose up from the pit and locked into place, almost seamless with the rest of the trench floor.
“Come on, quick, before Bear Market catches up to us,” Business Woman said as they sped across the new floor. Then, as if on cue, a roar echoed off the walls, loud and close.
“Wait a second,” said Demand, turning back. He held his hands up, palms outward, and eyes pinched shut. There was a crack, like a rifle shot, and the section of floor fell away, leaving a pit once more.
“So he can’t follow us,” Demand said.
Bear Market charged around a corner and into view, flailing his clawed, syrupy-red paw-hands and roaring. He skidded to a stop at the edge of the pit, howled wildly, and slammed his arms against the floor, claws gouging jagged ravines across the smooth surface. Two snuffling grunts sent sprays of ravenous saliva and day trader red into the air. Then he bolted back down the corridor, the way he’d come.
“Too bad,” said Business Woman. “I was hoping he’d fall into the pit.”
“That just what I was think–”
But Demand didn’t finish. Another deep roar cut him off. And then heavy pounding footsteps.
Bear Market burst into view, charged down the trench corridor, and leapt over the pit like a pouncing cougar. His hairy, blood matted body slammed against the floor and slid toward them leaving a scarlet trail.
And then he was up, springing forward. Howling and snarling. Terrible teeth bared, ragged with scraps of torn suit fabric and stockbroker flesh.
The Crash pulled itself upward, its head and back still dangling over the trench, legs tightening around the limp form of Commander Credit. After it maneuvered itself onto the ledge and sat up, The Crash pulled the little man from between its legs and stood, leaning on its hand for balance; its hand leaning on Commander Credit for emphasis.
The hulking behemoth growled and picked up the limp man. It cocked its head and studied the small thing. It smelled him. Then, quite gingerly, a swollen purple tongue, cobalt veins bulging on the underside, poked out form its cracked lips and touched the unconscious man’s cheek. The Crash grinned. Somewhere in its tiny, primitive, reptilian brain a connection was made.
It didn’t recognize or even think in terms of the numerical date, but felt a general awareness of events from that era. The Crash gripped Commander Credit’s good arm between its huge finger and thumb. It adjusted its other hand, positioning the thumb beneath the pit of the cybernetic arm with massive index finger on the shoulder and neck of the opposite side; the rest of its fingers gripping the ribs below.
The Crash started pulling.
Muscle fibers tore.
“Sorry to interrupt your Black Monday, but…” Senior Executive shoved his smart phone into the Crash’s face. Light blared from the screen, blue-white and hot. The Crash’s eyes shriveled, pupils going as white as hard boiled eggs.
The Crash let go of Commander Credit’s cybernetic arm and covered its eyes. It swatted at the blinding, burning light with the limp body still gripped in its other hand. Senior Executive jumped back, dodging with ease. The Crash roared and swung Commander Credit around in flailing, desperate arcs. It shuffled its feet, determining the orientation of the maze ledge, and hurled Commander Credit along the wall’s path directly at Senior Executive.
“My portfolio will protect me,” Senior Executive called out, swiping his finger across the phone’s touch screen. A series of charts, graphs, account information, and other investment data opened up and out of the device, one on top of the other, crystalline and impossibly fast until a full body-sized, blue-light shield, blazed from the phone.
Senior Executive blocked the human projectile that was Commander Credit, the impact of the body thrumming like high tension cables against the blazing shield. Caught in the electric hum the Commander slid to Senior Executive’s feet and slumped across the ledge. Corporate Man jumped down from above, necktie fluttering behind him, and gathered up Commander Credit in his arms.
“It seems as though our stocks are rising, despite your efforts,” Corporate Man shouted at The Crash. “With our careful investment strategy focusing on recession proof commodities we–”
But he was drown out by a flesh quivering bellow as The Crash, blind and enraged, charged toward them on the narrow ledge.
They raced through the corridors, Bear Market snarling and gnashing at their backs. Business Woman was in the rear. She could feel the damp heat of sure death on her ankles as she ran.
“Which way?” Supply shouted as they approached a divergence in the trench labyrinth.
“I don’t know,” said Business Woman. “Just go. Go! GO!”
They turned right and kept running. Bear Market slammed into the corridor wall as his intended prey swept around the corner, but he was at Business Woman’s back again within a couple of strides.
“If we turn into a dead end we’ll encounter the literal meaning of that term,” said Demand.
Jaws snapped and snagged the back of Business Woman’s suit jacket. Bear Market jerked his head, tearing the dark blue fabric and disrupting her stride. She stumbled, then slammed into the floor and slid. Her speed carried her into an intersection of corridors. Supply and Demand turned left. Business Woman scrambled, redirected her momentum, and launched herself to the right. Bear Market’s teeth snapped on the empty air she’d occupied only seconds before. She yanked her jacket off, backed further into the corridor, and shook it like a matador.
Bear Market charged.
He was almost upon her when Business Woman jerked the jacket to the left and pivoted to allow the beast passage. Bear Market, anticipating the feint, bit toward the right. His jaws clamped down on empty air again as Business Woman leapt upward, slammed her palms onto Bear Market’s head, used it as a spring board, and vaulted over the charging ursine body. As soon as her feet touched the ground she streaked down the passageway after Supply and Demand.
She found her companions less than one hundred yards later.
At a dead end.
“We’re dead,” said Demand.
“No,” Business Woman said.
“We. Are. Dead,” said Demand, turning toward her.
“We can beat this thing,” said Business Woman.
“How?” asked Supply.
A roar echoed off the walls. Bear Market slowly crept around the corner and into view.
“Increase Supply on all necessary commodities,” said Business Woman.
“That won’t deter Bear Market,” Supply said.
“Just do it!” Business Woman shouted. Immediately, Supply started growing. “When prices plummet we’ll buy up everything, reverse it, and increase demand. I can then–”
“My PDA’s gone,” Business Woman said, rifling through her jacket. “It must have dropped–”
Bear Market slammed into them. A clawed, paw-shaped hand knocked Demand against the side wall. Blood flowed into the fabric of his purple jacket along four slashing lines. Bear Market’s other arm pinned Supply against the wall as he snapped his jagged mouth at Business Woman. She dodged the gnashing teeth, but, without hesitation, Bear Market jerked toward Supply and clamped down on her neck.
There was a sound that occurred during this moment. It wasn’t a terrified scream, like that of trapped prey or horror movie unfortunates. It was muffled, slightly gurgled, and similar to the noise a person makes after eating something distasteful or hot but finds they are unable to spit it out.
This sound came from Bear Market.
Supply was swelling.
Terrified and panicking, she was unable to think of anything other than my-god-a-huge-man-bear-is-killing-me. As her mass increased, so did the amount of blood in her system. Blood that Bear Market was feasting on. Blood that was gushing down his throat.
And he couldn’t let go.
His teeth were buried in her neck flesh, which was expanding and bloating. Bear Market’s back hunched. He thrashed, struggling to get free. His violent movements furthered Supply’s panic and her size doubled in seconds. Bear Market puffed up like a mosquito trapped in a camper’s arm.
“Supply! Calm down!” Demand shouted, his hand clutching the bleeding gashes on his side. But his shouts grew softer as his body shriveled and diminished. A moment later Supply’s body filled the trench. Demand was the size of rat.
Business Woman leapt onto Supply’s knee and climbed up to her shoulder. She grabbed Bear Market’s jaw and wrenched it, but nothing happened. Panic flashed in Bear Market’s eyes and she redoubled her efforts, tugging and prying and pounding on his snout.
The portfolio shield emanating from the smart phone crackled and hissed as The Crash pushed against it. Senior Executive was losing ground. The force of the financial disaster’s onslaught pushed him back toward the end of the pathway; the edge of the ledge.
Corporate Man signaled, gesturing toward the drop off, indicating that they should leap to the side where the path-maze forked at a T-shaped junction and that this action would result in the blinded Crash falling into the trench.
It didn’t work.
Somehow The Crash knew, as if the shape of the maze was a part of it and the thing turned when the two men made their leap, as though it could see them.
“We’ve got a problem,” said
“I see that. How can it anticipate the shape of the maze?” said Senior Executive.
“That’s not what I meant,” Corporate Man said, shifting Commander Credit’s body onto one shoulder. “I think we chose the wrong path back there. This lane dead ends in another hundred feet.”
The Crash surged forward, spurred on by Corporate Man’s words.
erupted from the smart phone shield.
“It’s reaching Depression levels,” shouted
“You got any tricks left?” Corporate Man.
“Not many. We may have to sacrifice Credit,” said Senior Executive, straining to hold his position on the shield as blue sparks rocketed past his face.
“That’s not an option,” Corporate Man said. His foot teetered on the drop off. The Crash continued to push. Senior Executive skidded backwards and into Corporate Man and they nearly toppled.
“Enough!” a voice rang out.
The Crash hesitated, lifting its head in an effort to locate the voice.
A flash of gold and silver streaked over Corporate Man’s head and a silvery flash exploded at The Crash’s temple. The giant stumbled back and a golden explosion burst under its chin sending it sprawling across the top of the ledge.
Franklin Buck stood atop the maze. His fists glowing. One gold and one silver. He glanced back at Corporate Man and Senior Executive, cocked a smile, and then advanced on The Crash.
“I’m here, you monster. I’m Franklin Buck, the One Hundred Dollar Man and I wield the power of the Gold and Silver Standards.”
The Crash twisted onto its feet and charged, howling, milky eyes wild.
crouched and rammed a silver punch up into The Crash’s groin. Then he jumped and delivered a golden hammer
blow, knocking The Crash backward. A
flurry of alternating punches, silver gold, silver gold, fired like pistons
into the staggering behemoth. Gold
across its massive jaw, then silver to the sternum. Gold snapping the bridge of its nose.
The Crash dropped to its knees and
chopped, silver and gold, on the sides of its neck. He reached back for one final golden blow and
punched with all his might. With all the
Gold Standard could bear.
His fist slammed into The Crash’s open palm.
The Crash growled, its hand clamped around
golden fist like a bear trap. Franklin
screamed as The Crash stood. It hoisted
him off the ground. Golden light flared
between the monster’s fingers.
Bear Market’s body swelled like an overstuffed tick. Supply’s head, and most of her upper arms, jutted above the trench wall. Her body, still in the shaft below, was squeezed unnaturally in the narrow corridor.
“Demand! You’ve got to help her! You have to increase. You have to grow!” Business Woman shouted. Her hands gripped and gouged at Bear Market’s lips. She yanked, trying to unclench his teeth and jaws.
“Do it Demand! Now or else–”
Bear Market exploded.
A burst of blood geysered from Supply’s neck. The initial crimson shock wave hit The Crash, spilling it into the trench. The Crash dropped Franklin Buck as it tried to grasp the trench wall, but its hands slipped, unable to grip for all the blood.
Pieces of Bear Market rained down onto the maze and into the labyrinth; fluttering flaps of skin and chunks of matted hair-fur. His jaw, still lodged in Supply’s neck, the source of a scarlet fountain. Supply writhed and twisted and slowly shrank into the depths of the trench.
Business Woman lay strewn across a wall, gasping for breath, clinging to the unexpected perch.
“Help Franklin Buck,” Corporate Man shouted as he dropped down from above, necktie-cape fluttering behind him, landing near Business Woman. He was coated with a fine spray of red mist and a shrapneling of bear meat.
“I’ve got you,” Corporate Man said, clutching her wrist. “Can you stand?”
Business Woman nodded and, with his help, she regained her feet. Across the maze Senior Executive helped Franklin Buck find his footing. Then both men lifted Commander Credit, supporting him on their shoulders.
“We’re making for the exit,” Senior Executive called out. “Where are Supply and Demand?”
Corporate Man looked into the trench. Supply lay there, deflated and still. Face down in her own blood. He shook his head.
“What about Demand? He could still be alive,” said Business Woman.
“I doubt it. You can’t have one without the other. I could head down there and take a–”
A roar shook the arena and then everything started to quake. The Crash rumbled through the trenches, swinging its huge arms, breaking walls, toppling whole sections of the maze into the dark spaces of the labyrinth.
“Run!” Corporate Man yelled.
They dashed across the maze, turning haphazardly at intersections, choosing a course that took them away from The Crash’s rampage, but in the general direction of the stage.
The labyrinth was fast becoming a pile of rubble.
The pathway veered twice and put them on an intersecting path with the destroyer below.
“We have to turn back,” Corporate Man said.
“No. I think this well lead us out,” said Business Woman.
“It’s gonna lead us out of this life.”
“Trust me. This is the way.”
The maze banked again putting The Crash on their right instead of directly ahead.
“See. We’ll be alright,” said Business Woman.
The Crash swerved toward them. Debris, papers, shattered wall, and mangled body parts rose about the giant like a dust devil. It exploded through the maze wall that Corporate Man and Business Woman were running along leaving an expansive gap in their path.
“Hang on!” Corporate Man called out as they reached the edge. He grabbed Business Woman around the waist and jumped. His necktie unfurled behind him and they dropped down onto the ledge on the far side of the Crash created chasm. They raced down the walkway, huge television monitors fell from the ceiling and shattered all around them. Amidst a shower of broken glass and ruined diodes they made it to the stage area.
Senior Executive, Franklin Buck, and a very groggy Commander Credit awaited them.
“The elevator’s this way,” said Senior Executive.
They ran to the exit door and out into a hallway. Behind them The Crash continued its ruinous assault on the stock market floor.
The Big Bossman grinned. In front of him, on the monitor screen, The Crash continued to destroy the thirty-ninth floor.
Strewn about him were obsidian and ivory chess pieces. Embedded in a wall panel was a CD, the words “strategies and tactics” showing on the section of disc that remained visible.
He moved his hand to a glowing red button and fingered it with a flourish.
“Prepare for guests, General,” he said. “They are on their way up.”