by Gaynor Jones


Harold was considered to be a pleasant man.  But even the right amount of power, in the right hands, for the wrong amount of time can lead to disaster.

When asked what he did for a living, Harold always replied ‘It’s complicated.’ People didn’t take his response as rude. After all, they knew that Harold was, at heart, a pleasant man.

He rose early each day, looking forward to his work. He watched the news with a notepad while eating his organic muesli. Before he left the house, he would re-plump all of the couch cushions and straighten his newspapers and notepad on the table, neat for his return.

There were five other people with the same title at his workplace. He knew four of them very well, and together they were working on the fifth.  Because nobody was allowed to know what they did, nobody knew how much Harold and his colleagues should have been respected. They were treated as janitors, or worse.

They couldn’t all take breaks at the same time, so they talked in shifts. Over dipped Bourbon biscuits they would discuss polypeptides, hydrogen isotopes and chain reactions. At work, Harold didn’t have to say ‘it’s complicated’, even though it was.

Recently they had talked about how they could drain the oxygen from certain offices, or inject tetanospasmin into the water cooler. They only talked, because they didn’t have the fifth on board. Yet.

They finally broke him, in May, when inflation rose but his wages didn’t.


On the seventh of June, Harold rose late and threw his pillows, bedding and dressing gown onto the floor. Then he descended to attack the couch. He flung the crocheted blanket and slalomed the cushions. One landed against the dining room window where his neighbours would see it later, and just have time to wonder.

The colleagues met, as arranged, in the ground floor stairwell. From there it was only a short walk. They arrived at the door and each took out their fobs. It was an even shorter walk to the dashboard and they didn’t look at each other on the way. Harold’s colleagues nudged him forward. He listened to the scraped chairs and muffled laughter above them. Idiots.

They reached out their hands in tandem, index fingers poised. Harold was the last to go. He closed his eyes, pictured the mess of cushions on his dining room floor and felt a twinge of regret.

Then he pressed a button and the world stopped.




Gaynor Jones is a stay at home Mum and freelance writer from Manchester, UK. She tweets at @jonzeywriter.



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