Prompted Writing (Prompt: “Volunteering”)

I subscribe to the Reddit page for writing prompts. I like reading what people submit, and I like musing on the suggestions people put forward. I’ve started submitting my own pieces and while thus far they’ve gone somewhat unnoticed any and all feedback I get is important to me. I think it’s a great subscription page and a great idea – check it out!

None of the pieces I submit there are likely to become full fledged books or even short stories, so I’m going to put them up here for perusal and encouragement. Some of them are going to be great, others merely good, still others might be bad. Either way, it’s good practice and a fun distraction when I get stuck on a scene for my novel.

This piece was written for the below prompt – Let me know what you think!

People lose the ability to deny requests. They must either a) fulfill them or b) ask someone else to do it. There are volunteers who take bad requests in exchange for compensation or exemption from law. Write about the life of a volunteer.

“Thank you! Honestly, I can’t believe how good this feels!” customer 47 of the day said.

“It’s my pleasure!” I smiled broadly and gestured towards the door. “I’d love to chat more, but unfortunately I’m in some demand today. Would you kindly let the next customer know I’m ready?”

“Oh! Of course!” he smacked a palm against his head and leapt to his feet. “I’m sorry! I’ll be on my way – but thank you again!”

I nodded amiably and leant back on my chair, twiddling my thumbs. Volunteering paid magnificently – it was a stressful job, and had terrifying consequences if one wasn’t careful. Only last week my best pal there, Fontaine, had Cracked. It happened to people who took on too many Favours, let them pile up or didn’t make proper notes. When someone Cracked, something in their brain just stopped working and became a mindless automaton, doing exactly what it was told without hesitation. People said they could still see the light in a Cracked person’s eyes, like they were in there and screaming to get out. I shivered; I hoped that wasn’t true. Fontaine had been a good lad.

I snapped myself out of my reverie as my door swung open and an elegant woman swept in, her fur coat swishing across the floor and hiding her feet. She didn’t walk, she glided across to me and held out one hand, the other brushing An errant blonde curl behind her ear, “Hello! My name is-“

“No names, it’s far better that way. I’m you Volunteer today, would you kindly take a seat and let me explain what’s about to happen?” I interrupted her smoothly, standing to shake her hand. A Volunteer had to be in control at all times – people tried all sorts of crap. I had a scar from my first day after a customer had asked me to tell him what human flesh tasted like. The memory kept me focused.

She sat and crossed one leg over the other as I sat behind my desk and continued, “You’re here to get rid of your favours – you have seventy three?”

She nodded and opened her mouth, but paused. I hadn’t finished explaining, and it was such an easy favour to allow.

“Unlike my colleagues, I have a flat rate for favours. There’s no long, drawn out process, no meter long form to fill out, no risk evaluation to fill out. A simple process, but my rate is frozen at one hundred dollars per favour. Let me know if agree to this, and then I’ll continue.”

“Even for the small ones?” She asked, but I could see the desperate look in her eye. She’d been carrying her favours for a while, they were weighing her down and drowning her. She was afraid of Cracking. I nodded my head and waited. It took two seconds for her to agree, a quick little nod. That’s all it took.

“Thank you. If you would kindly sign here and transfer the funds, I’ll run your agreement through our system and then we’ll begin. Just let me know when you’re ready,” I smiled again. I had practiced it to make it warm and welcoming. Good manners helped too. People found it easy to do things they were told if they were already planning to do it anyway.

She leant forward and took the pen I offered, scratching a jagged little line of letters on the waiver form. No one read it any more, not more than a quick skim that would only catch a few words. Sometimes that’s all someone needed. I punched some details into my computer, going through the motions as she took out her phone and scanned it over the reader in my desk. A chime played and an email popped up in the corner of my screen; ka-ching. Easy money.

“Thank you very much. Now, just lean back, relax and listen to my voice,” I said gently. She did so, visibly relaxing. It was amazing how much stress favours put on someone. Part of why I did this job was to help people let go. I liked seeing I could help people, that I made them happy. “Close your eyes and relax more. Sink into the chair, let the cushions take you in there gentle grip.

“Now, with each deep breath you take, would you kindly remember all the favours you owe. Every single last one, from little to large. Keep taking those deep breaths and bottle them up in your head for me. Nod when you’ve thought of them all, let me know you’re ready for me to help you with them.”

She took about a dozen breaths. Some of those favours were bad, I could tell from the way her face twitched occasionally and how her hands slowly curled into tight little fists around her coat. Eventually she nodded and opened her mouth, thinking she was going to tell me all those deep, dark favours she couldn’t bear to do.

“Would you kindly forget every single last one,” I interjected. She froze, confused, but her subconscious saw an escape and jumped on it like a starving tiger on a corpse. Her face went pale and her breathing quickened as her mind vented all the favours it had stored up like a submarine releasing ballast to surface from muddy waters on a clean day. While her mind was listening to me, letting me tell it what to do, I kept talking. “Tell all your friends this was the best experience you’ve ever had, that you feel so good you could cry after seeing me. Recommend they come here, and never go to any other Volunteer yourself. And would kindly forget everything else that happened in the office today – just remember that I am the best you ever had. When you’ve done as I say, let me know how you are feeling.”

I could see her thinking frantically, trying to work out if there was a way out, but it was trapped in a cycle of listening to me and obeying. And she wanted to; she wanted to forget, she wanted to be happy. She wanted to do what I was telling her, and we both knew she would.

“Oh my God!” she exclaimed suddenly, sitting bolt upright. Her coat fell slightly and revealed slim, pale shoulders and delightfully delicate looking form hidden under a ghost of a dress. Yes, she would make a very welcome regular, I thought as colour returned to her face and she laughed. It was an honest sound of pure happiness that warmed me to my core; thinking about having her back here certainly helped.

“Thank you! Honestly, I can’t believe how good this feels!” customer 48 of the day said.

“It’s my pleasure!” I smiled broadly and gestured towards the door. “I’d love to chat more, but unfortunately I’m in some demand today. Please, come back whenever you feel you need to. Would you kindly let the next customer know I’m ready?”

“Oh! Of course!” he smacked a palm against his head and leapt to his feet. “I’m sorry! I’ll be on my way – but thank you again!”

The contract had some strategically embolden words which stood out, which the eye caught on to even if someone’s brain didn’t. They’d been told by friends, people they trusted, that I was the best and they should see. I was friendly, warm and welcoming. All of this made it so simple to make people want what I wanted them to. Really they let me slowly take control of them, slipping session by session further into my grasp. Some were for profit, some were for fun, all for my betterment. Taking advantage was so very simple when you only had to ask.

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