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from the August 2018 issue

Work Hard

An ambitious young woman learns the hideous secret behind the success of her cutthroat Macanese company in Eric Chau’s tale, illustrated by Chi-Wai Un.
 

There was once a little fishing port, nestled between two little hills. On the eastern hill was a lighthouse, its beam piercing the stillness of the night, lighting up the west.

One day, the fishing port started to change.

All kinds of skyscrapers began to spring up, blocking the hills. The lighthouse disappeared from view. These strange new buildings were nothing like the low-rise structures of bygone times. Standing by the sea, looking up at this resplendent city, a young girl was filled with excitement for the future.

In the south of the city, rising from a cluster of tall buildings, towered the most vulgar of them all: an enormous gold monstrosity. From a distance, it looked like a giant, glittering safe.

On top of the safe was a star-shaped logo. Everyone knew that these were the headquarters of the Bright Star Corporation.

The source of the Bright Star Corporation’s wealth was hotly debated, but this was a city where the line between black and white was far from clear. Good people did bad things. So long as you earned more money and spent more extravagantly than anyone else, you were a success. To make a better life for herself, Trixie decided to join the Bright Star Corporation.

Within three days of submitting her application, Trixie received a call from Bright Star to set up an interview. This remarkable efficiency made her hopeful. Even more remarkably, the executive chairman of the whole organization, Mr. Cai, was going to interview her in person. She started to daydream about this Mr. Cai.

At her interview, he was nowhere near as dashing as she had imagined. He glanced only briefly at her résumé, then turned his attention to her looks.

“How’s a pretty thing like you going to hack it as an accountant?” he said, chuckling heartily and embarrassing Trixie. But once he’d finished laughing, he hired her on the spot.

When Trixie started work, she quickly realized that the Bright Star office was nothing like other workplaces. Mr. Cai was a tyrant, and every department of his company was as chaotic as a battlefield.

Trixie’s colleagues were all frantically busy and unfailingly rude. In this company, the more cutthroat you were, the more your opinion counted, and the more authority you had to make decisions.

.

As Trixie learned how the company worked, her workload grew and her hours increased, almost without her realizing. She went from one hour of overtime a day to four or even six.

After three months of this, she was a shadow of her former self. Not only was she spending every waking hour at the office and sleeping far too little but her appetite was completely gone. Her complexion worsened by the day. She lost twenty pounds.

Yet her colleagues seemed entirely unaffected. They were as quick and uncomplaining as the wind. No matter how tired, hungry, or put upon they were, they forgot themselves in the wholehearted pursuit of money. 

Mr. Cai was fond of saying to his employees, “If you want a long career here, you’d better make ‘extraordinary’ your new ‘ordinary.’ When the company prospers, so do you.”

Late one night, when no one else was in the office, he walked up to Trixie’s desk with a big grin on his face.

“Little Miss Trixie,” he murmured, “everyone else has gone home, how come you’re still here? Do you enjoy staying behind at the office?”

“I want to make the company proud,” said Trixie. “The company operates twenty-four hours a day and I’m working as many hours as I can to keep up. Anyway, sir, you’re here too. I’m younger than you, so I should be able to stay even later.”

“Seeing as you love the company so much, how about I let you in on our core business?” he replied.

Trixie almost jumped in the air with happiness.

“Thank you, sir! Thank you so much!”

She picked up her bag and followed Mr. Cai from the room.

“No need to thank me,” he said. “Hardworking youngsters aren’t easy to come by. I should be thanking you. I have always believed that people are the key to success.”

So saying, he led Trixie into his office, where he made her stand in front of his enormous safe.

After opening the safe, he roared with laughter, telling Trixie, “Our core business is finding the greediest, most ambitious people in the city and harnessing their abilities, making them sign their lives over to the company for all eternity.”

At this, Mr. Cai reached for the top of his head and groped around for a seam. Then, in an unzipping motion, he pulled open his own scalp.

At last, Trixie understood how the company had been able to expand so fast. On the surface, it seemed to be staffed by people, but in fact they were monsters, every one.

A creature unlike any ever conjured by human imagination wrestled his way out of Mr. Cai’s skin and sprang in front of Trixie. She screamed in horror.

The monster emanated a golden light so intense that she could not look directly at him. He resembled a dragon, but also a crab, with the compound eyes of a fly and arms like two enormous pincers. Standing there before Trixie, he was the most terrifying creature she had ever seen.

He said, “I invite you to become one of us! It’s not about dying, it’s about helping you live your very best life.”

Trixie made every effort to resist, but the monster was simply too powerful. Meanwhile, other monsters had gathered behind her. “Resistance is futile!” they urged. “We are the masters of every soul in your city. No one can escape our clutches. Join us, and be granted powers of your own, evolve into an omnipotent new being! Resist, and there can only be one outcome: unimaginable torment followed by certain annihilation. You’re a clever girl, you know what to do.”

Mr. Cai’s diabolical pincer, which had been pressing on the crown of Trixie’s head, now began drilling into her skull. But at the very last moment, just before it bored through to her brain, Trixie burst out, “Wait! I came here to work hard. It’s all the same, no matter what form it takes. So I agree, I’m willing to join the company’s core business and transform into a more productive worker.”

The monsters’ thunderous laughter reverberated through the building.

Soon after, Trixie was promoted to head of human resources for all of Bright Star Corporation. When giving presentations, she was fond of saying, “Here at Bright Star, we have always believed people are the key to success.”

Once upon a time, she had been a young girl determined to work hard. In the end, she turned into a monster.

《努力工作》from《亂世童話.》 Published 2017 by Gusa Publishing. © 2017 by Eric Chau and Chi-Wai Un. By arrangement with the publisher. All rights reserved.

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