He sighed and hoisted himself up on the oversized chair. He could have adjusted the seat to the lowest setting. It would have enabled him to sit down properly but he wouldn’t have been able to work comfortably like that. He’d tried but the ache in his back and arms simply wasn’t worth it. Compared to that the indignity of having to jump to get into the chair was a minor inconvenience.
It used to be fine. He’d had a hobbit-sized chair and a hobbit-sized desk and he’d been comfortable at work. Now his feet just barely reached the floor and even then he was considered tall for a hobbit. Many of his kin had taken to using little boxes or footrests in order to aid them in getting into their seats. It was undignified but apparently it was for a good cause.
It had happened a couple of years ago. Some politician had decided that the smaller desks and chairs of hobbits served to increase segregation between hobbits and humans. Apparently it accentuated the hobbits’ “diminutive stature” and was a source of discrimination between the two species. To alleviate this it had been decided that all public workplaces in the country would use the same size desks and chairs for hobbits as well as for humans.
At first the idea had been to use average sized office furniture, but somewhere in the maze of politics and bureaucracy it had been decided that standard human sized desks and chairs would be used. This was fine for the humans, and perhaps it helped them think less about the difference in size of humans and hobbits; perhaps they felt they discriminated less against the hobbits now. Enar didn’t know and he wasn’t going to bring it up. It was bad enough that he had to be reminded he was a small person in a world of big people every time he wanted to stand up or sit down. It wasn’t as if it was harder to tell a hobbit’s desk from a human’s now anyway. Hobbits stored a lot more paper in the trays on their desks, it being such a pain to reach the bottom drawer.
Enar pulled himself closer to the desk; at least his chair had wheels on it. He sighed again as he surveyed the mess that was his workspace. There was so much to do. Cops were notoriously bad at handling their paperwork – at least that’s what the people who were tasked with managing their paperwork used to say.
Technically being promoted to archivist for the Shamanistic Division was a step up. Shams, as it was called, was a smaller, more prestigious department and the pay was better; he’d even gotten a room of his own. Unfortunately, the operatives in Shams tended to be a lot less organized and generate a lot more paperwork than the ones in Public Order where he’d previously been.
He’d thought the work would be more interesting in Shams. Dealing with spirits and ghosts seemed a lot more exciting than breaking up fights between drunks on the weekend after the clubs closed. He’d been wrong. The things that happened in PO were things he could relate to. Fights, disputes, wild arguments and accidents. Sometimes he’d even recognized the names of some of the people involved. Celebrities got into fights too and it was always a treat to be able to tell his ma about some juicy gossip before it became public knowledge.
Not that he should be telling her, it was classified after all, but she’d been old and sick and wouldn’t pass it on to anyone so it didn’t really matter. Plus, it usually ended up in the tabloids anyway.
In Shams it was different. He’d been told what the different pieces of information were used for, how it should be classified, sorted and archived but he could not relate to it. Usually it was just pictures of random things, mostly newspaper stands and subway stations and crowds of people. It wasn’t exciting or even interesting and he couldn’t tell what use they were and even then he’d been at Shams for nearly a year now. Apparently not even the shamans themselves had any use for them. It was just regulation that they had to document their work and so they did, dutifully, knowing full well it was pointless. It was yet another example of politics and bureaucracy getting in the way of getting things done.
Still, it kept him occupied, it put food on his table and tomorrow it would send him on his first real vacation since his ma got ill. It had started nearly eight years ago. Everything had been fine; then one morning she’d called him to let him know she had cancer. Before then they’d not been very close. He’d had his life and she’d had hers. They’d lived in different parts of the city and hadn’t met more than once every few weeks – usually on Sundays when he’d come over for dinner.
When she got ill all that changed. The cancer was bad. It wouldn’t outright kill her but it made her life difficult while slowly draining her strength. Enar had spent more time with her, first only on the weekends, but as the cancer got worse he’d been there daily. He’d spent as much time as possible with her; to make sure she had as good and as dignified a life as possible despite the cancer. He’d even moved into a little apartment down the street from hers in order to save on travel time.
The place was small and ugly and he’d never liked it, but he’d told himself it was only temporary. It was. As soon as he got back from his vacation he’d start looking for something else. He looked forward to that but most of all he looked forward to his time off. It had been surprisingly easy to save up for it once he only had himself to look after.
Originally he hadn’t known what he wanted to do, only that he needed to get away. Then one of his colleagues had told of a friend of theirs who’d been on a “roots vacation” and how great it had been. The very next day Enar had booked an extended weekend – Hobbit Calendar Weekend at that – in the Hemsfil hobetacht. He’d be staying in the guest burrow of a traditional hobbit family, spending the weekend with them in the traditional hobbit way. It was going to be marvelous to get away from the stress and rush of the city. They didn’t even have cell-phone coverage out there.
A small part of him felt a little bit bad though. He’d be leaving the office in what was probably its busiest time since he’d transferred to Shams. There was some sort of spiritual crisis in the city. Enar was a bit fussy on the actual details but it was quite clear to him something was up and the incessant rain was at least part of it.
The operatives had been working around the clock for days and where they were usually happy and cheerful they were now tired and glum. Something worried them. He’d seen into Neta in the break room earlier. She’d looked worn and exhausted and was wearing the same clothes she’d worn yesterday and the day before. Staring blankly out into the rain she smelled of old sweat and damp hair and he was unsure she’d noticed him at all.
Not that he really cared if she noticed him or not. It was nice to be acknowledged, but he had none of the interest in her that many of the human men had. He realized she was fit and well shaped for a human woman; that much was clear. But, despite having lived in the mixed culture of the capital all his life, he was unable to put a finger on what made Neta, or any other human woman, attractive to the men of the species. When it came to hobbit women he had no such issues and he knew exactly what tickled his fancy.
He knew from experience that Neta was considered a cut above the rest when it came to attractive human women. He’d even heard the constables of Public Order talking about her in admiring tones long before he transferred to Shams and actually met her.
Neta was a Senior Seer with the Shams and when he’d seen her earlier, about half an hour ago, she’d looked like shit. That was easy to tell. The blank gaze, dark rings under the eyes, rumpled clothes and frizzled hair were all telltale signs of someone not at their best; the whiff of body odor certainly didn’t do anything to dispel that notion.
He’d had a word with Mrs. Thompson about Neta before he returned to his office. Just because he had no interest in bedding the woman didn’t mean he couldn’t care for her as a colleague. Mrs Thompson had been with the department longer than anyone could remember. As a receptionist and occasional secretary she made up half of the departments administrative staff, Enar himself being the other half.
In addition to handling the day-to-day running of the department’s office she also served as a sort of stand-in mother for the Shams’ operatives. Without any kind of formal authority she still had an uncanny ability to get people to do what she told them; the kind of common sense things that the easily distracted, slightly geeky seers and shamans tended to forget, like eating or sleeping.
So Enar had asked Mrs. Thompson to check up on Neta. It wasn’t really needed, the old lady was probably already on her way to the break room to talk to the Senior Seer when he met her, but he liked to feel like he contributed to the running of the department.
Before they parted they’d chatted for a bit. The woman had dropped some rather unsubtle hints about how it was such a busy time right now and how everyone needed to stick together and pull their weight. She hadn’t outright asked him to cancel his vacation but she’d come close.
He would do no such thing. He’d waited a long time for this and the department would survive without him for a few days, even in the middle of a rain-drenched spiritual crisis. He’d probably have a ton of extra work to catch up on when he got back but it was a price he was willing to pay. He really needed to get away and get out of the city. He’d waited a long time for this.
Enar sighed once more and looked at his desk. It wasn’t as if he didn’t have a ton of work to sort through already. It wasn’t as if it wasn’t already a big mess anyway. It would surely get worse, but it was already bad so how much worse could it be really? He guessed he’d see when he got back.
Extended hobbit weekend; five days and four nights. It would be glorious. The still and peaceful life of the hobetacht would do him well he was sure. He’d leave his phone at home, not even bring it with him; unreachable and lost to the world. Maybe he’d meet a nice local girl and never come back. He pictured himself sitting outside his countryside burrow, round door and all. He’d smoke a pipe and watch the sunset and not have a care in the world. No more paperwork and rain and upset spirits.
That was all for tomorrow though. For now, the paperwork was still there, the rain was still falling and the spirit was, presumably, still upset. Enar realized with a start that it might be raining in the hobetacht too. He hadn’t thought of that until now. The pictures in the brochure all showed sunny summer days without the hint of even a drizzle so that’s how he’d pictured it. What would he do if it rained? There would be a local pub to visit of course, but he couldn’t well spend the entire weekend there; better bring a book.
A light tapping sound made him look up. A tall blonde human stood in the doorway. His suit rumpled and his trousers still wet above the hems from walking outside the man held up a thick paper binder. It was Norton, one of the Junior Seers, come to drop off some more documents for archiving. Never one for words the man just nodded at Enar to confirm he’d been noticed and then dropped the binder in the tray on the little table by the door. He nodded a second time and then disappeared down the hallway. More work. Tomorrow just couldn’t come soon enough.