Some still had their ties on, their flabby florid faces jiggling with each laboured step, blood-shot eyes squinting at the setting sun. All but two wore suits, bulging bellies bursting over spindly legs covered by expensive, tailored fabric that gathered warm, red pigment as they trudged.
The driver walked ahead, the bus abandoned, its windows winking goodbye in the evening light. He’d advised his passengers to “bring the essentials, but it’s quite a walk” and given them each a bottle of water.
All the executives brought their laptops. Some carried a daypack, others agitating their back ailments with an over-the-shoulder bag.
As they walked, a few grumbled. Others held their phones up, turning on the spot while ribbons of sweat rolled down their hypertensive foreheads, the 6G signal strangely elusive. Two men popped undisclosed medication, one patting at his chest, his heart fluttering for the wrong reasons.
Nipples chafed and thighs rubbed raw, they limped through the entrance to The Xanctuary after dark. On cool cushions at Reception, they peeled off sodden socks, dismayed at ruined business shoes. The pungent smell of executive feet overpowered the evening jasmine while they gulped from tall glasses of cold lemon water.
With the demeanour of a disaster movie icon, Jack appeared and made them empty their bags. Between the twelve executives, it was no surprise to find twelve laptops, five iPads, fourteen mobile phones and twenty-three power supplies. Ten of the twelve bottles of water provided by the bus driver, five bottles of medication, three asthma inhalers, two chocolate bars, a 7-Eleven branded container of nuts, two flasks of whisky, a baggy of cocaine, three lighters and 157 cigarettes made up the rest.
“Lesson One. Your bus driver told you to bring the essentials…”
A flemmy cough broke the silence and in a unified reflex, the group leaned away from the source, even though THAT danger had long passed.
“Cigarettes? Alcohol? Chocolate? You are all suffering WIMPS!” yelled Jack, shaking a whisky flask empty with a splash for emphasis.
“The nuts on the other hand? Good choice.”
A bald, bespectacled energy company executive blushed.
“Type II diabetes is no longer acceptable. Hypertension is no longer tolerated. Obesity is no longer a recognised modern-day side-effect!”
He swept all the electronic devices, without care, into a large apron of tarpaulin and hauled it into a nearby storage cupboard, locking the door afterwards. Several CEOs went pale.
“Lesson Two: Until you learn the essentials and pass the health checks you do not return to work, think about work, or even contact work. We just cannot afford to have WIMPS crippling the leadership teams of our country. We already learnt that the hard way.”
Jack wasn’t just their trainer. He was their security guard, auditor, nutritionist and in many ways, nanny. He smiled. This first night was always special, out here, in the middle of nowhere.
“Until you overcome Work Induced Male Pathosis Syndrome, consider this your home.”
This piece of writing was shortlisted in the April 2020 Furious Fiction short story competition, inspired by the global events of 2020.
I’m Rananda, a Sydney-based writer and editor.
With 25-plus years in corporate life, a financial background, a science education, and a lifetime of writing, I know there is more to starting and growing a loyal following than just the words on your website or saving that draft manuscript in a folder.
I bring comprehensive practical experience to supporting your writing needs.