Has anyone actually talked to him? It’s bloody crazy! Anyone called the unions? We must jolly well get a lawyer! Did you see her? Miss Who? Did someone say Chinese black magic? Where are the directors and shareholders? We should bloody well refuse to go! It’s absolutely barking!
* * *
The staff slowly gathered in the conference room, the hush among them most unusual, no one in a state to decide where to sit. Close to the front? Would that prove eagerness and teamwork? Would it be too obvious to stay near the back, ducking direct questions? Some clearly decided to sit along the back wall in protest, maintaining some sensible distance from the madness of the previous 24 hours. Men straightened their ties. Women pushed the hair off their faces. Nervous frowns met.
Mr Gilbert bounced in with the blind Miss Ping on his arm. ‘For goodness sake,’ he said, pausing to take in the faces. ‘There’s no need to worry. I sense panic and hurt, but I want you to know you’re all very talented. We just need to know that your kind of talent is right for us.’
Susan, the staff representative, stood up. ‘We just think it’s very peculiar. It’s … unprecedented.’
Miss Ping, who looked about 70, straightened her hunch and smiled.
‘It’s unprecedented here,’ said Gilbert. ‘But it’s all the rage in places like China … and if we want to expand into those markets, we need to learn from them!’
Susan stared at the floor and said, ‘The unions need more time to …’
Gilbert pointed angrily at her chair, the whites of his eyes becoming more evident. ‘Miss Ping is a very busy woman … not to mention expensive.’
* * *
All 27 workers found themselves stretched out on the floor, no more than three minutes after the meeting began, their arms on their chests, their legs spread apart. Miss Ping, whose grey hair was tied back with what looked like seaweed, edged her way between them, like a cat making its way through unknown grass. She hovered above each person, placing a cold hand on their heads, their hands, their feet. Susan and one or two of the others tried to speak but were cut off mid-sentence with a loud clap from Gilbert - he lay among them, looking around and grinning, obviously pleased that things might just work. Miss Ping hummed a mesmerising lullaby or hymn.
* * *
‘As you all know,’ said Gilbert, flushed and panting with the excitement of what they’d all just witnessed, ‘Miss Ping is going to pick some of you out. I know it sounds crazy, but she really does have the exceptional ability to receive visions, to know who has the right energy to align this planet … our company … with the right people.’
Miss Ping crept forward and closed her eyes. ‘Mr Gilbert. Sorry. Everyone here good. But not you. I see better company without you.’
© Copyright, 2007. Seamus Kearney.