I hate nightshift so much. You have to get up so early. Who gets up at 4:30 in the afternoon? Drag your ass out of bed. Find some coffee. Head to work. Ugh.
Inevitably the first thing you see at work, in the locker room, are the worst nightmares in all creation. Literally. I mean, they're not nightmares to me, they're co-workers. But still. Nobody wants to see a naked blood troll or fen-wyvern first thing in the evening.
I check the bid sheets. Nothing new. Not that I want to change jobs, I like mine fine. Getting out of shift work would be nice, though. Gets hard on a guy, after a few centuries. Ydresvis, a sulfur nikrot, is there gloating. "I got the Level 12," he says. "Coming after you, next."
I look down at the orange claw poking my chest. A few flakes of mica fall off.
"We're on the same crew, Ydresvis. Shô'kanjû solidarity, and all that."
Ydresvis smirks, and walks away. "See you out there," he calls over his shoulder. He emits some flaming sulfur for emphasis. I ignore him. Burning farts are just another reason I hate nightshift.
Tonight I'm third in rotation, so I go out to the apse. There's no seat at the card table so I go hang out by the coffee maker with the swampers. They're grumbling about something, which I guess is sort of like saying the black hole is dark. Still, it's always good to know what the latest grievances are.
"They talk about safety all the time, but there's no safety. They're just covering their asses," says one, a Cthulhish looking demon I think I might have slept with once, eons ago. I forget her name, if I ever knew it. This is literally the millionth time I've heard this particular complaint, word for word. But everyone nods grimly. A chorus of "Fuckin' A"s and "Damn straight"s and eldritch gurgles goads her on. I'm not even listening. I'm just waiting for my turn to grab a cup of coffee.
Just as it was about to be my turn, Ydresvis comes and butts in front of me. Whatever. I've seen plenty of junior shô'kanjû come and go. The ones that last tend to lose the attitude.
I head into the satanctuary. Seems like a slow night, as I'm still three away. Fine by me. I sit in my regular spot, a pew in the back. The shô'kanjû in front of me turns around to chat.
"Crag," he nods.
"Spirk," I say.
"Heard anything about Dreg-graNoth?"
"What do you mean? Heard what?"
"You didn't know?"
"No. Tell me."
"Dayshift drop, didn't go so well. Lost a foot to a freeze spell when his failsafe failed. And his hearts might've got blasted, too. He's frozen pretty bad."
"Horus wept. Really? I didn't know. Damn.”
“Some of us are starting to talk job action, Crag. We’re getting tired of this shit.”
“I hear ya. But we still have 213 years on our contract.”
“Just think about it, ok? And don’t say nothing. You’re a good union brother so I know I can trust you.” We did our little secret shô'kanjû handshake and Spirk turned back around.
I mulled over that news while the shift slowly ticked on. Spirk was summoned shortly after our conversation. He jumped and twisted all the way up to the ceiling, where he hung upside down by his tail. These smaller, more nimble shô'kanjû just loved using the ceiling pentagrams.
Soon enough I was up. I stepped into the central pentagram, the biggest and most ornate of them all. I always used that one. It was good luck for me.
I materialized in a raging battle. Don't be alarmed- we always materialize in a raging battle. Kind of the point. All I needed to know was who to smite. Sometimes we pretended we couldn't tell- Berserker Static, we call it- and just tore into everybody, "friend" or foe. That usually resulted in us getting written up, so it wasn't common. I was tempted tonight, after the news about Dreg-graNoth, but I behaved.
I look around. Your typical dungeon-type scenario. Probably called something like the Catacombs of Ashdegh or some such. Band of grave robbers, though they would probably call themselves heroic adventurers. Yup, there’s the mage who summoned me. Flimming and flamming with a staff, sure enough. They’re being attacked by a horde of goblinny-type creatures, probably upset about their home being invaded by a bunch of thieves. There's way too many for the heroes to handle, hence they called me in.
It's nightshift and I'd rather be at home, so instead of putting on a show with roaring and bellowing, I just go in and start bashing goblins' heads in. It's fun, yeah, but it gets old. And anyway, clock's ticking.
A short diversion. What you might even call an expository vomitus. See, the wizards, the mages, all those magic-types, they think when they summon us shô'kanjû that we are somehow obligated to show up and do their bidding. But why the hell would we care? We have lives, we have shit going on. I don't care if some little halfling is about to die, dooming his world to slavery or extinction. It's got nothing to do with me. But. I need a job. Yes, even in my plane where we're all demons, we need to make a living and pay the bills. So the magicians, when they cast their summoning spells, what they are actually doing is sending us mana. Magical essence to you, money to us. We're mana miners, really. Our dimension ran out of mana a long time ago (before your universe was born) so we need to get ours from other planes.
There. Now you're all caught up. So. Bashing goblins. It's going good. Goblins are screaming, they're running, they're dying. Nothing especially challenging, especially for a Level 13 demon such as myself. Usually there's a big boss monster to fight. I'm kind of surprised these yokels paid the mana to bring me in over such a minor commotion. Doesn't their warrior maiden have a Sword of GoblinHeadComingOff or something?
Whatever. They paid. I smite.
Oh, wait, here we go. I knew there had to be something here worth my time. The goblins are rallying. Here it comes. What will it be this time? My bet's on a dragon. Maybe a were-dragon, or even a robot dragon. It's always a dragon.
Hunh. It's just a little guy. Those are usually the most dangerous, in my experience. Oh, I see. It's a goblin summoner. This'll be fun. Situations like this, where we have to fight each other, we make it a spectacle. For the most part we try to make it so the active party, you know, the one that is out there questing or whatever, wins. That way they tend to keep moving and getting in more situations where they need to spend mana to call on us again. Other factors come into play, though, too. It's complicated.
I'm hoping it'll be that cthulhoid I saw earlier, the one going on about safety. Maybe we could renew our acquaintance afterwards. I wish I could remember her name. Yggdrasil? No, that's some sort of tree. Hof-Sernetog maybe? I dunno.
The summoning circle flashes and a literal speed demon comes bursting out towards me. It's on top of me before I can even blink. And now it's bashing me repeatedly in the face.
I hate nightshift.
... to be continued....
- Nathan Waddell