Friday, 22 February 2013

Friday Flash Fiction - The Institute

The Institute was opened on a convergence of leylines. On the site previously had lived a jail which had later been converted into an 18th century insane asylum. It wasn't a pleasant spirit on which to found a peaceful sanctuary for the magically afflicted, but it would have to do.

Director Cobb recrossed her legs under her desk, fidgeted with her pen and let her tail swish freely through the gap cut in her chair. The budget was disturbing her. Again. One of the problems with living on a mystical convergence was the insurance: it kept going up, month by month, and Cobb was never sure if their numbers would add up the same way twice. The fae mathematics behind it were beyond her, but it seemed they were beyond the abilities of the outsourced accounting firm, too.

She stood from her desk and stretched her legs, removed her glasses and pinched the bridge of her nose. She needed a walk to clear her head, so she strolled past the wide, apportioned rooms (furnished inside the old jail cells, but spaced with much more generosity), down the back stairs and into the garden. Officially, in their brochure for prospective tenants, it was called "The Enchanted Garden", and they'd had plans for manicured lawns and hedges, topiary, a fountain and perhaps even a waist-high hedge maze. Cobb's tail twitched in irritation as it brushed the top of the unmowed grass. The groundskeeper had been slacking again, but they couldn't fire him. He was the only one who could keep the venus fly traps from growing too large and eating residents.

Finally, Cobb came to the fountain, which was actually more of a makeshift pond. Sitting on the one stone bench they had been able to afford was Colleen, a sad case who had been cursed to think she was both a fairy and a mute. She spoke aloud, but insisted she was communicating via "mind speech".

Colleen smiled a pleasant smile and patted the bench beside her. Cobb sat down, careful not to sit on Colleen's glittering wings.

"How are you today, Colleen?"

In her sing-song voice, Colleen replied "I am quite well, Ms Cobb. How do you do?"

"Not so well, I'm afraid." Colleen nodded, and Cobb continued. "It's the finances again."

Colleen pouted. "I keep offering to take care of it. With my magic, we wouldn't need lighting, and we could grow our own food. We needn't be beholden to the county in this."

Cobb kept herself from sighing with years of practice. "Thank you, Colleen, but we couldn't impose on you to take over from our light switches. Plus, what would we do when you leave?"

Colleen nodded, accepting the assessment gravely, but added "Let me help somehow, Director. I feel like I should be contributing more."

Cobb was about to refuse, when she remembered something. "You were an accountant before you came here, weren't you?"

"I taught accounting at high school."

"Close enough. Would you like to look at our books? See if you can find us a way to save some money?"

"I would be glad to," said Colleen.

In Cobb's office, Colleen pored over the ledgers with a confused expression on her face, flicking pages back and forth, growing more agitated by the second. After half an hour, Cobb interrupted her saying "It's alright, Colleen. If it's too much, you can go back to the garden."

Colleen startled, seeming to have forgotten that she was not alone. "Oh, no, Director, I'm sorry, I got caught up. It's just that the numbers don't add up correctly."

"Yes, there's something about the fae mathematics. The rules are a bit different here."

"Oh, no," said Colleen, waving her hand, "I know all about that. But these numbers don't add up correctly by those rules either."

"What do you mean they don't add up?"

"I mean, well, look at this account here. This is the building maintenance fund, yes? Well, these additions here should have gone to the total, but even with the twisted fae maths, it's clear they didn't."

"So what's actually going on, then?" asked Cobb, already sure she knew the answer.

"Your accountants are ripping you off, and trying to lie about it using fae maths."

Cobb pursed her lips. "No time to waste, then. Can you perform a full audit, so we can fire these ... creeps, and then, if you would, we'd love to have you take over as head accountant for the Institute."

Colleen smiled. "I'd like that, Director. I'd like that a lot."

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I suppose this one owes a bit to both Sanctuary and Lost Girl.
PPS - Though they rarely deal with accounting ripoffs.

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