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by Fred Vogel

Carl Mayfield has a reoccurring nightmare: He is fired by Langdon Industries.

He has been a dedicated employee at Langdon for over thirty years, a company he assumes shares a mutual dedication towards him. He has moved his way up the shaky corporate ladder, from mailroom assistant to his present position as senior purchasing manager. He is in charge of twenty-two employees, all of whom he has personally trained. He is captain of the company bowling team and plays right field on the softball team. You would be hard-pressed to find a better employee.

In this dream, Carl arrives at work and greets everyone with a smile and a friendly word. He heads to his office, checks his email, and looks over the day's calendar. He is pouring himself a cup of coffee when his secretary drops in to inform him that Wade Bollinger, the company's president, would like a word with him at his earliest convenience. Carl takes the elevator up to Wade Bollinger's office on the top floor. He walks down a dimly lit hallway before coming to Bollinger's office. He knocks and enters.

The office is not at all what he remembers it to look like. He enters an elongated, twisting tunnel, void of light. His walking becomes unbalanced as he grapples along the narrow walkway. After what seems an eternity, Wade Bollinger comes into view. He is seated on a Chesterfield sofa, puffing on a fat cigar. He is flanked by two large men, neither of whom Carl recognizes.

"You wanted to see me, Mr. Bollinger?"

"Indeed, I did," Mr. Bollinger says, ruffling through a thick stack of papers. "Oh, here we are. Mayfield, right?"

"Yes, sir."

"Well, Mr. Mayfield. It looks as though you've been with the company for quite some time."

"Yes, sir. Thirty-two years this March."

"Is that so? Thirty-two years."

"Yes, sir."

"Good for you, lad." Bollinger says, looking up at Carl for the first time. "Employees like you are hard to find. You have been a valuable member of our team. But, alas, I'm afraid it's time to say goodbye."

"Goodbye to whom?" Carl says.

"Why, goodbye to you, you sorry man," Wade Bollinger says, with the devil's laugh.

The two men approach Carl, pick him up by his elbows, and escort him back down the tunnel, which morphs into a cylinder-shaped metal tube. Carl is dumped upside down into a trash dumpster. His screams are muffled by the wailing and moans of all the other ex-Langdon Industries employees, also upside down in the receptacle.

Carl wakes from the nightmare caked in sweat, his heart racing at marathon speed. He will lay uneasy in bed until the alarm goes off, then shower, dress, and drive to Langdon Industries, all the while wondering: Is there any loyalty?

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