The Interns

by A. D. Won

“Quick, quick change it!” Hunter kept an eye out down the hall to see if anyone was approaching the tiny office annex where the social media interns managed the accounts.

Typically the team broadcasted banal quotes with lovely landscape photos, plus a few sales offers here and there. Today they started posting facts, a constant stream of pre-regime charts, graphs, and scientific findings. They scheduled every account to automatically post a new fact about education, humanities, climatology, anything they could still scrounge up from the resistance’s uncompromised databases.

“Okay, that’s the last account.” Janelle said, closing the last window just as Hunter’s face went pale.

Mr. Johnson, flanked by two office security guards, walked down the hall with purpose. Hunter calmly went back to his desk, but turned the chair so it faced the door. Janelle did the same, along with Deion, Kim, and Emma. None had any idea what would happen next, they just wanted to do something now.

Johnson entered the office, flipped on the light switch, and pulled up a seat to seem as casual as possible. Janelle and Deion recognized it as the gesture authority uses to pretend it’s not actually the authority. The guards standing at the door did that intimidating work instead.

“Hey guys, we can cut to the chase here. We know what is happening to the accounts. You’re all going to be fired, but you must have known that would happen.”

Emma openly laughed at the irony of being fired from an unpaid internship. Kim’s leg bounced nervously. Otherwise everyone kept quiet.

Johnson continued. “Here’s the deal though: One of you will be actually hired tomorrow. It will be at a low pay bracket, but for real hired all the same. It’ll be a real job, just like you were all hoping this internship would lead to. Whoever gets picked for this job will also be able to pick one other person from this team to be hired as an assistant. They’ll be salaried, too.”

Kim was about to say something before Deion blurted out “Uh huh. Nice deal. Too bad we scrambled everything.”

“What does that mean?” Johnson asked Hunter, who the office chiefs always assumed was the leader of the team even though he was the most junior. Hunter’s lip trembled, but turned to Janelle to explain the details.

“It means your deal doesn’t mean anything,” Janelle said. “These accounts are silent until you jump through your own hoops to get them back online.”

“Is that true?” Johnson continued asking Hunter, now with tears but trying to keep as stoic a face as possible.

“Your fault!” Emma laughed and spin in her office chair. “A bunch of unpaid interns setting up your most important public facing channel. Who even does that?”

After a moment, Johnson stood up and whispered to the guards. They whispered something back to him. His shoulders shifted subtly, then he turned to look back at the interns. Each of them seemed to him so small and frail, despite their rebellious posturing. These were still kids, for God’s sake.

“I’m very sorry,” his tone carried an air of defeat. “I wanted to offer this deal, but they — We don’t actually care about the accounts. We want to know who set this up. Hunter? Do you know?”

“Yes.” Hunter said, blubbering and catching his breath.

Emma stopped smiling. The rest of the interns looked at him, along with the guards. Janelle tightened her lips. Deion clenched his fists against his thighs. Kim’s nervous leg became even more rapid.

“It was me,” Hunter confessed. “I did it. I can’t fix it, but I did it.”

Johnson knew he was lying, but played along. “Hunter, really? We thought better of you.”

“He’s lying.” Deion said. “I did it! I’m the ringleader.”

“Oh come on,” Emma said. “Y’all know it was me.”

“Mr. Johnson, no, it was me.” Janelle said soberly.

Kim didn’t say anything, but raised his hand, grimacing as if in pain.

“Nice try,” Johnson smiled. “Very noble of you. All of you.” Johnson nodded to the guards and they carried Hunter by the armpits out of the office. He left without protest, just sobbing. Hunter’s cries echoed down the hall for a minute until the office’s emergency doors clanged shut.

“As for the rest of you,” Johnson told the interns. “Good work. Don’t worry, I’ll look out for Hunter. Just stick to the plan.”