I’ve been in the office all day and I’m feeling scratchy. The same kind of scratchy a hamster probably gets, rattling round and round on the wheel, cheeks bulging, stopping for a quick suck from the coffee teat, its black eyes taking in the room like pin-head security cameras, whiskers quivering.
Something like that. A relentless administrative hamster. With call centre headphones and access to the database.
I stop chewing.
Miles is walking towards me down the aisle.
If I’m a hamster Miles is a dog. One of those limber, spiky-haired lurchers with big paws and pained eyes. The kind that roams vast distances but always somehow manages to be there when you turn around.
He wanders over and collapses in a galumphing heap.
After a while he looks up.
‘Pisces’ he says.
‘You are. And before you say anything let me tell you something, and this might properly freak you out, and if it does, I apologise beforehand. I found out I’ve got this gift for knowing what someone’s star sign is without them saying a word. It’s so weird. I went to the pub last night and there were about fifteen people on a big table. And I went from one person to another and I got every single star sign right. Every single one! It was like there was this voice whispering in my ear. Or not even my ear, Jim. It was more like it was right in my brain. Like someone was standing in the middle of my brain and calling out the answer. Just like that. Libra. Sagittarius. Cancer. Yep. Yep. Yep. And the whole place went crazy! They went properly mad, Jim! They’d never seen anything like it. And to be honest, neither had I. And I’ve no idea where it came from. I just opened my mouth and I could do it. So … go on, then. I bet you’re going to say you’re not Pisces.’
‘No. I’m afraid I’m not.’
‘What? Oh gosh! You’ve got me doubting myself now. You’re not Pisces? Are you sure?’
‘Pretty sure. Sorry.’
‘No! Don’t apologise! There’s probably a very simple explanation. But I don’t get it. I heard the voice so clearly. Okay. Hang on a minute. So you’re not Pisces. Hmm. Let me think …’
He tilts his head to the right and rubs his chin in a thoroughgoing mime for thinking. I sit there neutrally and let him study my aura. I feel myself sinking. I have a growing and irresistible urge to put my head on the desk and sleep for a thousand years. I’d be comfortable enough. Especially if I swept all this shit off the desk first. Although – to be honest – even if I didn’t, it wouldn’t stop me. And when they woke me, eons in the future…. exhumed by a squad of robot marines…cutting through the layer of crystalline rock frost with a thermal lance…. dragging me backwards on the computer chair…. ancient pencils and pads and coffee cups sticking to my face…. they’d laugh and pose for selfies with Sleeping Beauty, because in the future I believe all robots will be programmed to have character and act a little snarky.
Miles narrows his eyes.
‘Hmm,’ he says again. ‘Methodical…. a bit mental… Taurus!’
I shake my head.
Another referral appears on the screen. I skim through it.
‘Nope,’ I say, tapping the keys.
‘Aquarius. Of course! can’t believe I missed that one.’
‘Not Aquarius? Well, then. My gift has deserted me. Maybe I’m just tired. So go on, then. What are you?’
‘Capricorn! Of course! It all makes sense now!’
He shakes his head sadly.
‘Classic Capricorn! I knew I’d get it.’