He popped into existence in the middle of the jungle. The green leaves curled over him, and the undergrowth rustled to its own accord. He lowered his suitcase on the ground to straighten his tie and smooth his suit. Everything was up to the standards. Now he could carry on. He knelt, and with one slick move, he opened the suitcase. There he reached for his notebook, pen, and folding ruler. He corrected his posture, looked around to make sure all who was present weren’t the gossiping, stories inventing type. While he was sure the ever chirping birds would let a rumor out and the babbling monkeys noted his existence, he was in the clears.
He bent down once more, produced a headlamp from the suitcase, replaced his hat with it, and lighted the area. The babbling monkeys screeched and scurried off farther to monitor him. So did the birds. He reached for the nearest undergrowth bush and tugged its leaf closer to him. He flipped with his free hand the folding ruler to its full length, which was shy under fifteen centimeters. It barely covered the entire surface area. He leaned closer, and when he was satisfied, he let go of the leaf. He produced the notebook and wrote down the measurement, while the green plant yo-yoed back and forth. When he stopped his writing, the plant had found its equilibrium.
He nodded, put the tools back to his suitcase, turned off the headlamp, and along with everything else in it went. Once again, he checked that his ensemble was up to the regulations. Not a single fiber was out of place. Not at least to his knowledge, which was enough here in the jungle. Back at the office, he would be ashamed to show his face outside his cubicle. He lowered to pick the suitcase up, squeezing the handle tightly. Then the way he had come to be, he disappeared and left behind confused jungle creatures.
But that wasn’t the scope of his field day. Rarely he, they got permission to go out in the world. Now, as he had one, he would make the most out of it. As before, he popped into existence at the shore of the Arctic Ocean. The wind whipped hard against his face, lifting the tie to make it dance one of those formless attempts people did when they thought they knew how to move. He had come prepared. He took three clips from his pocket to fasten the tie back under control. That was the first thing he had learned in this job. Always plan ten steps ahead and take into account all the possible strands; you will never fail.
The ocean wasn’t why he had come here, nor was the stunted growth at the shore. He spun around and headed to the ice cave he knew to exist. His black office issued shoes crunched as he walked over the fresh snow. With steady steps, he made his inside the cave where it was less windy. The icy landscape reminded him of the sterile office environment after the quick visit into the jungle where all his senses had come to life. Here it was like someone had robbed his ability to smell. Others swore by that the snow, the ice, and the crisp air had its scent, but he had never detected it. He also knew they weren’t lying; no one in the office knew how. Lies were telling stories, and they were the fact guys. They knew the imagination was the surest way of ideas that needed regulations, and regulations meant more measuring. He was glad he was in the nature department. Nature was on the diminishing side now. Yes, new strands came into existence, but the changes were gradual, and he was on top of everything. The ephemeral insects sometimes caused a headache. Their short lifespan made them more adept to their environment, so their makeup was forever in flux.
This mission wasn’t gladly about insects or animals. He picked an average size icicle and measured its length and width. All he marked to the notebook as precisely as his tools permitted. He had a selection of rulers, tape measures, angle locators, scales, and you name it with him. Next to his work order was a pine needle. He disappeared and reappeared in a deep evergreen forest and picked the usual pine. The same ruler he had used in the jungle confirmed the growth rate. A novice might have made a mistake by using the ruler before disinfecting it, but not he. He had this post long enough not to contaminate the environment with a strange matter. The same went to his shoes and suit.
He continued with his list, marking all the measurements carefully to his notebook. When it was time to go back to the office, he sighed. The suitcase lock clicking shut echoed on the top of the mountain. The last yellow flower before the no-growth zone came was safely immortalized into the data. There was nothing left than to go back and feed the information he had gathered into the system. He took one last look around the surroundings. A mountain goat stared back at him as it chewed on. He would be back later for it, but not at least for another year. He disappeared, and where the yellow flower had been was now an empty place.
Thank you for reading and have an off day, if possible—the one you do nothing but be and recharge yourself.
© K.A. Ashcomb
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