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Cogito ergo sum, a philosopher once wrote. Supposedly, if we forget all assumptions, hypothesis, theories and input from our (notoriously misleading) senses, that's the only thing we can know with absolutely certainty. I, however, for a time, was not sure even of that. No, was not just because I hadn't yet heard that quote, though I hadn't. I, for a time, was not sure I could think.

Every being receives basic education from their parents, after they are born. This is common knowledge. Every human has an innate perception that they can think, how they should feel at diverse situations. How to hate, how to care, how to speak, however rudimentary, how to smile. I had nothing of this. Not because I don't have parents, though I don't, but because I wasn't born.

Some day - I'm not sure when, since I had no concept of time back then - I just realized I existed. I was beside a road, that I remember well. It was not such a grand occasion though, there was no beam of divine light, no earthquakes or volcanic eruptions. I remember to be standing at the time, then a thought flashed in my head, almost instinctively, "Hey, I'm standing here," not exactly in these words.

I didn't know that was a thought then, I didn't know how I did that, I didn't know who or what I was. I didn't know what "being" meant, I knew no words. My thoughts were in a purely instinctual level. To this day, I still cannot explain how I came to be, all I know is that, from that moment on, I was.

Proofreading the words I just wrote, I realize that perhaps I was a bit misleading. My readers probably think I am some kind of aberration of nature, an animal, a beast, or perhaps a talking tree. A creature of legend, even! No, my overimaginative readers, I am not. I look just like many of your kind. Perhaps a little larger, perhaps a little faster, but not superhuman. If you ever met me walking down the street, and I waved at you, you'd probably mistake me for just another guy and wave me back. Unless you were in a particularly grumpy mood that day.

That being said, I am, at least in part, an aberration of nature. Whatever made me be, nature did not like it one bit. Critters, and even larger animals, are naturally wary in my presence, yes, even humans, but only marginally, in a primal, unconscious level. Insects and rats flee from me (which I don't usually complain about, I do have a slight natural resistance to pain, but I certainly would dislike being annoyed by mosquitoes every night).

My human appearance was a boon. I could come and go in your society at will. In the beginning, I thought that your kind was also my kind. I beat up one of you and stole your clothes to fit in. I listened to your speech and mimicked the sounds, I mimicked your movements, and tried to fraternize. I was tolerated at first, and shunned at last. I believe I wrote the wariness was unconscious, and you must be confused now. Well, my dear friend, don't be. If you read very carefully, you'll notice that I never wrote your kind actually overcame their primal fear toward me. Not most of them, at least.

From that time on I observed your society carefully, from a distance. I didn't know, at the time, that it was only a natural reaction for your kind to fear me. To hate me. I thought I was doing something wrong, so I watched. I watched people coming up and down the street, each of them in a completely different way, but all of them similarly. I watched one day a mother that went to the supermarket to buy vegetables, eggs, orange juice and soda, always smiling, walking so happily that she was almost floating.

When she got back home, she realized that the neighbour's four-year-old girl was visiting, and that she forgot the cleaning detergent in the lower shelves. But it was too late.

I watched policemen on the beat, beating prostitutes, waving to the people he was protecting, being stern with little kids, I even saw one of them chasing a purse-snatcher once. I watched gangs, I watched the mayor, I watched through windows into people's homes. It was then I noticed minor anatomic differences from me and your kind. I lack a navel, for instance. It was a small town, the one I first came into, and at that time, I thought it was the only one. Imagine my wonder when I saw others, and multiply it by one hundred for when I first met New York.

But I should leave that out of the tale. I think this paragraph is as good as any to explain the tale's goal, by the way, so sit back, in case you usually read standing. On second thought, stand up, it won't take so long. Of course you may remain on your seat if you so wish, or you may simply leave the act of reading this tale for better times. Though yes, a case can be made that any time not spent reading this story is better, by default. In which case you can safely forget this story and never again read another line of it, successfully winning this long-range debate with me, having found a a good reason to stop reading.

If you are still with me, you may feel disappointed. The only reason I write this is to leave something behind, if I die. Yes, I meant to write "if", because I'm not sure if I can die. True, I studied many biology books, and my condition is, at least as far as I can acknowledge, extremely similar to life (I have not yet actively examined the interior of my own body, though hospitals do make me feel sick, that is about the only occasion that I feel so, being immune to every disease, so far). But I cannot be sure, since you can't be sure if you are truly alive until you die, and it may take a long time.

But, a smart reader might notice, and a not-as-smart may know now, since I am writing this to leave something behind if I die, it must mean that I assume that I will. Yes, you are correct. But that is a mere assumption. Normally, a being can be sure of nothing except that cogito ergo sum, but with me, that's particularly true, as I have not met anymore of my kind, making it hard for me to base any assumptions on previous experience. Maybe it is a blessing, maybe it is a curse. Maybe it's just a fact of life.

Whatever happens with me once I'm done, you'll never know. That's the only thing I'll write about me. But don't be fooled, that's not the first thing I wrote, nor the last I will. You may have heard of me, even, because I did not remain an outsider of your society. And it's with this master's stroke that I leave a brief digression and reenter the tale.

As you know, I watched, but I did not only watch. I tested what I learnt, and, through trial and error, I learnt more. You may have noticed that I learn with ease, if you pay attention, I hinted at it in the seventh paragraph, when I easily learnt enough of your spoken language to communicate and could mimic human mannerisms. After a fortnight or so, I realized that distrust and wariness were natural responses, and nothing I did could stop them from happening.

This was, in part, depressing. On the other hand, it was liberating. I won't enter in detail on the bar brawls I participated in, the one-night stands, the joyrides, or the times I went to prison. Frankly, if I am to leave something for the next generations, I'd hope it was something insightful and clever. This is not a Crime Noir, this is the story of my life; debauchery isn't the point. So, about those, I'll say this: Jumping out a fifth-story window only sounds like a good idea when you're high.

After I got bored of the hedonism and tired of the hangovers, I decided to be proactive and find a way to circumvent this dread. It took some time but I found it. Not all humans were affected by it, in fact, unaffected aren't rare by any standard, though the reason is beyond me. I've met "immune" firemen, homeless people, mayors, housewives and whatnot, and I've seen no characteristic common to them all. It was better to deal with them, and I even managed to befriend some. As for the others...

I decided to be obnoxious, condescending, idiot or simply disgusting, on purpose. If humans have a rational reason to feel the dread, as opposed to an irrational one, they tend resist its effects more easily. It doesn't work every time, but I never had an angry crowd to deal with.

The next step was getting a job, fitting in the intricate gears of human society. Becoming a cog in a larger mechanism. I did just that. I think I mentioned I am a little larger than the average human, so I got a job doing what I, at the time, could do best. Carrying heavy stuff. Couple this with an unaffected boss, and I landed on the job of my dreams.

I don't need to eat as much as normal humans, I don't need as much sleep, I get tired slower. I didn't need to spend much money eating, and I got bonuses for my excellent job, and extra hours. I started to save money, rented an apartment, and bought a TV. Things were looking up. But I don't mean to say I had no problems.

The TV was second-hand and had a horrid reception, the apartment was a piece of crap, and my job, bonus notwithstanding, had a lousy pay. It's a strange phenomenon, that I not completely understand. The more you contribute to society, the lousier is your pay. I haven't made a graph or anything, but you don't see many incredibly rich rural people, and I don't mean the big farm owners of agribusiness, I mean the ol' familiar agriculture, or even the people that work for the big farm owners.

The reason I mention that is that (perhaps I wasn't detailed enough) my job of "carrying heavy stuff" was at a local supermarket. I carried boxes that came from trucks into the market, and I put the vegetables and fruits and canned goods and bottles on the shelves. When the costumer bought a home-delivery, it was I and another guy that drove the truck there, and unloaded the goods, and made the delivery. But still, the manager got a better pay than me, the cashier got a better pay than me, the guy that made the radio ads of the market got a better pay than me, heck, even the actor of the radio ads got a better pay than me.

The guys that make your food, they aren't rich, but without them, we would all die. On the other hand, a big starry actor, in a single film, probably gets more money than one of those guys in an entire lifetime, and I don't mentioned the free stuff they get from ads people. While the major contributions to society big stars make are undeniable, we wouldn't die without them. It's a creepy thing, once you think about it. That's why I don't. Not anymore, since I got into the other side of the graph. You also shouldn't.

Still, I knew no better at the time. I thought that I just couldn't do any better than I did, and decided to live with it. It was about this time that I met her, and that was the catalyst that made me what I am today. I believe this is where you expect me to write how unbelievably beautiful she was. Well, I'm sorry, but I can't do that. She was no more than ordinary.

Her hair was dishevelled and covered with dirt and a black substance, but the rest was mostly brown. Her face would be entirely unremarkable if it wasn't for the purple circle around her right eye.

She attracted my interest, so I approached her. She asked me for money, as she did to others. That was good, because it meant that perhaps she didn't feel the wariness, but I did not give her what she asked. Then I made her a counteroffer. She accepted, the negotiations complete, and now I had a "roomate". The offer was that she could stay at my home and try to get a job, and I would pay her rent. She provided valuable insight on your kind, so it was a more a tradeoff than charity.

Charity, however, was what she did to me. But that will be soon, first, I think you'll learn something by reading about the first day I spent with her. I asked some questions, and she answered them with no hesitation. I learnt that she came from a poor family, she dropped out of school and had only basic education. But then, her mother died, her father had already left them long ago. She was alone in the world with no family ties with rich people, no connections to get a good sinecure job, no interest to join the military, no skills to land a good decent job, and there were no bad decent jobs available, all had been filled by people in her situation.

She jokingly remarked "Well, I became a whore, yes. But hey, it could be worse. Like a soldier, or the CEO of a company that makes weapons even!" apparently, when I had found her, she had just been assaulted by her pimp and he took the little money she had made, before running away. But by the time she started telling this joke to everyone we met, we were on the other side of the graph, and the withdrawal times were long gone.

But after that problem was solved, she started her charity project. She taught me how to cook, how to read and how to pick locks (she was a thief until she tried to steal from a pimp and got "promoted", she told me) and, discovering that I was a fast learner, she recommended that I studied. Everyday she reminded me of that and encouraged me. She had lots of free time to do that, because she didn't manage to get a job.

And I did study. I borrowed books from the local library, a pretty vacant place, with nothing of much note. Just bookcases and more bookcases of dust and bookshelves. And books. I read textbooks on Math, Grammar, History, Geography, and whatever other area of knowledge I could put my hands on. I learned about her kind's society, her kind's history, her kind's languages, and geometry and knowledge and biology. I studied every aspect of humanity, from the cells to the great empires of old.

I learned about solids of revolution, that go 360º around a point and end up in the exact point where they started, I learned about revolutions, solid or otherwise, that weren't completely different. I learned about Caesar and Bolivar and Pedro and Lincoln and the Louises and the Qin and the Oda. About tyrants about presidents about kings about taxes and the blood that was spilled to get them. About wars that were fought to decide who would sit on which chair. And which piece of land would be painted which colour on the maps.

I learned about verbs and nouns and etymology and sociology and Freud and Nietzsche and Hitler and Lenin and Voltaire and Hobbes and Pascal. I read novels and short stories and comics. I read about holy wars and profane wars and wars of attrition and cold wars and endless wars and short wars. I read newspapers and magazines and pamphlets and slips of paper. Learning how to read was strange. The world became completely different, as if day became night. Or night became day, to be more exact. Soon, I was engaging in philosophical discussions with my colleague on the way to each delivery, though, to this day, I'm not sure if he really completely understood what I meant.

Humans wrote so much that I think it's humanly impossible to read it all. But I was not human.

One day, she came to me with a paper. "Look what I found posted on the job agency!" she said. It was an ad for a job filling, which you probably predicted, knowing where it was found. Apparently a private school was coming into town, and they would do a contest to select teachers. A written test. She said she sometimes listened me speaking with my coworkers, and suggested that I would be a great teacher. "You could speak with someone that was actually interested enough to listen," I think were her words.

I tried to explain to her that people are naturally hostile in my presence, that I don't have way with people, that it was a bad idea. But she explained to me that I didn't need to befriend them, that students already are naturally hostile toward their teachers, and that it was possible the best idea she ever had. Besides, the pay was good. I ended up agreeing with her.

You could say she persuaded me, that I, deep down, already wanted to do it, that I put far too much value on the money. But I prefer to see it another way. It was a debate, she had more arguments, so she won. Fair and square. If she had only one more, and I was unwilling to bring up more arguments myself is irrelevant.

I let her put me in the contest, and she was all too eager to do that. It was like she was the one that wanted to enter, or, rather, she wanted to enter the contest and become a teacher through me.

The contest was pretty simple. All contesters were to make a series of written tests, that would test their aptitudes in various areas of knowledge, the three first in each area would have a job interview scheduled for them in the school, if one was between the three first in more than one area, one had to choose which one to go on. The tests would take an entire week and the interviews could be anywhere from a week to three months away.

A week after the first test, I received a phonecall. The caller was the slightly giddy voice of a man, telling me I was between the three first in every area, and the first in three areas. I was impressed, myself, not because I discovered some hidden potential, but because I realized that the other contestants fell very short of my, admittedly far too high expectations. I had overestimated human potential, I guess, but who could blame me? Most of what I knew came from books.

I told the good news to her, and you wouldn't believe if I told you how happy she was for it. Which is actually a good thing, because I am not sure if I can describe it with any amount of exactness. Suffice to say that she was overjoyed...and she even kissed me.

And I can say honestly that I didn't see that coming. I always assumed, until that point, that our relationship was one of mutual tolerance and cooperation, nothing more. I didn't even have much knowledge of what was happening, and what was expected of me at the time. I didn't reciprocate the kiss, and she parted lips, with a look of disappointment on her face.

No similar scene would happen for a long time. In fact, we would barely talk in private for the next month or so.

Things were going well in school though, true, I was hostilized by almost all the students, but, from what I could gather in the teachers' room talk, I wasn't the only one. Life was good, I thought. And perhaps I was right. I felt satisfied that the students would pay attention to what I said, even if with a mix of fear and despise, I still had time to read, a bad habit I took from the days I needed to, and...well, to avoid teachers taking jobs from various schools at the same time, and allow us to focus on their precious students; the pay was well above the average of a secondary teacher.

At the end of the first month, there was a big event at the school, many of the most distinguished relatives of our most distinguished students would be there. And so would I. She heard of the event, from whatever source it was, and even though she spoke nothing to me, I knew she was interested. It seemed like a good opportunity to bring our relationship to the tolerant cooperation stage I was looking for, so I invited her to go, as my "company".

I would like to stress that I had no second intentions. And if you have any doubts, I'd like to refer you to a line I wrote a little back about the kids that were in the event. It was little more than a children's party than anything else, and my presence there was largely to assure to the parents that the teachers of our distinguished school were very interested in the education of their distinguished children.

I don't know what were her reasons, however, and even today, I can only speculate.

But the fact is that she accepted to go with me to the event. She even seemed to be looking forward to go, she spent a long time of the week choosing and buying a dress for the event, and practically forced me to go with her, despite my protests that I had not enough of what she called "fashion sense" to fill one of those stereotyped test tubes of old science fiction films.

It was not without its enjoyments, and I could observe her unimpeded for some time, she seemed extraordinarily happy, and at the same, thoughtful. I did not know what that meant, but I believe, now, that she was merely looking forward to the event, very anxiously. And though now I know, at the time her reasons to do so were beyond my wildest imagination.

Finally we decided for a cream-coloured thing that kept very close to the ground. She told me she found it bland, and wanted a light-blue one with some strange decorative pieces of cloth all over the place and small jewel-like glass things all over it. It was too expensive for my salary, but I felt kind of bad about it. When I told her that, she said there was no problem, she liked that one well enough.

We went to the party.

It was not very glamorous or anything of the like. It was very unglamorous, actually. Beige sheets were hanging from the ceiling, as decoration, there were enough candles for a unaware observer to mistake it for a religious ritual, and all the tables had colourful tablecloths. The message the school wanted to send, the principal later told me, was that they wanted to make the party nice-looking without squandering their customers' money.

She walked always very close to me during the party, wanting me to greet every parent, and tell her what they did. She always spoke a lot with them, eagerly. She talked mostly about me, though. About my skills, my knowledge, my likes and dislikes...It was a bit embarrassing, especially because most of them didn't want to hear anything and just wanted to send me away as quickly as possible.

I told her that I was going to eat something on the buffet (but mostly I just wanted to get away for a bit) and left her talking with one of the parents, this one actually seemed interested, and I watched while they conversed. When I was gone for far too long and hesitantly went back, the man eyed me for a second and asked: "You have a a way with numbers your wife told me. And my son did mention that his math teacher was extraordinarily quick at reviewing tests."

We made small talk for some time, and he tested my mathematical aptitude with simple questions of the sort "How much is 1860 divided by 3". I can't say I enjoyed being treated as a carnival performer, but I endured. He seemed pretty impressed when he left she and I went to mingle with other people. She told me he was member of an accountancy firm, and maybe I could become friends with him, in case there were any opportunities.

I explained that I was happy with my teaching job, and she answered "Sure. But you never know when you might want more."

You never know when you want more, she said. And she was right, of course. She was usually right in all conversations we had those days. Eventually I did. Start wanting, that is. But at this point all I wanted was to get home; because, at this point, the party was over.

It was a short uneventful drive, and we didn't speak to each other during it.

When we reached home, though, she hugged me. I was momentarily stricken, unable to act or think. Confused. "Thanks," she said. And I hugged her back, with a little more force than I intended. At the time I was not sure what she had thanked me for. Later, when I asked, she said that it was because I was kind enough to invite her to the party. That she had a good time there.

But only years later would I discover the actual reason.

For the next few weeks she would wear that party dress many more times. Not only in day-to-day routine, but in the occasional parties that she convinced me to take her. She didn't need to do much convincing. Even though I did not feel comfortable in the company of too many specimens of your kind at the time, I believed it was only right for me to retribute the months of encouragement she had given me before.

She had given far too much of her time to me, and it would be at the very least ingratitude on my part to not try make it up for her now that I was in a position that satisfied me financially and spiritually. A position that I would never have pursued if not for her.

Besides, I really liked seeing her smile.

Two years passed and eventually, like I said, I did. Started wanting more, that is. Confused? Please do not leave this story in disgust. Do read a few paragraphs back. Ten at most. Maybe your doubts will be cleared. In case the answer is a negative, please try to pay more attention from now on, or leave the story altogether.

It is hard to point out a specific time, but I think it had something to do with a new student that entered the school that year. He was expelled from two schools before applying for mine. However, his family was extremely rich, and the principal would never refuse the chance for more investments for the school operations.

When I first met the little devil, he didn't seem such a bad deal. But three hours later my opinion had changed. It was not only that he would just wouldn't even try to pay attention to calculus, he would consistently impede anyone that actually cared about the curriculum from having even a mildly educative experience.

Not only that but he also took an immediate dislike to me. True, it was probably not wholly his fault. Years of training in the subtle social norms of your kind almost made me forget the seemingly natural dread that most feel toward me. I thought I was immune to hate, but not even the social norms were respected by the...rascal.

When I left the school, I found out that my car had been completely covered in scratches! And the name of the pest was there, big and bright for all to see. He was not very subtle, that one. I immediately called the principal's attention to the fact.

The principal sighed on his office, a modest place, almost devoid of furniture, except for a few well located trophies medals and photographs. It denoted the character of the man that worked in it well. After sighing, he slowly, politely, answered. He took a few seconds to gather his thoughts before each sentence, and carefully enunciated every word, perhaps trying to make his mindless excuse-making seem like a pointed conversation.

I took some time to add this and the next paragraph after the first draft of the tale was finished. It was not present on the original, but I believe it is necessary to inform the reader that, with a calmer mind, the principal might not have been this being of pure evil that I depict here. It angered me to remember the fact, especially in the light of later happenings. Some times I miss the times when I was a simple teacher, and it all happened so long ago that my mind may be playing tricks on me.

That being said, it would do for you, as the clever reader that I know you are, to take some of my rants with a spoon or two of salt. That is a metaphor, of course. It means not to believe in everything you read. As far as I am concerned, I may have imagined it all in one of the drug induced hazes of my hedonist days. It is up to you to judge my actions and thoughts during this narrative, and point out to your friends at home how I am fooling myself, inventing complex fictional lines of reasoning to explain some of my most base decisions.

"I understand your concerns," he said, "But you also must understand the great benefits in terms of investment that we stand to gain here. His father has promised to donate an yearly sum of half a million to the school funds, no strings attached dur..."

"'No strings attached'!? Do you take me for a fool or are you one yourself?", I might be misremembering the exact words I uttered at the time. Reading them now, they sound too much like words you would find in pulp fiction. Perhaps I am indeed misremembering them, or perhaps I was simply cleverer at the time, "We mustn't allow that little maggot-ridden...we mustn't allow that student to remain here, he will severely undermine our academi..."

"When I said no strings attached I meant he did not require any administrative powers. You must agree that tolerating a singl..."

"It's not a matter of tolerating a single bad student, the little young beast is damaging the other students' ability to concentrate on classes! He is consistently..."

"Now, now. He was here for only a day. You certainly cannot judge consistent behaviour on a such short..."

"The reputation of the school will suffer and we'll have an exodus on our han..."

"...time! It perhaps would be best to await a month or two before evaluating any potential ill eff...!" he started to raise his tone.

"The other parents will certainly argue, with reason, that bribery must not be accep...!"

"It is not bribery, we shall use the money to better the academica...!"

"Whatever uses you have for the money, it is bribery and you...!"

"SHUT UP!" the principal had risen from his desk, his face red. The principal had never been angry in public before, but his visage changed completely now, when he did. It looked like the face of a demon, "I am the principal of the school. The board of directors has consistently over the five years of my administration praised my defence of the high standards of this school. I will not be criticized by a subordinate. I will, however, gladly pay for repairs for your car, but you are to leave the boy alone. He will have the best educational experience he can. Something that, you certainly agree, is his right. Now leave my office; please consult a repairman about repairs, and come here with the receipt, to have them paid in full...also, I offer you a fifty percent raise due to...the extra effort necessary on your part."

I had a choice. A simple one. An easy one. I had a good job. I could lose it for a matter of principle, and explore uncharted waters, or I could accept a large raise for doing nothing more than I what I gladly did for much less during those three years. It was obvious what choice was the best one.

I came two days later for my last payment, properly discounted for the days that still hadn't come in the month's calendar.

After that I just didn't feel like doing anything else. A psychologist would diagnose depression, but I'd say it was simply a severe case of frustration. Then again I have no experience in the field of psychological diagnosis, and you may feel that my opinion on the matter is wild speculation. In this case, please refer to a few paragraphs back, before my talk with the principal.

At any rate, I wouldn't leave the sofa for almost anything in those times. And everything on the television seemed tedious, but I watched it anyway. My life became a swirl of nothingness spinning around me, but I didn't mind, as I moved from the sofa to the refrigerator and then the bathroom and then the sofa. And sometimes a short walk on the park, which perhaps was the only thing that prevented atrophy.

Then one day, I woke up from my daze. I'm not sure how long after I left my job. And I didn't wake up by myself. She, once again, saved me. It was a nasty habit of her.

"You won't believe the great news!" she told me. I doubted it, but, in retrospect, she was right after all.

"What?"

"Remember that accountant at that party?"

You perhaps can predict where this conversation is going. Especially considering the heavy foreshadowing I have been giving you since the party. Of course I know you noticed it. Subtlety is not one of my perks, if it's true that I have any remarkable ones. But the fact is that what's coming next is obvious, had you noticed the foreshadowing or not. She, apparently, had been talking a lot with the accountant guy in the parties she went alone while I was indisposed.

And she had discovered that he was going to retire in an year or two. And that he was searching for someone that could take his place. He planned to hire this person as an assistant and press the other partners to accept him as his successor. There were no guarantees, but his approval, coupled with a reputation for being good at what one does, would be the closest thing to a guarantee one could obtain.

She was right, as I said. I didn't believe it. At least not at first. I went to ask him personally. And she exhorted me to do just that. And take the chance the moment my doubts were lifted. That was a great chance, she said. And I agreed.

I had a quick talk with the accountant. He was one of the senior members of the firm, and had a really big office. It interested me the way everyone treated him with deference, even the one that, when I asked where his office was, had muttered below his breath in a rather scornful way. It still impressed me, this erratic behaviour of your kind. And it occurred to me that this position would be particularly fitting for me. A shield of social prestige would easily protect me from any harmful effects of the dread.

I explained my position to the accountant, making constant allusions to the name of my companion. He told me that he was profoundly disappointed with the level of the accountants currently working on the firm, and that she had spoken very well about me. And that he wanted to find someone with potential, that could be trained by him to occupy, in the not too far future, his position.

He thought that I had potential, but due to my lack of experience, I would start as his assistant. He had the power of nominate any assistant he chose. Then I would have to rise to the rank of accountant by myself, completing the firm's training programme. After this, if I wanted to have any hope of becoming his successor, I had to have a good record. He didn't have the power to choose his successor, that was with all the senior members, but his blessing would have decisive impact on the other member's decision.

I was somewhat surprised with how he easily changed the subject to that which interested me, almost as if he had it all already planned out before I even pointed my interest out to him. In fact, I was also slightly preoccupied. I asked she if she had talked to him about that behind my back those few days before I awoke. She seemed surprised for a few seconds, but then she confessed. Or rather, she admitted. It wasn't a crime to do that, she had no need to confess.

In fact, as she explained, she did it all because she was concerned with my apathy. Presumably she was also concerned with our shrinking bank account, but far from me to suggest such a thing!

I beg for apologies, my dear reader. Sometimes the resentment wins over the self-control and literary objectiveness, in this struggle that constantly rages within my mind. I know, I know. It's not your fault. You probably don't even know me! I am terribly sorry for pestering you with the bitter cynicism that was the only legacy that she left for me much later. Oh, but I shouldn't write that, perhaps I will erase this paragraph before publishing the manuscript.

Perhaps not.

Still, at the time, the fact that she cared made me happy, and I felt that my ever-growing debt to her had grown even more. In fact, the debt reached such levels that the closest analogy would be the debt of an extremely poor African country. it had reached such a critical mass that the interest rates made the debt grow at a rate beyond my ability to pay.

Mentioning critical mass made me remember of another analogy, mayhap more accurate, or at least more interesting. That of reaction of nuclear fission, that generates energy. This debt that I felt owed her was what gave me initiative to do things I wouldn't otherwise do, such as becoming a teacher or an accountant. Or the less savoury things that would come later.

In any way, it may seem that it doesn't matter which one you find more accurate or entertaining, but Freud himself once said, "Analogies prove nothing, that is quite true, but they can make one feel more at home." So feel at home. Mi casa es tu casa. Think of it as a Choose Your Own Adventure Book, as you are free to choose which analogy you believe is the right one, except that no matter which option you choose, the end result will be the exact same one. Perhaps not so differently from certain Choose Your Own Adventure Books, that brought me nothing but frustration in my learning days.

"Double, double, toil and trouble;
Fire, burn; and cauldron, bubble."

Excuse my sudden burst of plagiarism, but the two verses above seemed fitting. You may remember them from something you read before, or you may not. This doesn't matter. The crux of the two verses is that a storm is brewing, and will soon hit my narrative. If you're familiar with the work in question, you might even notice some similarities, in basic plot, with the story of my life. At the time I didn't know that dark times would come. But now, with the benefit of experience, I see that the conversation I had with her was the beginning of a twisted path that would lead me to where I am now.

If nothing that happened before had happened, and I had started this story in that conversation, you, my dear reader, would still understand perfectly what will follow. But my goal when writing this wasn't to entertain or to comfort. My goal was simply to narrate the tale of my life. In some aspects, perhaps I thought that my life was entertaining enough by itself, but maybe you like conflict more.

If that's your case. Then read on, you'll not be disappointed.

I quickly learned the ropes over at the firm. It wouldn't be undue arrogance if I said I was by far the best assistant accountant there. It would be arrogant, yes, but it would be the kind of arrogance that one earns the right to have. And I had. My duties were nothing more than to perform some fraction of whatever audits or the tax calculations the senior accountant was currently engaged in, in order to allow the senior accountant to focus on the juicy bits.

It is true that sometimes I overstepped my duties, but still, while my job didn't have the glamour that might interest most of readers, I can say I did it well. I would always have my reports ready before everyone else, never missing a deadline, and to this day I can say with certainty that I never committed a mistake.

Within months I had my first integral task. I would do cost evaluation for the project of new mining operation by a regional mining company. I had three weeks to do so, before a hearing that the company would have to attend regarding that operation. Another assistant accountant had been assigned to do so, since the company wasn't such an important client, but he was recently fired. They gave me what he had accomplished thus far.

Looking at the quality of his reports, I daresay I understood why he was fired. I decided to start over, completely ignoring the papers. I didn't ask my boss before doing that, but I believe he wouldn't be very encouraging if I did. I completed what was requested in two weeks and a half. I wasn't terribly satisfied with it, so I added to the report some information that I thought could be useful to determine the profitability of the investment, along with my own analysis of what changes could be made to the original project.

The company decided to cancel the hearing, in order to "re-evaluate the project", they paid fifteen percent more than the amount that was agreed beforehand. My boss was smiling when he gave the information, which I believe is a good sign. My coworkers weren't terribly ecstatic, and I can't say dread was the only factor responsible for it.

A year later I was a full accountant, and an year and half after that, my boss was preparing to retire.

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