The Cubicle Witch
by James Reinebold
The cubicle witch lives on the thirteenth floor of my office building deep within the accounting section. I think she may have been an accountant once, but those days are long behind her. Her 10x10 gray-carpeted workspace is filled with owl beaks, bat ears, dodo eggs, and mermaid tears. Instead of a computer she has a cauldron filled with bubbling green liquid that smells like expired miso soup but supposedly tastes like Sprite. She trades spells, good luck charms, and hexes for things you might not want to give.
To most she is only rumor and myth. It is possible to work here until your stock options vest and never see her once. I only know about her because I am a coward.
Last year there were rumors about management wanting to "restructure" the software development teams to make us more "lean." They announced a meeting in the main conference room--a meeting at eleven in the morning on a Tuesday that my coworkers insisted meant layoffs. I asked them if there was anything I could do to stay safe.
"Just stay out of sight," Francis said from under his desk. "They can't fire you if they can't find you."
"They'll just do it over email," I said. "Or call me."
"Embrace it," Charlene said. "Think of the places it might take you."
"I don't want to find another job," I said.
"Well," they said. "You could go and see the cubicle witch. It's the only way to be sure you'll be safe."
So I set off to find her. I traveled deep into the heart of accounting, deep where the office ferns grow tall and unwieldy and stone pillars obscure the water coolers. Where chipped stalactites drip brown water on you from the slimy, rocky ceiling and skittish owls nest on filing cabinets. Where ancient runes from forgotten languages replace the standardized motivational posters. There are lost software developers who have wandered its cobwebbed halls for decades after their termination orders have been signed by middle managers.
I cut through the ferns, navigated the pillars, and didn't look any of the accountants in the eyes. I pushed through narrow corridors and avoided spiky stalactites. And then I finally arrived at the cubicle witch's cubicle.
She was hunched over her cauldron, smiling as she stirred her bubbling potion with a long wooden pole. Her nose was crooked and green and she wore a large black hat. She dipped a "World's Greatest Mom" coffee mug into her mixture and offered it to me.
"Is it safe?" I asked.
"It's not poison, if that's what you're worried about," she said. "Not exactly. But it will help you. That I guarantee."