“Negative Mental Attitude”
A Brief Horror Story of When Applying Self-Help Goes Wrong
Special note: this story was inspired by the work of Bret Easton Ellis ‘American Psycho,’ David Mamet ‘Glengarry Glen Ross,’ and Stephen Hawking ‘On Writing’ This is Rated R 18+ because it has moments of violence, offensive language, and sensitive situations.
Monday, October 27th, 2017, 11:32 AM
Alex stands up from his chair with his phone against his ear. A customer is heard through his phone. It sounds like gibberish. Veins throb on Alex’s forehead. He speaks.
“And that’s exactly the reason you need to work with us Dan. We’ve been going back and forth about this for an hour now. I don’t want to waste anymore of your time. And you’re already getting 40% off our original offer, if you worked with us last week I would have given you 50% off!”
His co-worker Freddy keeps pointing at a section of sales script. Alex blows him off.
“We offer the best service, have the best product, and you’re not going to be disappointed, I’ll even extend you a money back guarantee. How does that sound?”
The customer speaks.
“Dammit!” Pause. “Come on, you said you need this vacation. What else could possibly be holding you back?”
Customer gibberish comes through the phone.
“What do you mean you don’t feel ready? It’s super easy, just give me your credit card info and you’ll get your booking details. Do you want your fiancee to think you’re a cheapskate? Put her on the phone I’ll convince her this vacation will be worth it.”
The enduring buzz of a hung-up phone comes through.
“Fuck these fucking cheap fucks. Where the fuck does management get these leads from?”
The office is an open space with one huge wall of windows overlooking a small city. They’re on the 9th floor. Desks are spread out across the office.
Salespeople are sitting at their desks or pacing around their desks. Some stare at their computers while others read their scripts in conversation with their customers. No one else notices Alex.
The walls have motivational messages plastered across.
You are a winner
Go Big or Go Home
If you can imagine it, you can do it
The only limitations are the ones we place on ourselves.
Love your customer, and they will love you
Success is only one call away
The walls also include silver framed Salesperson of the Year plaques. There are 12 of them. Alex’s face is on the plaque for 2014. Freddy’s face is on the plaque for 2015 and 2016.
On another wall there’s a white board. It includes a list of names written with the number of sales each person closed this month. Freddy is ahead of everyone by at least 20. Alex’s is near the bottom.
Freddy sits back and stares in disbelief. He turns and notices two detectives walking up. Alex turn’s around and goes back to scrolling through his computer, looking for his next lead to call.
A few moments later the detectives are upon Alex. They both wear suits. Detective Janet Forge has dark hair and a crisp bun and went with a light navy suit today. Detective Hansen Tanner keeps his head crisp and shaved and wears a tan suit today.
Patrick, the office manager introduces Alex to the detectives.
“Detectives, this is Alex.”
“Thanks Patrick, we’ll take it from here” Forge said.
Patrick nods and says “Hey Freddy, come with me to my desk, I need to talk to you about something.” Freddy and Patrick quickly walk away together.
Patrick wanted to fire Alex for a while. He wasn’t very good with confrontation. He did fine in sales and was good at giving impromptu speeches. His peers noticed this. But he wasn’t good at managing. He was too nice. It is rumored he slept with the VP to get his job.
It was Pat’s decision to put Alex in a corner of the office with Freddy. Pat hoped Freddy would be able to reawaken the star salesperson Alex once was. Alex somehow made it through each of these past couple years just barely hitting his sales quota. He was great when he wanted to be, thought Pat and Freddy.
Forge looks at Alex and says “Hi Alex, my name is Detective Forge and this is Detective Tanner. We have some questions we’d like to ask you.”
“What’s this for? Whatever, go ahead” said Alex.
“Let’s go somewhere private. We like to get to know people” said Forge.
“Yeah, let’s take a little trip. Give you some time away from the office. It’ll only be a few minutes, trust us” said Tanner.
Friday, October 24th, 2017, 4:27 PM
Freddy is closing a sale.
“Congratulations Maria! I’m so excited about your family dream trip through Europe. Send us some pictures while you’re out there, we love to share our customers exciting adventures on our website! You should have the booking details in your inbox right now.”
The customer’s voice comes indistinctly through the phone.
“Yes, that’s right, that one. You’ll also receive another email. It is your one stop shop for all your trip information so make sure you hold on to it. If anything comes up, be sure to give me a call and I’ll handle it personally, and don’t forget we have a 24-hour hotline. The number is in the email. Did you have any other questions?” Freddy pauses to listen to the customer.
“Alright Maria, have a great day and wonderful vacation. Talk to you soon.” He hangs up the phone and looks at Alex. “Phew, this means I go home early this weekend. Three in a day!”
Alex grumbles “mhm…” as he scrolls through his computer.
“Try this, just imagine the customer is on their vacation already, and work backwards from there. Think about what they want and on the call s…”
Alex cuts Freddy off. “Cut the motivational seminar bullshit Freddy. Pat gives enough speeches. Nothing you can say or do will help me book 13 more vacations in the next week.”
Freddy “Alright Alex, have a good weekend then.”
Freddy shuts his computer off and picks up his pack. He walks over to the whiteboard with monthly sales and under “Funday Friday” adds another check mark next to his name. Three people have already left for the day. Most people have at least two.
Alex got one sale this morning from a repeat customer who Freddy passed to him because he was on the phone and couldn’t take the call.
A small group claps and congratulates Freddy who stops by Pat’s desk before he leaves.
Alex packs up his bags and leaves through a side door. He has difficulty with the handle and struggles for a moment to open it. No one takes notice.
In the parking garage, Alex walks toward his truck. The garage is dimly lit and smells of uncirculated air and exhaust. He tries to call his ex-girlfriend Megan, but he forgot he gets no service in the garage.
After getting in his truck, Alex sits for a moment as he stares out the window. Soon he spots Freddy walking by and talking on the phone with a smile.
Alex, “Fuck that guy.” He open’s the storage compartment and pulls out a $15 bowie knife. He plays with it for a moment and stabs a hole in the passenger side seat.
Friday, October 24th, 2017, 6:23 PM
Alex sits on the couch of his apartment. He lives on the third floor, and the walls are stained in some areas.
The tables hold various piles of things around the apartment. The piles are organized with mail being put with mail, notes with notes, and gadgets with gadgets. Dirty dishes stay together, while dirty silverware stay together along with plasticware.
The night sky is seen through the windows and is barely lit up from the setting sun.
Alex stares at his phone. The last text he sent to Megan was 43 minutes ago and 3 pages long. His leg shakes rapidly.
After a few moments, he walks into the bathroom and splashes water on his face. Veins are throbbing on his neck. He punches the door but only hurts his hand.
A few moments later the phone buzzes, it’s Megan. He rushes to his phone.
The text is from an unrecognized spam number. It reads “hey darling, wanna meet up tonight?” followed by a series of hearts and lipstick texts. He get’s curious and texts back “sure.”
It quickly responds back “hey baby, want to see me naked? Check them out here www.xprxir.clzis.nkd I promise you won’t be disappointed.”
He turns off his phone and tosses it on the table. He notices a book in a corner of his room. Taking Control of Your Life, Now by Michael Partson. He bought it for $2 from the bargain book section at a grocery store but never opened it. He liked the idea of taking control of his life.
He picks up the book. The cover is dusty and he blows it off, and notices the faded colors. Partson wears a suit in the photo that graces the cover.
Alex flips to a random page in the middle of the book where it talks about making yourself believe in yourself even if you don’t. There is a section labeled Your Personal Confidence Spell.
Alex rolls his eyes and reads it. In the section, Partson describes how you can “cast a spell on yourself” by finding something you want to change or improve, and repeating phrases to yourself. Alex reads…
“Here’s an example. If you feel you have no control, you might not have the confidence to achieve your dreams. At any time, when you start to feel unconfident or like you’re losing control, repeat to yourself: I am confident. I am confident. I am confident. Over and over. Also do this every morning when you wake up, and every night before you go to bed. You can even make up your own and be more specific like if you want to feel more powerful, you can tell yourself I am powerful, I am powerful, I am powerful.”
He closes the book and sets it down.
For the next 30 minutes, he repeats three phrases. I am very powerful. I am in control of everything. People will respect me.
Friday, October 24th, 2017, 10:43 PM
The city streets are flushed with bright lights and loud music come from the bars and night clubs. A large bouncer is talking to three ladies who are in their sexiest outfits with extra high heels. The bouncer towers over them.
Alex stares as he drives by almost failing to notice the car in front of him suddenly stop. He slams his brakes and his beer spills onto his lap. “I am very powerful. I am in control of everything. People will respect me” he says.
He get’s out of his truck with his bottle and approaches the people in the car in front of him. He looks in the window and notices two girls. They both stare at him, a bit shocked. He knocks on the window. Men and women watch him with caution.
“You made this spill all over me!” The girls in the car look, laugh, and apologize and quickly drive away. They never opened the window.
Alex smashes the bottle on the ground and some security guards begin to approach him but he quickly jumps into his truck and drives off.
AM radio plays as Alex drives around the city. He planned on going to a bar but felt too embarrassed with a spill on his pants.
“Might as well make something of tonight” he thought.
Friday, October 24th, 2017, 01:03 AM
After driving around for a couple hours, Alex decided to hang out at a local park. A few other cars are in the lot. People came in and out for hours. Occasionally people throw illegal parties in the woods here.
He was looking for some excitement but he didn’t know what.
A coupe pulls into the parking lot and a couple get out. Neither of them are aware of Alex.
Alex pulls his bowie out of his storage compartment and starts to imagine how he’s going to stab. Man first, then woman.
The couple walk to a bench facing a pond and sit to talk.
Alex put’s on his hat and get’s out of his truck and slowly follows the couple. He looks around for possible witnesses. No one. Perfect.
The couple makes out as Alex get’s closer passing from tree to tree.
The woman giggles as she hears a noise and notices Alex close out of the corner of her eyes. She screams “honey watch out” and pushes her date away as Alex lunges with his knife. The knife barely misses the man’s chest and sticks in his shoulder. Alex’s grip couldn’t pull it out. The woman pulls out a small revolver and begins to aim it at Alex. He runs away as multiple shots get fired at him.
The woman calls the police while helping her date as Alex drives away in his truck.
He heads back to his apartment.
As Alex takes the keys out of the ignition, he realizes his wallet is not in his sweater pockets. He searches around for a moment…
“Fuck” he says. “She just had to scream and have a gun” he thought.
Saturday, October 25th, 2017, 12:13 PM
Alex stares at his television screen. There’s nothing on. He recites I am very powerful. I am in control of everything. People will respect me.
His dirty clothes from last night are in a pile in the corner. They have dark stains on them from the blood.
He puts on fresh clothes and heads out. It’s lunch time.
On the busy street Alex makes no eye contact as he walks to his truck. He thinks to himself “is everyone an asshole?” And laughs.
For lunch, Alex sits outside a local deli and eats a ham and cheese sandwich. He people watches as he wonders what he’s going to do for the night.
The pharmacy sign sparks an idea for him. I am very powerful. I am in control of everything. People will respect me. He mumbles to himself.
After finishing his sandwich, he walks into the pharmacy and buys sleeping pills.
Saturday, October 25th, 2017, 5:43 PM
Megan lives in a house in a small neighborhood just outside the city. She pulls into her driveway as she notices Alex walking up to the car. He’s been waiting.
“Hey Megan! I’ve been trying to text you, did you get a new number?” yells Alex.
Megan quickly get’s out of her car and picks up the pace to her door. “Why are you here? We haven’t spoken in over 7 months. You shouldn’t be here.”
Alex runs up and grabs her by the arm. “Just listen to me. I just want what’s best for you. My life changed without you and I want to make it up to you. Look, I even brought your favorite wine, and fruits to make your Sangria.”
Megan looks at the bottle of Cabernet and fruits. “Ok fine, just come in for a few minutes. I’m going out with friends later.” She lets him in more out of fear and discomfort than anything else.
The house is open with a small bar and sink area separating the living room. She sits guardedly as Alex prepares the drink.
He crushed up and mixed the sleeping pills from the pharmacy with some he had in his bathroom making both a powder and even extracted liquid from multiple gel caps. He pours some of it into Megan’s glass and mixes in some orange slices, strawberries, and lemon.
“Here” he says as gives Megan a glass.
She sips it and finds it delicious.
They catch up over an hour and a few more glasses. Alex notices her yawn and says “hey look, I gotta go, let’s catch up later.”
He parks his truck down the street around the corner in a cul-de-sac, and grabs a roll of duct tape before walking back to Megan’s house and sneaking through her side gate. He starts to look through the window. He watches her undress just before she lay’s down, and goes to sleep.
He goes around the back and rips a screen open to go through an open window.
Megan is asleep as Alex slowly wraps her arms and leg’s with tape, careful to not wake her up.
Suddenly a car is heard outside with honking. He panics and quickly stops and escapes through the window he entered through. Megan yells despite her tiredness.
Alex runs down to his truck and drives back to his apartment.
Tuesday, February 17, 2024, 2:35 PM
Alex leaves the state prison he’s been held at and enters a taxi. I am very powerful. I am in control of everything. People will respect me. He says to himself, and he’s been reciting it every day for the past 7 years.