Bright overhead lights illuminated the room to constant and artificial noon. Canned elevator music played at a near-subliminal level, all but drowning out the millions of voices all talking at once. Noise canceling headphones blocked out the ambient noise, leaving each operator alone with the voice in his or her head. A voice, that was the majority the time, despairingly pleading for something they were most likely not going to get.
Every earthly language, every dialect, every argot, every patois was spoken inside the room, even a few native tongues that were lost to antiquity were bantered about.
Fingers clicked over keyboards, recording every detail of conversations. Little was said on the operators’ end, leaving the bulk of the exchange to the caller.
This was Prayer Central, the clearinghouse for all prayers lifted up to whichever deity callers believed could, would hear their supplication and answer their plea.
Information was collected on who the callers were and what they requested when they wanted it accomplished, and if other people were included in the appeal. No guarantees of fulfillment were issued by the call center agent, nor were they allowed to speculate on a specific timeline. Those matters were decided in the Head Office.
Center coaches wended their way through the warren of cubicles, catching bits and piece of one-sided conversations, ready to step in if an agent got in the weeds and needed help. That didn’t happen often since agents rarely had to intervene while their caller was making a request. Too much interaction was confusing for callers and made answering requests difficult.
Cale, lead coach, surveyed the room from the observation balcony. The cacophony of voices was like a symphony to him. The many languages mingling into a bel canto of such beauty he could scarcely bear it. Above the sound, a sour note rose.
“Savar!” Cale called out over the crowd and all sound stopped.
Taking the stairs two steps at a time, Cale stomped down to the call floor looking for the cause of the discordance.
“This is your last demerit, Savar,” Cale held out his hand for the agent’s headset. “You know the rules – no discussion with the callers is allowed, you can’t engage, and you most definitely cannot offer a resolution.”
“She was just so distraught,” Savar tried to explain. “I was only trying to give her a little hope.”
“That’s not your call,” Cale picked up Savar’s caller record. “You have no way of knowing if her request was to be granted. Her answer could just as well be, ‘no’.”
“How can He say, ‘no’?” Savar was aghast. “That’s not fair.”
Cale took Savar by the elbow and walked him off the call center floor.
“We can’t know the ‘why’,” Cale said. “It may take many generations for her fate to come to fruition. We cannot interfere, all we are responsible for is to listen and record.”
Once outside of the call center, Cale ushered Savar to Reassignment.
“What now?” Savar said. “What will become of me?”
“I have a better task for you,” Cale began. “One where you can do no harm.”
Cale gestured to a sign decorated with large, shining, ornate letters, hanging above them.
“You will be our new intake angel,” Cale said. “You will be sentry, welcoming all our newcomers. There’s no ambiguity.”
Cale watched Savar step forward to greet the new arrivals. Turning to return to the call center, Cale was brought to a sudden stop.
“Are you sure you’re in the right place?” Savar said to his first novitiate.