The Jennifer Sweet Problem


(My story isn’t nearly as interesting as this picture’s origin. For reals.)

This fuckin’ kid, man.


Look, I know my job isn’t very kid-friendly and I know they have a right to defend themselves, but man, this kid is too much.

My name’s Kevin and I work at an odd place. We provide childrens’ monsters with living quarters, which happen to be under those childrens’ beds. I barely graduated high school, haven’t cracked a book since then, and I’m making almost $50 grand a year at a job I’m not even sure how I got. Seriously. I went to a strip mall a couple blocks from my house to see about a temp job or even joining the military and now I’ve been here eight months.

It was a great gig until Jennifer. Jennifer Sweet, or Jennifer Fuckin’ Sweet, as we call her here. Granted, eight months isn’t a long time in the grand scheme of things, but at a job like this, it’s almost tenure. So I’ve seen a lot. And little of it good.

We’re putting monsters under kids’ beds. This ain’t a Pixar movie. They’re legit terrified when these things show up, which is intentional since the monsters (an alien race referring to itself with a series of clicks that requires two tongues to recreate) feed off the energy created when the youngins are scared. The monsters take almost all the energy, so the kids only remember the incidents as vague nightmares.

We, on the other hand, see it all. Each monster has an implant behind their left eye acting as a camera. It gives us a perfect view of what they’re seeing. No idea why we do it and I can’t imagine it’s for anything good. But the company pays well, they have great insurance, and they don’t drug test. I think they pick people like me who aren’t real bright and smoke a lot of weed so there aren’t a lot of mental health issues. Seeing kids screaming in horror because of what just crawled out from under their beds isn’t the best way to make a living, but enough pot and enough PS4 and that shit just leaves your mind.

But Jennifer Fuckin’ Sweet, man. Good Lord. We’ve never had a monster reject a child. Ever. Jennifer, though, has managed to send every monster we’ve assigned back to us as an emotional wreck. One of them is still under medical observation for trying to kill itself. Suicide is unheard of to these creatures, but Jennifer managed to get in their heads and create absolute havoc. Depression, anxiety, paranoia…she’s turning them into my dad, only without the ability to use ice cream and bourbon to self-medicate.

And I know. We’re probably doing some really shady shit here. I mean, our job is to scare children so an alien race can eat their fear. On paper it sounds pretty bad. OK, it sounds bad when you say it out loud, too. This kid is probably a damn super hero or the next Hitler or something. I don’t know. What I do know is that she’s fucking with my job and frightening a lot of two-tongued, orange-haired, terrible-smelling monsters.

The first time was about a month ago. We sent one of our clients down there (they all look/sound/smell the same and I have no idea to tell them apart; identifying them is above my pay grade) and he came back two days later making some odd noises (even for them) and shedding heavily all around my desk. Fun fact: their fur not only smells faintly of catfish bait but is also sticky. That means when they shed, you can’t just wipe the fur off your desk or run the vacuum. It’s a whole thing.

From then on, it became a daily event. We’d send a monster to Jennifer’s bed and they’d come back the next morning, terrified. We’d send another monster down there, same day, and the next day, the process repeated itself. Sixteen straight days, sixteen straight monsters returning and refusing not only to not go back, but they also wouldn’t let me reassign them. This is literally the only time this has happened and now I’m monster poison because it’s a kid in my section.

My manager has been pretty cool about it. Todd said he gets it’s not my fault, but the monsters we’re dealing with tend to be pretty superstitious and there’s a rumor they have some kind of hive mind, so if one of them doesn’t want to work with me, it’s a sure bet none of them do. I heard we’re working with the alien leadership to get them to work with me again, but I also heard it’s not going well.

What is it about this girl? I mean, all I’m doing is just trying to live my life and save a little money. That’s it. And God forbid it happen to Andy, that fuckin’ douche. This kind of shit always happens to me. The monsters don’t complain much, but when they do, it seems like it’s the ones I’m working with. The kid’s room smells funny, there isn’t much room under the bed, the kid’s going through puberty and experimenting with their bodies, both loudly and vigorously. Look, I’m not here to provide a five-star experience. I’m here to get you in front of a scared kid so you can do what you have to do. What they do in bed after the lights are turned out ain’t my problem.

“Hey, Kev, Corporate told me to give you this.”

Todd slides a folder across my keyboard.

“Thanks, man. So what’s up with Jen—“

“Just read it.”

Todd turns around and leaves. My stomach is feeling kinda squirty. It’s a fucked-up job, but I don’t mind it and like I said, the money’s sweet.

I open the folder to see a single sheet of paper with my name at the top, followed by four sentences. In those four sentences, two words stand out and I instantly understand. The other words tell me I’m no longer responsible for Jennifer (Fuckin’) Sweet’s “Monster Situation” and that the monsters will still work with me. But those two words let me know we’ve stumbled onto something bad, something we’re not going to escape anytime soon.

Umbrella Academy.

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