Like I said, I don't have much time.
I had just graduated from a Los Angeles community college that will go nameless (you know Vietnam? Yeah, Chivas USA did that, so it will go nameless) and I got an anonymous letter in the mail asking for hair samples and a complete family history in exchange for an exciting new job opportunity. I mean, the job market being what it is, I sent a clump of my hair and a few quarts of blood to the return address. It was either that or slinging meatballs at a local Ikea, and I heard from college that Ikea harvests the souls of its employees. I wasn't taking any chances.
This job offer was mailed from an unmarked address, but being that I have access to my parents' internet, I did a little research. The phone number attached to the letter rerouted me to a pig slaughtering sadness manufacturer in Chongjin, North Korea, and on Google Earth the address dropped me on a bum tasing his own gooch in a trash-littered retention basin. He was also being chased by a leopard. I didn't think to ask questions at the time, but being 22, I assumed this meant the company had resources. Who can afford a taser these days? And I was impressed by the company's gumption. Hiring leopards seemed really 12th century Mongolia, detached from modern convenience. Kind of refreshing.
Again, the job market.
I found the facility after I was blindfolded, stuffed into the back of a van and then transported for what felt like days. When they let me out of the van and ripped off the black hood that fell around my face, I squinted hard against the glare. I was staring at… what, exactly? It was an enormous brick of a building surrounded by triple moats. A hologram of Jorge Vergara's smiling face was projected above the building. "Building winners. Building champions. Chivas USA." It was impressive, in a 1984 sort of way. The lawn was spray painted strobes of red and white. In fact, everything was red and white. A guy who looked a lot like Peter Dinklage (but who was definitely not Peter Dinklage) threw half a can of red paint on me as I walked in. He smiled a horrible kind of smile and then dove into one of the moats. I didn't see him again.
My first interview was also my last act as a freeman. I was strip searched at the door by a talking hairless chihuahua (you don't want to know), and when I got beyond my fourth metal detector (none of them were operational, and a very visible gentleman crouching behind a desk literally beeped with his mouth as I walked through each one) the oddities came. I will try to explain this to you the best I can, but there is something lost in translation when human feces flies across your field of vision in such high quantities.
As soon as I cleared the first checkpoint — a mass of barbed wire and a guy I'm pretty sure was Lou Ferrigno guarded the gate to the office headquarters — I saw my first goat. They were different than the goats I'd read about in school. Than the goats you see on the side of the road. These goats… they kicked soccer balls. They walked on their hind legs. They made coffee. They could speak. I gathered that they ran the place, since dry grass and oats crunched under my feet and the walls were visibly chewed. I stood dumbly in the passageway looking down on this deep alleyway of horror. It was unspeakable. I wanted to run, but as I turned back Lou Ferrigno did that throat slashing thing with his index finger and I knew I wasn't going anywhere. I turned back. Oh god, sorry, the bile is rising in the back of my throat. It was horrible. It is horrible.
As soon as the first goat spotted me, something hard and metallic slowly started growing out of the back of its skull. I cocked my head to the right. I didn't understand what I was seeing. The human administrative assistant who had ushered me through security had long since disappeared, leaving me in this post apocalyptic wastescape alone. With the goats. It looked like a metallic cucumber emerging from this thing's head. The goat was on its hind legs about 20 yards away, staring me straight. It wore this red-and-white striped jersey I recognized as Chivas USA gear by the Corona sponsor across the chest. I could see a bluetooth device in its floppy ear and then an iPad clipped strangely to a belt (a goat with a belt and no pants? Where the hell was I?), but the man at the front desk told me Vergara had turned off the internet and phone service years ago. WHAT WAS GOING ON.
Just as the charged ion burst exploded from the metallic arm that had painted me with a red dot, I felt myself being tugged behind a hay bale. From my back, I looked up to see a smoldering hole where Lou Ferrigno was standing. No. Not Ferrigno, surely?
"You need to be more careful, idiot."
I looked to my left. This was a man, but barely. His eyes had sunk deep into his skull like cockroaches trying to escape the light. He had a business tie wrapped around his matted, floppy brown hair, and there was evidence of madness here. I could see superglue oozing from underneath computer keys he'd attached to the knuckles of his hand. I later learned he'd done this to protect against the goats. I never learned how this was supposed to help.
"You're new here, aren't you?!" He was wild. He looked up over the hay bale as another ion strike blistered the wall behind us.
"I… um… I'm here for my first interview."
A strange, sickly smile creased his face.
"You don't INTERVIEW at Chivas USA, idiot. The goats have selected you."
"Wha… I don't understand." My head was swimming. I looked up. There were more goats now.
"It's Vergara, newbie." He lifted his arm and threw a keyboard at the goats as though it was a grenade. Nothing happened. I wasn't sure what this was supposed to accomplish. "He brings in anyone who's never heard of Chivas USA before, forces them to survive the goat gauntlet and then employs them. But here's the catch. NOBODY SURVIVES." We both ducked as more canon bursts came. "Oh you can run for so long. But eventually the goats win. They got Jerry yesterday on tax fraud. TAX FRAUD. HE'D WORKED HERE FOUR DAYS."
I cringed. I began to cry. My unnamed comrade snapped. They all snap sooner or later.
"GODDAMN YOU GOATS. YOU'LL NEVER TAKE ME ALIVE."
As he said "alive" he emerged in full form from behind the bale and started throwing all manner of office supplies. Staples. Post-it notes. Agendas. He finally threw an empty topper to a water cooler when one of the ion bursts bit into his shoulder and killed him instantly. He fell next to me, his sunken eyes cold and distant. In fear and shame and terror I ran off into the nearest room and barred the door. It was a supply closet. I heard the goats claim his body through the wall. I think they thought he was me. I heard them slot him in for bench duty against the Sounders next week. I learned that day how Chivas USA chooses its team sheets.
I haven't seen the sun in 47 days. I scratch them all out on this Chivas USA daily planner with Dan Kennedy's face on it. I don't know if Chivas USA is winning or losing. I don't know who the coach is. I don't know if anyone will read this. I can barely remember my name. The goats know I'm in here. They've been burning fires outside the door day and night for the past week to try and smoke me out. They're learning. I can hear them in the walls sometimes. At midnight every night they turn up a particularly bad Chivas USA broadcast (which is all of them) and pipe in the audio at ear-shattering decibels. I can't take another Chivas USA giveaway in their defending third. I can't do it. It's maddening. I mean, JUST PASS THE GODDAMN BALL LIKE A HUMAN.
And then I remember. The goats. They're all goats. The entire operation. Even the players. The conspiracy… may God save us all.
- Will Parchman