This time, he will say it:

“Daniel, my encouraging manager, my occasional friend over after-work drinks, Mister nice guy of the Department; Daniel with your boiling-lobster sweaty features, your tiny, feeble pale Irish frame; Daniel, jokester with the worst jokes, who on Friday forwards dumb emails that are ten years old, comes into our offices to nod as we falsely laugh, I have decided for once to tell you The Truth.

“This morning, yesterday morning, mornings for months now, I have awoken with one dream: that I have murdered you. Not a nightmare, note, but a dream. Not accidentally killed, note, but deliberately murdered. And I have to confess – I have enjoyed filling your face with my fist. Yes, that’s right, my fist. Yes, the one I’m raising boldly now in front of your balmy features. This fist, your face.

“One thing remarkable about this thoroughly enjoyable dream – and yes, I realise that my appraisals don’t normal cover such personal matters, but bear with me, because boy is this going somewhere – where was I? One thing remarkable about this thoroughly enjoyable dream is that the inside of your face isn’t actually made of the normal stuff of man. Yes, there’s blood. Yes, a bit of brain, bumping around like reddened blotting paper. But basically, the innards of your face don’t have tendons, or bones, or a soul, or teeth – they’re made of jelly.

“Jelly! And I just love squirming my fingers around in jelly. I have destroyed you so many times, just like a child fisting around a bowl of jelly at a birthday party. Well, not ‘just like’ – because this is actually homicide. And also, I don’t actually get to eat the jelly – just rummage around in it, and then from the inside knock your few remaining hairs from your skull. But I do get to toss the remains of your jelly onto the carpet and tread you into no more than stain.

“You see – don’t look so worried, no-one’s going to burst in or something. Your door is quite locked and the sign, after all, firmly says Do Not Disturb – and I’d hate for all this to be disturbed – where was I? Ahh yes. I was mushing you into a carpet like jelly. Daniel – my wonderfully encouraging manager – please don’t look so worried; this story is only half-done, and there’s a great deal more to come!

“Jelly for starters. You see, in this thoroughly enjoyable dream – no, I won’t lower my fist, I like it where it is, you see – and stop interrupting my flow – this is about me – my Personal Appraisal – mine – please, Shut Up! – yes, anyway. Good. In this thoroughly enjoyable dream, there is one disappointment. Yes, you guessed it. Did you? I don’t know, you’re so dull – possibly not. But when you hear the one disappointment, you’ll instantly recognize its truth.

“The disappointment is that it’s only a dream after all. Simple, eh? Each morning, I do not actually manage to snuff out the light of your unique essence. I wake to an alarm – and dammit, I have to come in to work and talk with you. Talk with you... So, I come in. And there you are, alive and unscathed. Your ugly features intact, grinning at me like a monkey. Like a jelly monkey. Like the face of an ugly monkey set in cheap jelly. And the sight each morning makes me want to puke shit out of my eyes.

“Or rather, it makes me want the dream to be real. For a fist to really have entered your face, thumped through the roof of your mouth, prodded out your eyes from the inside, and squished your brain – ‘brain’ – into mush. And then for you to casually collapse on the carpet, your eternal soul gone from the universe for ever, under the cheap second sole of my black-leather shoe.

“And that is the disappointment every single day – that you – no, I won’t sit down. I’ll say it twice if you like – but I won’t sit down. The crushing disappointment. That you are still alive. And each night, I ask the gods to answer my dreams and convert your life force into a job for the cleaners. Where was I?

“Ahh yes – you get the picture now. I jubilantly dream of your death every night – and wake disappointed. I can see a look of worry across your face – no need to move your chair back, or nervously grab that hole-punch like it’s a shield – I am really so much bigger than you. (Do you know we all call you Downsize Danny?) Anyway, my occasional friend, I imagine you are asking yourself a pretty simple question right now.

“And that question is: What the blazes has all this to do with a Personal Appraisal? No – you’re shaking your head – something else bothering you? Well, come come. Speak.

“You don’t seem able to speak. Well, this little speech of mine really rather depended on you asking me now: ‘What’s this got to do with your Personal Appraisal?’ Can’t you play along, Mister Nice Guy? And please, stop jumping when I take a step in your direction. You look scared, or something.

“Wait a minute – if I tower above you – will you ask the question now? What if I – yes – I thought the throat-grip would force it out of you. What’s this got to do with your Personal Appraisal. Good question, Danny, gargled admittedly but a really good question for a midget monkey like you! Just a little joke, just a little joke. Midget – yes. Monkey – no. More like a mollusc!

“O I make myself laugh. O, chill out, Downside Dumbass, please. You just asked a really good question just then. What’s this got do with my personal appraisal? I like good questions. And that’s your first. Well done. I Appraise that you are Improving. Your current conclusion about me is probably a bit different – but it won’t matter one iota in two moments. Trust me, Dorkass, on that at least.

“So. The crunch. The big kahuna. The mother of mothers. The final fist. What on earth has this: my wish to send all the moments of your beautiful individuality into the ultimate recycle bin, got to do with this: my Personal Appraisal? You look mortified! Stop shaking; your furry, sweaty ears will hear better then.

“Actually, let me answer your question falsely for a few moments – before I answer with The Truth. I’ll tell you a few lies, in case you get confused and doubt me. I’d hate that. I’ll tell you a few things about What All This Doesn’t Mean.

“First of all – and I thought these dreams meant this for a while – all this doesn’t mean I want a temp. And by temp, I mean ditzy 20-something to do my filing. And by ditzy 20-something, I mean a stupid, beautiful woman. And by steautiful woman, I mean an immigrant with a dodgy work permit. And by that, I mean someone whom I can say: give me a blowjob and work late and do all my work – or I’ll phone up the Passport Office. Under the table, now. (She’d need rudimentary English, incidentally.)

“Anyway. Why don’t I mean that? I am not so soulless as to employ a whore! Or rather, someone who I fuck however I want, whenever I want – the way you employ you me. Ok, you don’t. But sometimes I feel like you do – and that’s enough for me to make a mirror for the moment.

“Okay, first possibility crossed off the list. See, we’re getting somewhere, aren’t we? Secondly – I’m not asking for time off for stress. I wouldn’t mind it, but a holiday of false hope? I could not lie to myself. Like my dreams don’t lie. Like my dream that you by my fist are to die. Oop – best not skip ahead like that! You like your bullet points nice and orderly, I know, I know, I know so very damn well.

“Third possibility – which isn’t true. Let me reiterate: these are all implications that what I’ve said don’t actually mean. Just for your sense of – Chi? Calm? Ikea? Ichia? Tai Chi? Chai Tea? Feng shui? Whatever totems of Eastern chillage chit you do buy in bulk into. Well whatever – chill, you. I don’t actually mean to kill you. Not this exact moment. Well, you never know. Sometimes you tell yourself such things – falling asleep, calmly – and then – say – well, nevermind! You see, the thing is, I don’t much care for jelly. I’d rather not have it on my fists at all, really. Deep down. I think. Here’s the story.

“When I was four years old (and, by the by, here’s a chance for you to use some empathy, because that’s your approximate mental age) I had a birthday party organized for me by the strangers I knew then as parents – mum and dad. And I ate all the jelly before the guests arrived – where are the stupid infants now? probably in leather chairs much like yours – and after eating it, I rapidly puke and shat myself. And missed the party. Picture it - my first memory.

“Daniel, you look pale! More like clams than lobster. Well, lobster is always such a grand fish. Usually eaten as a whole. Probably because it’s a hassle for chefs to flesh out the meat in pieces – unlike little molluscs. I do like eating little molluscs. They’re a dying species, apparently: so eat them while you can. They’ll be gone soon – like you! On a geographical timescale, I mean. O I make myself laugh.

“Where was I? Ahh yes. I don’t much like jelly. As I was saying. My little vignette. I don’t much like vinegar, incidentally. Prefer my food raw. Or with a little butter. Anyway, carrying on, going on, like a foolish moron amongst filing – not even pausing to masturbate in the loneliness – I don’t much like filing. Or jelly.

“Incidentally – I really appreciate how quiet and uninterrupting you are now. Because – let’s be honest – you like to interrupt don’t you? You hear a jokey chat in my office from your office, give it a couple of minutes, and interrupt the whole thing with a query about a question in an email – any email – don’t you? Yes, you do. Break up the party, as harmless as a four year olds birthday party. But this is not a real grievance – because I really can’t stand the people whom love me for my office wit any more than you, and your praise for my efficiency. (I hide the filing I can’t be bothered to do, incidentally.)

“There I am. Prolonging my conclusioning again. I fear I have gotten all confusing. My third point is: I don’t think I’m going to kill you.

“(Right now.) And why aren’t I going to kill you?

“(Probably.) Because I don’t like jelly. So what is my conclusion? Ahh, if only you hadn’t lost the power of speech! Still, the dark patch spreading from your groin is eloquent enough.

“Because all I want, in answer to this Personal Appraisal and the other issues discussed – well, you’ve been pleasingly and unusually quiet, but ‘discussed’ will do – because all I want from you is popcorn. Yes, popcorn. I want to sit behind my desk and watch the morons move past like movies. That level of indifference I want – and I want for you no more than a prop. A prop of popcorn. That’s all.

“How about it? Think it over. I should also say – I want raw propcon. Not the packaged stuff. So if the mood ever takes me, I can swallow the little fists of corn whole, heat myself up, and then have my stomach explode outward over the open-plan. Maybe I just want the ultimate deterrent to always be there – or maybe one day I actually do it, because who really knows? Anyway: I want the choice, to blurt my entirety out in the form of a million exploding fists, from my centre to my feet to my face.

“I’ll leave you to think about it. In the meantime – the database is ticking along nicely. The adverts for the next two events are already all ready. I’m a little behind on the pack – but I think you will forgive me for that? Silence equals consent. See you in a bit. Or in a dream. Anyway – time for me to get back to the invisible internet.”