We’re having some problems. Problems with time. Problems with capacity. Problems with promises. Problems with saying no. Ultimately, I kind of see them as problems with reality.
Six months ago, this company was trying to do everything without magic at all. Nothing was being delivered, the customers were abandoning ship, and the cabal of developers who had held the whole thing together with duct tape and chewing gum decided to take their 100000 lines of spaghetti code and call it a day. The people who ran the company – those C level people – were left in a desperate place. Looking at a future of poverty and misfortune – or becoming just oh so slightly less rich than they were – it was probably a fairly easy choice to go the black magic route. I mean, everybody’s seen Harry Potter, nobody is too concerned about a little bit of spell casting here and there. We’re just not allowed to mention Death Eaters, or blood sacrifice, or the possibility of everything going tits up once Article 50 is invoked. I mean, shit, how did Brexit get approved, anyway? How did Donald Trump get elected? These are indications of black magic as clear as three “hundred year” floods in a decade are a marker of global warming. Only fools believe in coincidences; practitioners look for the patterns.

The demon-possessed head of development sat at a table surrounded by us, his unwilling minions. We’d had a few of these meetings, and each time he’s made a few subtle changes. I caught that the cables on top of the conference room table now formed a five pointed star, and that one of the ten slides showing our progress was actually a flickering invocation of some sort, the kind that had people chanting as they washed their hands in the bathrooms … completely without realizing it. None of the other managers seemed to have noticed an alteration in how things were being done, and all happily put on white robes and embroidered sashes as they walked in to our “weekly catchup.” I dropped my silver ward beneath my shirt and hoped it was enough.

We sat down and began to go through the progress reports. Line after line, the individual teams’ Jira tickets were called out. A rythm began to form, and the team leaders began to recite the words on the screen in unison. “Over the line,” the dev master said. “Over the line,” everyone repeated. We were lulled into a haze. And suddenly ….

We were in a wagon, with the back covered in white cloth. Each of the so called “scrum masters” sat quietly, holding hands, facing forward. while the man in the driver’s seat cracked his whip. The horses pulling us were black, their hooves shooting sparks as they hit the rocks of the plateau we were careening across, their eyes blood red and glowing. Nothing about them was of the planet I grew up on. And in the distance, I saw the edge, a great gaping maw waiting for our little white Conestoga to arrive.

Behind us, I watched as a tiny man on a donkey galloped along behind us. What would it have taken to have stopped this chase? A peashooter? A particularly juicy clump of grass? The simple word, “No?” But the demon mastered were under the spell. I could not stop my lips from mouthing, “Over the line! Over the line!” as we barreled forward, even though I kept my vocal cords silent. And in the split second before the wheels parted from the earth I grabbed my stop watch and hit go … because I had promised I would do performance testing and this was the only fucking environment to do it I would ever get.

My neck snapped backwards as we collapsed into a singularity and I was back in the room. Everyone looked up, their eyes shining. We were going to do eight projects with only enough time and staff for six, really really honestly, and everyone was saying it and believed it. But on a tiny piece of paper, I scribbled the number, “5,” and tucked it behind the case of my phone. Time had stopped. The meeting was over. We all walked outside to meet our doom. And I had a tiny memorial of the truth that everyone had chosen to believe in the moment of group madness: the time/cost/quality triangle was a reality that no team of supernatural horses could truly escape, no matter how perfectly in unison we chanted. Two projects would die, one would fail due to shifting priorities, and I would get the prize out of a crackerjack box when I reminded myself that I had escaped the group think and kept true to the One True Path of the Triangle. Also, I had my performance metrics. Five: the perfect number.