Drumming his fingertips on the notepad, he closes his eyelids, causing his brain to immediately swim. His eyes feel like lures bobbing in the water, trying to keep balance between sleep and awareness. The gravitational pull is stronger on the sleep side.
Voices come in and out of his ears like one-night stands, the conversations never sticking around long enough for any meaning or details, although some with a sense of urgency that goes unnoticed. The computer monitor displays its message – 5 unread emails, 6 unread emails, 9 unread emails, but closed eyelids cannot read, cannot be aware. His contact lenses fan out from his eyeballs, creating a seal behind his eyelids to make it even more difficult to open them once his mind rights itself.
The left side of his jaw slides down his left palm, his four days worth of stubble scratching his skin and causing enough friction to keep his head from bobbing downward like a reluctant affirmation. His head hangs on for dear life like a baby tooth not yet ready to detach from the gums.
Finish your work, his voice, lazy and slurred, even in his own mind, tells his brain. At the very least, check the time and start the countdown until 4 o’clock. Clean your desk. Organize your papers. Do something. Don’t give them a reason to stop issuing you a bi-weekly paycheck. You can kiss Patricia’s ass good-bye if you’re not bringing home the money. She already barely touches you as it is.
Forcing open his eyelids, he cannot tell if they opened or not, as he sits in darkness. He sees the outline of his computer monitor, the keyboard, the telephone. Sunlight no longer sneaks through his window, which is offering the slightest illumination from a distant street light.
Did Patricia call or text? No.
Did his co-workers really just leave him as is? They are probably having a good laugh at his expense down at Winking Lizard or Harry Buffalo or wherever their Friday drinking party took them this week. He is positive that Monday morning will be spent explaining himself or receiving a lecture about spending company time more wisely. The lecture is most likely because the explanation will be brief.
I was tired.
Would he be labeled a smart ass for that explanation? It was the truth, though. What else can he say? More importantly (and more urgently), he needed to find an excuse for Patricia. The truth would just confirm to her that he’s not worth the time and effort, and he would have a weekend of feeling worse about himself than he already does. No. He needs to find a way to keep those disparaging remarks at bay.
Simple misunderstanding, right? I got stuck in a meeting and didn’t notice the time. No. She knows, if anything, they will leave earlier rather than later on a Friday night. I decided to grab a quick drink with my co-workers and lost track of time. The former has happened before. Sometimes, he cannot get away, or the meeting sounds like it is wrapping up for thirty minutes straight. Again, it has just never happened on a Friday. The latter has never happened before. In fact, it’s rare that he has a drink, let alone socializing with his co-workers, but it’s a possibility, right? In fact, it may make him look a little better in Patricia’s eyes, right?
What time is it, anyway?
Hitting his mouse to exit the pitch black screen saver, he stares at the blank screen. He looks at his phone, but the display is dark as midnight. His cell phone offers no time, just a distorted picture of the Earth, as if someone mistakenly put a fish-eye lens on the satellite. If he would tap the email icon on his cell phone, he would see email after email declaring THE END! THE END! THE END! before all transmissions stopped. He doesn’t bother, though, fixated on the lack of text messages or phone calls from his wife.
For the first time, he notices the absolute silence engulfing him. He has never been sitting at his desk in silence, not even when he comes into work by himself on the weekend. A librarian would even feel discomfort in this amount of silence.
Shifting his gaze from side to side, he quickly releases his laptop from its docking station and shoves it into his backpack, along with a pen and pad of paper. He collects his keys off the desk. He always puts them next to his telephone to avoid getting jabbed throughout the work day. He slides his cell phone into his front left pocket because his wallet always occupies his front right. He doesn’t understand people putting wallets in their back pockets; he finds that terribly uncomfortable.
Slinging the backpack over his shoulders, he walks out of his cubicle, down the hall, down another hall, through a secured door, and then stands in front of the bank of elevators. Pressing the down button, it flickers on and then off, but no doors open. He rapidly presses the button a few times to the same result, staring down at the button, as if his gaze could somehow force the light to stay illuminated. Remembering the definition of insanity, he backs away from the elevator doors and heads into the stairwell, where the lights are out on every other floor, while the working ones are starting to dim.
After walking down six flights of stairs, he enters the lobby. Like the stairwell, every other light is out while the others dim. He looks at one of the lights just as it flickers and expires, which is strangely unsettling. The security desk is unmanned, even though it should be occupied at all hours of the day and night. The office building is never officially closed, with access given twenty-four hours per day, seven days per week, without exception.
Pushing through the doors, he walks onto the sidewalk, blinking yellow lights from all the working traffic signals are the only sources of light in front of the building. Where was that light coming from that came through the window by my cube? The night is completely still. No homeless. No cars. No wind. Nothing.
Have I gone deaf? He stomps his foot on the pavement, comforted by the echoing thud. Am I just thinking I’m hearing this? Do I just know what it sounds like and am fooling myself into believing it’s audible?
That’s not from memory.
He turns in the direction of the sound to see a human figure ambling towards him. About to ask the figure what the fuck is going on, he stops.
There is enough yellow blinking light to illuminate the liquid streaming out of the thing’s eyes. He cannot be sure exactly what it is, but it sure as shit isn’t a tear. It’s thick. It’s dark. It opens its mouth in a sinister smile, with more dark liquid dribbling out the sides and down to its chin.