“Are you awake over there?”
Abbigayle’s head snapped up from her desk.
“Uh, yeah. I just haven’t gotten a lot of rest lately.”
Abbigayle didn’t bother to wait for the look. Instead, she rubbed her swollen eyes in an attempt to suppress the dull buzzing in her head.
“Don’t worry, I’m okay. Just tired from all the legal stuff. The process takes a long time.” The line came out mechanically.
“If you’re sure you’re alright…”
Of course I’m not, but I’m not going to discuss this with middle management.
“Yep. Don’t worry, I’m not sleeping at my desk.”
And wait for it…
“You can always take more time if you need to.”
Bingo. What do we have for him Johnny?
“Thanks, but it’s good to be doing something again. Get back into the flow of things.”
A big vacation trip to anywhere but here, if only he’d cash it in.
Abbigayle pasted a smile on her face and endured the look from him. He nodded, flashed several variations of the look, then continued down the row of cubicles in the drab office space.
Why am I doing this? Where am I going? I am I just going through life on cruise control? I must be on the highway to hell.
“Oh my god Abbi, what happened to your eye?”
She startled again, feeling a flush of embarrassment at being caught off guard yet again. A thick set blonde stood in front of her, gawking.
“My eye? What? Nothing happened to my eye.” she replied, touching around her eyes reflexively. Still the blonde was a pantomime of horror. Her thick round face looked oddly stretched as her mouth gaped open around her short pudgy fingers ineffectively covering her gasp.
Hey look, it’s tubby what’s-her-name. She looks like she’s about to chow down on those fingers, suck all the fat right off the bones. Maybe if they were deep fried. Finger lickin’ good.
Abbigayle rolled here eyes as she realized the cause of the blonde’s concerns.
“Ughh, I must have rubbed my mascara. Do I look like I have a black eye?”
Her name is Tina… or Tanya… or Tammy. Something like that. Tubby Tina?
“No, you look like a raccoon!” she squealed.
Tubby Tabitha? That sounds better.
Abbigayle stood from her desk and squeezed past the wide-load blonde.
“I’m just gonna go wash this off.”
“Maybe if you took better care of yourself they wouldn’t have died.”
For a second she wasn’t quite sure she had actually heard the blonde say the words. That fat face had been smiling, red lips shiny as they spoke.
From all the bloody fingers.
Abbigayle was already walking away and couldn’t muster the will to turn around. She must have imagined those words, because nobody would have said that. No, people don’t say things like that. They say ‘I’m so sorry’ and give the look because they can’t put into words what they can’t feel. They don’t understand, so the look is supposed to say that they understand when it really just says ‘I pity you’.
She made her way down the long row of cubicles. It was like they repeated, the same people in the same little boxes that just blurred together as she walked down the lane.
People with no souls, that’s what they are. Just bags of flesh held together by their frilly blouses and branded polo shirts. If you opened them up, you’d see that they’re dead inside. Rotten and dead.
With a push, the heavy restroom door swung open and she stepped into the darkness. Ever since they replaced the light switch with motion sensors, you had to step into the pitch black for a second before the lights turned on.
This time, however, the door slammed shut and no light came. Just darkness.
If her eyes were open or closed, she couldn’t tell. Just the nothing of darkness and now the sensation that she was drifting, maybe falling. Her heart pounded in her chest and the buzzing in her head grew. She groped for the door or the wall or anything, but nothing was there. Moving her arms took so much effort, like they had just been turned to lead. The buzzing was worse, now like a roaring thunder in her head. It was so much that she saw stars and colorless explosions behind her eyes.
They’re in here with you. Just open your head.
The thunder had grown to an all consuming wail, a terrible screaming thing that vibrated in her skull. The pain was white hot and her eyes felt as though they were staring into the sun. She squeezed her eyes tighter closed but the burning brightness only grew. Instead of eyes, she now had hot burning coals that burned the inside of her eyelids and sent lightning bolts of pain through her brain.
She was screaming.
You banished the darkness with pain. How foolish. Stop the pain and let the darkness come back.
Abbigayle opened her eyes. The restroom stalls were empty. The lights were on, but they felt dull after the white hot that had tortured her. Her head had quieted down to a light buzzing.
Shakily, she went over to the sink and turned on the cold water tap. It felt cool in her hands, but when she splashed it on her face there was no feeling. her face was numb. She tried again, but still no feeling in her face. Not even the touch of her hand registered, like her fingers were touching someone else’s face.
Looking up in to the mirror, it was indeed her reflection. The same soft complexion, but more pale than it used to be. Her brown hair seemed wiry and messier than she had let it get before. She looked tired. She looked drained of life. There were dark blotches around her eyes.
Eyes that were closed.
She stared at her face in the mirror. Still, the dark eyelids were shut.
Don’t look. Or she’ll see you.
As she leaned closer to the mirror, the reflection didn’t move. Standing. Eyes shut.
She sees you.
White hot brightness exploded from the mirror, driving Abbigayle back. The floor vibrated, the walls and everything. The room felt tilted, shifted on its axis and everything wanted to go sideways. The water was still flowing from the faucet, but now it missed the sink entirely.
Legs unsteady and heavy, she ran.
Run, run as fast as you can.
She made it out into the office, but everything was still tilted and shifting. People were working and walking and standing around. All with their eyes shut.
You can’t catch me.
In each cubicle she passed, more people with eyes shut and brightness coming from their computer screens. White hot brightness that sent searing pain through the middle of her head. Somehow she pushed her heavy limbs farther down the lane.
I’m on the highway to hell.
Her cubicle. Her desk. She sank into her chair, her chest pounding. Light was beaming from her computer screen, but this time she couldn’t look away.
That’s right. Look.
The pain was immense and the sound, the terrible sound was consuming.
Look. Just a little longer. Look.
Tears streamed down her face, but she couldn’t look away. She couldn’t move. She was strapped to her chair.
Abbigayle looked at the brightness.
This is how you die.
Then the brightness was gone. Something else was on her computer screen. A long, dark road.
You know where you’re going.
Everything around her grew dark, except the road. It was a dark, slick black road lined with the shadows of trees. There was a sharp turn ahead.
And then she knew.
How could you do this to yourself?
Her arms were so heavy. So slow.
Did you really have to work the overtime?
Eyelids like heavy weights pressed down on her eyes. She couldn’t…keep… them… open…
You should have known your limits. You just killed them too.
“MOMMY WAKE UP!!”