Night at the Office
My eyes shot open. I awoke to the foggy view of my computer screen and dim cubicle lamp. The overhead fluorescent lights across the tiled ceiling were shut off. My exhausted eyes shifted their focus to the clock on my computer screen. 1:34 a.m. “God damnit,” I spoke softly to myself. My boss had been demanding I stay late to catch up on work due to so many of my co-workers quitting recently and Christmas fast approaching. “We need you to spearhead this project, so get it done by the end of the week, numbnuts.” His words kept repeating in my head. I imagined his short stocky frame walking from cubicle to cubicle, berating his workers as they put in overtime, covering for his mistakes. “Such an asshole,” I whispered to myself. All of the overtime had caught up with me and I had finally passed out at my desk. I was the last one here in the accounting department and the nightly janitor for our floor had already passed through my area, leaving no one to wake me.
I adjusted my glasses and glanced over to the phone. I picked up the receiver, no dial tone. I.T. must have shut them down overnight for some sort of maintenance. I leaned back in my chair and stretched my legs, which were very sore from sleeping upright at my desk. I turned my chair and looked into the darkness of the office. It was almost completely black with the exception of blinking green and yellow power lights on computer towers which had been left running overnight. My eyes traced the dim orange glow of distant streetlights that entered through the office windows and fell across the floor.
I put on my thick winter coat and walked over to the window in my co-worker’s office. “Wonderful,” I muttered, looking down from our ninth floor office. I watched as thick sheets of snow fell silently from the sky down onto a barely plowed parking lot, and into the woods that surrounded our office building. I looked over to the side where I always parked in the morning. One of my co-workers seemed to have taken pity on me for working late and brushed the snow off my car, although it was beginning to pile up again. I turned, took a deep breath, and sighed, walking past our sea of gray-walled cubicles. In the silence, I thought of the murmuring of our employees against the background noise of keyboard tapping, adding machines, and the whirring of office computers, printers, and copiers. I imagined all of their exhausted faces, hands on their foreheads anxiously awaiting 5:00 p.m.
I made my way out of my work area and down the connecting hallway with a glass wall overlooking the parking lot to my right and the other office rooms to my left. I gazed inside at the lifeless work area and was left with the impression of just how eerie this place becomes at night. I continued down the hall another ten seconds or so until I reached the elevator. I pressed the button with the down arrow expecting the yellow light to blink on as I removed my thumb. But nothing happened. I pushed it again, still nothing. It must be deactivated during the night. I pushed up my glasses to rub my weary eyes as I turned and faced the gray metal door to the stairs. Looking through the window on the door, I could see the stairs were pitch black. I turned the knob and entered the square staircase, letting the heavy door slam closed behind me with a loud thud. Feeling my way to the railing, I grasped it in my right hand and proceeded to descend the staircase. I counted each door I passed on my way down, keeping track of which floor I was on.
Listening to the tapping of my uncomfortable office shoes against the stairs, I longed to be home in my bed. Sixth floor. I began thinking about calling out sick in the morning, amusing myself at how much it would aggravate my boss. Serves him right for having me work these ridiculous hours. I looked upward into the center of the staircase, where had it been lit, I could see all the way to the top levels, but in this pitch blackness I could not make out a thing. I began counting the steps to distract myself from the unpleasantness of moving around in this darkness. 22, 23, 24 steps between each floor. Third floor. I began pondering about how I would spend my day tomorrow. After sleeping in, I think I will go see a movie to take my mind off the stress of work. Afterwards, I will probably grab a bite to eat, perhaps at the new Thai restaurant that has opened down the street from my apartment. I smiled slightly at the thought of my spontaneous holiday.
I was almost at the bottom of the stairs, halfway between the second and first floor when I was halted in my tracks by the distant creaking of an opening door several floors above me. My eyes widened and my palm grew sweaty against the rail. I looked up again into the darkness, not making a sound. I heard the echoing thud of the door closing and footsteps making their way steadily down the staircase. Nobody should be in the building at this hour. Lowering my foot, I tried to make my pacing down the remaining stairs quieter than before to avoid the attention of whoever else was in the staircase. Then, reaching the level one door, I turned the knob and opened the door with a loud creak, rendering my quiet treading pointless. I quickly entered the door, shutting it quietly behind me, though I’m sure whoever was in the staircase had heard the grating of the hinges.
I moved swiftly down the hall, too scared to take in the view of the empty offices beside me and made my way for the front door. I reached the main section of the ground floor, my footsteps echoing loudly against the black decorative marble flooring. I made my way past the open door of the kitchen with its high glass walls, then the conference room. Each open door I passed intensified my fear as I imagined my presence was being observed. Then, as I closed in on the front door, my eyes fell upon something that stifled my sprint to a full stop. In the dimness of the main hall, I saw what appeared to be chains with a large padlock across the vertical bronze bars on the large green tinted glass double doors. I moved closer to see if my exit had truly been blocked. I reached my hand across the cool bronze bar and pushed. The doors did not budge. The chains were wrapped tightly around both bars on the doors several times. Looking through the glass doors and feeling the frigid night winter air coming in between them, my heart began to race, as I knew these chains were here not to keep someone out, but rather in.
Knowing it was only a matter of time before my location was identified by whoever else was in the office, I looked around seeking a place to hide, my closest options being the kitchen or the adjacent conference room. I figured my best option would be to obtain a knife from the kitchen for self-defense and move to the conference room since the kitchen’s transparent glass walls would not provide the best of cover. Entering the kitchen door, I moved past the tables towards the knife block situated near the sink, grasping the large butcher’s knife in my hand. I took a moment to look at the glass walls of the kitchen that faced outside. As with the main entrance doors, it was very thick green tinted glass. Breaking through it would require repeated strikes with a chair which would almost certainly give away my position, and there is no guarantee I would even be able to break through it. I ruled out this plan and turned to head towards the conference room when the creaking of the staircase door several yards away shot through my ears, causing me to fumble the knife which I caught on the blade end right before it hit the ground.
Realizing there was no way I could get to the conference room now without the stranger in the office hearing me, I resolved to hide behind a far back table so that the legs of several chairs would obstruct the view of me. I put my knife in the right side of my belt, so as to be ready to draw it at any moment. I kneeled down and then laid flat on my stomach with my cheek pressed against the cold marble floor, still staring through the glass of the kitchen observing the main hall. Then, as if thrust into some surreal dream, a rush of terror overcame me. Looking between the chair legs out into the dim main hall, I saw something that I could not have imagined in the worst of nightmares.
Reflecting the faint light coming in from the street lamps outside was the outline of a hideous figure. It was a man, but bearing vaguely canine characteristics. His mouth protruded far more than any human. This elongated muzzle-like mouth was open as the creature looked about. I could make out rows of large sharp teeth as its lips pulled back, as if smelling the air, trying to sense something. I prayed that this monster did not have the acute sense of smell like that of a dog or I would be no doubt be a dead man. Its nose seemed to be more human-like, stretching uncomfortably along the top of the muzzle. I was perplexed and disturbed even further to find that it was wearing office clothes— an awkwardly fitting, tucked-in white shirt, with sleeves extending only halfway down its forearms, along with black pants and shoes. Was this... thing someone who works in the building, hiding this hideous transformation during the day? I shuddered. It strode upright like a human but slightly hunched. Despite its posture it was taller than me, appearing to be nearly six and a half feet. It had unusually long arms which looked far stronger than an average man’s. As it lumbered forward, I knew there was no doubt that I would have been overpowered if I were to try and fight. I could also make out hands, that while at first glance seemed normal, they had long curved nails, almost claw-like. I felt like I was going to faint, surely I was not actually witnessing this. How could this be real?
The thing moved past the kitchen door and into the conference room across the hall and I thanked the heavens I had not followed through with my initial plan. I needed to think of a way out, as it was only a matter of time before this half-man creature found me. Suddenly, I remembered, on the roof of the building, there is a ladder on the east side that leads to the ground. I see it every morning when I drive in, and once down it would only be a short distance to the parking lot. I could reach the roof via the staircase I had previously came down. There was fourteen floors to our office building, with the fifteenth being the roof. It was risky but I did not see any other options. Still lying flat on the ground, I slipped off my shoes as the echo of them walking across the main hall would surely attract unwanted attention. I sat up slowly, my right hand was trembling as I touched the knife handle, making sure it was still fastened tight in my belt. I looked over at the shadowy doorway of the conference room, then in a tiptoeing sprint, I made a dash across the dark hallway towards the staircase door.
I moved out of the main hall into the section close to the staircase, my pace nervously accelerating. As I made my way past the first floor office rooms and reached the staircase door, I stopped a moment and looked behind me. I saw nothing in the darkness. I faced the door and turning the knob, I pulled gently, trying to avoid the creaking. I pulled it ajar just enough so that I could once again slip into the pitch black staircase and shut it quietly behind me. I began my ascent, feeling my way to the steps with my feet, now covered only by a pair of dress socks. I grasped the rail with my left hand and started running up the stairs with wide strides propelled by fear. I rounded the square staircase several times. Fourth floor.
I was beginning to severely hyperventilate, both from fear and from being tremendously out of shape. Fifth floor.
I passed by the door to the fifth floor and started rounding up towards the sixth when I heard from the bottom floor of the staircase, the raspy, grating door which I had recently entered, swing open. Before it was even able to creak close, I could already hear the tapping of shoes coming up the steps. With my survival instincts beginning to take hold, I began to bound up the steps to escape my pursuer.
The steps from the being were coming at a menacing pace, faster than a walk and increasing in speed. I filled with dread as they closed in on me. Up almost to the eighth floor, the beast couldn’t have been more than two floors below me. Knowing that I was being easily outpaced and completely losing my breath, I crashed through the eighth floor staircase door and ran as fast as I could towards the cubicles in search of a place to hide.
I had definitely given away my location by opening that staircase door, but I had no other choice. At its feverish pace, there is no way I could outrun run it and made it to the roof without it catching me. I fled down the hallway making my way to the eighth floor cubicles. As I reached them, I felt dizzy and began to stumble, wondering if I was hallucinating. I grabbed on to the side of one of the cubicle walls, erratically breathing. “What the hell is that thing?” I thought to myself, searching for a place to hide. I was snapped back into the urgency of my situation when the staircase door from down the hallway opened and slammed shut. Horrified by the speed at which the beast was pursuing me, I lunged under the closest cubicle desk I could find. I tried desperately to slow my breathing and regain my composure as I sat there curled up, waiting. It wasn’t long before I heard the soft sound of footsteps on the office carpet, making their way down the row of cubicles behind mine.
I could hear the low animal-like breathing as it walked past the gray cubicle wall my back was pressed against. The half-human creature was getting closer, rounding the cubicle walls and nearing the section where I was concealing myself. It seemed to know my general location without being able to pinpoint it exactly. I listened as it came nearer, making a disgusting sort of grunt cough, mixed with a low, quick, dog-like growl. I needed to take action very soon. Across from me, I saw the glow of the parking lot lights creeping around the entrance of an open office door. Perhaps I could make a break for the room, lock myself inside, and hope that the thing would not be able to break in as it would surely see or hear me run for it. Then, I heard more grunt-like vocalizations coming from the cubicle directly to the left of mine. It sounded like papers and office supplies were being tossed around, followed by a coffee mug hitting the floor. He seemed to be getting irritated that he was unable to find me. Seized with terror at how close the monster was, I realized that I needed to make a decision right now. I looked at the open office across from me, slowly stood up, grabbed a stapler off the desk that I was crouched under, and hurled it into the room. A loud crash was heard as the stapler knocked trays of papers and framed family photos off a table. It roused the beast’s attention and it swiftly ran to the office to investigate the noise. I fled from the cubicles as quietly as I could when I observed it enter the office. I was running faster than I ever have in my life down the connecting passage back to the staircase door. As I stopped to open it, my legs swayed with fright. I opened the door closing it as silently as I could behind me and once again meeting the blindness of the staircase, dashed shoe-less up the steps toward the roof.
I was over halfway there, I had to make it. Eleventh floor. As I rounded the steps, I heard, from a few floors below me, the loud bang of a door being thrust open with incredible force, slamming the wall beside it. Then came the rapid sound of shoes upon steps from my pursuer. I panicked, letting out a half whimpering cry as they grew louder, closer. I was losing ground rapidly. I could hear its excited breathing, like an animal closing in on its prey in the wild. Its grunting and snarling seemed to be right behind me. I screamed in an eruption of fear which seemed to only strengthen the thing’s resolve to catch me as it closed in even faster. I reached the thirteenth floor and tore the door open, hoping to find another spot to hide.
I tried to run through the doorway, but before I was able, my right arm was caught and I was snapped backwards. Another scream left my throat, from fear and the immense pain surging from my trapped limb. I looked behind me, and with the pale light coming in from the hallway windows, I saw the monstrosity had sunk its teeth into the sleeve of my winter jacket. Up close, it was even more disgusting than I was able to perceive at a distance. Atrocious breath like that of rotting meat. Grotesque yellow tinged skin with thin gray bits of fur unevenly covered parts of its face and arms, as if ravaged by the effects of mange. It moved its muscular jaws left and right, trying to throw me off balance and pull me to my death in the black abyss of the staircase. I pulled with all my strength, but I was no match for it. I was dragged forward, but with my left hand on the doorway I managed to buy myself another moment.
Then, I reached across my body, drawing the knife I had obtained from the kitchen out of my belt and sank it deep into the beast, where its shoulder and neck meet. It let out a stomach-lurching growl, sounding unlike anything I have ever heard. Not letting go, I dug the blade deeper. Blood poured out from its repulsive body onto the white shirt, and finally its bite weakened enough for me to shift my arm so that its teeth were only buried into the fabric of the winter coat. The creature’s savage growl changed to a snarl and I trembled at its rage. It wrenched me forward as it moved a few paces backwards. Then, with a misplaced step, not sensing the stairs behind it, the creature fell backwards, and I spun around, letting it take my coat down with it into the darkness.
I flew up the steps with tears of terror in my throat. I was barely even holding on to the rail anymore as I hurried up the remaining steps to the roof. Finally, rounding the last few stairs, I kicked the door open and stumbled out on to the roof, falling forward onto a sight that stood every hair on my body on end.
What I saw, in the snow on the rooftop, were the open eyes of the janitor, looking straight up at me. The lower half of his body completely torn away, eaten, staining the snow red with a twisted look of horror frozen upon his face. His eyes reflecting the pain and fear he felt in his final moments. He must have been chased to the rooftop and hunted down before he could escape. Handprints were left in the snow next to his body as if trying to pull himself away, indicating that he was being devoured, while still very much alive.
I leaped from where I had fallen, every bit of my body and soul trembling. I trudged forward towards the ladder in my thin, black, dress socks against the frigid rooftop snow. I was finally at the ladder, my way out of this nightmare. I grabbed the icy cold metal bars and began my climb downward. I made it only six rungs down when a strong gust of wind and the still falling snow nearly threw me from the ladder. I clung tightly to the bars and when the gust had passed, I continued my descent as quickly as was safely possible. I could not feel my hands and feet from the glacial temperatures but this was of no concern to me right now. Downward I went with the raw, chilling windwhipping at my back, until my feet were finally on the snowy ground.
I plodded my way across the building through the area that had previously been plowed, scanning around for any movement in the faint, sparsely lit parking lot. Running past this section and into the unplowed area of the parking lot where the snow was much deeper, I at last reached my car. As I hurriedly brushed the snow off my driver’s side window and the windshield with my hand, I once again glanced around the parking lot and at the office windows. Too nervous to clean off the other windows, I jumped inside, quickly locking the door and starting the engine. Looking through the windshield, I couldn’t see a thing as the layer of snow above the spot where I had cleaned had already covered it back up. I turned on the windshield wipers and felt my frozen, numb foot press against the brake pedal to put it into drive. The wipers were just strong enough to remove the heavy accumulation of snow on the windshield, making me incredibly grateful for the co-worker who had cleaned it off for me earlier.
As I reached for the shifter, something caught the peripheral of my left eye. Gazing out my driver’s side window I was met eye to eye with the otherworldly monstrosity. The familiar terror rushed back into me as I looked into its large, freakish pupils, which were surrounded by thin, gray irises. It stared at me a moment, then shot forward, slamming viciously against the glass of my driver’s window, leaving a nauseating smear as it pulled away. From me escaped a scream which devolved into a manic crying laugh, my emotions and mind completely scrambled and delirious. I floored the gas pedal only to have the back end of my car fishtail in the deep snow. The creature struck again at my window with its mouth. My small car’s engine roared on and off desperately as I intermittently floored the gas pedal, trying to propel the car to the area of the parking lot that had been previously plowed. I edged closer to it with the beast repeatedly striking at my window with its claw-like hands, and trying my door handle. It’s intelligence at trying the handle only intensifying my hysteria. Then, with one effective and forceful strike, a crack formed down my window. I fell silent and stared straight ahead stomping as hard as I could on the gas pedal. The monster relentlessly smashed its fists against the window and the crack grew deeper, extending the entire length of the glass. My wheels squealed as they dug into the snow.
Finally, with one more strike from its fist, my driver’s window smashed apart, glass falling on my lap. The beast lunged towards me with a snap of its jaws, coming through my broken window mere inches from my face, when at that second my wheels caught the traction of the shallow snow. My engine roared and the vehicle pulled forward thrusting the monster away from my car, knocking him to the ground. The traction was sustained and my car continued forward. I glanced into my rear-view mirror to see the creature rise to its feet. I watched as it stood there in the snow, staring at me. Shaking, I looked forward and began laughing uncontrollably, carving my way through the parking lot, past the office complex buildings. A frigid wind blew in through the broken window, chilling the tears rolling down my face as I escaped into the shadowy night.