BUZZ! BUZZ! BUZZ! BUZZ!
The alarm on my phone screeches, causing me to launch out of my bed from fright. I land face first onto the floor while fighting for my life in a mass entanglement of blankets. The alarm continues blaring as I come to my senses and struggle to unravel myself from the twisted mess.
BUZZ! BUZZ! BUZZ! BUZZ!
I manage to escape my knotted prison before finding my phone to quickly silence the obnoxiously anxiety-inducing noise.
“Holy shit…” I groan out as I rub my eyes.
“What a horrid dream. It felt way too real.”
I lethargically stretch out my arms as I let out a wide yawn.
“What time is it? I feel so tired.”
I tap the phone’s screen to light up the display. I stare at the numbers and letters with a dazed expression as my mind attempts to understand their meaning. Once the symbols form significance within my brain, a sudden jolt of panic fires throughout my body.
“I’M LATE FOR WORK!!”
I immediately dash out of my room as my chest fills with panic.
“Shit! I must have set my alarm for the wrong time! Stupid! Stupid! STUPID!!!”
I clumsily attempt to brush my teeth while showering as my mind races faster than my movements.
It’s my first day at a new job and I’m fucking late! Good job idiot! Now I’m gonna be fired for sure! Shit! Shit! Shit!
After my shower, I flash out the bathroom like a bolt of lightning. I throw the closet doors open and haphazardly toss clothes onto the bed. As I fumble with my clothes, I run through a mental checklist of everything I need to do.
Teeth brushed. Check.
Is there anything else I’m missing?
“Oh! I almost forgot! I definitely can’t leave without ‘that’.”
I run back into the bathroom and quickly insert the colored contact lenses and mouthpiece to conceal my vampiric appearance.
“Okay. I think I’m ready to go.” I say as I check the time on my phone once more.
“If I hurry, and if I’m lucky, I might be able to make it to work just on time.”
I quickly grab a small backpack off the living room couch and stuff it with a small lunchbox filled with pouches of blood. I then reach for my keys and wallet, and finally jet out the door. I hasten down the echoing hallway, zipping around the sharp turn while trying not to slip and fall on the freshly waxed floor, but when I turn the corner, I immediately come to a complete stop. Leaning against the wall near the stairwell (as usual), is Sebastian. He’s bobbing his head up and down while listening to music. He doesn’t seem to have noticed my presence yet. My body tenses up as I recall the terrible nightmare. The terrifying images vividly replay in my mind. Sebastian’s motionless body, my monstrous lookalike sinking his teeth deep into Sebastian’s neck. I feel a numbing chill run down my spine.
Maybe I can sneak by without him noticing me. It would be best if I just keep my distance. What if I uncontrollably do something to harm him? I would never forgive myself if I hurt him.
I try to creep forward and make it to the stairwell unnoticed, but Sebastian quickly acknowledges me. He gently raises his head to look at me and his face quickly becomes bright red. He then awkwardly waves with a blissfully nervous expression.
Crap! What do I do?
I stare at him for a moment, frozen in fear, before responding with a sheepish smile. I then quickly lower my head and descend the spiraling staircase, escaping his presence.
Sorry Sebastian… please don’t hate me.
Once I make it outside, I sprint down the street that lines the perimeter of the building. My heart pounds wildly, almost matching the beat of my shoes slamming the pavement.
I really hope this sidewalk doesn’t ruin my good shoes.
I speed through the few street blocks, while gasping for air, before reaching the subway station stairs. Luckily, as I run down the stairs onto the platform, the train pulls into the station. I rush through the turnstile and into the nearest train cars just as the doors close.
Phew. That was really close. I got really lucky with that one. If this keeps up, I might actually make it to work on time.
I stand near the door as I try to maintain my balance from the train’s aggressive rocking motions as it drifts along the tracks. I anxiously bounce in position while continuously checking the time on my phone.
I’ve got 15 minutes until my shift officially starts. C’mon train, hurry up! Go faster!
I nervously fidget with my fingers as time plays its usual tricks upon my mind. What feels like an eternity is merely a couple seconds. I tap my fingers against the handrails impatiently and mumble to myself hoping to calm my anxiety. A short few minutes later, the train finally arrives at my stop—Central Station. Once the doors open, I rush out the train, knocking people over in the process. I regain my sprint and head out of the station onto the busy midtown streets.
“I’m almost there! I have five minutes… I can make it!” I reassure myself.
I force my way through the many crowds of suits and tourists as I trace the steps hazily engraved within my memory from my previous trip to the Warren & Gardner office building. After rushing through the crowded streets, I finally arrive at my destination as I burst through the double doors of the building’s lobby. I run up to the security desk while shakily gasping for air, only to be – once again – greeted by the rude concierge.
“Hi… Yes—you remember me? Yeah, I—I was here just the other day, ya know? I’m kinda late for work and really need to—” I wheeze out, but the man immediately cuts me off.
“I.D. please.” He says quickly without raising his head.
He keeps his focus upon his computer monitor and does not make eye contact, but his body language heavily expresses an irritated and rude tone.
“Oh.” I say quietly.
I quickly pull out my wallet to find my identification card and gently hand it to him. The man snatches the I.D. from my hand in the same fashion as last time before glancing at it with a cold expression.
“Nope. Don’t recognize you, and this isn’t a work I.D.” He says rudely before slamming my card on the desk.
“If you want to get through, then you need a proper pass, or the person you are visiting must announce your arrival. Good day.” He says matter-of-factly before returning to staring at his computer monitor.
“Wait, what? A work I.D? What do you mean? I was here the other day for my interview and I –”
“I said I don’t recognize you. If you wish to be let in, you will need a visitor pass or someone from the office you are visiting to come down to the lobby and escort you up. No visitors are allowed without being announced or escorted!” He screams as his bloodshot eyes beam on me.
“Visiting? I’m not visiting! I work here! Today is my first day and –” I begin to defend myself.
“You’re talking a LOT of bullshit right now, and I’m this close to calling security!! No office pass, NO ENTRY!”
“…Or even better, how about I just call the police?! You like THAT, punk?!” He screams with a red face.
The man rises from his chair and glares right into my eyes. I can see a vein pulsate from his forehead in pure rage. I feel my face getting hot in response to the tension. Thanks to this complete asshole, I’m now a few minutes late for my first day.
“Hello! Hi! Hi! Mister concierge man!” A very bubbly voice calls out from behind me.
The tension in the air quickly clears as I turn around and am met with a short, petite woman with a large and friendly smile. She has long, black, wavy hair that compliments her caramel skin tone. She is wearing a white, button-up blouse paired with a plain, black skirt, and black flats. Her soft brown eyes sparkle with playfulness. She radiates an overly friendly and energetic aura. My absolute worst nightmare.
“Hello again, mister concierge! No worries, sir! He’s with me! I will escort him upstairs now. Thankies!” She says sweetly.
The sweetness of her tone turns my stomach. I stare at her goofy smile for a moment before turning back to face the concierge. The pulsing vein in his forehead fades, and his eyes no longer seem to be popping out of his skull. In fact, his expression has completely altered from that of rage to confusion. He looks at the woman for moment, then brings his attention back to me before raising his eyebrow suspiciously. His face and body slowly relax as he returns to his chair and rolls his eyes.
“Ah yes… Miss Chowdhury.” he says with exhaustion.
He looks at me once more with defeat in his eyes, “Fine. Fine. You may pass through.”
The man pushes a button that unlocks the nearby turnstile and the woman giggles playfully before walking through.
“Thank you, mister! You’re the bestest!” She says with a wave.
“Yeah, yeah.” He responds with mild annoyance.
I breathe a long sigh of relief. Whoever this woman is, she just saved my life. I quickly grab my I.D. card and catch up to her as she makes her way to the elevators. I quickly follow her without looking back at the concierge. Once we reach a distance far enough out of his earshot, I shyly thank the woman for helping me.
“Hm? Oh! No worries!” She giggles. “That guy is always such a big Mr. grumpy pants!”
As we both wait for the elevator to arrive, I watch quietly as the woman happily bounces in place while humming a tune I don’t recognize. Once an elevator arrives, we both calmly walk inside and simultaneously reach for the button labeled with a “12.”
“Oh, sorry.” I say as I quickly withdraw my hand.
“Guess we are going to the same floor.” I awkwardly chuckle.
The woman smiles brightly at me, then lets out a high-pitched giggle. “What a co-inky-dink! You’re headed to the Warren & Gardner office too!”
“Oh. Um. Yeah, today is actually my first day at work—”
Suddenly, the woman lets out an ear rupturing squeal.
“You must be the new hire for Warren & Gardner!! Oh. Em. Gee!!” She shouts.
She immediately leaps forward and locks me into a massive bear hug, which causes me to let out a surprised gasp.
Oh no! This woman is pure evil!
“Oh yay! Friend hugs! Oh my goodness, I’m so excited! I love having new peeps at the office.” She says joyfully.
She releases me, then stares at me with sparkling eyes. “Ohhhhh… we are totally gonna become office besties! Oh yayyyy! I’m so excited!”
Besties? …I wonder if jumping from the 12th floor will be enough to kill me.
“Oh. Em. Gee! I can see it now!” She says as her eyes burn with excitement. “We can hang out after work and…”
She lets out a sudden gasp. “We can go to karaoke together!”
I quickly scan the entire elevator for an escape route.
Get me the hell out of here!!
“Oh!” She pauses and quickly changes to a calmer expression. “I’m so silly. I got so excited about my new office bestie, I forgot to introduce myself.”
She lets out a giggle. “I’m Priya! Priya Chowdhury. What’s your name bestie?”
I pause for a moment, then respond with a sigh. “I’m Jace Goth.”
I feel like I’m gonna regret telling her my name.
Her eyes sparkle, “Awww, what an adorable name.”
She reaches into her flower print decorated bag and pulls out a pink notepad and matching pen. She scribbles on her notepad while humming, then looks at me with a large smile.
“There! I’ve added your name to my list. I love collecting a list of adorable names!”
The elevator finally reaches the 12th floor with a ding (after what feels like a hellish eternity).
“I’ll see you inside, my new bestie!” she says as waves enthusiastically, then skips off down the hallway.
“Phew… I’m glad that’s over.” I say with relief.
What the shit was all that? Was like being trapped in hell.
Unfortunately, I was so distracted by Priya’s weirdness that I forgot about the other hell that I was about to walk into. When I exit the elevator, and walk up to the large glass door, I suddenly notice Alexandra on the other side waiting for me. Her arms are crossed, and her eyes are glued to her wristwatch.
Oh no. I’m in for it now.
I swallow my fear, take a long, deep breath, and walk through the door.
“There. You. Are.” Alexandra says with gritted teeth. “Do you realize what time it is? You are LATE, Mr. Goth, and tardiness is UNACCEPTABLE!”
“I’m so sorry, I just had issues with—”
She immediately lets out a loud laugh. “I knew you were going to be trouble. Leave it to Mrs. Gardner to hire someone who is an incompetent lay about!”
She flashes me an evil grin. “Well, now I will show her how wrong she was for hiring you. Come with me! NOW!”
She stomps off in the direction of Ebony’s office as I stand frozen in a state of shock.
I’m definitely about to lose my job, and on the first day too! Guess I can mark that down in the books as a record. What am I gonna do now? I’m so screwed.
I quickly bring myself back to reality and trail after Alexandra as she leads the way. When we arrive at Ebony’s office door, Alexandra throws open the door with a loud SLAM! causing me to jump. She stomps her way inside, and I fearfully gaze in. Ebony is studiously working away at her desk without hesitation before calmly glancing upwards at each of us.
“Alexandra, please be so kind as to knock before entering my office.”
“I just witnessed your so called ‘highly recommended’ employee showing up LATE for work.” Alexandra spits out.
Alexandra has a smugly looks over at me. “We don’t take too kindly to employees slacking off around here. I think the only suitable response to this ingrate’s tardiness is a proper punishment.”
Ebony peers at me calmly before raising her eyebrow.
Oh man… here it comes!
Ebony glances at her watch for a moment with a relaxed expression before speaking. “Thank you, Alexandra. I will handle it from here. You may go now.”
Alexandra gains a proud stance, as if she has finally won a competition that no one, except her, had tried competing in. Alexandra turns to face me with an evil smirk.
“You’re done for!” She whispers as she exits the office and disappears into the maze of cubicles behind me.
Once Alexandra is out of sight, I look back at Ebony who beckons me forward with a wave.
“Please, Mr. Goth. Come in and have a seat.”
I anxiously walk further in and shakily shut the door behind me. I then walk over to the lone chair facing Ebony’s desk and take my seat. I steadily brace myself for the oncoming scolding and bad news that I am about to receive. Ebony takes a moment to eye me carefully before she decides to speak.
“I must apologize…” She says astutely. “I had completely forgotten to mention to the lobby desk that your work pass I.D. card was not yet in your possession before your arrival today. I should have called ahead to inform them. Miss Chowdhury quickly came to inform me of your run in with the concierge when she arrived.”
She opens a drawer and pulls out a lanyard with a card attached.
“This is your work I.D. card. Please always keep it on you. The concierge will not let you into the office without one, as you have witnessed.”
She then pauses, “Unless of course you are someone as memorable as Miss Chowdhury.”
Ebony reaches over and hands me the lanyard.
“Now, please speak to the woman at the front desk. She will run through the process of recording your worked hours. I apologize as it is an outdated system that we use, but we find it to be the most effective. Once you have been ‘clocked in,’ you can begin your work. I will have Alexandra meet you in the mailroom once you are ready.”
I stare in confusion at Ebony for a moment while I process what just happened.
“Wait. I—I’m not fired? I get to keep the job?”
Ebony sternly glances at me. “Fired? I hardly find it reasonable to terminate someone on their first day for something that was out of their control. We may be a tightly run organization, but we are not monsters Mr. Goth.”
I stare at Ebony completely flabbergasted but also relieved.
“Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a lot of work I need to finish. If you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to Alexandra.”
Ebony turns away and focuses on her computer monitor as she types rapidly at her keyboard with loud clacking sounds. I glance at the work I.D. for a moment while feeling the rough plastic card in my hands. I then gently place the lanyard around my neck and awkwardly rise from the chair.
“Um. Th-thank you.” I mumble as I turn to leave Ebony’s office. She does not look up or respond to my exit.
Well, that was an extremely stressful start to my day, but at least things are looking up.
I slowly walk back towards the entrance of the office to officially start my first workday by clocking in. As I walk through the maze of gray cubicles, I peek inside each that I pass to see the soulless workers inside working away with brooding expressions. It’s as if every ounce of life has been completely extracted from each person that I lay eyes upon. This doesn’t give me much hope for my own experience working here.
Oh man. Let’s just get this over with.
I approach the front desk near the entrance and shyly wave at the woman sitting behind.
“Welcome back, Mr. Goth. Before we get you clocked in, I have to go over the details of how this system works.” The woman says with a robotic voice.
She gives me a very brief explanation me on the “intricacies” of recording my worked hours each workday. Walk in. Clock in. Walk out. Clock out. Fairly straight forward and mundane, as expected, yet I focus on every word she says with high concentration. I don’t want to look like an idiot because I didn’t pay attention.
“…And that about covers it all. It’s fairly simple. Anyways, I’m going to go ahead and clock you in for your shift today. Your supervisor Miss Alexandra should be waiting for you in mailroom right about now.”
The woman leans over the desk and points in the opposite direction of Ebony’s office.
“If you head straight down that way, you will find the mailroom. You can’t miss it. The door is even labeled.”
She relaxes back into her chair and flashes me an empty smile. “If you head on over there, Alexandra will explain the details of your job and help get you started with your training. Hope you have a good day Mr. Goth.” She says with no enthusiasm.
“Uh. Thanks.” I whisper.
I glance in the direction the woman pointed out before letting out a soft groan. I drag my feet as I follow the carpeted pathway created by the wall of endless cubicles. I can hear the echoes of fingers slamming against keyboard keys resonating throughout the office.
I haven’t even been here for an entire hour yet and I already feel my soul leaving my body. This place is what nightmares are made of.
I once again glimpse the lifeless corpses of faces that scatter the cubicles and meeting rooms in the color drained prison. I then arrive at the end of the pathway where a lone door accompanied by a randomly placed drinking fountain is found. An aged sign is placed on the door with the label “mail room” written in black. I reach for the handle and casually open the door, half expecting to only find a bland room filled with tons of mail and parchments. Instead, I’m met with a grotesque face with eyes like a serpent’s staring me in the face.
“YOU!” Alexandra bellows.
“You little weasel! I knew that bitch Ebony would give you special treatment.”
Alexandra’s eyes dart up and down as she inspects me, like a predator scanning its prey before an attack.
“She thinks she can just do whatever she wants around here without any consequences! She just pushes her weight around this office, without giving a shit about how it effects everyone else.”
I feel like I may have accidentally stumbled in the middle a very serious feud. Just my luck.
I try to back away from Alexandra, but she edges even closer. I can see the cakey creases of makeup that have settled into the deep wrinkles under her eyes. Showers of spit rain onto my face as she speaks. Disgusting.
“You got lucky today you little rat, but I know you’re going to fuck up, and when you do…”
She pauses then laughs loudly startling me. “I’ll be there to kick your lazy, sorry ass right out that door!”
She then pushes me aside with enough force to knock me to the floor before storms off.
What the hell? What did I ever do to deserve this?
I calmly stand and dust myself off. “Well, I guess Alexandra training me today is out the window.”
No problem. I mean, how hard can it be to deliver some letters? Sounds like a simple enough job. Who needs her anyway?
I then turn to glance at the towering piles of letters and boxes. These piles must have accumulated over at least two weeks! My confidence immediately falters as a frown stretches across my face.
…It’s gonna be a long day.
I find an empty spot on the floor and gently place my backpack down. I take a deep breath before once again turning to face the large mounds of mail.
Well, best get started. I should probably start by organizing everything before I try to deliver any of it. That will make my job much easier in the long run.
I plop myself onto the floor and begin pulling random piles towards to begin my work. I carefully sift through the mail, making sure to categorize everything into smaller piles based on the receiver. The meticulous work, paired with my bad posture, not only bores me to death but also forces me to constantly adjust my sitting position to avoid backache. Yet, I persevere through the arduously dull process. After what feels like an eternity, I finally place the last piece of mail into its correct pile.
“Phew. That took forever.” I say as I stand to stretch my back. “What a pain in the ass.”
I eye the organized small piles that cover the floor. “Hm. Now, I guess I can use the mail cart to actually deliver all this crap.”
I peer at the nearby small cart that is conveniently placed within the mailroom. I walk over to it and notice the map of the office that has been heavily taped to the top of the cart. Each section on the map has been labeled by first and last name of the employee that occupies that desk.
“Well, it seems this part of the job will be much easier. Shouldn’t take too long.” I say reassuringly as I begin to load up the cart with the first batch.
“Looks like I’ll have to make a few rounds. Shouldn’t be too bad I suppose.”
After studying the map and calculating the route I’m going to take, I roll the cart out the mailroom and begin the deliveries. Luckily, for my first round of deliveries, no one is at their desks, which saves me the embarrassment of dealing with them. I take my time as I stroll the cart around the office, piling the letters into the “inbox” labeled shelves and placing larger packages onto the desks. Although things are going smoothly while I work and Alexandra is nowhere to be seen, I can still feel her far off gaze burning into the back of my neck. A few times, I stop and glance around to check if she is within sight but see no traces of her.
Probably best she stays away. I’d rather not have to deal with her again.
I soon finish my first batch of deliveries, so I head back into the mailroom and prepare the next round. Unfortunately for this round of deliveries, I arrive at a few desks that has occupants. I can feel my face grow hot from embarrassment, yet most of them just ignore me, or they shoo me away. Rude.
“Alright. This is my last few piles of mail.” I say excitedly as I load them onto the cart.
“Once I’m done with these, then I suppose I’m finished for the day, and with good timing too!” I say joyfully as I check the time on my phone.
I quickly push the cart out once more as I hasten through the cubicle pathways with a bounce in my step. I look at the name of the next aimed delivery and quickly come to a halt with a bit of a gasp.
“Mr. Jefferey Warren!” I say as I scan the name in bold print on the letter.
I feel a bit of anxiety and excitement bubble within me.
“Wow! I didn’t think that I would have the opportunity to get to meet both Ebony Gardner and Jefferey Warren! Especially in the same day!” I say with enthusiasm.
Here’s hoping Mr. Warren is a bit more – inviting – than Ebony.
I arrive at Ebony’s office door, then check the map atop the cart. I glance back up and suddenly notice another large, wooden office door adjacent to Ebony’s office that I had not noticed before. I gently push the cart over to read the doorplate.
Jefferey Warren, CEO
I peek through the small window near the door into the pitch-black office.
“Damn. I guess he’s not in today. So much for getting to meet him.” I say with disappointment.
I grab the door handle and attempt to turn it. Locked.
I cross my arms and stare at door with confusion. “Well, what do I do now? I can’t just leave his mail out here, can I?”
I stand there as I search my brain for a solution, but quickly notice a small, almost unnoticeable, mail slot in the door.
“Oh. I guess that’ll do.” I utter feeling like an idiot.
I grab the letter and carefully slide it into the opening. I remain for a moment, staring at the plaque on the door, before I grab the cart and return to my work.
“Maybe next time.” I mumble to myself.
After a few more deliveries, I check the map for the final delivery location.
“Let’s see. The last one is… Priya Chowdhury.”
I look up and see the cubicle where my last delivery is to be made.
“Why is that name familiar? Wait. Isn’t that the overly bubbly woman I met earlier today?” I say to myself as I rub my chin.
Suddenly, the familiar face pokes out of the cubicle. As she looks around, she takes notice of me and begins waving at me with heavy excitement.
Ah, yes. Her.
I slowly and begrudgingly drag my feet to her cubicle as she greets me with a loud voice.
“Hello again, work bestie!!” she giggles.
“Hi.” I say robotically as I grab her letters and place them in her inbox.
She replies to the completed delivery with a song and a small, stationary dance. “Deliveryyyyyyyy completeeeeedddddd~ Good job, you did ittttttt. Good job, you made itttt!”
“Um. Thanks.” I respond with annoyance.
She’s still just as peppy as she was earlier.
“Sooooooo… what are your plans tonight, best friend? Anything exciting?” She asks as she continues her dance.
Bestie? Best friend? I’ve known her for maybe ten minutes and she’s already attaching herself to me. Ugh.
“Um. No. I’m just going to go home.” I say as I try to make a quick escape.
Priya quickly shouts out. “Oh! Oh! We should do something fun then! Wanna hang out?”
What? Is she serious?
“Oh, uh. No, sorry. I—I can’t. It’s uh, it’s been a very long day. Yeah.” I quickly form an excuse as Priya stares at me with sparkly eyes.
“Uh, yeah. I’m very tired.” I say as I force a fake yawn. “Oh goodness. So sleepy. I should really go to bed earlier tonight.”
Priya giggles, “You’re so goofy.”
She then mimics a pirate voice and says, “Arg. Me mateys. We have sailed the seven seas, but now we must sail our sleepy dreams!”
“…What?” I respond in confusion.
This woman is utterly exhausting. Who has this much energy?
She laughs loudly, “That’s you, silly!”
She mimics the pirate voice again, “Arg, I’m a sleepy headed, lily-livered pirate and I need my sleepy byes, or else I’ll be a mister grumpy grump.”
I scratch my head in confusion.
This is so awkward and cringey.
“Well, I should get going. I need to put this cart away and head home.” I say as I try to rush off.
“Okie dokie bestie! See you later!” She says with an energetic wave.
I turn away to return to the idle cart, but suddenly I recall Ebony’s remark about how Priya had warned her of my run in with the rude concierge.
Ugh. She may be annoying as hell, but she did help me out today. I should at least thank her.
I groan and fight with myself before deciding to at least thank her for her help.
“Oh, hey.” I mumble as I turn to face Priya.
She quickly acknowledges me again with a large, cheesy smile.
“Um, by the way, I just wanted to say thanks for helping me out earlier. You know. For telling Ebony that I was running late earlier today. You really saved my skin.” I say awkwardly.
“So, yeah. Thanks.”
Priya’s face lights up as her smile gets wider.
“Oh! Yay!” She squeals loudly as she jumps forward.
Oh no! Here it comes!
I immediately flinch and squeeze my eyes shut as I prepare for the inevitable bear hug. A few seconds pass by though and I feel nothing, so I slowly open my eyes to notice Priya standing there with a corny grin and her hand suspended in the air.
“Don’t leave me hanging bestie!” She says joyfully.
“Oh, um. Yeah.” I gently and unenthusiastically complete her high five.
“Yay! Besties! Always looking out for each other.” She says with a big smile.
“See you tomorrow! Get lots and lots of rest, me matey!” She calls out with one eye closed as she mimics a hook with her index finger.
What a weirdo. Dealing with Alexandra and Priya every day?
Isn’t my life enough torture as it is?