Please reset access for user SN010237.
Dave Douglas closed the work-log window on his screen and forwarded the ticket to Application Security. He assigned the next ticket to himself and opened the work-log. Singapore had another password reset request.
Please reset access for user… he typed for the seventeenth time that hour, appending the appropriate country code and employee ID and then forwarding the ticket to the security team. He opened the next ticket.
“What the hell, Singapore?” he muttered.
Dave minimized the work-log and looked at the ticket queue.
“You should really figure out how to reset your own damn passwords.”
Dave scrolled down the queue.
“Or learn how not to lock them in the first place.”
“Or just go fuck yourself, Singapore.”
Dave took a deep breath and placed his hands on the edge of his desk.
“I should probably take a break.”
Dave’s screen refreshed. Another two cases from Singapore had entered the queue.
“A long, long break.”
Dave paused Pandora, pulled the headphones from his ears, stood up in his tiny cubicle, and stretched his back. Twisting from one side to the other, he noticed that neither of his neighbors was at their respective desks. He ceased twisting and looked across the office floor in earnest, quickly realizing that Paul and Cleveland weren’t the only two employees missing in action.
The entire floor appeared to be empty.
As Dave Douglas turned the corner into the kitchenette, he thought he saw a shadow darting past the hallway he had just vacated.
“Hello?” he said, poking his head back into the hall.
There was no answer.
Dave shrugged and walked back into the kitchen.
As he made his way to the coffee machine, he saw another shadow flitter across the opening of the hallway on the far side of the kitchen.
Again, there was no answer.
Dave didn’t shrug this time, but otherwise appeared equally as unfazed as before. He grabbed a Styrofoam cup from the stack and began his coffee ritual.
“You know,” said a voice, “you really should get a mug.”
Dave looked to his left and then to his right, but saw no one.
“It would be so much better for the environment.”
He turned around. Still no one. He turned back to the counter again, only to be confronted by the vague, spectral visage of his college sweetheart, Kate Brockway.
“Holy crap!” he yelped, stumbling backwards slightly.
“Hi,” said his old girlfriend.
“Kate? You… You’re dead?”
“What? No. Not even a little.”
“But… You... You’re a ghost…” explained Dave.
“I’m not a ghost,” countered Kate, despite being an ageless, gossamer version of the girl he knew over ten years ago, that had just appeared out of nowhere.
“OK...” said Dave. “Then…?”
“You’re hallucinating, Dave. You’ve been at work for over thirty-six hours straight.”
“What? No way, no,” said Dave. “Really?”
The lights blinked and dimmed, the building’s polite and fully-automated way of signifying that it was now ten p.m.
“Huh,” Dave conceded, looking at the lights. “I didn’t even notice.”
“No one noticed.”
“Oh, come on, someone had to notice.”
“When was the last time you even talked to somebody here?”
Dave leaned his head back slightly and scrunched his face, trying to remember.
“You have no idea, do you?” the phantom offered.
“Not a one, no,” he said, returning his gaze to Kate.
“Wait!” exclaimed Dave. “Julie! I talked to Julie from… Accounts Payable? Billing? Something involving other people and their money. I made a date with her for Saturday!”
“And when was that?”
“Monday, at lunch. In the cafeteria.”
“It’s Thursday, Dave.”
“Yep. No one, Dave,” repeated Kate. “You didn’t speak to a single person between Monday at lunch and tonight.”
“Well, what about –”
“That was last week.”
“How do you –”
“I’m a manifestation of your subconscious, remember?”
“Oh, right. Yeah.” Dave looked directly into, and through, Kate’s eyes. “Why, exactly, are you manifesting again?”
“Because, Dave, tonight – and, you know, maybe tomorrow and/or the next day, depending on scheduling and various… things, or whatever – you’ll be visited by three ghosts.”
“I thought you said you weren’t a ghost.”
“Right. I’m not, but they’ll be.”
“Look, don’t ask.”
“But it doesn’t –”
“Just go with it.”
“How would –”
“All right, fine,” said Dave, rolling his eyes. “Continue.”
“Thank you,” said Kate, nodding her head.
“You will be visited by three ghosts!” she continued, raising her hands and speaking in an overly dramatic manner. “Spirits! Of offices past! Specters from your former places of employment! Incorporeal beings from buildings whence you once worked!”
“Yeah, I’m… I’m getting that.”
“These three ghosts are coming to warn you of a terrible fate! A fate worse than, or possibly only as bad as, death! I don’t really know! But this fate will surely be awful! Terrible! Absolutely assing abominable! You will stare into their fiendish faces and you will tremble at the fortunes they lay out for you! You will crap your drawers in fear! You will cower and run and you will, hopefully, change your pants, but you WILL listen to them!”
Kate lowered her voice. “And you will NEVER be the same, Dave.”
“I don’t remember you being this insane in real life.”
“I beg to differ.”
Dave stared at the Kate-like phantasm.
“So,” he said, slowly, “you’re here to warn me about three other ghosts –”
“I’m not a ghost.”
“– that are going to warn me about a fate that you –”
“– don’t know anything about.”
“That’s about the long and short of it,” said Kate. “Yeah.”
“That’s a pretty crappy ‘why.’”
The hallucination shrugged, saying, “Don’t blame me.”
Dave looked at Kate. Kate looked at Dave. Dave looked at the empty Styrofoam cup he was holding. The cup didn’t do much of anything.
Dave reached through the ethereal stomach of not-Kate and placed the cup on the coffee machine tray. He reached through her chest and hit the Coffee button.
“What the hell,” said Kate.
“Calm down,” he replied, removing his hand from her torso, “no part of that was wrong.”
“Man, EVERY part of that was wrong.”
The coffee began pouring into the cup.
“So,” said Dave. “Ghosts.”
“As told to me by a hallucination.”
The stream of coffee continued for a few more moments, before finally sputtering and dying, a cloud of steam escaping from the top of the machine.
“I’m going to take that now,” said Dave, pointing at the coffee cup on the other side of Kate’s see-through belly, “and I’m going to drink it, and then I’m going to go home. I am pretty clearly sleep-deprived. Or possibly having a nervous breakdown, I’m not really sure.”
“You know you can’t leave until you empty out the ticket queue.”
“I don’t know,” replied the ghost, shrugging. “Can you?”
“Probably,” said Dave, “yeah. Yeah, I can leave.”
Kate and Dave stood silently for a moment.
“You’re not going to, are you?” asked Kate.
“No,” sighed Dave.
“Then you should probably get cracking.”
Dave picked up his coffee from the tray and moved the cup to the counter beside the coffee machine.
“This is such bullshit,” he muttered, reaching for the basket of sugar packets. Dave tore two packets open and emptied them into his cup.
“Anything else I should know?” he sighed.
“I don’t know, is there?”
“That’s not helpful.”
“Hey, I’m YOUR subconscious.”
“Yeah, about that,” he said, picking up the non-dairy creamer. “That… It really just makes things MORE confusing, you know?”
“Well, if you know, then I do.”
“Seriously,” said Dave, grabbing a stirrer from the box on the counter, “stop that.” He grabbed his cup and began stirring his coffee.
“You know,” said Kate, stepping away from the counter and crossing her invisible arms over her invisible chest, “you WERE a little quick to buy into that ‘mentally unwell’ explanation I threw at you. Did it even cross your mind that maybe I really am the ghost of your dear, sweet Kate?”
Slowly, Dave stopped stirring and turned toward the Kate-shaped wraith.
“I’m kidding,” continued the apparition, “I’m totally in your head.”
“Oh… OK,” he said, agitating his coffee once more. “Yeah, that… that…”
“Or am I?”
The stirring stopped again. Dave blinked a couple of times.
“No, for real, I am,” said the ethereal ex-girlfriend. “I think it’s pretty obvious that you’ve got some seriously unresolved issues with me. You should probably look me up, talk to me, you know? Try to get some closure. Like in High Fidelity.”
“No,” replied Kate with a sneer. “I probably don’t even remember who you are anymore.”
“That was uncalled for,” said Dave, throwing the stirrer into the trash. “Why are you still here?”
“Can you, you know, go now?”
“Sure,” she said with a shrug. “Bye.”
The ghost of Kate Brockway waved and disappeared into the ether, her voice whispering, “Don’t forget about the ticket queue!” even as her image vanished.
Dave stood in the kitchenette for a moment, staring blankly at the coffee machine.“I hate this fucking place,” he mumbled, shaking his head and walking back toward his desk.