His head snapped up, and he eyed the room wearily, everything was the same as before he closed his eyes, yet he couldn’t shake the funny feeling that he had not been alone. He wasn’t even sure if he had heard anything, but when his eyes focused, there she was standing in the doorway.
Her long, dark hair parted down the middle and pulled into two braids which hung over her shoulder. He noticed a small tear by the hem of her pleated skirt. Her leggings were the exact shade of the ribbons tied at the end of each of her braids. Her black shoes scuffed deep enough to show the pale brown lining under the dull leather.
He moved slowly out of his seat so not to startle her. Her eyes were dark, bottomless pools, watching his every move, pulling him deeper into their depths. There was something unnerving about her below the surface of her beauty. A sudden chill ran down his spine. He realized he’d gazed into her eyes for too long, unhindered by distraction, until time seemed to have slowed down around him. His body moved forward against his will, as if the air was quicksand, pulling him farther away from the present. He pulled himself away just in time. He watched as she turned away.
He hurriedly got up to approach her, pushing the chair to the side in his haste, but before he could get around the table she’d walked out the room. He rushed to follow her, but he stopped abruptly as he stepped through the doorway, and into her world. Outside of his office was a room as familiar to him now as his own was. It was one he had seen many nights after his eyes closed.
He looked back over his shoulder, and through the doorway, he saw his desk cluttered with papers, his coat thrown over the back of the chair as he had left it. His coffee mug sat, a little too close to the edge, on the pile of papers he had been reading before he dozed off. He had the urge to walk over and push the cup before its contents could spill over all his hard research, then he remembered he did not have time for that now; he had to find out why she had brought him here.
He turned back in the direction he’d seen her disappear. As he walked into the room, he focused on every detail in front of him, already etched into every crevice of his mind, but different this time. Nothing was out of place, but that wasn’t what plagued him. It smelled differently this time. The further he went in, the more the room and everything in it became smaller. No. it was more as if he was smaller.
He walked slowly across the room to the door. He stopped in front of it, noticing how menacing it was at this moment. Its hinges were like giant teeth and its knob seemed to pulsate with the blood pounding in his ears. He tried to move his hand to open it, to see what was in its interiors, but he couldn’t move. There was a tiny voice crawling around in his head repeating, you will be alright, but it wasn’t his voice. It wasn’t his words.
With all the willpower within him he reached over and turned the knob. When he opened the door, it was pitch black inside, a sickly, sweet fragrance, mixed with acetone, and something else he couldn’t quite grasp yet, filled the closet, and flowed into his nostrils. He gagged. It was the same putrid odor from the first time he had opened the closet years before, but stronger, and fresher now.
The hairs on the back of his neck stood up. The sudden coolness of the room made him uneasy. Its draft seemed to push its icy fingers through the pores of his skin, and tear through the fibers of his thick trousers. As the shiver rattled his body, he groped into the darkness to pull the chain he knew hung from the ceiling.
The light was dim, illuminating the room enough to push the shadows back, but not enough to keep them from reaching closer each time the chain swung across. He already knew what he would see there. He gulped as the saliva welled up in the back of his mouth; near the back of the wall was the small wooden chair, perfectly crafted out of a beautiful, sultry oak. On the back small bouquets of flowers lay engraved in exquisite detail.
He was looking through eyes that had seen these many times before. The world looked different through her eyes. The significance of this moment washed over him, and he felt the fear creeping towards him.
He stumbled back and slammed the door. Gasping for air, he pounded his chest with the side of his closed fist, the last bouts of trapped air tumbled out of his clenched throat at the same time he saw that the door was only a regular, wood door. Nothing more! His eyes fluttered open.
The confusion dissolved as he looked around the room from the chair he had sat in. The clock on the wall frozen at three fifteen, had stopped ticking years ago, but none of them took the time out to replace it. His watch let him know it was a quarter to eleven, way past the time he should have been home. Darkness had crept into the deserted office. In here he was secluded from the outside world.
The clutter of empty desks and abandoned workstations was appealing when he wanted to stick his nose deep into his files undisturbed. He hadn’t slept much these last few weeks. He arrived at the office before the sun was up but, still left hours after it had left the sky. He knew once he stepped out of the elevator downstairs it would be hectic.
He could hear the humming of Carl, the janitor. More than likely he had his music blaring through those headphones while he cleaned. Besides the janitor he was always the only officer on this floor after six in the evening, but now he was ready to go home to climb in his warm bed next to his wife.
He looked down at the file sitting open on his desk. There on top of all the papers was the source of his nightmares. He stared at the face which had consumed him day in and day out for the past five years. And he realized it had smelled like death in the closet.
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