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Late Hours at the Office are Killing Me

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Recently, I moved into a new town up in the North of Michigan. It’s nice here, and the cool breeze off of Lake Michigan feels great compared to the hell hole that was Arizona. I settled into the small flat I had bought, and started the job search. I had previously gotten a degree in business, so it didn’t take long for me to land a job with a tech consulting and sales team not too far out of town. I didn’t have a car, so public transportation would have to take me there. The building that the company, called C0M, was centered in was a wide three-story building. If you looked hard enough, you could notice that the building was actually quite old and resembled a prison just a little bit. Regardless, I was happy to start working.

After an introduction to the company and some of the CEOs, I was led to a small cubicle where I would be working 9 to 8 every weekday. It was about as generic as you can get: a tan corner desk with a Dell in the middle, surrounded with shelves of manila folders and eggshell white walls flecked with gray with a large stack of disorganized paperwork sitting off to the side. The lady that was showing me around gave me a warm “welcome to C0M!”, and I was sent to work straightaway.

I’d always told myself when I was a teen that I wouldn’t become one of those desk-jockeys, sitting at a computer and jacking off from 9 to 5. I’d say that “you’re too creative for the world to chain you down, so get out there and create.” Good job, I did.

My first order of business was to sort through some of our customer records, cataloging them by their date. Mindless work. I was overjoyed to see my degree being put to great use. I was actually kind of caught off guard by how much paperwork I had to sort through; I had never previously heard of C0M, so they couldn’t have been a big name in the industry. Despite this, I went straight to work getting through the mountain of white sheets I had before me.

The day continued on for what felt like an eternity. I could feel my mind rotting out of my skull, as all the creative energy I had in me slowly turned into cream and seeped out of my head. But, it pays the bills, so who am I to complain? I took the train home, made myself a gourmet dinner of reheated Chinese food, and went to bed.

Days passed, then weeks, then months. My day became a routine of getting to work just on time, eating at 12:05, going back to work at 12:45, then staying until I had all of that day’s work done which was typically a good hour past when everyone else left. I became “that one guy that locks up at the end of the day.” 9:00 became the end of my work day, and 10:00 became dinner time or bed time, depending on how I felt.

One day, I was finishing up stapling some documents together for ease of access. I stapled the last one and got up to bring the mound of papers to the main office. As I was passing some of the other cubicles, I started to garner a few looks of astonishment or disgust. I turned the corner and bumped into Melissa, one of the ladies that worked there, dropping all of my paperwork and toppling both of us. I felt a sharp pain in my left hand, like someone had jabbed a fork into it and twisted it like they were wrapping spaghetti around it. I looked at Melissa and noticed a crimson patch right around her waist, before looking down at my hand. The entire back side of my left hand was covered in blood, and what must’ve been 30 documents’ worth of staples were jabbed into it. I immediately covered it up, and rushed myself to the hospital.

I went to work the next day with a bandaged hand. The doctors said that it would take a week or so for it to return to normal, so I couldn’t use it for anything. I was getting concerned looks wherever I went around the office. It felt like I was some spectacle, a car crash for them to gawk at. I hated it.

There wasn’t much work for me to do, so I spent most of my free time sitting at my computer, doing nothing. I spent so much time staring at the eggshell white walls that they started to turn into more of a muddy yellow color. Eventually, Melissa came around and spoke to me in a soft, almost scared tone. “Hey, Collin, Mark wants to see you.” I watched her hastily remove herself from my cubicle, then started my way to the boss’s office.

“Hey Collin, how’s it going? Have a seat, please.” I sat down in his red leather armchair, letting it swallow up my body. “Regarding your recent...incident, we here at C0M take the safety of our employees very seriously. If you think that you’re going to continue being a threat to yourself or your coworkers, I’d like to ask you to remove yourself from the workplace. I think that’s a reasonable request, don’t you?” I solemnly nodded my head. “You may return to working now.”

I took the walk of shame back to my cubicle, and stopped dead in my tracks when I got the entrance. The inside of my cubicle was entirely black. All of the walls, my desk, my papers were covered in a gooey, black as space substance. I tried to run, but my feet felt like someone had shot a nail gun into them, grounding them in place. I tried to yell. I tried to force the air out of my lungs as hard as I could, but nothing would come out.

“Collin?”

I whipped my head around with a deranged look of panic to see my neighbor, sitting in their cubicle.

“Uh...are you...alright?”

I shot my eyes back to my cubicle, but everything was back to normal. I tested my legs like they were stilts I was wearing for the first time. Everything was just fine. I turned back around and gave him a short, “Yeah, sorry.”

I didn’t sleep that night. There was no way it wasn’t real. It was there. It WAS there. It had to be. The thoughts kept me awake, depriving me of my only solace. I couldn’t eat. Nothing seemed like it would help. I wasn’t worrying about the upcoming Friday. I wasn’t thinking that I would have a weekend.

Friday came. I went to work in my dress shirt, dress pants, and black tie. I went straight to my cubicle, sat down, and logged onto my computer. My hands flew around the keyboard as I watched the words appear on the monitor. I saw the void creep onto my hands, I saw it swallow the keyboard. I saw it finish my letter for me. I felt it consume me whole as I heard the door to the office swing open. I grabbed the fire axe, and slowly rose to greet the wretched home around me. A grin slowly grew on my face as I demolished the cubicles.

Every. Single. One.

The looks of horrified confusion on my coworkers’ faces meant nothing to me. When there was no more eggshell white gray speckled wall left for me to tear down, I set down the axe, removed the knife from my back pocket, and plunged it deep into my torso. I could feel the crimson color flood through my dress shirt, leaving my body for the fresh air. I could feel my senses lose their focus.

I could feel the silence slip over me.