Monster At the Office

I work in an office, probably like the one that many of you also work in. Row upon row of shining desks, kitted with personal computers, flat-screen monitors, swivel chairs, post-it notes; surrounded by notice boards, weekly targets, coffee machines, softly humming recessed troffer lights, matrixed carpets, whitewash walls; topped off with the larger rooms of our directors and team managers, divided off with glass at the end. Where the blinds are sometimes drawn… Where the big decisions take place… Where you dread being called to… Depending on your productivity levels of course!

Anyway, my day job is also probably the same as yours. Every day. Every week. Every month. Every year. Same cycles, same routines. Work, meetings, socializing, Christmas parties, office romances, office dramas, paintballing days, resignations, dismissals, new arrivals…. And then the next few years: work, meetings, Christmas parties, office romance, office dramas, paintballing days, resignations, dismissals, new arrivals… Some more years elapse and it’s work, meetings… Sound familiar?

Well, this was just another day at the office, during just another week, of another month, of another year, another decade in fact! I was thoroughly worn out, and worn thin, having given the best part of my life to this organisation, and to living a secure and predictable life. A blessed life some would say indeed. The blessing of having a stable income, coupled with pension and benefits, giving one the opportunity to earn a generous credit score, pay off the mortgage, pay for those holidays, pay for the growing kids, pay for life… A blessing indeed many would say. A blessing that people like me don’t really appreciate, the generation above me often say. Yes, I understand. A blessing.

But for me, now, on this day, I knew it in the very pit of my heart. This was not a blessing. This was indeed a curse. An almighty curse. A straitjacket. A walking prison cell. Shackles. I remembered my Romeo and Juliet lessons at school, where Mercutio said: A plague o’ both your houses. Yes, a plague. A curse. A circle of discontent that you could not break, spiralling into a world of woe, a slough of despair. Forgive me Mr Bunyan!

Anyhow, and anyway, I think you get the message. Mid-life blues were kicking in…

But this was more than the proverbial mid-life crisis. There was something around me, that seemed to be watching, skulking, hiding, sneaking, hovering, following me around my days and my nights. Both at work and at home. Something hanging there, just in the periphery, imperceptible mostly, but subtly emerging when I was left to my own thoughts and my own wallowing soul…

Something dark and monstrous, creeping in the corners, hidden in the depths, waiting and waiting… Something which had been growing in size and strength the more that time had worn on, as I worked, and toiled and saved, in my comfortable, convenient hell. Something waited for me…

And then, there I was, at the end of this fateful day, consumed by administrative tasks on my pc, strangely feeling rather outdone and pressurised by the junior workers around me. I had begun feeling that I must prove my meaningfulness to this organisation, of which now I was a senior worker, and no longer a pristine, suited-and-booted professional, looking the part, and looking to be looked at! Now I had turned into one of those greying cruisers and fools who looked as though they’d done nothing else in life but lived in this building, following the same routines. The youngsters looked at me, as I had looked at the elders decades before. And throughout all these misgivings, and realisations, I knew that beyond the threat of dismissal, early redundancy, resignation, depression- I knew deep down there was something out there lurking and waiting for me, just lingering, until an opportunity presented itself.

And now the opportune moment had arrived. I looked up from my dizzying monitor to see that the whole office floor was empty and dark. Everyone had shut down and gone home. My monitor was but a box of light within a brewing darkness and a gathering of shadows. I could still see the desks, and chairs, and computers in their predictable layout. Now the full moon had risen and shone coldly through the western windows. No cleaners were present. I could hear nothing but the ticking of my own pc and the monitor, running towards it sleep mode. I must say it was strange that I had been so engrossed with my work that I had seemed to have blocked out the last few hours. I didn’t even remember whether I had bid farewell to my colleagues, or whether they had spoken to me before I left. My mind was a blank with regard to this. However, logic guided me for a while to believe I had simply lost myself in the tasks, and it was truly now time to go home. Hopefully, my superiors, who also happened to be my peers of yore, would notice my dedication to the company in contradistinction to the young party animals who couldn’t wait to leave for a drink after work, as I had done when I was their age.

I packed up and shut down. Wore my suit jacket which had been draped around my chair and readied myself to leave the office floor. It was dark, but there was enough light for me to negotiate a route to the lifts and landing that I could see were enlightened at the far end of this enormous floor.

Just then, I heard a computer monitor topple over on to the floor with a crash, followed by a sort of scurrying and shuffling. This thoroughly startled me and prompted me to look ahead. I could just make out a desk where the monitor had disappeared. But the echo of the movements gave me a shudder. Had a cat, or even a dog found its way onto my floor? This was a rather unsavoury thought. What type of feline felon or canine cretin would be lurking outside our offices and trying to get it? Then a dark thought crossed my mind. Could it have been a big, stinking rat? I had heard that some could reach the size of a small dog. This possibility disturbed me to the core. The dreadful thought of a dark, juicy, enormous rat, scurrying around somewhere on the floor, somewhere not too far from your feet and from your legs… YUCK! I seriously shuddered for a moment. So much so, that my survival instinct prompted me to phone down to the foyer where the security guards would be sitting. Yes, I could make up an excuse to get them to come up! Didn’t want to look like a coward, did I?

Subsequently, I took out my smartphone and was about to make a call, when, you’ve guessed it, I hadn’t been so smart. I had obviously forgotten to charge my phone. It sat redundantly in my hand. Damn. Ah, but of course there are our desk phones! No. The company had each given us a line through our mobiles recently to cut costs, so there were no longer separate phones on this floor. Damn. And double damn. I would have to walk through these darkened floors where this pesky creature may be scurrying around, looking to take a nibble at the nearest human. Argh! A horrid thought indeed! However, there was nothing else to do, so I decided there and then to tie my laces firmly and in doing so I went to the floor, slightly perturbed.

It was at this point that my day at work changed, completely, forever.

Because, as I went down and tightened my laces, something else arose, something else I just could not explain. A hulking shadow stood there, way ahead, where the computer screen had been. It looked some ten feet in height and seemed humanoid. I could see through a slit in my table which obscured me, and I noticed that whatever it was, it was looking around, rather menacingly, looking around very carefully for something it most desperately craved for. I was stunned, and frozen, and cold. I watched helplessly as this darkened hulk seemed to scan around and glare. It moved slowly, from side to side, like one who is hungry and desperate for a meal. I could not see it eyes, but I could feel them searching around the floor for something…. I could not see its mouth, but I could hear the grinding of razor sharp, hungry fangs, salivating, eager and hungry. I kid you not when I say I could not move. I had become a block of ice with the only working part of me, my eyes. And my eyes looked upon this creature, and my heart told me, that the waiting had now ended, and what had once hidden, had now revealed itself for the hunt. And there was no doubt at all what was being hunted and who. No doubt at all.

Suddenly, I saw this thing, this creature, this beast snarl menacingly, then moving further, side to side, as if checking and searching around every computer desk, row by row, line by line. Presently, he was at the far end of the room, where the lifts were. I was nearer to the fire exit at the opposite end. My only hope. But to open the door would make a screeching noise. This fact filled me with despair. I looked again. This monster now seemed another row closer. Sniffing, scanning, and hunting me down. I decided I must be hallucinating, and actually there was some human intruder there instead. A burglar. A criminal. Whose appearance would go back to normal once my survival instincts had settled themselves. All I had to do therefore was just to keep out of its way, to keep my distance, until this person had left, until the imaginary mask wore off. For a moment I thought myself in a lucid nightmare and I was actually tucked up in bed. But the visceral reality could not be denied. This was no dream. And the figure was really there. Moving and sweeping side to side, getting nearer and nearer.

I knew I had to make my move now otherwise, this thing would be too close. So, as gently as possible, I shuffled around the back of the desks and made my way, ever so gently, ever so quietly further away, from the thing which searched for food. After some moments, I peeked back through the desk. The creature now seemed further away and had not deviated its course, hunting from side to side in a line.

I knew now two things: I had to keep moving and I had to keep an eye on this thing. And above all else, there was one, single, fundamental rule. I must not make a noise… Because if I did, I would give away my position. And he, or it would find me. And when it found me, I would be its meal. No, I told myself, I could be harmed by this maniac who had somehow found his way into our building. Why on earth I still saw this phantasm and not the human form I could not understand. Must be a trick of the mind I thought.

The next moments seemed to pass rather satisfactorily. The more it moved and swept across, the more I crept away at my safe distance. Although it was moving from line to line, I would eventually have an opportunity to wait until it had crossed, wherein I could then creep across without it realising, leaving me clear to escape through the opposite side.

I could hear it sniffing in the air, but I was still too far to detect. However, it still seemed to know that something was there in the room, and it would find it as soon as this piece of food made any little sound.

And this was how the next few minutes, then tens of minutes, then what seemed like hours went by. This infernal creature, this phantom skulked and sniffed and scanned the floors, whilst I crept away, wide and far, always on the opposite side of the room. It seemed like my plan was working. The more the creature had advanced into the work area, the closer it felt I was getting to the main doors to the lifts and foyer. Now I knew how mice felt when evading the presence of merciless cats, and how some deer felt keeping safe distance from Bengal tigers. I felt a tremendous sense of safety, almost intoxicated by it. I had mastered the art of stealth and avoidance of this predator, which was too dumb and awesome to find me; it was like finding a needle in a haystack. And hey, didn’t Bengal tigers go for days and weeks sometimes, without a successful hunt?

Then this wine of complacency would wear off, I would notice the figure on the other side of the room again, and that yawning, sickening gulf would echo within. You’re going to be here forever… Stuck in a rut…Stuck in a vicious cycle. Keeping safely away from the monster, lurking in the office, just keeping it at bay, for the rest of your miserable life, staying ahead of what’s behind you, and moving back from what’s before you; you’re a rat, sniffing for some desperate crumbs in the labyrinth of your lifecycle, whilst in the depths, an abomination is snorting, and sniffing, waiting for you make a little bit of noise…

My foot got entangled with a wayward wire, sending a desk lamp violently to the floor, it’s bulb shattering. The monster roared savagely, charging towards it with lightning speed. I had no choice but to leave my shoe caught in the wire and shuffled for my life behind the next three rows of the desks, my heart thumping like a percussionist pounding on a frame drum. The terrifying roar consumed the air, and I closed my eyes, thinking this was it, and I would be devoured like warthog by a ferocious tiger. Instead, now only three rows away, after the floor had stopped trembling, I plucked up the courage to peer from behind the desk. The creature was now holding up my shoe and sniffing it, tasting its scent with an infernal relish, then staring around in all four directions. It knew I was close.

And now this was the first time I could see its eyes.

They were black holes, which seemed to suck the life out of me anytime I looked at them. In fact, it reminded me of our inability to stare at the sun, lest you become blind. But by these eyes, it was clear you would be caught and lost forever, should you decide to keep looking. And its teeth, indeed were sharp, as sharp as a top chef’s cutting knife in a top Michelin star restaurant, where the directors of companies like ours went for celebratory dinners, for being top of their game, and making millions in profits for investors. Those who had been successful and made it in life.

And here was I, alone, hunted by a predator, which was now only some metres away and would locate my hiding place very soon. Here I was just waiting for the inevitable…

An anger now began to pulse in me, as I watched this creature, and it seemed to be aware of it. An anger rose from my shoeless foot, all the way up, prompting the monster to scan carefully in my general direction, snarling. An undeniable anger now took hold of me that I could not release.

I gave my life to this place, to my work, to my family, to my community, to my world. I have done the right thing, I have helped those needed by me, I have kept faithful, I have worked hard in life, followed the law, tempered my lusts, protected others from the harm that my self could inflict, rose up every morning when my soul urged against it, sacrificed my own needs for the needs of my loved ones, kept going, on and on, all the time, providing a shelter of love, and reliability for my colleagues. The only thing I am guilty of is not developing a guile, a trick, a spark, a stroke of genius, that would propel me into the summits of the elites.

The only thing I am guilty of is not making it in the sight others…

As for myself and my loved ones, I have lived a fairly decent life. For which now I am being hunted down.

This anger and realisation haunted me and shook me into action.

I jumped up and looked straight into the eyes of the monster; it registered and growled terrifyingly, a look of sick delight in those black holes.

But the anger was too much. I took hold of the nearest thing I could find, a monstrous stapler from a desk and charged with every shred of strength in my spirit.

I screamed: “there’s no fear upon me!” And rushed straight at the beast with a ferocity never seen before.

Just as I was about plunge the stapler into the monster and it was about to take a swipe at me, the lights of the floor turned on, the monster disappeared, I stood with stapler held high in attack position, with such a sense of release, relief, and fearlessness that a big, wide smile appeared on my face.

Then our security guard, Bob, poked his head into the room. “Er, Mr Everie, you okay?”

This entry was posted in allegory, Short Stories, supernatural and tagged by Novid Shaid. Bookmark the permalink.

About Novid Shaid

I am a Muslim writer and English teacher. I have written poetry, short stories, a play, and I am currently working on a novella. My subject matter and themes are related to Islam, Sufism, politics and also my job as a secondary school teacher. My work is copyrighted and any works published here may not used or copied without my prior consent. You can contact me via the "Contact Me" page, if you wish to use any these writings. I am keen to gain the notice of publishers and if any are interested in my writings, please contact me via the "Contact Me" page. Was salaam, Peace

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *