Categories > Original > Sci-Fi0 Reviews
A very bad day at the office. (Short Story)
"Aren't you going to answer that?"
Irene Baker looked up at her co-worker Krista Caldwell, who was pointing to the ringing phone on Irene's desk.
"I think I'll let it go to voicemail," replied Irene with a smirk. "If it's important, I'll call back. When I have time. Probably just a student calling to bitch about their bill."
"They're always calling to bitch about something," whined Beverly Jackson, Irene's other co-worker. "Student Financial Services is everyone's favorite punching bag."
"Too true," said Krista. "Nothing is ever right. Like it's our fault that the accounting program has so many glitches."
"The worst ones are the graduate students," observed Irene. "I mean, really, the University pays them, all they have to do is teach a couple of classes, and they still have the nerve to complain if we accidentally add a late fee to their account. It's their own department's problem. We can't worry about every little detail."
"It's always the same old thing," said Beverly. "Just today I got another email from Iris over in the chemistry department. She had a whole list of TA's and RA's with late fees on their accounts that she insists are a mistake."
"Just tell her it's another glitch," said Krista, and the three women burst into laughter.
"Oh well, I guess I better look into it."
"And make sure you put in the right account number this time," muttered Irene.
"Hey, I was only off by one digit. It's not my fault the numbers are so long."
"Speaking of long numbers, how are you coming along with the travel reimbursments, Krista?" asked Irene.
"Oh, fine. But not fast enough for the students."
"Yeah, our job would be so much easier if it weren't for them."
"Speaking of students," said Krista, "one of them actually came in here this morning to complain that she hadn't gotten her refund yet." Krista snorted. "Then she had the nerve to ask if she could have some of our coffee. Said she couldn't afford to buy any because she hadn't been paid yet this semester."
"Yeah, whatever. Did you give her any?"
"She lucked out. I was feeling generous this morning."
"I let her have half a cup."
Irene laughed. "Speaking of coffee, we need a fresh pot. Beverly, your turn."
"Yeah, yeah, I'll get right on it," muttered Beverly. She stalked off to the kitchenette.
Irene turned back to her computer just as the screen went blank.
"What the Hell?" She smacked the side of the monitor and then bent down to check all of the connections. Everything looked normal. Probably another damn virus.
"Irene!" Krista's voice sounded high and unnatural.
Irene stood up to see what Krista was talking about. She was pointing to the office's lone window, which had suddenly gone pitch black.
"What's going on?" she cried.
"I don't know. Turn on the TV. Maybe it's an eclipse or something."
Krista grabbed the remote and pointed it at a small TV in the corner. Nothing happened. She smacked the remote against the palm of her hand and tried again. Nothing.
"What's wrong with the TV?"
"Is it plugged in?"
Krista walked over to check. "Yeah, it is." She pushed the power button. Nothing.
"Hell", muttered Irene. "I'll check the radio." She switched her portable CD player over to radio and raised the volume. She heard a low hiss, then nothing. She turned the dial back in forth, hoping to pick up a station. Nothing.
"Dammit!" Suddenly the sounds of running feet and screams came from the hallway. Irene and Krista froze.
"Krista, lock the door. Close the blinds and lock the door," whispered Irene.
"Just do it!"
Krista scurried over to the office door, lowered the blind on the window and pressed the lock on the door knob.
"Turn off the lights!" Irene hissed. Krista flipped the switch and hurried back over to Irene's desk.
"What's happening? Are we under attack?"
Irene was silent. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw something move on her computer screen. She turned to look at it and saw several sinuous lines, electric blue and bright green, start to weave their way outwards from the center of the screen. When they reached the edge, they came out of the screen and slid down the sides of the monitor. That's no fucking virus. Irene took a slow step backward, her eyes on the twisting lines.
"Hey, what's going on out there?" called Beverly from the kitchenette. "Why are the lights off?"
The lines had reached the desktop and had started to widen as they moved towards the floor. They slithered like eels down over the desktop and disappeared under the desk. More had started to form in the center of the monitor. Irene took another slow step back and bumped into Krista who was staring wide-eyed at the far wall.
"Hey! What are you two doing out there?" shouted Beverly and she appeared in the doorway, coffee pot in hand.
"Shut UP!" hissed Irene. Beverly stared at Irene with a startled expression.
"Wha--?" She looked at Krista and followed her gaze to the far wall. She grew pale as her eyes widened.
"WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?!?"
Irene turned and saw that the lines had moved to the far wall. There were dozens of them. They had widened to the size of boa constrictors and were waving back and forth like snakes watching their prey. In the center of the wall another had formed, long and sinuous like the rest, but instead of green or blue this was a deep blood red. Suddenly, Irene realized she could hear them. They crackled and hissed, and as it moved lower the red thing emitted a high gurgling chuckle. It turned towards Beverly and two bright oval lights appeared. The oval lights narrowed, and disappeared before appearing again, brighter than before.
"NO!" Beverly screamed and threw the coffee pot at the red thing. The pot hit the corner of a file cabinet and shattered and Beverly turned and ran back into the kitchenette. The red thing took off after her like a shot. Beverly screamed again and a sickening crunch, followed by another high gurgling chuckle eminated from the kitchenette. Several of the blue and green things slithered across the floor and disappeared. Irene heard them in there, crackling and growling like dogs fighting over a bone. Irene felt her knees grow week, while Krista promptly turned away from the door and violently threw up.
"Irene!" she gasped. "What do we do?"
"Stay quiet, out of sight. Don't draw their attention." Irene reached for the phone and held the receiver to her ear. Nothing. Shit!
"Try your cell phone," whispered Krista. Irene slowly reached for her purse and withdrew her cell, her eyes on the twisting things covering the far wall. No Service. SHIT!
"Head for the door. Slowly. We don't want to...disturb them." They inched their way towards the door. They had almost reached it when they saw something move across the light coming through the crack under the door. They froze. Irene turned and saw that several of the green and blue things were sliding slowly across the floor towards the door. At that moment, something pounded on the door from outside. The things rose up, alert, and were goined by the red thing, larger and darker than before. The banging starting again, and the things all shot under the door out into the hall. There was a loud thump, a long, high gurgle, and silence.
Krista clutched at Irene and whimpered. They started to back away from the door.
"What do we do now?"
"I don't know."
"We're dead, aren't we?"
Irene wasn't in the frame of mind to answer the obvious.
"We can hide. Maybe someone will find us before-"
"Before they get hungry again?"
"Get under your desk. Don't draw attention to yourself. Maybe we can wait this out."
Krista sobbed. She slowly made her way to her desk and disappeared beneath it. Irene crouched behind her chair and rummaged in her purse, wishing she had her taser, University weapons policy be damned. She found nothing except a nail file and a small pair of cuticle scissors. She clutched the nail file in her right hand, taking comfort in having something, but at the same time doubting that it would do any good.
"Irene," said Krista in a barely audible whisper. "What are they?"
Irene thought for a moment. She had an idea, but didn't dare voice it.
"I don't know," she whispered back.
"I can't stand this! Why me? What did I ever do to deserve this?" Krista's voice was edged with panic. Irene was about to tell her to be quiet when she saw another red thing emerge from a dark corner. It started to move towards Krista's desk.
Irene saw Krista peek out from behind her desk. Krista followed Irene's gaze, and her eyes locked on the red thing moving towards her. She screamed and threw something at it. Irene heard a crash and the sound of breaking glass. Oh shit.
"NO!" screamed Krista. "GO AWAY! LEAVE ME ALONE!" Irene heard several more objects crash as Krista used any projectile she could find to try and deter the advancing Thing. As it closed in on Krista, Irene hid behind her desk and closed her eyes.
"NOOOOOOO!" Another sickening crunch reached Irene's ears. She started to cry. The crackling and growling sounds rose from behind Krista's desk.
I'm all alone, and I'm next. Oh God, please, help me!
Suddenly, she heard a click. The door. They've unlocked the door. Can I get out, or are there more coming in that way? What do I do? She peered out from behind her desk. The office door was open, and a dark figure was filling the doorway.
Irene took a deep breath. Whatever happened, she wasn't going out without a fight.
Officer Carlos Mendoza waited impatiently for Mike, the guy from the physical plant to find the keys.
"Hurry up, man!" he exclaimed. "It sounds like some is being murdered in there!" Mendoza had received the call for a disturbance in the Student Financial Services office and, fearing the worst, he had rushed over. When he arrived, the door was locked, and no one had responded when he pounded on the door. According to typical University bureaucracy, the campus police were not permitted to have keys to private offices. He had tried to force the door, but to no avail, and had called the physical plant in a panic. He had waited for what seemed like hours for access, the screams of the people locked inside assaulting his ears and sending shivers down his spine, feeling completely helpless and stupid. Finally Mike identified the correct key and inserted it into the lock. The room beyond was suddenly silent.
"Everyone get back!" Mendoza shouted, and the mass of curious students who had been drawn to the commotion slowly inched away. Mendoza drew his gun and cautiously opened the door. He took one careful step into the room, and when his eyes adjusted to the dim light, he stared in shock at the scene within.
"Holy Mary Mother of God," he whispered.
Mystery Illness Strikes University Employees
by Charles Anderson, Special Correspondent to
Three university employees were hospitalized yesterday after succumbing to a mysterious illness. Beverly Jackson, 25, Krista Caldwell, 28, and Irene Baker, 32, were discovered by campus police around 10:30 AM in the Student Financial Services office where they all worked. Jackson and Caldwell were unconscious and Baker collapsed shortly thereafter. All three were rushed to University Hospital where they remain unresponsive and in critical condition.
Doctors have provided few comments as to the nature of the illness. The cause of the illness is unknown at this time, but health officials and police were called to the scene and are investigating.
Witnesses described hearing screams and breaking glass from within the office around 10:20 AM, and when an officer arrived he found that the office door had been locked. After gaining access, campus police Office Carlos Mendoza and maintenance worker Michael Waters found the women in the office, a scene of complete disarray.
"It looked like someone went crazy," said Waters. "There was stuff thrown all over the place. One of the women rushed at us, trying to stab us with a nail file. She was screaming something about aliens, then she fainted."
"The woman was in extreme distress", reported Officer Mendoza regarding Baker. "She appeared to be hallucinating." Mendoza found Jackson unconscious and called for emergency services. A search of the office revealed the third woman, also unconscious, curled up under a desk.
"We do not know at this point exactly what occurred, but there was evidence that the women had been ill before they passed out. We cannot rule out some sort of chemical or biological toxin," stated the women's physician, Dr. Stephen Allen.
University president Dr. Xavier Whitmore expressed extreme sorrow at the day's events. "Our employees are like family. We all feel terrible that this tragedy has occurred." When asked about the impact on the University, Whitmore stressed that everything was being done to reassure the students and to provide counseling. "In addition, we have a great pool of resources which we utilize to ensure that all administrative resources will continue to run smoothly, and that our students will not be unduly disturbed." A source in the president's office revealed that the University has contacted retired staff members to cover the positions held by the women "until they are able to return to us, which we all hope is very soon."
Camilia Forrestal lowered the newspaper, carefully folded it, and placed it in her backpack. She leaned back on the bench and closed her eyes, enjoying the warm sun on her face and the light breeze that carried with it a hint of spring. She stayed like that, unmoving, feeling the stress of the past few weeks drain away.
Stress. Such an interesting phenomenon. Almost as interesting as the way one might deal with it when it entered one's life. Some people let it eat away at them, draining their energy and motivation. Others turned to alcohol or drugs, harming themselves and the ones they loved in the process. Camilia just couldn't understand that. Why drag someone else down in the process of addressing one's own particular problems? Still others, she mused, poured their problems out to "professionals" while laying on a couch for a hundred bucks or more a session, exposing another being to their deepest, darkest fears. All with the the assurance of complete confidentiality, of course. Camilia had never been one to share such secrets. Stress was personal, a private thing, best dealt with in a constructive way. For her, it was a puzzle, an enigma, a way to challenge her mind to discover the most appropriate solution. One must be proactive: go to the source of the stress, the direct cause of the trouble and deal with that accordingly. And if the solution was gleaned from the very institution that housed the source, so much the better. It was funny how a seemingly trivial and offhand comment by an employee of that institution could provide the impetus. A brief mention of how some indigenous plant life contained substances that, when mixed with a common stimulant, produced horrific, hallucinogenic effects. Even better that extracting the compound was a simple procedure and the compound itself, when dried, dissolved amazingly well in hot liquid. A liquid which, amusingly, was readily available and already contained the common stimulant...
Camilia opened her eyes, smiled quietly to herself and rose from the bench. It was time to head back to the lab and she had important work to do. This time, the work could remain foremost in her mind, unclouded by worries created by the incompetent bungling of certain individuals. As she followed the path toward her building, she thought of a simple statement an old classmate had made, and how wonderfully true it had proved to be to those who had caused her so much trouble: Never fuck with a chemist.