Today I decided to take a break from the story I’ve been working on. It had become an unenjoyable experience to work on, so I think I need to let it breathe. Instead I just wanted to take a writing prompt and write whatever came to mind. And that’s what I did.
I might return to the story tomorrow, or I might start a new story and work on that for the remainder of the month. I’m not really sure yet.
Anyway, thanks for reading, and enjoy.
By E W Morrow
Word Count: 1125
Davidson smiled as his computer’s hum shifted down through several octaves and then finally whirred to a stop. He stood and arched his back. The pops that ran down his spine filled the silence of the office, as did his groan of pleasure as some of the stiffness abated. The only other sound was the constant squeak-blop-squeak of the little drinking bird toy that Carol kept on her desk. It was strange how loud it was when the rest of the office was dead.
He pulled his phone from his pocket and checked the time. It was just past 8 pm. God knew how he’d let himself get so far behind this month, but the finally he was done. The last report was zipping through the cables in the walls and it would be waiting in his boss’s email when he came in on Monday. He grabbed his jacket from the back of his chair and headed towards the elevator. He stopped at the water cooler to pull it on and grabbed a paper cup. The glug-glug of the air bubbles was added to the silence. And that damned bird. Glug-squeak-blob-glug-squeak. How could Carol stand that damn thing all day, he wondered? Worst thing he could imagine.
He had the paper cup almost to his lips when the lights went out. The darkness was so sudden that he jumped and the cup slipped from his fingers sending ice cold water all over him.
“Hello,” he called into the gloom. “Is someone there?” The only answer was the squeak-blop-squeak of the drinking bird.
Icy fingers dripped down Davidson’s spine. The darkness wasn’t complete. Faint white light from the parking lot below streamed through the blinds on the far side of the wall. Orange flares of battery powered exit lights also dotted the darkness. None of this made it any easier to see. Instead the office was transformed into a twisting maze of shadows. Davidson took a few steps and almost cried out when he bumped into the edge of the water cooler. He stepped back and held his hand out to grasp at a cubicle wall and steady himself. He almost fell when his hand touched nothing but shadow. It was impossible to tell what was and wasn’t real.
“Can anyone hear me?” Davidson cried out again. “If you’re there, could you please turn the lights back on.”
Davidson gasped. “Hello? Who’s there?”
“I know someone’s there,” Davidson said. “I can hear you. This isn’t funny.” Davidson took a few cautious steps in the direction he thought the whispering was coming from. When he didn’t immediately crash into anything he continued more quickly. The whispering grew a little louder and he pressed on.
“Look,” he said slowly, “it’s been a long day. I just want to go home, order a pizza and watch some TV, okay?”
The whispering was definitely louder now, but it was still impossible to tell what the whisperers were saying. Davidson’s hand touched something firm and fuzzy, a cubicle wall, and he followed it until he came to a corner. He rounded it quickly. Up ahead he saw an exit sign glowing dimly in the darkness. His best guess was that he was in one of the center aisles that separated cubicle blocks, which meant that he should have a straight shot to the wall with the exit sign.
Whoever had done the shushing had been close by. Davidson surged forward, ready to catch whoever was playing these tricks and put a stop to them. His right foot came down on something a few inches before it should have. It was low, hard, and wheeled: the leg of a rolling chair. His foot shot forward, his body twisted, and he slammed shoulder first into a support column.
Davidson took a few moments to gather himself. He managed to get his left leg out from under him. The initial pain in his shoulder died away, leaving a burning ache that would be worse in the morning. Then he pushed himself up, letting the column support him. The whisperers had retreated during their bout of impish laughter. He staggered forwards, found the chair they’d left in the aisle and kicked it aside.
“Fuck you,” Davidson said. “Fuck all of you. I’m out of here.” He looked up, ready to aim himself at the exit sign and limp through it.
It was gone.
He turned around. It wasn’t behind him either. He shook his head and tried to concentrate. It had been there, hadn’t it? He looked around. The shadows looked—different, somehow. Not that he’d really been paying attention, but they just didn’t feel familiar. Had he blacked out? Gone walking aimlessly before he’d come to his senses? He didn’t think so, but it was hard to be sure.
And it was damned hard to think with these little insidious noises creeping in his ears and through his brain. He limped forward and turned another corner. There, in front of him was another exit sign. He glared at it, daring it to disappear. When it didn’t, he hurried forward again.
Whisper-squeak “Shut up!” Whisper-blop-squeak-shh-shh-shh
Davidson skidded to a stop. He squinted into the gloom. He leaned forward and with every step he swung his arms out in front of him. If he was going to run into anything again, this time he’d be ready.
Movement caught his eye. He looked up. One of the shadows looked wrong. There was a blocky shape in front of him, probably a cubicle wall, but something round was sticking up near the corner closest to him. The edges of the object were fuzzy, indistinct, and Davidson found it easier to see it if he tried to look at a point to either side of it.
The round object ducked out of sight suddenly and another round of implike laughter began. Davidson snarled and lunged forward.
“Gotch!” he cried. The he cried a second time as something sharp pierced the bottom of his shoe and stabbed him in the heel. He hopped and darted sideways. He stepped on another pointed object, this one stabbing his big toe. Davidson fell backwards, his tailbone smacking the tile with a thud. He stifled a moan and pulled his foot up to his chest, ran his hand along the sole, and then pried the foreign object from the leather. He held it up, waving it through the darkness. Finally it hit a patch of light and glinted just enough for him to see.
It was a push pin. He looked ahead of him and saw a dozen or more pinpricks of light. Someone had laid them out on the floor for him to step on.