Paul’s desk was on the second floor of the Brown and Johnson building. It was large, a dated brown color from decades past, and covered in paper. It gave the impression Paul had more work than he could handle. Truth was things had been slow and every day Paul felt he was treading water. He knew he was running out of projects anyone gave a crap about. He also knew if he didn’t come up with some new ideas he was screwed.
He gazed out the window down to the street below. Paul had been excited about getting the window seat until he discovered the tinted glass made the brightest afternoon sky a dismal gray. The view wasn’t too stimulating either; just a parking lot and another office building across the way.
Paul pinched the corner of a cardboard envelope poking out of a stack of papers. Wiggling it free he held it and contemplated mailing it. Then smacking it against the palm of his hand he thought; now or never. He also thought it was time for the first of the days many cigarette breaks. As he stood he looked to make sure the address was right then tucked the enveloped under his arm. He walked from his desk towards the hall, as he did he didn’t notice the loud crash or sound of car alarms from the parking lot below.
He liked taking the back stairs over the elevator. With luck he would only have to walk past the receptionist Harriet who took the mail anyhow. He felt like today just might be okay because turning the corner to the lobby it was empty except for Harriet. Walking towards her he could see she seemed to be smiling at something.
Oh Lord, what does she think is so funny? She’s smiling like an idiot Paul thought as he approached the reception desk. Harriet was smiling but as Paul got closer he noticed something was wrong. Her smile was distorted and strained. The smile and empty stare were unyielding even when Paul was directly in front of her.
“Are you eh okay there Harriet?”
She moved her mouth just enough to respond “eh iehhh hooo.” Her voice was not forced; other than being incoherent gibberish it didn’t seem to dictate the duress her face showed. Paul wondered if she might be having a stroke.
He hurried to find help. He remembered Miranda one of the HR ladies sat around the corner. Remembering she was the head of the office safety committee, he figured she surely would know what to do. Hurrying around the corner to the hall he bumped into Randal the national account manager, a man Paul thought of as a slime ball in a Brook Brother’s suit.
“Listen I think something’s wrong with Harriet. We might need to call an ambulance or something.” while Paul spoke he watched Randal slowly lose his balance and slide down the wall to a sitting position on the floor. He looked at Randal’s face it was adorned with that same horrible grin.
“ahieeee jeeee,” Randal repeated sitting on the floor looking disturbing.
The sight of Randal was a bit more than Paul could take. He rushed to find someone else. Heading through the office at every desk was one incoherent coworker after another, every face grinning and babbling. His hurried walk turned into a run, slowing only when he remembered he had left his heart medication in his lower desk drawer.
Paul ducked into the lunch room and found it empty. Short of breath, his face flush, He held the back of a chair. He tried to calm himself by telling himself to: "get a grip” and “take deep breaths”. His efforts were short lived. Because up on the wall was the TV and like always at this time of day, The Sally Jones show was on (which Paul loathed). But instead of talking about the next miracle diet or celebrity break up, she sat in her plush chair with that now all too familiar smile jabbering nonsense.
Paul felt his only salvation might be fresh air and rushed out the back door. Outside he was greeted by the sound of car alarms and the smell of smoke. He avoided the parking lot taking the route he took every day to his bus stop; a quick cut through the courtyard of the adjacent building to the main street. Swiftly he followed the sidewalk towards downtown. He hoped to find someone of sound mind to help. The street was filled with stalled cars and collisions. He passed one car engulfed in flames; the driver sat smiling and still while being burned alive.
He was about to give up with no idea what to do next when he saw two policemen standing by each other at the end of the block. Their backs to Paul they seemed to be conversing. Paul moved towards them cautiously. Relief came over him when he realized he could hear them and understood what they were saying.
“I hate it when a transmitter goes, what a mess.” said the taller officer.
“It’ll all be cleaned up in a day or so. Besides, it weeds out the ones that aren’t taking the signal anymore.” replied the other.
“Please can you guys help me?” Paul said a few feet behind the men.
“Like this guy.” The man said to his friend as he turned, pulled his gun, and shot Paul dead.
“What’s this?” the other officer said. Reaching down he picked up the envelope lying next to Paul.
Looking at it, his friend shrugs “looks like it has postage. Mail it.”
Copyright: Sam Williams writer of horror fiction at http://theswollencorpse.blogspot.com