This week for your…amusement…a flash fiction piece from No Hazard Pay, my first flash collection. Bon appetite!
whistled as he pulled the heavy glass door open. It was still early
and the office was mostly dark, just as he’d hoped. The project he’d
been working on for the past several months was nearly finished, and
two hours without interruption would allow him to complete the final
documentation he’d need for the nine o’clock meeting.
reached his desk and turned the monitor on, setting a travel mug
beside the keyboard. Arranging the test notes for reference, he
opened his email program and scanned the subjects just to make sure
there was nothing important that required a reply before he got
engrossed in the project.
brow furrowed at one near the top from Jenna, his boss, the time
stamp showing it had been sent at five that morning – an hour
earlier. She wanted a status report at eight, as soon as he got in.
to be able to report that everything was ready on time and testing
had gone better than expected, he grabbed his coffee and headed down
the hall to her office. Since she was already here, he’d update her
now and then get to work. It would be fun to share the good news with
someone, and maybe he’d finally get that promotion he’d been hoping
light from her office glowed through the large window on the far side
of the door frame. He raised one hand to knock as he peered through
the slatted blinds, but caught himself just in time. The mug slipped
from his hand as he stared in horror at the scene on her desk, the
thud of metal hitting the carpet making just enough noise to catch
wanted to run, though he knew it was pointless. Even if he made it
out of the building, the company knew everything about him, and with
the project he’d just finished, they’d be able to track him anywhere
in the world. Suddenly the vague warnings from friends and colleagues
– those he’d brushed off as paranoid ramblings – came rushing through
his head like a bullet no amount of Kevlar would protect him from.
waved for him to enter, and he slowly pushed the door open. She
smiled, laying a fork and knife on the desk near her plate. Tapping
daintily at her lips with a napkin, she placed the red-stained cloth
back in her lap, and folded her hands on the desk.
are you doing here so early, Rick? I wasn’t expecting you for a
couple of hours.”
voice was calm and professional, as it always was. Maybe he was
seeing things. Maybe the long hours had been harder on him than he’d
had a few things to finish up with the documentation before the
meeting. I thought I could get it done before anyone else came in.
Then I saw your email…”
nodded, reaching for a file folder off to the side. She leaned back
in her chair and opened it, glancing at him over her glasses.
done a remarkable job on this project,” she said, running a
finger down a page he couldn’t see. “A lot of long hours and
testing. I know it’s been stressful for you, and you should be
rewarded for the dedication you’ve shown.”
tried to keep from staring at the bloody plate on her desk, even
blinked a few times in hopes it would turn into something…normal.
Having no luck, he looked up again to see her watching him carefully.
we don’t have any promotions available at the moment. And as you
know, money’s kind of tight. I’m afraid we just don’t have the budget
to pay the sort of salary you deserve any longer, Rick.”
leaned forward, trying to ignore the eyeball staring up at him from
the tines of her fork. “You’re firing me? After all the work
I’ve done, everything I’ve given this company?” He watched with
a mixture of anger and horror as she lifted the fork to her lips, the
white sphere gone when she laid it back down. It occurred to him that
getting fired was a good thing. He had to be hallucinating.
firing,” she clarified crisply. “Lowering your pay. Your
new salary will be five thousand dollars less per year. It’s a
necessary evil, Rick. Much like myself.”
his mouth to argue, he thought better of it at the last second.
“Maybe we could continue this later. I’m not feeling very well.”
nothing to discuss. Take it or quit,” she said.
got to his feet, not bothering to hold out his hand. “Fine,”
he said, taking careful steps back toward the door. “I quit.
I’ll get my things and leave you to your…breakfast.”
shrugged, picking up a small container and pouring red sauce over
the remainder of her meal. “I only eat because the act keeps me
in touch with my human side. Really, it’s just the blood I need.”
grabbed the door knob and twisted, feeling sweat run down the side of
his face. “I’m not feeling particularly well,” he said, his
heartbeat quickening when the door wouldn’t open. “I think I’m
hallucinating, actually. I need to go to the hospital.” He
pulled harder, using both hands as the knob grew slippery with
moisture from his palms. “The door seems to be…”
not hallucinating, Rick. But fortunately for you, I’m sated.”
voice was close – too close, and her breath felt cold on the back of
his neck. He shivered, frozen both physically and mentally as she
moved in front of him, staring directly into his eyes.
I can’t allow you to remember what you’ve seen, or this
conversation.” He felt her mind reaching out to his, gripping it
tightly as she continued to speak. “You’ll go back to your desk,
you’ll finish the project, and you won’t notice anything different
when you get your next paycheck. You won’t remember anything about
this morning, except that you updated me about the project, and I was
closed his eyes, and she released him. When he opened his eyes again
he was at his desk, travel mug beside him, notes at the ready. A new
email came in from Jenna, and he clicked on it.
you for the update, Rick. See you at the meeting later.”
smiled and closed the email, ignoring the chill that ran under his
skin as he settled in to finish the documentation.
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