I tapped at the keyboard in my cubicle; my eyes glazed and heavy. I closed my eyes briefly as I leaned back in my chair. My fingers twitched at my sides; they were heavy with blisters after holding a pencil for so long every night. I brought my hands to my face and let them slowly make their way down my face, allowing them to feel the bags under my eyes, pulling them slightly, and down to my red painted lips. I opened my eyes slowly, while black spots drifted faintly in front of my blurry vision. I blinked hard and they quickly skittered away.
“Pandora, come in my office a quick minute will you?”
My head jerked back in surprise, immediately awoken by the commanding voice that came down the hall.
“Just a minute ma’am!” I called, dusting off the crumbs from the lunch I had had earlier.
Carefully, I picked myself up from my chair and grabbed the cane that was sitting next to my desk. I made sure to tune out the irritated “-tsks” from the older office ladies. My cane thumped like a stiff third leg, as I made my way out of the small civilization that the cubicles offered between their dull gray walls; the angry village ladies would have to wait until after I came back into their crummy old town before they could start a mob to drive me back out.
“Ma’am?”I asked, knocking on her office door that was left slightly ajar.
“Come in, Pandora, and make sure to leave the formalities at the door. I want to talk to you as an equal, not as a queen talking down to her subjects.”
I stepped warily into my boss’ office, making sure to keep my eyes trained on the ground as I walked in. Despite what she said about trying to be equal to her employees, she was still intimidating.
“Did you need something Ma’am?” I asked, trying to keep away from gaze. I took to staring at the small crudely fashioned sculpture of a bird on her desk. Underneath her name was written with the messy handwriting of a first-grader, Cassandra Fossing.
“Hey, Pandora, look at me. What did I just say about formalities? Don’t be so stiff. Just relax, it isn’t anything bad,” she said, trying to catch my eyes.
I straightened slightly, shifting my weight from my left leg onto my cane.
“Ah, that’s better. It’s nice to see you for the first time this morning, Pandora.” Ms. Fossing mused, leaning back in her chair, “Anyways, the reason I called you in today was to discuss the work that you’ve put into this company.”
“I wanted to ask you, if you’d like a bit of change in your life. The higher-ups have asked me to pick a few of my best workers to relocate to an office farther up the way. I want you to go, Pandora. You’ll have better pay, and health benefits to boot. I think that this would be a great opportunity for you.”
A small smile started creeping to the corner of my mouth when an immense throbbing in my leg began and my mouth drooped in a wince. A tight feeling grasped my fake leg, and it felt as though a pair of too cold hands were squeezing with all their might. I resisted the urge to grab my prosthetic and throw it out the window. I felt my stress start to mount within the rest of my body, and with that, a speckle of heat and hives attacked my arms and chest.
“I’ll think it over…” I said turning around.
“I hope that you will, Pandora. I don’t want this to turn into something that just sits in your inbox for years… I don’t want to see you regret this,” Ms. Fossing mumbled as I hobbled out the door, my limp slightly more noticeable than when I first entered.
I made my way through the nest of close knitted cubicles, and the angry old birds that inhabited them cast sharp glances through dark uncaring eyes. One of the oldest of them, and their unofficial leader, squawked a small snicker and swiveled in her office chair to get a better look at me.
I turned away from her gaze; I wasn't in the mood to speak with her. I felt the gaze of the old crows as they peered down at me as if the phone line they were on was much too precious to share.
My cane thumped loudly as I quickened my pace to the elevator. I fastened the buttons on my coat while the elevator made its slow descent.
The elevator stuttered for a moment as the lights flickered, and the small room shuddered, causing me to lose my already uneven balance. A cold sensation began to ripple out from my leg as if it was an illness that was intent on spreading to the rest of my body.
I heard but didn’t feel my head thump against the dirty rugged floor. My vision blurred before I blacked out.
I felt my senses return as someone started shaking me awake. I opened my eyes quickly, afraid that whoever came in to save me was waiting too long. However, when I looked up at my savior, it was startling to see myself holding me up, only she didn’t quite look like me. She looked more ragged, like a weathered version of myself.
I squirmed out of her grasp and eyed her suspiciously, my back pressed against the wall of the elevator; I held my cane up defensively. She sighed and picked herself up from the ground using an identical cane.
“You won’t be able to get out of here without me, so I’d suggest for you to just stay quiet and follow me,” she said, turning her back to me.
“What do you mean I won’t be able to get out of here alone? Isn’t this just my office? I think I know how to get home from here,” I asked hesitantly picking myself up. “Who are you?”
She stepped out of the elevator silently and gestured for me to follow. I did so, albeit somewhat unwillingly.
As I stepped out from the elevator the world around me fell on it’s side.
My legs buckled underneath me, and I fell back to the floor.
Wisps of light whooshed underneath my nose. I whipped my head around to watch as the bits of light flew around, carrying papers and sorting them into the cubbies behind the front desk. I stared wide-eyed as a few clumped together at the water cooler and poured drinks for themselves as if lounging around.
I turned back to my double, slack-jawed and frightened. She looked irritated; she hadn´t take her eyes off of me while the the flecks of light fluttered about. She waved her hand dismissively and sighed. She then resigned herself to explain, “I want you to take this in quietly, no questions. We have to hurry, we don’t have much time. Your memories and thoughts are sorted in this building, and your feelings are kept inside the water tower, but they sometimes leak out. So I’m going to warn you to stay away from any suspicious figures. They might look like we do, but they’re extremely dangerous since you’ve kept them bottled up for so long they’re ready to explode. I think that about explains it for now. Let’s go.”
She walked out of the door satisfied by her explanation, believing that I would be too. I picked myself up angrily from the floor and followed her, unaware of the trail of black that followed close behind.
She strode quickly down the sidewalk of the office, ignoring me as I stuck close behind her. I marveled at the world and how strange everything was. It was as if we were in the real world, but only a few marks off. The trees looked faded, the sky was a brighter blue, the old buildings on the avenue looked alive with activity, even though no one was in any of them.