Tuesday, June 27, 2006

John started awake, his head snapping forward as he shook off the feeling of vertigo. It wasn't like him to fall asleep at his desk, and now he had a crick in his neck. He massaged the back of his neck with one hand and peered up over his cubicle wall, hoping no one had caught him asleep. No one was around, fortunately. He sunk back down and stared at his computer screen, bleary eyed. He jumped again, startled as his phone rang. He put the receiver to his ear and rambled off his standard Monday morning greeting, the one that sounded like one long word. "'GmorningprocessinJohnspeakingcanIhelpyou".
The line was dead. He opened his mouth to inquire hello and winced, as a burst of static exploded in his ear. He pulled the receiver away and glared at it, then slammed it down, annoyed. He paused for a second--it was deathly silent in the cube farm. No typing, no quiet drumbeats tapping from headphones somewhere. The watercooler was usually the center of traffic at this point in the day. He shivered involuntarily. Listening to his own breathing for several seconds, he strained to pick out the sound of rustling paper or background phone conversations--nothing. His phone shattered the stillness, the ring causing him to jump again. He picked up the phone, waited a full breath-- "Hello?" Static again, scratchy and harsh. Slamming the phone down he jumped to his feet, peering around. Nothing.
He took several tenative steps into the cube farm, looking at his neighbors desk. Outlook was up on the screen, coffee was steaming in the #1 Dad mug on the desk, but Bill wasn't there. He looked around again and opened his mouth to call out when Bill's phone began to shrill, high-pitched and insistent. John lifted the receiver off the cradle, "Bill's desk, John speak-" The crash of static assaulted his ear. His head swam. He slammed the phone down, started down the aisle somewhat panicked now, calling out: "Hello! Anyone there? Hello!" At each desk in turn, as he passed, the phone began to ring. He dropped into a dead run as each phone lit up behind him, a cacophony of simultaneous rings, the decible level increasing as every phone in the room lit up. It became almost unbearable as he reached the hallway. As he was about to cross the threshold, the phones cut out. Dead silence reigned again. Mid-stride he paused, turning to look over his shoulder.
Every single monitor in the room simultaneously dropped into a static pattern. He almost anticipated what happened next: Grating static from every single speaker. He covered his ears with both hands and bolted.
He was halfway through the building before he realized he was screaming with the voices that began to emerge in the static patterns--wailing painful cries. He heard "No, please--don't come any closer!" from Sales, sickeninig thuds and pops from Marketing. He reached the foyer in a desperate bid to flee the building and the escalating sounds of horror.
Bursting through the heavy glass doors of the building's main entrance, he had only a moment to register the truck before it smashed into him, sending him through the air to crash into the pavement. The employees emerging from the new conference room were shocked to discover that John had ran out into traffic rather than the conference room, where his surprise birthday party had been set up.

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