It is only half past five, but already the lobby feels unusually quiet, with just a handful of people moving about.
The lady in suit, jabbing at her mobile phone as she strides towards the exit. The man with his shirt half tucked in and a brown leather bag, looking as though he could fall asleep standing. The other man in a hi-vis vest and heavy boots, with a bag of tools near the cabinet that says ‘Maintenance’.
The security guard gets up from his chair when he sees me. ‘Good evening Mrs Lee, how are you?’
I show him my permanent visitor’s tag, although I really do not need to. ‘Hi Ed, I’m good, thanks. It’s so quiet here tonight.’
‘Yea, you know… Fridays. No one wants to work late.’
He shrugs and grins. ‘Such is life.’ He tags the buzzer and I walk through the turnstile.
‘All good. Have a lovely evening.’
The sound of my heels click clacking towards the lift echoes around me. No matter how many times I have come here, this place still feels larger than life. All the top world brands, in these shiny, modern towers of offices. It must be amazing to work here. Compared to this, my own workplace feels like a tiny little ant hill.
My phone rings, and I rummage through my bag with one hand while pressing the lift button with another.
Your bag is always full of stuff, how do you find things in it? Dan always teased. Well, like skillful fishermen bringing in a glorious catch, I am always able to find what I need.
‘Hello darling!’ I put the phone against my ear, a smile on my face. ‘I’ve just reached the lobby, and I’ll be up soon.’
‘Hey baby,’ Dan says, and then sighs. Uh oh. ‘Yea, I just wanted to let you know that I’ve been delayed a bit. The project has got some issues and the team needs me to fix things up. Can you wait at the team lounge for me for a little while?’
‘Oh. OK. Sure.’ Again. What a start to the night.
‘Sorry baby. Won’t be long, I promise.’
‘Sure,’ I pause, swallowing down a hundred other remarks bubbling up in my throat. I force a smile instead, even though he cannot see me. ‘Don’t worry about it, I’ll wait for you at the lounge.’
‘Thanks baby. I won’t be too long, I promise.’
The lift doors open right on cue, and I walk in with my shoulder slumped. Almost without seeing, I press the number 18 and then look at my shoes.
Well, it is not a big deal. Work is work. Even on anniversary nights. And, I should be thankful that my husband is so good at what he does that his team needs him all the time, right? Job security and all that?
I stare at the ascending floor numbers on the display at the top. Cassie Cassie, please don’t overthink and spoil things again. Five years of marriage is a big milestone. We are not going to let anything spoil our night. It’s going to be a good night.
The lift doors open and a woman is waiting to enter the lift. She is dressed in all black – a black denim jacket, a black shirt, black pants, and a black backpack hung over one shoulder. Her black hair is cut in a lovely long bob, framing her face.
She is actually quite pretty, except… Hmm. Her eyes looked ordinary just a second ago, but it seems as though her pupils are enlarging and darkening right at this moment. And, I realise with a jolt, she is staring at me in a weird, intense way.
Heat fill my cheeks as I give her a quick smile and step past her. I must have seen wrongly. Maybe my eyes are tired. Maybe there is something wrong with my own eyesight. Maybe it is time to change my contact lenses.
I turn back to steal a glance but the woman in black is now openly staring at me with eyes that seem to be entirely black now. There is definitely something not quite right.
She opens her mouth and suddenly all I hear is an eerie drawl that sounds like static noise and nails on the board mixed together. I put my hands on my ears and wince in pain.
She is now, I realise in horror, moving towards me, dragging her legs awkwardly along the floor at a slow pace. Her head jerks from side to side, and then she makes that eerie drawl again.
If I didn’t know better, I would have called her a zombie, but zombies don’t exist, right??
What I do know however is that I should move, but my legs feel as though they have been glued to the ground.
Finally my legs snapped out of the stupor, and I make my way down the hallway towards the team lounge area. This cannot be real right? This is impossible. I just need someone to tell me right now that I am in a dream, or it was just my imagination. But where is everybody? Tonight is definitely quieter and darker than usual.
The woman is still stalking after me, with her head jerking from side to side and her limbs dragging awkwardly. Oh my god. This is not real. This is not real.
Where is the lounge area again? I don’t remember it being so far from the lift.
Oh my god. It looks like a dead end in front. Am I not on the right floor??
The woman is getting really close. In just about 10 steps, she will reach me.
My eyes dart around to look for some way of escape, and I see a glass door with the sign ‘24C’ on it. Without hesitating, I run over and knock on the door.
‘Hello? Is anyone in here?’ No answer. I knock harder. ‘Hello??’
She is 9 steps away.
I can feel tears coming to my eyes. What kind of a nightmare is this? This is not real. This is not real!
I bang on the door and raise my voice. ‘Hello! Please open the door!’
Finally I see some shadow moving within the room and hear some shuffling sound. ‘Is someone in there? Please open the door! I need help! Please let me in!’
‘Please open the damn door! Hurry!!!!’
Finally the door swings open and I fall forward into someone’s arms. ‘Whoa,’ the man says. ‘What’s wrong? Are you oka–’
I push him aside and slam the door shut, not a minute too soon. I jerk back in alarm when I raised my head, because there the woman is – right in front of me, staring straight into my eyes. Separated only by the glass door.
Suddenly, she tilts her head back upright. Her pupils shrink back to normal size, and the colour lights to the usual dark brown. With a blank expression on her face, she turns and walks away, as though it was the most normal day ever.
I keep my eyes on her until I am sure she has gone into the lift. And then my vision blurs with tears.
‘W-w-what the hell was that?’ the man stammers. It is a small room with a couple of desks and computers around, and, including the man who opened the door, there are five people in this room. Everyone’s eyes are on me.
I hug my arms to try to stop the shaking. I shut my eyes and take a deep breath. ‘I have no idea,’ I say. ‘But there was definitely something strange about that woman. Anyway, I want to thank you –’
I open my eyes and my heart curls in ice.
All five of them are standing now, and their eyes, enlarging and darkening, are fixed right on me. Their heads start to jerk from side to side, and some of them start to move their limbs awkwardly. They open their mouths…
*Featured image from Unsplash.com