by Jeff Ronan
First week of the job, they always make you stay late. What are you gonna say, “no”? Good luck with that. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out, and – oh yeah – wouldja mind holding that door open? Your replacement is already there trying to get in past you.
Some of the other new hires stayed after for a while too, putting on a show for the boss man, but they all reached their limit an hour or so ago. The call of the weekend was too powerful, and one by one they bailed, slapping me high-five on their way out to begin drinking and smoking their meager paychecks away.
Nah, I didn’t mind staying late. It meant I had the whole floor to myself, maybe even the whole building, aside from the security guard on night shift downstairs (his name was Harry or Barry, kept forgetting). I had to admit, it was pretty cool having the run of the place. After everyone else left, I wandered around the cubicles, peering at the different pictures and knick-knacks on everyone’s desks.
Hey, if a drinky bird and some pictures of your cats helps you get through another mind-numbing day, then good for you, Linda.
Satisfied with my cursory investigation of the place, I plopped back down in my chair and tapped on the keyboard, waking up the idling screen. I may not be the hardest worker (as my dad likes to constantly remind me), but I know how to keep my head down and get by. And the easiest way to do that here was to put in some overtime – unpaid, of course – the first few weeks in order to make a good impression, and then use that good will to coast for a while. Besides, I needed this job, so a couple hours shaved off my Friday night was a small sacrifice. I put on some Black Keys, cracked my knuckles, and got to it.
Tonight, I had the honor of inputting a butt-load of ancient data that nobody would need again for approximately seven billion years. I punched some keys in beat to the music as Dan Auerbach sang about how we all decompose and slowly disappear. Yeah, no kidding.
I got into a zone and made it all the way until “Breaking Down” before joke-slamming my head against the desk. I was “bored outta mah gourd!” as my grandpa used to say, and I could practically feel the brains leaking out my ears and dripping down onto my Payless dress shoes.
I got up from my chair and stretched. The clock on the computer desktop read 7:42. A quick snack from the vending machine, maybe a Red Bull to wash it down, and I’d have enough energy to knock out the last few entries. I cranked the music up and started heading towards the break room, which was annoyingly located all the way down a long hallway at the other end of the floor.
As I turned into the hall, thinking about what Jenny, the cute receptionist, might be up to on a Friday night, I stopped short. Somebody was standing at the far end of the hall, staring at me. The lights were off in the hallway, and the figure was bathed in shadow.
“Hey,” I said, suddenly aware of the music blaring from my desk. “Didn’t know anyone else was still here.” The silhouetted figure continued to silently stare, motionless. I lifted a hand up and waved to the figure. They waved back in unison. The beginning chords to “Under the Gun” rang out, and the person at the end of the hall started nodding their head to the music. I grinned and nodded my head with them, adding a little shimmy, in beat to the music. The figure started shimmying as well.
Let’s see what you got, I thought, as I spun around. The silhouette spun with me and started doing the running man. I laughed, and followed suit for a measure of the song, then switched it up with some bad popping and locking. The figure was keeping up, and as the song neared the end, we finished strong with some classic robot.
The song finished, and we both simultaneously stopped dancing. I was out of breath, a light line of sweat dotting my hairline. The figure was also breathing hard, and I stepped a bit closer to finally see who it was. As I did so, the figure took an identical step towards me. Wait a minute, I thought and continued forward. Sure enough, there was a large mirror against the wall at the end of the hall.
You idiot, I thought, and pulled a dumb face. The mirror pulled one back. Then I made a grotesque, nightmarish grin, which my reflection rudely made back at me. I laughed and turned into the break room.
I plunked in my change, punched B2, and watched as the Doritos dropped down. As I snatched up the chips (the dancing had woken me up, so I passed on the Red Bull), I laughed to myself again. Thank god no one else was here to see me have a dance off with myself, particularly Jenny. I popped the bag open and started back out into the hall. Right as I turned, my stomach dropped, and I remembered with a bolt of fear that my reflection had started dancing first. The chips fell from my hand, spilling out across the tiled floor. I could feel my heartbeat quicken as I slowly turned around and faced the mirror. And there was my reflection looking back at me, the nightmare grin I’d made still plastered across my face. No, not my face. Its face.
On second thought, maybe I didn’t need the job that badly.
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