by Mary Crosbie
Wendy woke up at her desk. A spindle of drool swayed from her mouth and extended to an oasis of saliva spreading around her face. She pulled her head off her desk, took a quick look around. Nobody seemed to notice, phew. There was Greg, absorbed by the numbers. And Amy, sorting through a stack of paper that was comedic in size. The big presentation was happening Friday and they all had been working overtime.
Wendy ducked out to the bathroom to freshen up. She kept some secret toiletries under the sink including a toothbrush, deodorant, and this hair spray that made it look like you’d actually washed your hair. Wendy couldn’t remember the last time she’d washed her hair. Sunday, maybe. Not this past Sunday, the one before.
Wendy needed coffee before she could face all the data again. It was brutal. She had constant headaches and all the numbers blurred together. She would swear she was looking at the same stuff over and over, it was so monotonous. When she wound her way to the staff room, she ran into her supervisor, Skip.
“Hey, Skip.” said Wendy. She put in a pod for a double caffeine espresso vanilla pumpkin latte.
“Hey, yourself. Where’s the data at, Wendy? I’m serious!” Skip had permanent whine. Greg actually did this killer impersonation of him. It made Wendy laugh just thinking about it.
“Is something funny, Wendy? I can’t even anymore!” whined Skip.
Wendy hated her job but at least there were a few good laughs. And it wasn’t her forever job. She was just paying off some debt and then, early retirement. In Spain, she figured. She’d find a villa overlooking Spanish stuff and start her–
“Wendy! Are you even listening? I’m so not really anymore!” Skip was still there and seemed to have said a thing.
“I’ll get right on it, Skip,” said Wendy, unable to even look at Skip because she’d laugh. She couldn’t wait to tell Greg so he could say it back to her!
Wendy went back to her desk and looked at the data. Amy came by and told her about her niece’s birthday party that she missed but had all these cute pictures, then wanted to gossip about Greg and how he cut his hair, and Greg turned around and Wendy blushed. Then Skip emailed her, no joke, a 3gb attachment of new data. To be done. By the end of the day.
Wendy woke up at her desk. Amy was trying to get her attention. Waving at her to follow. Wendy got up, bleary-eyed. She felt so woozy. She must have had a caffeine crash. You know when too much caffeine triggers a sleeping response? That must be it. Wendy followed Amy to the kitchen.
“Look, Wendy! I got a cake. It’s Greg’s birthday today! Will you help with the candles?” The cake was chocolate and made to look like a football.
“Is Greg into football?” asked Wendy. She realized she didn’t know that about him.
“I know what Greg is into,” said Amy, mischievously.
“Okay, Amy. Be mysterious.” They pushed blue candles into the football. Then Amy went and got Greg and Skip, Marnie, Allen, and the temp. They all sang happy birthday to Greg. How many birthdays had they had in that little kitchen?
“Blow out the candles and make a wish, Greg!” said Amy.
Greg looked right at Wendy as he blew out the candles. He blew them all out, too.
“Get back to work everyone! Presentation’s Friday!” whined Skip. Wendy and Greg laughed. They all brought cake back to their desks. Wendy found Skip had emailed again. He had sent the wrong file. So now she had to start all over again.
Wendy woke up at her desk. Her neck really hurt. She thought maybe she was getting sick with narcolepsy or something. She would need to look it up. She looked at the time. It was only three p.m. Two more hours. Wendy got up from her desk to go for a walk. She would just go around the block, get some fresh air. It would clear her head.
She snuck down the hall to the elevators. She ran into Greg.
“Thanks for the birthday cake,” said Greg, seductively.
She followed him to the supply closet, which for some reason had a small cot.
They returned to their desks, avoiding each other’s gaze.
Wendy woke up at her desk. It was morning. She could see Amy sending an e-card to someone with dancing kittens. Greg was on the phone, dealing with the public. There was a saying at this place that the public were monsters that need to be fed. “Feed the Monsters!” was actually on some memos. Wendy didn’t love the public. She checked if anyone had emailed. Something poked her skin.
Wendy looked at her arm and a pokey tag was still in the sweater she was wearing. That was weird. She had bought this two years ago from Banana Republic. Why would the tag still be in there? It was weird. She decided to show Amy.
“Amy, look at what I found!” and Wendy showed Amy, who gave her a funny look.
Then Amy whispered: “I forgot to wear underwear today!”
Wendy got herself a triple creme cafe brulee and grabbed a slice of cake from the fridge. “Breakfast of champions!” she said to Marnie. But Marnie didn’t seem to understand. Or care. She was a little robotic.
Wendy woke up at her desk. Amy was crying.
Wendy went over right away.
“I’m so happy for you!” cried Amy. “Can I see it?”
Wendy had no clue.
Amy grabbed her hand and sure enough a giant diamond ring occupied a finger on her hand. And Greg was suddenly at her side, and everyone in the office was clapping. And there was a cake. It was vanilla topped with a little plastic diorama of two office workers at one desk.
“My idea!” said Amy.
Wendy looked around to see if this was some practical joke. Was there a camera? she wondered. Nope. Only the temp stayed at his desk. But he locked eyes with Wendy, and looked grim. Then looked away.
“Come on everyone, one big push before Friday,” said Skip. And Greg looked at Wendy lovingly, but Wendy didn’t laugh at their in-joke. She was afraid she’d gone insane.
They went to their desks with their cake slices.
Wendy woke up at her desk. The temp was shaking her arm.
“Wha–” mumbled Wendy. The temp covered her mouth to quiet her.
Then he showed her.
Everyone was asleep at their desks.
Greg was face down on his keyboard, scream-snoring.
Skip was curled up in his orthopedic chair that he special-ordered because of his back problems.
Amy stood at her desk, completely asleep, as a machine with spider-like arms removed and replaced her clothing.
Wendy screamed into the sweaty palm of the temp.
He held her face and guided her out of the office into the maintenance room.
“Don’t scream; there isn’t time.” The temp listened at the door. “They’ll finish sweeping the room in three and a half minutes.” He looked at his watch to confirm this.
“What is happening? Is it an invasion? We need to save Amy and Greg!”
The temp took hold of Wendy’s shoulders, which was hard because he was really short.
“Wendy. Please listen. This isn’t an invasion. This is the company you’ve worked for the past nine years–”
“Nine years? I’ve been here for two years, I–” Wendy tried to get away from the temp.
“No, Wendy. They’ve been keeping you here for nine years. You live at work.”
“You’re just the temp. What do you know?” But Wendy heard the robots outside and she felt so afraid.
“My name is Allen, Wendy. I’ve been here for five years. They were using me too. But one morning, I woke up.”
Something that sounded like a giant bee whizzed by the door. Allen stayed very still. Then he mouthed: “They’re looking for you” to Wendy. Then there was silence.
“How did they do this?” asked Wendy.
“I stopped eating the cake. Now, Wendy. I know you have a lot of questions, but right now, we need to get out of here, and we’re going to need to run, okay?” Wendy nodded and Allen the temp counted: “Three, two, one–go!” and he swung open the door and got stunned by the spider robot. One of its tentacles was like a taser, Wendy guessed.
In its other tentacle was Wendy’s Wednesday sweater. The yellow one with the squirrel. Greg thought she looked cute in it, she knew, because he always smiled when she wore it.
Wendy woke up at her desk.
About the Creator
World’s Shortest Creator Interview
If, due to some very poor logistics, you had to survive several days in some random tropical wilderness, what would you do to find food, and what species would your imaginary companion be?
About the Artists
rawpixel is a visual artist on Pixabay.
Our very own D Chang is a designer and game writer from Austin, Texas. His short fiction has appeared in Avast, Ye Airships! and the Cryptopolis science fiction anthology, and he has a janky retro JRPG on Steam. He does the Space Squid illustrations, editing, and other squid stuff.