This is not my usual type of post. But I was inspired by an incident at the office.
Sabrina was running late, as usual. She passed the Stanley Steamer crew who’d been cleaning the offices for the past week, without even a good morning nod. In her rush to get to her desk before her boss noticed her latest tardiness, she tripped over a brown box by the door. She managed to catch herself, but still spilled coffee all over her jacket, and the freshly cleaned carpeting.
Perfect, I’m late and I ruined the carpet!
Linda, didn’t budge to help, but muttered something in her native tongue.
“What’d you say?” Sabrina asked
Bitch. It’s never easy working with your boss’s kid.
Linda and Ralph were watching some breaking news on her computer.
“Seven decapitated cats have been found in just the past three days. Police believe the perpetrator is a male in his late twenties. They fear these violent tendencies could manifest onto humans, and are doing everything they can to apprehend the individual, before the violence escalates. Unfortunately, there are no leads, prints, or other evidence of any kind to point them in the right direction. Authorities are asking anyone with information to call the hotline, 555-1234.
In other news, an infestation of…”
Pretty creepy, she thought as she blotted the stain with paper towels. She recalled how the police had questioned her on her way out of the house this morning.
“We’re just asking everyone in the neighborhood to be extra vigilant. Are any of your pets missing?”
“Pets? No, I live here alone.”
Alone…The word tasted bitter.
“It’s just me and my plants.” She added, realizing how much more pathetic that sounded.
She had been a little irked by the whole thing. Police had been going door to door…
A shadow towered over her.
“Coffee stain, already?”
No, “Good morning, or nice hair,” she thought.
“Yes. Sir, I…”
Ralph interjected. “It was me, sir. I apologize. I bumped into that box and spilled the coffee. I’ll pay the cleaning bill.”
Mr. Kim frowned. “Well,you did a great job of keeping your shirt clean. Sabrina, be sure to pass the bill along to Ralph.”
“Yes sir.” She said, hunching over slightly to hide the stain on her jacket.
“Ralph, come to my office. We have other matters to discuss.”
She looked at Ralph as Mr. Kim turned his back and mouthed,”Thank you”.
Linda glared at her, thinking,”You won’t be so lucky next time.”
Sabrina would pay the bill, of course, but at least she had avoided another reason for Mr. Kim to fire her. He never needed many reasons to let someone go, and Linda was no help. She had the hots for Ralph, and he was more interested in Sabrina. They had gone out on a date once, when Sabrina first started at the office. But there was nothing there, at least for her.
Forever alone, she thought. Why am I so picky? Ralph is a great guy. At least I wouldn’t be alone if I had just given him a chance.
Thinking about going home to that empty house with some creepazoid on the loose, and picturing those headless cats made her shudder.
She tossed the paper towel in the wastebasket, hung her ruined jacket on the back of her chair, and sat down at her desk.
Where’s my purse? She wondered, looking around. She had left it on top of the box, the culprit.
She lifted her bag and one of the straps pulled a flap open. The box didn’t have any labels. And, of course, Linda wasn’t paying any mind to it; too busy on Facebook. Sabrina leaned over the box and pulled back the flaps to investigate.
Hundreds of roaches squirmed all over some THING inside the box. She covered her face in horror and screamed, jumping away from the box.
Linda didn’t know what was going on, but was already standing on top of her chair, when Ralph ran into the office looking around for signs of trouble.
“The box,” Sabrina cried pointing. “There are hundreds of roaches. There’s something dead in there!”
Sabrina had never been afraid of the pesky creatures, but she was disgusted at the sight of so many. And, she thought she had seen something hairy beneath the stampede of bugs.
Ralph dried his suddenly sweaty palms on the side of his pants and approached the box cautiously. He carefully grabbed the lid and threw it back. One lonely cockroach straggled out of the box. Ralph squashed it under his foot and reached into the box laughing.
“One cockroach, not hundreds; and look,” he grabbed something from inside the box and held it up to demonstrate,”Coconuts.”
Mr. Kim was peering in at the door. “Case closed, get back to work.”
Linda got down from her chair, and adjusted her skirt,”I’m going to the ladies room.”
“Geez, Sabrina. I didn’t know you had a phobia of roaches. You must really need a cup of coffee. I’ll go get you another from the break-room.”
She couldn’t speak. That hair standing on the back of your neck feeling wouldn’t go away.
Marta, the cleaning lady came in at that moment, wringing a washcloth nervously in her hands.
“I sorry,” she said in her broken English. “Agua de coco, good. Long life.”
Sabrina didn’t care what this nutcase was telling her, she just wanted that box out of her “life”.
Marta seemed to understand and placed the box on her cleaning cart.
Sabrina sat at her desk cupping her head in her hands. “Seriously. Ralph is right. Get it together!”
She started answering emails and worked on some paperwork from the day before. Made the usual calls, sent some faxes, and printed out a few reports for Mr. Kim.
She never noticed the other small roach that had crawled out of the box. It peered at her from beneath Linda’s desk.
Sooner than she expected,it was 7 o’clock. Everyone else had left at five, except for the cleaning crew who stay ’til nine. She had stayed to finish backed up work from being out sick earlier in the week.
Sabrina yawned as she shut off the lights & closed the doors behind her.
Darkness engulfed the office.
Two red beady eyes began to glow in the dark, then 6, 20, over 100. From all around the room they converged in a pile in the middle of the office, climbing and racing one on top of the other. Just then, Marta came in to dump out the wastebaskets. She didn’t hit the lights and the door closed behind her. There was a momentary shriek.
Sabrina looked into her side mirror. “Was that a scream?” In her peripheral, she saw red lights, but when she looked in the rearview, they were gone.
Nobody else had gotten off the elevator, and Marta’s car was the only other car still in the parking garage.
She shrugged her shoulders and started the car.
The next morning her car was still running in space 136. Ralph always parked next to her. He leaned forward to peer into her car through the tinted windows, and heard a tiny crushing sound.
He looked down and turned his shoe over, only to see more dead roach guts. “Damn roaches.”
He leaned forward again. This time closer to the glass as he reached for the door handle. Then stopped.
He covered his mouth and backed away from the car gasping for breath. He pushed back, sliding away against the side of his car until he was about 15 feet from Sabrina’s car.
He fumbled for his phone, and dialed.
“911. What’s your emergency?”
“I’m sorry, sir. What’s the emergency? What’s gone?”