Cubicle Farm

Yet another class assignment. I wrote it literally 15 minutes before it was due, but I kind of like it anyway. I'm beginning to notice a pattern here.

Ian clamped his hand over Michelle’s mouth. “Shut the fuck up,” he whispered. His eyes darted back and forth. He might still be on this floor. Michelle squirmed in his grip. The smell of her Chanel perfume in the small space was unbearable. Why the hell did she have to find me?

Michelle stopped wriggling and began to pry at his hand.

Ian brushed her hand away. “Are you going to shut up?” She’s a real mess. He could only vaguely remember admiring her earlier that morning. Her cream colored blouse, cut just low enough to be interesting and that teal pencil skirt that had brought out her eyes. One of her breasts had brushed against his arm at the break station, and she’d smiled coyly as she reached for the coffee pot, pretending it was an accident. Probably was an accident, but it didn’t matter. Hell, none of that crap matters now. Ian looked into her eyes. I wonder if I look that scared right now. “Well?”

Michelle nodded. Her shiny dangling earrings bounced and clanged. Ian cringed. Slowly without breaking eye contact he removed his hand. This is probably a mistake.

Michelle sucked in a deep gulp of air, her eyes rolling gratefully. “You were smothering me to death,” she whispered.

Shots of gunfire rang out from the floor above them. A man’s voice was pleading.

That’s Mark from Purchasing, Ian thought. Oh shit. He cast a sideways glance at Michelle.

Michelle had gone completely still. “Oh my God. Mark.” She reached for the door handle and pushed the door open.

Ian grabbed her by the waist and snatched her back into the supply closet, careful not to slam the door. “Do you want to get us killed?!”

“Let me go,” Michelle said. “That’s Mark! He was coming to get me for lunch!”

More shots were fired. The pleading stopped. A woman started to scream and was cut off by a single shot.

Michelle fainted.

Ian struggled under her dead weight, stumbling back into the shelf of manila folders. Fuck me. He eased Michelle down to the floor, trying not to slip on the spilled folders. Poor Mark. His eyes involuntarily strayed to the enormous ring on Michelle’s finger. Must be nice to have money for something like that. Must be even nicer to have someone who likes you enough to spend that kind of money. Especially in a recession.

The news people talked about unemployment rates and foreclosure with a certain detached quality, as if it was happening on an entirely different plane of existence altogether. Until today Ian had felt the same way. He was a hard worker. In thirty years of working for Mason Booth he’d never missed a day of work, never had a complaint, and never even been late. He was a model employee in the cubicle farm, one of few that took his job seriously. He’d known that he was in no danger.

Until some kid that nobody really knew that well had walked into the lobby with a duffle bag full of guns and started shooting everything that moved.

Michelle stirred, her eyelids fluttering.

Ian knelt down, his hand ready in case she started screaming again.

The scene played over and over in his mind. The soft chime of the elevator. Phil turning away from him to see who it was. The shot nearly took Phil’s head off as Ian stared, his body frozen. The next shot whizzed past his own head so close he could feel the graying strands of hair beside his left ear rise and settle. The next shot caught Nancy in the side of the face, ripping a path across her cheek and spinning her around like a ballerina. You have to admire the kid’s aim, Ian had thought before the realization of what was truly happening set in. He’d locked eyes with the kid for an instant, registered the absence of sanity in those blue irises and realized that he was about the become the six o clock news.

Whatever had frozen Ian unfroze him at that point. He turned and ran. The thought of his kids standing over his closet casket filled his mind. He thought of his ex and her new husband throwing handfuls of dirt onto him. He thought of his mother, all alone in that home, waiting for him to come visit her. The nurse would have to tell her everyday that he was dead.

All around him people were screaming. Men in suits went down, clutching at their chests where blossoms of blood had begun to spread over expensive fabrics. Women in blouses fell out of their rolling chairs, gurgling blood from their neutral “business appropriate” painted lips. He’d heard his manager Anthony shrieking in a way that reminded him of Bess when she’d fallen off her bike last month. The kid had pumped Anthony full of shotgun shells and moved on to Melissa. Melissa hadn’t even screamed.

Ian had seen the storage closet was left open and dove into it. He’d slammed the door shut behind him and prayed that the kid hadn’t seen him. People were still screaming. Ian had wondered if anyone had thought to call 911, realized that his own cell phone was in his jacket pocket hanging on the back of his desk chair, and sank down to the floor.

He’d listened as the shooting began to taper off, heard the kid walk by the supply closet, held his breath as the kid had tried the knob, found that it was locked and kept walking. Thank God they take our keys when they fire us.

Ian had begun to feel somewhat hopeful about his situation until he’d heard Michelle screaming from the elevator. He’d barely dared to breathe when she called out to ask if anybody was left in there. He’d jumped as he heard the kid answer her with a hail of bullets. Michelle had fled in his direction, the jangling of her keys as she fumbled with them making the hairs on the back of Ian’s hand rise.

“No, no, no!” he said, but it was too late. Michelle burst into the closet, hysterical, screaming, and Ian clamped his hand over her mouth, sure that they were both going to die.

Thankfully the rest of the typists returning from lunch had decided to take the stairs and the kid was there to meet them. Ladies first, Ian had thought with a wave of nausea.

Michelle’s eyes opened and she sat up slowly. “Is all of this really happening?”

Ian nodded. “Unfortunately.”

“I’ve got to check on Mark,” she said.

Ian shook his head. “Bad idea. He’s already dead. I promise you.”

Michelle shuddered. “You don’t know that.” She rubbed her hands together, twisting her fingers around and around each other.

“You don’t understand,” Ian said. “I saw the kid shoot. He’s better than James Bond.”

Another set of gunfire erupted above.

“No, no, no,” said Michelle. She began to pull at her hair. “No, no, no, no, no.”

“Be quiet!” said Ian. The shots seemed to grow in frequency. What the hell is he using now? A goddamn Gatling gun?

“Mark!” screamed Michelle. “Oh God Mark!”

The shots stopped. Ian heard the elevator chime. Oh shit. “Shut up!” he hissed.

Footsteps approached.

Michelle opened her mouth to scream and Ian clamped a hand over her mouth and nose. I’m sorry, but you don’t give me much of a choice.

Michelle’s eyes widened and she thrashed in his grip, trying to yell through his fingers.

Ian held on tightly, thinking about his ex and the new husband. The new husband would take his place. He’d be the one to teach Harry to play football. He’d be the one to give Bess away at her wedding. Ian’s eyes filled up with tears and he tightened his grip. This was my hiding spot! You never should’ve found me!

Still the footsteps approached.

Ian became away of Michelle’s no longer struggling form. She’s quiet now, but it’s too late. He held onto Michelle and felt her body relax almost sensually into his as the life went out of her.

The footsteps kept coming.

At least you won’t get gunned down, thought Ian. You’re too beautiful for a closet casket. He looked up as the footsteps stopped right outside the door. I’m ready.

“This is the police. Is there anybody alive in there?”

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