A sudden jolt and the world shifts; though it may take time for that to sink in.
This is a work of adult fiction
No resemblance to reality should be inferred or expected.
Copyright KLS 2008.
Damn, these renovations had been going on forever. Well okay, it was probably only eight months. Still after that long with Hessian shrouded lifts and the dodging of ladders as assorted tradesmen climbed into various structural orifices it certainly seemed like forever. Tape on windows, the ever-present smell of paint and the odd rumbling vibration as some concrete lump somewhere was reduced to rubble for whatever reason.
He had to be thankful that most of his company's work, at least as far as clients was concerned, was done externally at their place, or by phone, fax, email or personal sales calls. Prospective clients tended not to be too impressed by offices with plastic sheeting all over the floor and wires dangling everywhere you looked. The few times he had needed to use an office slash meeting place in the last several months he'd been forced to rent space for the afternoon in one of those executive suites nearby. Once he explained why it had gone quite smoothly.
It was a squat little four story building on the edge of the CBD, just outside the primo zone, slightly run down but perfect for his growing information business. As an ex journo Jack Martin knew about information and its value. He'd flirted with the idea of getting a PI licence but decided that was unnecessary. So here he was, about to bump into the big four oh and head of a team of thirty plus odd bods, from assorted journo school escapees to techno nerds and law school dropouts all doing their bit to make JM Information Services the place for resume checking, general backgrounds, corporate rumour eval's and good ol' muck raking, though he tried to keep that to a minimum. Sometimes it served a purpose and some muck did need raking.
He sighed as he sipped his cappuccino. No doubt the new owners would be bumping the rent once this lot was finished. Always a quid pro quo, at least it had been reduced by a third for the duration but would probably jump by half as and when. Everyone wanted their margin, way of the world. Ah well, he could probably afford it.
As ever he'd parked downstairs early, checked his messages, made a few notes where necessary and then wandered down the fire stairs and went for a walk to sort his head out. Same thing, day in day out, night and day, messing with his head like a musician with tinnitus.
Get it together Jack, time waits for no man. But you made a promise didn't you Jack? Yes you did. But then they're long gone Jack, five years it is and still… Yes, but, maybe…. Oh come off it Jack they're not coming back. She's not coming back.
As ever he'd grabbed his cappo from the cafe down the block and meandered back to the office his eyes and thoughts wandering, just another guy checking out the girls. As ever when caffeining he took the lift up the three floors to the top level where he was sole tenant.
One hundred and sixty square metres of open plan office, artfully broken up with potted plants, water coolers, coat racks and clusters of lockers. Everyone had their own locker, everything else was open. He reached for the button with his cup hand, index finger extended and pressed as he lent, left arm straight, palm flat against the wall.
Hmm, the Hessian's wet, painters with their buckets and what have you. Wish they'd be more careful.
"Morning Mr Martin"
"Good morning Sally. You look lovely as always and you're early. Hunting for a raise already?"
He winked at her as he strolled past and she smiled, shaking her head at his teasing.
Cute kid; eighteen, straight out of school and she'd just walked in the door a few months back with a one sheet resume and a 'can do' attitude. Offered to work her way up starting at reception or gopher or whatever. He'd smiled, asked her to try for a day with pay to evaluate and gave her the job on the spot and sent the temp home that afternoon with a bunch of flowers and a cash bonus.
It was just after eight and as expected there were only a few others in, sitting casually and sipping or chatting as they nodded or waved politely at his arrival. Most would roam in over the next couple of hours. As long as they did the job he wasn't too strict about time and there wasn't a dress code beyond clean. Consequently the clothing choices ranged from his own casual jeans and light jacket to Sally's junior business woman, with most ranging somewhere in the middle and a few opting for a post Uni grunge look.
As he crossed the floor the space between desks increased a little and his own sat in the far corner, slightly isolated but not closed in. The only rooms as such were the toilets and kitchen that adjoined the lift with the stairs coming up next on the western side. That was the front wall. There were two meeting, come conference rooms at the northern end stretching along the wall from the stairs. The juniors got clustered together in four desk huddles. The more senior and tricky jobs got more space and less cluster.
His desk clustered with a three seat lounge, two chairs and a small coffee table. Sort of looked like a department store display he thought with a smile. Well maybe the flowers he insisted on daily were a bit more than department store. But he liked a bit of colour and that was part of the morning walk. Pick from what was fresh and nice that morning and the arrangement was delivered in a fresh vase an hour or so later.
As he sat he glanced across the room to see Dave give the finger to the lift as he passed. Jenny and then Grace following him who mumbled something to Sally who in turn glanced his way.
Ah, something's up that needs a boss type. Let's go see eh. Might as well get another coffee, this one's gone cold.
He passed Dave with a nod, "Mornin' Dave."
"Hey boss, dumb lift's buggered."
He nodded and smiled.
Ah, boss type needs to fix broken lift
As he walked across he saw Marg press the buttons several times and then the doors opened, very slowly. It was good forty seconds before he got there and no further movement, the lift just sat.
"Huh, stupid lift."
He couldn't help but smile at the disgusted look on her face as Marg realised she'd have to walk down.
With a shrug he stepped in and pressed the down button as she stepped out. She started to say, "Don't bother, it's…."
Now, that, was weird, suddenly everything had gone white. A sudden nothing, except, well… light, seemingly for minutes and then everything snapped back to normal except…. it wasn't.
Marg was still standing exactly where she had been with that slightly annoyed crinkled brow look frozen in place.
And I mean frozen.
Sally was sat at her desk with a mixed look of surprise and fear on her face. She too was frozen.
Then there was a rush of sound like a TV, on way too loud, being flicked off mute at two in the morning.
A few small screams, maybe, "Oh god, what… , NO! Don't… Call…"
I could hear noise and movement but as I looked around everyone was frozen in place, nothing moved except…
A figure walked toward the lift casually weaving its way past the frozen people and smiling which seemed reassuring, I think. Funny it probably shouldn't matter but I couldn't tell, him or her? I mean I might question myself quietly and ponder things in passing and it shouldn't matter and yet it did. How could every clue that should say this or that… and even if you were wrong you had a basis to work with, but this time…. As I watched the figure smiled widely and then morphed very subtly into a very striking and well dressed businessman.
And then with an almost imperceptible shake of the head morphed again to become the female equivalent of who he had been a second before.
OK Jack so what the hell is going on here? You haven't smoked dope in years.
Looking around at the still frozen people that made up my business I looked again straight at the oncoming figure that was no longer oncoming. She'd stopped a pace away, smiling with her hands clasped lightly in front of her. She tilted her head a fraction and the sound rushed in again, though curiously I hadn't been aware of its going.
"…Is he… No there's… Come on, where… I can hear… Quickly….. "
"Two thousand volts Jack. A half second longer and it would not be just a small burn here and there. A slightly greater grip on the door frame and you would no longer be."
Her voice was smooth, a velvety chocolate like sound, something like the sexiest newsreader voice you'd ever heard saying she was your friend. A very slight crinkle at the corners of her eyes as her smile widened.
"Yes Jack, you nearly died. It would be a shame to never live as yourself would it not?"
Her smile stayed as she watched me process that idea and pull back at what it implied.
Her smile slipped ever so slightly and she shook her head a fraction. Her long wavy hair moved as though a breeze flowed past. Was it blonde or brunette or reddish or black or silver or…
"Ah Jack. Have you not understood it yet? Be yourself and you will be more true, a better you. You do have a chance here that most don't get and you might be surprised at just how many people see what you think is hidden. Why don't you take this chance Julie?"
Her smile stayed warm and friendly as the shock of that hit, then she simply was not there…
Damn, it's cold.
Movement …. Lights flashing overhead and a clattering as… a trolley?
"Hey Jim, I think he's with us. Come on Mr Martin sir, stay with us."
The slight Asian girl in a pale blue shirt smiled at me as she shoved while I guess Jim took the weight at the lower end. He seemed solid as we flowed down the stairs and a worried Sally held the street doors open as they pushed past and out to the open doors of an ambulance waiting half up on the curb lights flashing silently.
They kept me overnight to be sure and I was allowed to go home late the next afternoon. A bunch of bouquets with cards and one purple Teddy bear with a card from the gang at work. I kept one lovely bunch and the bear and the cards and asked if the rest could be given to anyone that needed a cheer up, which got a smile from the nurses. With thanks and a wave I left somewhat heavier of mind than I had entered.
Decision time Jack.
A condition of release was that I stay home and keep quiet for a couple of days, which I intended to do. Just a fair bit of quiet thinking.
I woke the next morning with the decision made and hunted a card that I had kept for several years. Not much hunting really, I knew exactly where it was.
Janice Steinway MB BS FRANZCP (Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Science, Fellow of Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists)
"Yes good morning I would like to make an appointment… Jack Martin… no I haven't… yes, Monday at eleven would be fine…. thank you."
I hope you're as good as I've heard Doctor Janice. Haven't been this nervous since my first date. One more call
"Hi Sally…. Whoa slow down I'm okay, really. Yes I'll be back in tomorrow….. Yes tell everyone I'm grateful and I appreciate the flowers cards and the bear….. hey, I love the bear…. No crying, okay…. I'm fine, I'll be in as usual in the morning…. Yes, really I'm fine…. Okay, I'm going, but please could you make sure everyone is in tomorrow by ten, I need to make an announcement. No nothing major, just a slight change that should not affect anything but I need to do it….. What?…. You've only known me a few months, how…. Yes I guess I might be at that…. Bloody women… oh stop laughing… Don't you dare. No, definitely no pink ribbons…. Goo… goodbye Sally."
Hell, I guess more people knew than I figured, smartarse kid, not often I blush and smile like a fool at the same time
"Well Jack, times up. Julies turn."
Bloody nutter, talking to yourself and toasting invisible women with your coffee cup. Thanks, whoever, whatever and wherever you are. All in the mind Jack… all in the mind…. You think.
~~~ A new life, in part, time does not wait ~~~
Thanks for the quick proof Nick.
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