The Fifth Floor
Honestly, I have no idea what I’m doing here...
On the elevator ride, I thought of everything wicked I'd done, from the very first time I ever lied (to Grammy about swigging maple syrup directly out of the bottle), to earlier this very day when I’d stuck that pen in my bag before I left work. I mean, come on... I know stealing is stealing, but it’s just a measly rollerball. It came in one of those annoying mailings where the contents rolls around inside and somewhere between origin and destination, the envelope gets torn because of the stupid pen bulge. Well, no matter... let me tell you and you see what you make of it.
My day was pretty normal. Uneventful even. Although, as I think back, there was the odd moment...
Like the incident after our requisite 1:15 meeting with the boss. Leaving the conference room, I’d nodded to him, as always, and for half a second I thought his eyes were red. Not red-rimmed from crying because sales were down in the basement; he wouldn’t cry about that anyway, he’d just yell at the sales team. Nope, those eyes had looked like glowing red embers. I’d chalked it up to the lighting. I remember he’d said, “Later.” Definitely more than the usual grunt, but, I’d shrugged it off as his sorry attempt to be cool.
Come to think of it, there were a lot of things that had seemed “off” at the office. (No pun intended, well... yeah... But, seriously, how can I joke at a time like this – right?)
When I say work had been normal, it was in that half-a-degree to the left sort of way. My eyes were constantly adjusting to the lights being too bright or too dim. (Which validates my theory about the boss’s weird eyes, doesn't it?) My co-workers were their usual combination of annoyingly cheerful and painfully dull, except for the nagging sensation I’d get upon passing them in the hallway. That prickles-up-the-neck feeling of being scrutinized, in a totally unpleasant way. But, when I’d turn around to see if they were looking at me, they were blithely going about their business, or so it seemed.
Then the whole pen-in-the-mail thingy. I’d only just glanced at the accompanying insert. The pen was included so the recipient could notate some kind of choice. I do remember thinking it odd that a religious organization had sent something to a business. Of course, being the lowly admin assistant, I get all the junk mail and stuff addressed to “occupant.” But, funny... now that I recall, the envelope had been addressed to me, Mary Blaize. Huh...weird. Oh well, I guess that means I didn’t steal the pen.
When I left work, I distinctly remember the receptionist saying, “goodbye,” not her typical, “Have a great evening.” It had kind of creeped me out with its ring of finality. If she noticed my questioning look, she’d done a great job of ignoring it.
I was nearly home, the front porch was in my sights, a glass of red wine in my near future, when two unfamiliar people approached me. I figured they wanted directions. I was wrong.
The events following, “Good evening, Miss Blaize.” are blurry. There was movement, maybe even traveling. How? I can’t really say. But I ended up in the lobby of a building I’d never seen before, in front of the elevator. I was wearing the dress I’d worn to the company Christmas party two years earlier and had stuck in the back of my closet, never to be seen or thought of again – until now.
The woman stuck a bouquet in my hands and the man punched the elevator button. “Get off on the fifth floor,” he said.
When I got on the elevator there were already three people inside. As the doors closed, I reached over to press 5. There were only four floors. I'm going to have to go back down to the lobby and these people are going to think I am so stupid, I thought. Paying me no mind, the occupants exited on the fourth floor, Two other people entered and, although it felt like the elevator was going down, when it stopped, the indicator above the doors lit up 5. We all got off.
The two people, a man and woman, bustled me through a busy office. In the adjacent hallway, the woman appraised my appearance and made miniscule adjustments to my hair and the skirt of my dress, then positioned me front of a door.
I know who’s behind that door. Don’t ask me how, I can’t tell you. But, I definitely know.
Standing there, sweaty palms around that pathetic bouquet you'd think I’m scared (well, yeah, I am... just a little.) But mostly, I'm wondering – is the devil’s due really a nosegay of painted daisies and forget-me-nots?