The third story in my ’10 Stories in 10 Days’ challenge. Check the previous two blog posts for more short stories!
Desk Number Four
The coffee was always strong and piping hot; she couldn’t complain. Her job was easy enough, put one form here, copy another, stamp it, staple it and send it over there. She wasn’t exactly sure why she was doing it, but it paid the bills and she didn’t really care. She found comfort in the sameness of it all.
She sat at desk number three – two away from being at the top of the room. It had only taken fourteen years for her to get there. From the time she started, at lowly desk number twenty-four, she had stayed back late and come in early, she stamped at twice the pace of the others, and she had been noticed. She knew it wouldn’t be long until she would reach desk two and from there it was only a short jump to the top.
Number Three peered across to the empty desk sitting next to her. Number Four, was quite an unfortunate case. She should have seen it coming really. The pink flower still sat in its vase, wilted through a lack of care. The day she came in wearing that red cravat should have been a warning sign to everyone.
When Number Four started to staple her documents, before even stamping them, she knew that she was finished. Number Three tried to tell her. She whispered, so as not to break protocol.
“We don’t staple until we’ve stamped.”
“But why?” Number Four asked.
“It’s always been done that way – we don’t need to know ‘why?’”
If you have ever really considered it, ‘why?’ is a never-ending question. We can never really delve deeply enough into the workings of anything or anyone, to find the intrinsic answer, because there is always another question as to why something is as it is or does as it does. Number Four didn’t know when to stop asking.
“But why?” Number Four had said with much more force.
“Keep your voice down, we’re not supposed to talk during office hours; you’re going to ruin my promotion.”
At that Number Four burst out with a maniacal laughter. She leapt up and shouted:
“We’re all tied to the endless wheel of monotony, putting one foot in front of the other, plodding along endlessly in the hopes of finding our fortune – never looking up to see that we are all just spinning the wheels for somebody else. Bricks and mortar, shells and water, dust and bone, an endless sky. Who was made to sit underneath such a sky, and yet be burdened by such drudgery? Who conceived of such an existence? People dream of another place and another time – where we will find our happiness. But we have our peace right here, right now, we just need to find it.”
They must have seen what she was doing; heard what she was saying. It wasn’t often that the man who stood above, wasn’t watching; a shepherd and his flock. Four men came with tasers already ablaze. Number Four pointed to the man above and screamed as she was being dragged away:
“I stand before you as a slave, but I leave here as my own woman.”
She didn’t leave as her own woman. Number Four would have been put in with all the others who had cracked; those who were broken.
Number Four became only a distant memory in the closet of her mind, filling only the deepest and darkest of corners. Who was she to tell anyone where their allegiances should lie? Number Three had never considered anything more than what she could see. In the deepest recesses of all that is knowable, she found the valleys of things she could not conceive.
As Number Three sat at her desk, ensuring that she stamped and then stapled, she felt for the beat of her heart, the ticking of her own personal clock. Only sometimes did she think of what could have been.
She sat upon the headstones of all of her lost relationships, hoping that maybe there was still some life in this one. But alas, all there was left was a pile of betrayals and discomfort. If she could have her time again, she would never have begun. She would have let it all pass into oblivion; its existence in her world, shattered and swept underneath the carpet of her mind.
Is Number Four the solution to all that is bad in this world?
The seed had been planted.