I awoke on my back, sprawled on the carpeted floor of my office.
At first I couldn’t remember why I was on the floor. There had been booming sounds, like fireworks in the distance, but too loud and too close. The windows had rattled. I’d felt a vibration in my chest.
As my senses came into focus I could make out the dark wood of my desk and the row of awards on my shelf above it. I could feel how sterile the room was. Under my stiff, white shirt the carpet had been meticulously vacuumed and cleaned by the janitorial crew. I was sure because my company paid them an obnoxious amount of money to maintain such standards, but also because I could smell the carpet cleaner we had selected. I knew the scent well, I had moderated the committee who made the cleaner selection. The company that manufactured the solution, a company which my company owns, claimed the soap contained pheromones which added a distinct note of ingestible power to any room. I rolled over and felt my cufflinks drag across the thin carpet, and the action kicked up the undertones of the cleaner. There was no smell of dirt or decay. I inhaled deeply and felt safe.
As moved my arms into pushup position, feeling my toned biceps flex under my crisp shirt, wondering if my tie would sustain any wrinkles in the action, I witnessed several small drops of blood make contact with the grey floor after a fluttering, wet exhale. The blood was bright and healthy and sat on the top tiers of the stain-resistant carpet like sunset-drenched clouds over a snow-dusted hillside.
I lifted myself away from the floor, breathed out again, and there were more drops. More than drops, there was a small squirt. Then a gush.
I collapsed back onto the floor and drew my thick, strong hand to my face. I wiped my nose as I had when I was a boy, stroking the back of my hand under my nostrils and rotating it half a turn as I did so. When I drew my hand away, I noticed my gold watch, studded with diamonds at the hour markers, a gift from Elaine’s parents, was cracked down the center of its scuff-resistant surface.
Then I saw the blood covering my hand, but I didn’t have time to dwell on it before I tasted the salt and iron goop in my mouth. I opened my mouth to scream, but the fluid stored in my head was gushing toward all exits, out my nostrils, down the back of my throat, over my tongue and teeth, onto the expensive floor. I choked and sputtered but could not stop the evacuation.The fluid was fleeing my head faster than the available drainage holes could accommodate.
To my surprise, my mind did not go to thoughts of Elaine or the kids or my Bentley.
I thought of Cherry, my adoring secretary, my platonic gatekeeper, master of dictation, forbidden to me by personal standards and professional ethics. Maybe I knew I didn’t have time to make it to any of the other important beacons in my life, but I didn’t even consider them. I knew I could find my way to Cherry before the end, and that is what I wanted to do.
I rose to my feet and kept my hands away from my face. Instead, I put my arms out in front of me as if I was feeling my way in a dark room. I stumbled three steps toward the door before I almost fainted and had to take a knee. As I rose again, my knee burst outward with a cold snap and I could feel my quads dip toward my calfs.
Somehow I stayed upright and hobbled to the door. Habit took over and I tried to give the hooked handle my usual jovial flick, but my bloody hand, somehow both sticky and slick, slid off the steel latch without effect. I concentrated and made another attempt. I was successful, but half the skin of my palm stayed on the handle. It was gross.
As the door creaked toward me, my ears were bombarded by the screams of my subordinates. I heard heavy, running footfalls, the banging of flesh into metal, and gurgled yelps of helplessness. I had never thought to ask if my office was soundproof, and now I knew it was a feature I would likely never exploit.
I stepped out into my greeting area just in time to see Johnson double over the rail of the balcony next to the glass encased elevator shaft. His pudgy body slopped over the barrier and he plummeted down toward the hard floor of the main reception lobby.
My legs throbbed with pain as I limped to the rail and looked down. The mural on the other side of the lobby, usually a clear blue sky with floating clouds, was an inferno of torment and streaked with bile. Johnson’s body was a puddle on the marble of the ground level, three floors below.
Others plummeted past me, falling from higher floors. They were my superiors, people I had looked up to and envied. They floated past me, faces bloated, mouths agape, blood slopping out of every orifice. At least I lasted long enough to see that, and I felt triumphant.
I whirled around to look for Cherry, but as I did the exertion caused the flesh of my abdomen to tare from the bottom of my ribcage to my hip. I could feel fresh blood soak into my pressed shirt, and it made me cringe with disgust.
I don’t remember any pain, but I certainly remember the feeling of victory I choked back, along with another swallow of my own bodily liquids, as I saw Craig Douglas slouch against the wall. He had also been trying to make his way to Cherry, but instead he slid down the taupe accent wall, leaving a back-length streak of red on his way to the floor. If he had done this on any other day, he would have been fired.
Cherry was standing behind her desk, screaming through a projectile red vomit that transformed her mouth into a volcano. She was frantically shaking her hands, and the tips of several of her fingers were gone. She was painting an abstract picture of blood on the surface of her desk, encircling herself in thin streams of ichor like a novelty sprinkler on the lawn of a serial killer’s haunted house.
I rushed to her, my arms outstretched, but I stumbled at the last minute. I crashed into her desk and my hand came down upon her ample breast. The grapefruit-sized orb of flesh became a broken water balloon under a sheet, and I felt the crumpled skin of her nipple before it disintegrated under the force of my unintentional blow.
We screamed together as I wrapped my arms around her over the desk. I tried to pull her to me, but my spine dislodge from my hips.
Similarly, I felt Cherry’s legs bang against the other side of her desk. Then I heard them hit the ground with a squishy splat. I felt one of her ribs, usually concealed by silk shirts and ample flesh, rupture my heart. We toppled onto the desktop, my face came down on hers, and our lips split and evaporated. Our faces mushed into one another and, as our lungs pushed out our last screams, we disintegrated into each other and were one.
Scott Bryan is a writer and adventurer who publishes the zine/website Get It Away From Me and contributes editing and reviews to Music in Minnesota. He also penned the screenplay for the feature film, Drunk.