THE WAREHOUSE AT THE END OF THE WORLD 1

Posted: April 15, 2018 in Chat
Tags: , , , , ,

A Bad Day At The Office

‘You are supposed to be my friend.’ Chris said, struggling to keep a faux pleading out of his voice. Instead it took on a completely unintended sarcastic tone. He knew he was misjudging work-relations badly here. The sarcastic tone was one he could go with, at least. Surely it would give him room to manoeuvre.

‘There are no friends here; only colleagues.’ Anders stated, not unkindly. Then, ‘Franklin, work station six, reported you late those times. Estworth, at nine, reported Franklin for wastage. Peterson, at three, reported all of you for laziness.… I could go on.’

‘Franklin and Estworth are my buddies.’ Chris mumbled. ‘We always have lunch breaks together. Joey Franklin, Pauly Peterson….  .’

‘Anyway. I never reported anyone…’ he said firmly ‘… for anything. Ever.’

‘No, we know that. You don’t fit in.’ said Anders.

‘You’re a wrong ‘un.’ butted in Williamson.

‘That’s enough of that,’ said Anders gently. ‘I can handle this… little matter.’ Williamson didn’t move. So they did; Anders took Chris by the elbow, a strangely intimate but peculiar grasp, and steered him further into the office. Williamson said suddenly,

‘We need The Machine. Now.’ Anders glanced up sharply but there was a gleam in Williamson’s eye, his long grey beard bristled as though alive. ‘We can’t afford any more slip ups,’ he hissed to Anders. ‘You know that.’ His hand was on Chris’ other elbow now.

‘Unhand me, greybeard loon.’ Chris said wryly, unhooking his elbows from their grasps. Williamson seemed to come to himself, a cold look swept across what could be seen of his face, like a Force Nine arctic blast. By that time the other people had left their work stations and gathered around them, blocking the door, the window.

They had all gathered from their work stations like beasts at a kill, or gnats around a no gnat-repellent sunbather. The strip lighting hummed; there was a strange bellows sound from somewhere.  ‘Still got that bad chest, then,’ one murmured to another.

Then Williamson burst back through the door, barging through them all on his way. He looked victorious. They all fell back; even the light went quiet. He glowered at the table where Anders and Chris sat. A prickling sensation of fear and sweat moved through the watchers, like a Mexican wave.

‘Now we’ll see.’ crowed Williamson. He approached the table and then with one sweep cleared laptop, papers and nodding gonk onto the floor.

‘I’m sure there’s no need for this,’ Anders said quietly.

‘Too late.’ crowed Williamson again. ‘I set it on the way back. It’s got to run its course now.’ An ‘Oh.’ went around the room. Anders looked defeated. Williamson went as if to place something on the table.
‘Well then. Come here you.’ Williamson gloated at Chris. All the while Chris had looked on a little perplexed. What was all this? What exactly was going on here?

‘There’s nothing there.’ he said, quite calmly. The room seemed to tilt for a fraction of a second; everyone gave a slight gasp. Or it was suddenly so quiet the one with the bad chest became very loud.

‘No. You’re not taking this away from me.’ snarled Williamson. ‘Let’s do it.’

‘There’s nothing there,’ Chris repeated. None would meet his eyes. He had spotted a CCTV camera blinking in the corner of the ceiling. ‘Look.’ he said, ‘I’ll show you.’ He uprighted the laptop, dithered over but left the gonk, then rummaged through computer programs. He found the Security folder, Camera Eight.

‘Now watch.’ They had to pay attention, he had used the instructor’s tone. His friend, Franklin, was an excellent mimic; he’d taught him the course tutor’s voice, on lunch-breaks. He knew it’d come in handy… somewhere.

They wouldn’t let him bring them over, it would mean touching them. Some even whimpered as he tried: grown men, twice his size, whimpering. He had caught their elbows to steer them; it was a peculiar gesture, he had to admit.

‘Look.’ he said, he rewound the footage then pressed Play. Williamson entered the room at a pace; they watched as several people lurched as he bounded into them. From the cameras’ angle all could see the extent of his bald patch. Chris glanced up, Williamson looked furious, surreptitiously combing hair over with his fingers. Was that a snigger from somewhere? They watched, all crowding round, as Williamson halted – they all counted the three seconds clicking by on the playback – then he approached the table, and cleared it. Chris noticed everyone look to the pile on the floor, at this. Williamson swept his hair over again. The play-back Williamson stood there before the table, looking triumphant; they could see his beard wag happily.

‘Now look.’ Chris said. ‘See, there’s nothing on the table.’ He looked around the room and they all looked aghast. Williamson looked horrified, shamed, embarrassed; he seemed to have shrunk a foot. Anders stepped forward and quietly cut the footage. He looked tired, upset. They all turned to him.

‘What’s it mean?’ someone asked. ‘We all saw it’

‘Obviously, I didn’t’ Chris said a little loftily.

‘It looks like we’ve been hacked,’ Anders said, almost to himself. He sat down, slumped in his chair, as far as the posture-chair would allow, anyway. The others filed out of the room silently. Chris watched them all disappear separately to their sections, an air of gloom, defeat, about the place.

‘It’s been happening a lot recently,’ Anders said wearily. ‘I hoped, I really hoped, it wouldn’t happen on my watch.’ He sounded old suddenly, a catch, a waver, in his voice. Then suddenly strong: ‘It’s too early. Ten thirty? Do these people never have the morning off?’ Chris looked at him; this was a side he had not seen before: Anders the Slacker. Well, well!

‘Who? Hacked? How? Why?’ Chris was all questions; his old day-release course tutor would have been proud.

‘The question is: Where?’ Anders said thoughtfully. He sat steepling his fingers as he thought long and deep. At last with a sigh he seemed to have come to some kind of resolution, stood up and moved to the door. ‘I’d better go and check on everyone,’ he said, more to himself than Chris. At the door he turned to him, looked him directly in the eye, said,
‘Whatever you do, do not leave this room. Do you hear me? Under any circumstances Do Not leave this room.’
Then he was gone.

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