Late Night at Work

by Kenneth Stevens

Something strange happened to me earlier today…I’m sure I had to have imagined it all, but it felt so real.

The morning began like any other day, which involved me waiting until the last minute possible to get out of bed before hurrying to get ready for work. Then I grabbed a hot cup of coffee, jumped in my car, and drove out of my neighborhood. The morning traffic seemed worse than usual, and usually it was terrible. There were people on their phones or fixing their make-up or hair, driving at a snail's pace; texters were texting away as they drifted in and out of their lanes,. and some self-important jerks were weaving dangerously through the rush hour traffic. Maybe it was the stress of the daily commute or the long hours of work each day, or perhaps it was a neurological problem that caused this event.

I am an audit manager for a small manufacturing company, and I was sitting in my office with the door closed, trying to catch up on my work paper review. Audit testing requires a lot of documentation, and work papers are the method for keeping track of everything. I played some music on my phone to help pass the time; the typos and grammatical errors really get to me sometimes and the music usually has a calming effect on me.

But seriously, do these people even look at what they wrote before turning it in to me; affect instead of effect, misspellings galore, mixing past and present tense, etc. And I thought auditors were supposed to have great attention to detail.

Sorry, I guess I should get back to the point of the story. I was listening to some music on my phone with my door closed. I remember clearly that it was around lunch time and hearing and silently singing along to one of my favorite songs..."and is it true it's always happy hour here...cause if it is I'd like to stay awhile." Suddenly, the room was dark. I immediately thought the power went out so I stood up. Then the room flooded with light from the motion sensor, temporarily blinding me.

The silence was deafening as I looked around to gather my bearings. My door was still closed, and I couldn't hear a sound at all, which was highly unusual, given that the woman in the office next to me talked on the phone as if she was talking to someone across the street. But not a sound came through her door.

It felt like a long time for my eyes to adjust to the light, and it took me a while to realize that the time on my (fake) gold trimmed clock was 2:00. However, there was no "a.m." or "p.m." on it. The time didn't make any sense, as it felt like only a few minutes had passed since I last checked my watch, and it was just before noon. With the dead silence combined with the darkness and the time on the clock, I realized that it must be 2:00 a.m., but where did those 14 hours go?

I reached for my cell phone, the familiar weight of it comforting in my hand. As I pressed the home button, I expected to see the time and notifications from missed calls and voicemails from my wife, wondering where the hell I was. I was always home before her, relieving the babysitter from her duties watching our three kids, so she must be worried sick. But instead of a glowing screen, all I saw was blackness.

My heart sank as I realized my phone's battery must have died, even though I was sure it had been at ninety percent just a few minutes ago. I tried my work phone, but there was no dial tone. This was getting weirder by the minute; I needed to figure out what was going on.

I walked out of my office into the dimly lit cubicle farm. The exit signs and fire alarm lights cast an eerie glow over the various knickknacks, pictures of loved ones, and certificates of excellence adorning the work areas in this windowless area of the building. Shadows leapt out at me, and I swear I heard faint scurrying noises as I navigated the maze of cubicle walls, looking for the light switches. The further I traveled from my office, the darker it got, and the faster my heart started beating.

I made it to the entrance of my wing of the building and raised my hand to flip on the lights when a slight movement caught my eye through the secured glass entry doors standing between me and the atrium. The moonlight shone through the greenhouse-like glass walls of the atrium just enough for me to glimpse the thing walking past the reception desk. I instantly froze and held my breath, trying to comprehend what I was looking at.

It was about five feet tall at its current posture with two appendages hanging to the floor and its back arched unnaturally, beyond the capabilities of a normal spine, causing its chest to point up toward the ceiling. The neck looked muscular and curved upwardly, allowing its head to rest above its chest. It moved slowly yet purposefully across the floor as if searching for something. I couldn't make out any further details of the creature, but my imagination from years of reading horror novels painted a ghastly picture of razor-sharp teeth and three-inch claws designed to eviscerate bone. I shuddered and wished I had gotten a better view to prevent my active mind from filling in more details.

I lowered my hand away from the light switches, preferring to stay in the dark at that moment. The thing continued on its path past my line of sight, thankfully oblivious to my presence behind the doors. I slowly exhaled and began to turn back toward my office. My stomach dropped as I realized the light in my office was no longer on. It had only been a couple of minutes since I left; not even close to enough time for the lights to automatically turn off.

I began to contemplate my next move when a blood-curdling scream nearly erupted from my throat as the scurrying I heard earlier was confirmed by new noises coming from the far east side of the floor. This time it was followed by a loud crash, which obliterated the silence that had previously permeated through the building. If that monstrosity in the atrium had ears, surely it had heard the noise.

I hastened my pace back to my office, grateful that it was situated on the opposite side of the floor from where the crash emanated. Just as I crossed the threshold, the sharp sound of breaking glass pierced my ears, sending a shiver down my spine. 

As I fumbled for the light switch, a sense of unease settled over me when the room remained pitch-black. It was then that I realized that the power had been knocked out, probably by the impact of whatever had caused the crash. The darkness enveloped me like a thick blanket, making it difficult to see my surroundings.

Amidst the chaos of crashing cubicle walls and shattered computer equipment, I found myself huddled in the darkness of my office. Cubicle walls began crashing to the floor along with computer equipment, telephones, and all of the individualized personal items that reminded people of why they went to work each day. Minutes felt like hours as I sat frozen, hoping the creature wouldn’t make its way to my office. The destruction finally stopped and the uncomfortable silence returned. I remained still for a long time before I gathered the nerve to check on the situation outside my door.

Desperately wanting to return to the safety of my home, I crept towards the door, treading cautiously to avoid attracting any unwanted attention. I carefully maneuvered through the darkness and opened the door a crack. As I was about to lean out the door, something small and quick ran across the floor, causing me to retreat back into my office, slamming the door shut in panic.

I returned to my hiding spot beneath my desk, my heart pounding and my hands shaking uncontrollably. All I could do was wait and listen, as the silence outside my door stretched on for what felt like an eternity. Suddenly, there were heavy footsteps, loud and deliberate, coming closer and closer to my door.

Terror consumed me as I realized I had no place to hide and nothing to defend myself with. The scratching at my door was slow and methodical, like nails on a chalkboard, causing images of razor-sharp claws to flash through my mind. Then, one of its claws must have caught the handle because the door creaked as it slowly began to open. I shut my eyes and held my breath praying to anything that would listen to make this thing go away.

The footsteps approached until they were mere inches away, and I braced myself for the worst. But then, to my relief, I heard the voice of a coworker, "He's not here, he must be at a meeting." I opened my eyes, feeling momentarily blinded by the light again. Crawling out from under my desk, I peeked outside my door, only to see a normal office environment, filled with light, people working, and no monsters in sight.

The rest of the day dragged on, my mind consumed with thoughts of the hallucination. I struggled to focus on anything, as the surreal experience seemed far too vivid to be just a dream. When I finally returned home, the relief of seeing my wife and kids helped me to relax a for a little while.

I stayed awake long after putting my kids to bed and my wife falling asleep. I thought typing this out would make me feel better, but now it is almost two o’clock in the morning and I still can't sleep. I think it has something to do with the rustling I just heard in the bushes outside my house and what sounds like scratching at my back door.