The Night Shift

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
Working nights at the office was sending me crazy. I knew it. Was I seeing things? Had things always been this weird?

Submitted: September 02, 2015

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Submitted: September 02, 2015

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The job was getting to me. Spending twelve hours a night at the office wasn’t doing me any good. Six o’clock in the evening until six in the morning. They called my work data entry. While most of the world was asleep or doing something considerably more exciting I would sit at my desk. In the stark glow of the overhead fluorescent lighting I would work through endless stacks of printed paper. I had to type the addresses and figures into the computer system.

I couldn’t recall how long I’d worked here. A few months? Couple of years? No idea. I couldn’t even remember what the data I typed in was used for. I’d forgotten what kind of company it was that employed me. The data could have been delivery addresses for a shipping company but could easily have been for a library or a bank. It didn’t really matter. I just copied what was on the print outs. When I came in in the evening my trays would be full of reams of printing. I had no idea who put it there. I just punched it in the system.

I was stuck in a rut and I knew it. The mind-numbing work was draining the life out of me. The more time I spent in the starkly lit office the less of myself that remained. Hour after hour sitting at my desk punching in figures from stacks and stack of print out was damaging me permanently.

The building had forty-something floors. I was on floor nine. My floor had a hundred people working on it at the banks of desks. Rows of computers. I did not know any of my colleagues. They were as much strangers to me as the fellow passengers on the bus to and from work each night. We would sit in silence. The only sounds were the ticking of the clocks and the tap-tap-tapping of computer keys.

I’m not sure when things got weird. Maybe life had always been this way and I just hadn’t noticed. I should have known it was going to be one of those nights. Just before I started my shift I went to the kitchen to make myself a cup of tea. We were only allowed in the kitchen outside of working hours. You could go in either before or after work or during allocated breaks. A man was putting coins in the snack machine. He cursed at the coins were rejected and clattered into the change tray. I recognised him instantly. Complete with white jumpsuit and jet black quiff was Elvis Presley. He turned to me grumbling that the machine wouldn’t take his nickels and dimes for a Snickers. I tossed a fifty pence piece into the slot and told him to knock himself out.

He pushed the buttons. The chocolate bar dropped into the drawer. Elvis scooped it up. He gave me his trademark ‘thank you very much’ and left the room munching on his chocolate bar. When did Elvis start working here? I made myself a brew and went to my desk.

I logged onto the computer system. I took a gulp of tea and began. The guy sitting at the desk facing me removed his glasses. Underneath the glasses he wore an identical pair. I didn’t say anything. I just turned my attention back to the figures I had to enter. As well as the data entry we had other exciting tasks such as filing and photocopying. I grabbed the papers I had top copy and crossed the office. The photocopier now appeared to be deep in the Amazonian jungle. Undergrowth, bushes and shrubbery shrouded that side of the office. I heard the croak and clicking of jungle insects. Using a plastic ruler I managed to hack and chop my way through to get the copying done.

An hour or so into my shift I got myself something that slightly resembled tea from the vending machine. I drank far too much tea, especially at work. I think it was a habit borne purely out of boredom. I grabbed the small plastic cup. A ringmaster walked past. He had the top hat, red jacket and whip. He strode purposefully into one of the meeting rooms. I thought I heard the roar of a wild animal. That was unusual, I thought, for a Thursday.

At break time I went down to the kitchen again. I tossed a tea bag into my mug. I flicked the kettle on. I heard a voice say hello. I looked around. I was alone. I glanced down at the kettle. It spoke again. It had an unusual accent. I recalled that the kitchen equipment had been purchased from a large Swedish furniture store. Hey, the kettle said, how are you?

I told the kettle I was fine. When it coughed and spluttered to the boil I made myself a brew. I went to leave. The fridge called out in a deep voice, telling me to have a good day. I muttered thanks and went out the door. I took the lift back upto the ninth floor. The doors slid open. A Labrador dog was standing on all fours waiting for the lift. I got out and watched as the dog got in and punched the ground floor button with its paw. The doors closed.

My department had a supervisor. I’m sure all the other departments had supervisors too. Quite what there was to supervise on this job I’ll never know. My supervisor came over to my desk. I did a double take. For some reason he had transformed into a walrus. Had he okayed this with HR? He must have done. He still wore his shirt and tie. He asked if I was okay. I replied that I was fine. He said I didn’t seem myself. I felt like telling him that he was the one who was now a walrus. I said I had to get on with my work. He slapped me on the back with a thick fin and waddled across the office.

There was the sound of horses’ hooves. I looked round to see a figure in gleaming armour on horseback. The knight swept across the office on his white horse. He grabbed one of my female colleagues by the wrist. He lifted her onto the saddle behind him. He spurred the horse on. They charged out the door to the stairwell.

I passed my manager’s office. Through the glass I could see that the interior of his office was now an old fashioned cobbled street. It was also daylight in there despite it being night-time. I decided to check it out. I pushed the door open and went in. The cobbled street had bunting strung up and long tables running down it. Families dined on buffet food and paraded up and down, laughing and singing. Most of the children waved Union Jack flags. I did not recall getting an email about the manager having a street party. Maybe I wasn’t invited. I noticed my manager. He wore his usual pinstripe suit but he was now a young child. He chewed on a corned beef sandwich. He came over to me. He gazed at me with large boyish eyes. In his now child-like voice he told me that last month’s figures had been really good. I had no idea what figures he meant so I just nodded. Help yourself to the buffet, he said. I shook my head and left his office.

I decided that my work could wait. Things had gotten so bizarre. I couldn’t be expected to sit punching in this bullshit data with all this carrying on around me. My colleagues seemed unperturbed by it all. They just sat at their computers tapping away, staring at the monitors. I asked my bank of desks if they’d noticed any weird stuff. Nobody replied. They did not even look up. I said to nobody in particular that I would be back in a bit. Nobody spoke. I wanted to see how weird this place had got. If my supervisor could be a walrus and my manager was having some kind of VE Day street party then surely they couldn’t object to me checking out the rest of this crazy tower block.

I got in the lift. I was about to press a button when the lift started moving down. The lift doors opened a minute later. I gasped. An astronaut entered the lift. In his reflective helmet I saw my puzzled reflection. He pushed a button on the lift panel. Which floor would he want?

The lift stopped. The doors opened to reveal a pale, cratered surface under black skies. The astronaut gave me a salute then stepped out onto the lunar landscape. The doors shut and the lift carried on. The doors opened again. A soldier in green uniform dived into the lift. Thank goodness you’re here, he said. He told me to go with him. He dragged me out of the lift. We were in a hot jungle. Despite the daylight overhead I could see nothing but trees, bush and jungle. Gunfire ratted off all around me. Who were these men? Why were they in my building? Were we even still in my building? We joined up with the rest of his platoon. I didn’t recall seeing any of these men in the staff kitchen or clocking in or out. Did they work for the company? Did the firm have an artillery division now?

A grenade exploded somewhere nearby. There were screams. Somebody yelled for a Medic. I wondered if the first aider on my floor had to cover things like this. The guys fired their rifles into the jungle. I glanced over my shoulder. I saw the safety of the lift. I turned and rushed towards it. A soldier asked where I was going. I pointed at the lift. He shouted that he would give me covering fire. I thanked him even though I had no idea what he meant. He fired at the enemy I couldn’t see while I dashed for the lift. More gunfire and thumping explosions followed as I ran. I just hoped not to get hurt before I got there. I zigged and zagged left and right to avoid being hit. Sweat ran down the back of my neck.

Eventually I reached the lift. I hit any button to get the doors closed and get away from there. I heard more gunfire and shouting in both English and a language I did not understand. The doors closed. The lift moved upwards.

The doors pinged open to reveal blue skies overhead and what looked like the deck of a tall ship. I stepped out onto the creaking wooden beams. Men with long hair and scraggy beards rushed about the ship. One man saw me and stopped.

‘What’s your business? How did you get aboard this ‘ere ship?’

‘I don’t know really. I’m not exactly a sailor.’ I said.

‘Sailor?’ he laughed. ‘This is a pirate ship.’

He drew his cutlass from his belt. He pointed it at me. The look in his eye told me he would think nothing of running me through with his blade.

‘The captain will want to parley with you.’

‘Who is going to what with me?’

‘Captain Thomas DeWitt, the famous pirate captain. He will want to speak with you.’

I was taken to low ceilinged cabin at the back of the ship. Through the lead lined windows I saw rolling seas and blue sky. A tall thin man in a long coat greeted me. He wore a three cornered hat. He looked like something from a film or a theme park. He was somewhere in his early thirties. I guessed that this was old for a pirate captain. Somehow I didn’t think they had the longest life-expectancy.

‘Good day, sir. Captain Thomas DeWitt at your service.’

I mumbled my name.

He stroked his beard as he watched me.

‘Where do you hail from and when did you stow away on my ship?’

‘I got here in the lift from my office building.’

‘You will take us to this Bill Ding that you speak of.’

‘I really don’t think-’

‘Ye be warned, the last man to try and stop me doesn’t think any more on account of his head no longer being attached to his body.’

His hand rested on his pistol. His eyes dared me to protest.

‘Come on then.’ I said. ‘But you may have to sign in the visitors’ book.’

I showed the captain to the lift. He got in with me. So did as many of his men as would fit. I pushed the button for the ninth floor. The pirates had greed in their eyes. Unlike me, they clearly loved their work. What would they make of the office? No chests of gold, just staplers and printer cartridges.

The lift doors opened. The pirates charged out, yelling and cursing at the top of their voices. They rifled through drawers and cupboards. Some of the raiders stared transfixed by the computer screens. One pirate picked up a mobile telephone from a desk. He couldn’t take his eyes from the small screen. I guessed that the ship did not have Wi-Fi. One seaman picked up the telephone receiver. When the voice at the other end said hello the pirate ranted about witchcraft. He ripped the telephone from its socket and stamped it to pieces with his boot.

My colleagues filed past me. I wondered where they were going. Had they finally decided that it was all too much for them?

Then I noticed the time. Six o’clock in the morning. Home time. My shift was over. I pushed through the marauding throng of pirates. I logged off my computer and joined my workmates in the lift. Nobody spoke on the way down. I clocked off and went to catch my bus.


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