Friday, July 22, 2011

In the Wild

Damian blinked and the world dimmed.  He swore he could hear the sound of his eyelids closing, like the sound of a slamming door.  As they fought back up, fluorescent light lanced his eyeballs.  It felt as if someone had spooned sand granules into his irises.  Fridays were usually like this, especially when one visited a bar the night before.

The world returned to full speed once Damian's orbs were fully exposed.  He ground a palm into each socket, hoping in vain to massage himself into wakefulness.  He looked at the clock on his computer: 3:01 PM.  Two hours to go.

A pungent smell frolicked above the cubicles.  Coffee.  Of course there was coffee.  The steaming black liquid was the lifeblood of engineers.  It didn't matter the time of day, there was always a pot on.  A terrible, horrible, cheap pot.  Unless you knew the guy on the third floor that ground his own beans and kept a spare brewer under his desk - which Damian decidedly did not - you were subjected to the cheap stuff.  Free stuff was free for a reason.

Still, it drew Damian to his feet.  He periscoped atop the cubes like a rabbit sniffing the breeze, wary of hawks.  He saw other heads pop up.  Other rabbits.  Should their eyes happen to meet, they would quickly look away as if ashamed at being caught contemplating something other than work.  Ben laughed loudly behind him, probably watching another video online.  The noise startled Damian into action.  He grabbed his brown-stained, handle-free mug, a streak of white plaster down its side, and went off in search of the watering hole.

The oasis was populated by animals of all sizes, jockeying for superiority.  The rhino and giraffe stared each other down - or up as the case may be - and then back at the black wellspring.  The elephant had a handful of creamers that he might have flung at the zebra's face would it have advanced his cause.  The hyena cackled off to one side with the wildebeest.  When the Lion rounded the corner, his mane resplendent in its dignified perfection, a herd of gophers at his heels, they all stepped aside.  One does not bite the hand that feeds, especially on the wild office savanna. 

Damian patiently waited his turn.  A second pot was put on.  More beans sacrificed to the engineering gods.  More clean water dirtied. 

The paper in his pocket twitched.  Paper couldn't do that, of course, but Damian would have denied that truth, hand on the Bible.  His fingers found it, folded in a small, neat square.  He watched the drip, drip, drip of the coffee.  Most of the animals around him were the ones that had been too tired, too lame to chase down the first pot.  In their silent company, Damian almost wanted to scream. 

Do it, Inigo urged.  Unleash the beast.

Damian turned and fled back to his desk.  He would return to the pot a bit later.  It was... that had only taken seven minutes?  It had felt longer.  Time was skewed on the savanna.

The paper twitched again.  Damian freed it from his pocket and spread it out lovingly in the open space before his keyboard.  The number was hastily scrawled in pen.  He consulted the memory for the thousandth time.  Chills danced along his spine.  His stomach did a flip.

The digits burned into his mind, couching themselves deep within the delicate folds of his brain.  For a while, he just stared.  Should he call?  He took out his cell phone and dragged his thumb across the screen, opening it.  No bars.  He held the phone up.  No bars.  He spun in a circle.  No bars. 

That gadget of yours usually seems to preform better near the break room, Inigo said.

Damian had been known to make calls from the break room.  Usually to his mother.  He stood up, gazing once more over the cubes.  The animals seemed to have all returned to their pens.  The Lion was nowhere to be seen.  Nor was the Boss.  Perhaps it was coffee time; surely there would be some left.  If not, he could always put on another pot.  It wasn't even four yet.


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