It was Tuesday, and Kenneth Cooke, newly promoted from training status to the actual troubleshooting floor, was looking for an empty cubicle. His shift started at 10 am, and while that was cool for many reasons. The one drawback to it was, by the time he arrived at work every day, people who had gotten there earlier took all the cubicles.
Finally he spotted an empty cubicle and headed over to it. Whoever normally sat here had heavily personalized the work space, with pictures of various family members, a couple of plants, and several cute little plaques containing humorous mottos, like “I’m a 5:01 person in a 9 to 5 world” and “Remind me again how lucky I am to work here, I keep forgetting”.
Kenneth hesitated before pulling the chair out. Technically, there were no assigned seats at the call center, but this particular person had so obviously and utterly colonized this space that it just seemed…wrong, somehow….to sit there.
Amanda Resoyce, who was a supervisor in Kenneth’s department, saw his hesitation. “Yeah, it’s fine,” she told him. “Bill, the guy who sits there, is off on Tuesdays. Go ahead and sit down and get logged in.”
“Great,” Kenneth said. He still felt a little hesitant, but, reassured by Amanda’s instruction, he grabbed the back of the chair to pull it out—
Reality fractured into thick ice-like chunks above Kenneth’s head, and fell in jagged shards like daggers all about his feet. A shrieking void filled with unimaginable colors that writhed like eight dimensional slugs through configurations no human mind could sanely comprehend gaped open before, above, behind, and around him. Amanda Resoyce frantically grabbed at a support post, as she felt what seemed like a vast wind, smelling of blood and shit and cinnamon, grab her in a thousand invisible hands and try to tug her into the indescribable rip in the quantum fabric of time and space.
Kenneth screamed once and was sucked in to the howling void.
Sprawled on a pulsating field of somehow living (and hungry) grit, Kenneth looked up into the ululating awfulness of non-sky above him and, feeling his eyeballs starting to slide like melted wax out of their sockets, screamed his mind away in endless horror, even as the Undulaters began tendril-skating towards him, maws askew in interested hunger.
Back in the call center, Amanda combed her fingers through her hair. Another supervisor, Jameela Price, said, “Oh, you didn’t see the email? We’re not letting anyone sit at Bill’s workstation today. Some kind of thing… I’m not sure what.”
Amanda stared. “Well,” she said, “I know Bill doesn’t like it when other people sit at his station, but…um…say, was that symbol always drawn in the carpeting under his chair?”
“No,” Jameela said, “he put that there yesterday towards the end of his shift. He was chanting, too. I don’t know… I guess I should have said something. I didn’t notice the symbol until after he’d gone home, though. I guess we can talk to him tomorrow about it.”
Amanda remembered the large black books Bill habitually carried around with him and read from between calls. She also remembered the bizarre sight of Kenneth, tumbling into a hole in the air that had done its best to suck her in, as well. She remembered Kenneth’s silhouette, tumbling over and over, growing smaller and smaller, as if falling into a deep, chaotically hued shaft leading eternally downward into nothingness.
“Uh,” Amanda said. “Well…maybe we just shouldn’t mention it to him. And, you know, make sure nobody else tries to sit there.”
Jameela shrugged. “Yeah, maybe,” she agreed.
My name is D.A. Madigan. I’ve had stories bought by various professional markets, including April Moon’s FLESH LIKE SMOKE and the upcoming THE STARS AT MY DOOR, PS Publication’s THROUGH A MYTHOS DARKLY, the upcoming TRANSMISSIONS FROM PUNKTOWN, and several others I can’t talk about yet because the final TOCs haven’t been announced as yet, but I’ll be on them when they are.
Jeffrey Thomas called my story for TRANSMISSIONS FROM PUNKTOWN ‘bizarre and brilliant’, so I take that as high praise, given that Jeffrey Thomas is pretty much the ruling god-emperor of ‘bizarre and brilliant’.
In 2011 the Louisville Eccentric Observer voted me Louisville’s Best Local Author and just last summer I won an Imadjinn Award for my novella RED LETTER DAY.