We walk through a corridor, then down a flight of steps. Elevator doors open to receive us as if they had been waiting. We get in and my guide, a woman in perfect business attire, pushes the only button. The doors close. There is no sound. I can’t tell if we are moving up or down, and then I realize I can’t tell if we are moving at all. Suddenly there is a slight lift, and then feathery fall, of the woman’s hair above her eyes, which are staring right through me.
There is a painting on the wall. Two large swaths of dark storm cloudiness on a moonless night, surrounded by a multitude of colors – the blue of the bluest sky, the red of a lollipop savored with impossible patience, the purple of a bruise that came by way of invitation. I stopped noticing the painting until someone new began work in our area. She mentioned the richness of the pools of darkness – unnerving, but also inviting. I looked at the painting again and saw not two streaks of starless black surrounded by colors, but now, just countless blotches of a deep and unforgiving darkness. Was I misremembering? Or was someone fucking with me?
I turned away and made a point of not looking at the painting ever again. So I saw it every day, countless times. The darkness continued to grow.
The phone rings. I answer it immediately. I want to show how present I am, how assertive I am about getting things done. I say hello and hear a familiar old man’s voice on the other side of the line.
“Is Mr. Neal available?”
I explain that he no longer works here and hasn’t for some time, as I have done many times before.
“But that’s impossible. I just spoke to him yesterday. It is imperative that I speak to him at once.”
I know how this conversation will continue. So I tell the old man that I will deliver his message to Mr. Neal as soon as possible.
“Thank you, sir. I look forward to hearing from him shortly. Please do tell him it is urgent.” I hang up. A few minutes later, the phone rings. I answer it immediately.
Everyone else has left. The echoes of a vacuum from the other side of the office fill the air. I look outside at all those empty offices in the looming tombstone landscape. Just a few lights on in a scattering of windows here and there. One by one, as I continue to reach beyond my own reflection into the swamp dark murkiness of night, the lights go out. Eventually, I am holding my gaze on the very last light which is rising and falling, as if it is lost at sea, not because it is moving, but because my breathing has become more labored and anxious. With absolutely no fanfare whatsoever, the last light is extinguished.