Coats swished into the hall as hours robbed natural rays from the cubicle hive. Electronics and clicking keys fell silent, leaving her alone under the intensifying hum of bile-hued lights. Laina pecked away at her report until the screen blurred. She blinked and strained her eyes to type the conclusion.
Tight neck muscles seared aches into her shoulders. She leaned back from the monitor to rub the stiff tendons. The necklace chain shocked her fingers and she jerked them away. A blip snapped the room into a black void. Computer screen, overhead lights–all dark. She patted around her feet until she felt sinewy leather straps. As Laina felt for her phone, a warm puff of mist enveloped her ear. She froze. A rash of chills swept up her arms and over her back. The breath curled around her chin and plumed sulfurous odors into her nostrils.
Laina drew her arm up and squeezed her phone. Elbow first, she whirled around to jab and shine her cell. The overhead lights flickered on to fill her empty cubicle. She clambered atop the desk and peered over the maze of work spaces. Vacant.
A man’s voice shot from the elevator wing. “Watch out.”
Laina twisted to face the night watchman.
“Those work stations ain’t too sturdy,” he said. “Wait for the emergency lights next time.”
“You scared me.” She climbed down and retrieved her purse. “I was working late.”
“I’ll say. Eight thirty, you know.” The thick, moustached guard waddled toward her, twirling his nightstick. “This floor’s supposed to be clear. I’ll walk you to the exit.”
“Sorry. Let me just grab my stuff.”
As she lifted her scarf and coat from the chair, an cryptic message flashed across her computer monitor–a set of repeating Chinese symbols. The screen pixellated and flashed one word. Coming. The monitor went black.
“You comin’?” He tapped his foot. “They ain’t payin’ unlimited overtime here.”
She shrugged and headed with him into the hall. “They’ve never paid me overtime. I think my computer got a virus or something.”
“You’d think they’d get some good firewall stuff here.” They stepped onto the elevator. “Ah, it’s an old building. Anything can happen. They tried to tell me it was haunted when I first started workin’ here.”
She glanced from the floor signal over the door to her chuckling escort. “Haunted by who?”
“Some hundred year-old witch what got axed to bits by her rich boyfriend.” He waved. “Who believes in that stuff, though, right?”
Laina rolled her crackling shoulders back. “I don’t know, but it seems disrespectful to call a poor murder victim a witch.”
He extended his hand as the doors opened. “I meant a hex-makin’ kind of witch. That’s what the guys said. Don’t matter if it ain’t true, though.”
She doubled her speed and outpaced him by six feet. “Thanks for the escort.”
“It’s my job.” He huffed behind her. “Say, you take care out on the street, now.”
“Of course.” Laina pressed the front door’s push bar. She forced a parting grin. “And you watch out for those dark places in the building. Just in case.”
“Do not set foot on the path of the wicked
or walk in the way of evildoers.
Avoid it, do not travel on it;
turn from it and go on your way” (Proverbs 4:14-15)