Just Another Exciting Day at the Office
An overworked writer experiences the worst day of her career.
Nar could feel it in his bones. Today was not going to be a good day.
It began thirty-minutes behind schedule when his alarm clock conveniently decided that it wasn't going to work. Then, he almost ate an entire bowl of cereal coated in spoiled milk. And then, to top things off, when he searched his closet for an appropriate outfit for work, he found that his dog Fluffy had managed to chew a hole in the butt of every single pair of dress pants he owned. So, needless to say, as he drove to work wearing a hideous pair of tie-dye short shorts, he wasn't in the best of moods.
And of course, because he was in a foul mood, the fact that everyone else at the office seemed to be having a marvellous morning only served to make him even more angry. He didn't return any of the smiles his co-workers shot him, nor did he respond to the multitudes of “good morning, Mr. Rator”'s that were sent his way. When he saw the crowd waiting to enter the elevator, he avoided them by opting to take the stairs. Of course, his office was smack dab in the middle of the nineteenth floor, and since Nar had decided that exercising was against his personal code, he definitely wasn't in the best shape to be doing such hard work especially so early in the morning.
When he crawled out from the stairwell thirty-minutes later, sweat pouring out of every orifice of his body and his breathing out of control, he decided that he was ready to go back home, crawl back into bed, and never come back out again. He lay sprawled out against the linoleum, his lungs burning for oxygen. He felt a soft kick to his side, and slowly he lifted his head up. Normally, staring into the sweet face of his elderly secretary Geraldine comforted him in situations like this one, but this morning, the only thing he wanted to do to her “sweet” face was to punch it. “Mr. Rator?” she asked, concerned. “Are you o – ” she stopped herself, and extended out her hand to her boss, “let's get some coffee in you, huh?” She pulled him up off the floor, and slowly guided him to his office.
She handed him a cup of coffee, and he took a greedy sip. It tasted like it's usual bitter, toxic-waste self. Nar had never had the heart to tell Geraldine the truth, but today the terrible coffee had seemed like yet another thing adding to his terrible day. He set the cup onto his desk. “This coffee tastes like shit,” he grumbled.
Geraldine just frowned. “Bad morning, sweetie?”
He leaned back into his chair, and let out a long, exasperated sigh. “That's an understatement.”
Geraldine smiled at him sadly, crossing her arms over her chest. “Well then, honey, I'm sorry to say... but it's only about to get worse.”
Only then did the burning in his lungs re-register back into his brain, and he let out a huff of air. He seriously did not get paid enough for this. He could only imagine what sort of shenanigans one (or, God... more?) of his characters had gotten in to. Honestly, if he had known of the backlash, the terrible work hours, and not to mention all of the hard work that came with being a Storyteller, he would have just done the respectable thing and become a doctor like everyone else in his family. But, no! He just had to prove something to his mother. Pfft. Some good that had done. Now he had all of these characters coming to him, asking to change their destinies. And of course, he couldn't do anything about it, he was only the narrator of their stories, after all. He (usually) had no control over anything. Unfortunately, they didn't like any sort of answer that involved “no, I can't help you.” “Who is it this time?” he asked, now feeling the beginning of a headache coming on.
“Manuscript number 3-243567,” Geraldine sighed.
Nar frowned. “What's the problem this time?” he said, very, very quietly. He knew that if he let his voice get any louder than a whisper, he'd end up screaming his entire head off. A day without problems from his specific manuscript came far and few between.
“Oh the usual,” Geraldine replied, putting an exhausted hand to her head. “She's in the other room. Been here since opening time.” Nar had the sneaking suspicion that she, too, had grown as tired of her as he had, but was simply too nice to admit it. Nar, on the other hand, had no problems voice his opinion that the characters in Manuscript number 3-243567 was nothing but a pain in his ass. And with each and every visit, the more he regretted taking on the role of the storyteller of their tale. “I'll send them in when you're ready, Mr. Rator.”
“Thank you, Geraldine,” he replied, pulling up the case-file on his desktop. Manuscript number 3-243567 had been a very low priority story on his radar, but the characters within, evidently, were very high maintenance. Geraldine turned to leave the office, but thought better of it. “Mr. Rator?”
Nar looked up.
“The coffee,” she asked sheepishly, “was it really that bad?”
He blinked. Looked left. Look right. “Always.”
Nar focused his attention back to the case file, but he could have sworn he heard a sniffle as Geraldine exited his office. But his only focus was the task at hand, as much as wished he could have pawned it off to someone, anyone else. Manuscript number 3-243567, the bane of his existence. He didn't even need to review the file, after all, by now he could practically recite the whole damn thing off by heart. Maybe he was just prolonging the inevitable. He leaned back into his chair. The story that someone (whatever the author's name was, some high school kid, he couldn't remember) had created had been relatively simple. There had certainly been more complicating stories that he had had to narrate before. He –
“I've been waiting long enough!” he heard a voice short from beyond the doors to his office, and then in one swift movement the door swung open violently. “I have words for you,” the young women said angrily, jabbing a finger at him. “I've been here since seven o'clock in the morning, you know that Nar? Can I call you Nar?”
He frowned. “No.”
“Okay, Narry,” said the young woman.
“Leila,” he sighed. “What seems to be the problem?”
Leila, AKA Manuscript number 3-243567, was the protagonist of her insignificant little story that was being written by some stupid little sophomore with nothing better to do, and she had given him nothing but trouble since her inception two weeks ago. It wasn't a very difficult plot to follow: Leila, your typical girl-next-door was, well, she was terrified of cats. And then, of course, she meets Carter Valentine, the friendly-neighbourhood ghost-cat who haunts her families garbage can, helps her get over her fear of cats and subsequently helps her solve the mystery of who has been stealing things inside of her house. See, very simple. Only, while Leila had been written as your typical girl-next-door door, the only time she acted that way was in-universe (AKA, when she was actually experiencing the events being written about her). But while she waited for her story to progress (teenagers procrastinate a lot, don't you know), she was obnoxious, loud-mouthed, sarcastic, and annoying. Really, annoying. For her, the plot never seemed to be moving along fast enough, and nothing that happened in her universe was good enough.
“It's Carter Valentine!” she shrieked. Only then did Nar notice that the ghost-cat who usually accompanied Leila on her tirades was no where to be found. Ah, yes. Today must have been the day she discovered that it was Carter Valentine himself who was responsible for taking the missing items from her home. “I can't believe you made me friends with a thief!”
“I didn't do anything,” Nar answered.
“I don't think you heard me, Narry, Carter Valentine is a thief!”
“Yes, I'm aware,” Nar said. “But I am – ”
“And you knew from the beginning and you never said a word?” she cried.
He closed his eyes, and then he opened them back up again. He was kind of hoping that this was just one big elaborate dream, and when he woke up he would lying in his warm, comfy bed. Unfortunately, this was very real. “Leila,” he said, speaking very, very slowly. “I didn't create you. I didn't make up the plot to your story. I. Am. Just. The. Narr – ”
She rolled her eyes. “Yeah, yeah. So you tell me,” Leila slammed her hands onto the desk. “You have to do something about this.”
“Leila!” he snapped. “I can't – ”
Leila's hands were at his throat so quick. She pulled his collar, and leaned in very closely to his face. “Now you listen here, Mister –"
Nar jerked away even faster, no even bother to readjust himself. “NO!” he yelled, “YOU LISTEN! GODDAMMIT, LEILA! THAT'S HOW YOUR FUCKING STORY ENDS! THERE'S NOTHING YOU OR I CAN DO TO CHANGE THAT, SO IF YOU HAVE A PROBLEM TAKE IT UP WITH YOUR CREATOR!” He shook his head, breathing hard. But the anger wasn't gone. “Honestly, you're just an insignificant little spec in that man's world, in my world, in this entire world, so please, for once in your short life, just shut the hell up and leave me alone!”
Leila stood completely still, in a stunned silence. Of course, he had forgotten that Leila had never had someone yell at her the way he had just yelled at her before in her entire life. He could see her eyes gloss over with tears, but she kept herself composed as she stormed from the office, slamming the door on her way out. And then, of course, he felt a different sort of pang in his chest, though it wasn't the pain from his impromptu work out earlier this morning. It was guilt.
He let out another sigh, and jolted up from his chair, rushing out the door as fast as his legs could carry him to catch Leila before she disappeared out the building forever.
He could hear her wails from down the hall. “Leila,” he called out, “Leila, wait!” He followed the sound to the ladies' room, and uncomfortably stood outside, waiting. It didn't make it any better that he and his tie-dye short shorts were almost a glaring red flag to anyone who passed by, and thus he realized he practically had “pervert” tattooed in bold letters in the middle of his forehead. He had to politely explain to a security guard what exactly he was doing outside of the ladies room, and then he had to politely tell the guard to “shove it” when he said that he didn't believe him. Of course, once Nar flashed his security badge, the guard was more understanding and left him alone. But still, he had to deal with the weird stares from fellow colleagues who were probably convinced, by now, that he was insane.
Once Leila stumbled out, she pushed past him so fast he was barely able to catch. Goddamn, she's a fast sprinter, he thought to himself as he struggled to catch up. “Leila, I'm sorry,” he called after her, “Leila? Leila! Lei – WHOOOAAAA!”
Skidding ungracefully across the linoleum floors, he lost his footing and crashed violently onto the floor, landing flat on his ass.
“Goddamn,” he moaned.
Leila rushed up to him, “Oh God, Narry, are you alive? Are you okay?”
He blinked. “Peachy,” he muttered. “Just peachy.”
“Do you think you're dying, Narry? God, please just be all – ”
“I'm fine, I'm fine,” he held both hands up in mock defeat. He slowly pulled himself up, and as if on cue, as if this was the universe's way of screwing with him yet another notch, searing pain tore through his left leg. “Shit,” he hissed.
And as he was wheeled out on a gurney, and rode in the ambulance where the EMT's informed him that his leg was broken, he realized that, this morning, he really had felt it in his bones.
Today had not been a good day.