This was a contest submission a little while ago. Kind of an anti-valentine’s day story, if you will…
“This is not my job,” I mutter under my breath, as I pry open the lid on the paint can.
“What was that you said?”
Denise’s voice is sugary sweet. She’s not fooling anybody.
“I think this will be good for you,” she says. “I’ve always thought this was character-building.”
A wide toad-like grin spreads across her face as I look up at her, trying not to scowl openly. She’s not even a good liar. She’s only making me do this because she knows it makes me miserable.
The costume shop was empty, so I had pulled out a book – studying for midterms – and she’d caught me. And apparently, in that moment, repainting the chipped and scratched break room door became the highest priority. One that I would need to attend to right away.
I opened the step-ladder, set the can of paint on it and dipped the paintbrush. As I made the first stroke, I heard the crinkle of a candy bar.
Was she just going to stand there and watch me do this? Because, I might point out, it wasn’t exactly the most efficient use of her precious time.
I turned around to see her take a bite of chocolate.
“I think I’ll go enjoy this in my office,” she said. “Keep up the hard work!”
She waddled off down the small hallway, past the bathrooms, to the office, her enormous, sweat-pant covered ass swaying like a giant buoy.
“Evil bitch,” I muttered under my breath. This time she didn’t hear it.
I was left to my painting. It was dead-silent work – I couldn’t hear anything except for the hum and hiss of the heating system. I kept painting – steady brush strokes up and down. And I know this sounds a little crazy, but every now and then, the buzz and hum of the heater… Well, it almost sounded like words.
“I love you,” said a whispered voice.
I looked around me – no one was there.
Great. My own imagination was driving me insane. Not that I should be surprised. It was October – and the closer it got to Halloween, the spookier working in a costume shop got. Especially at night. Not that I was complaining – a paycheck was a paycheck, even if it came from an evil demon of a boss.
I let the steady swish of the brush distract me from the imagined voices.
“It’s all for you,” the voice said. “Everything is for you.”
Stupid heating system, acting up all the time. I’d have to mention it to Denise, unpleasant though that would be.
It was hours later and I was most of the way done painting the damn door when I heard it again.
“It’s done,” the voice said. “It’s all done …. for you.”
My imagination was giving me the heebie-jeebies. I felt a chill run down my spine.
“Stop it,” I told myself out loud. “You are an adult. You are not afraid of a stupid faulty heating system. You will finish painting this stupid door.”
I tried to refocus on the door – I really did. But that stupid imagined voice kept echoing in my head. Luckily, I was almost done. It only took a few more minutes before my ‘character-building’ task was done.
With a heavy sigh, I got up off my knees, where I’d been painting the bottom of the door, and dusted off my jeans, which were now filthy from sitting on the floor. Paintbrush in hand, I went to inform Her Royal Highness Denise that the door was painted, so that I could finally clock out and go home.
Strange, I thought, as I walked down the hallway. Her door was closed. It was hardly ever closed. But I was too tired to care.
I probably should’ve knocked, but I was tired and cranky. I put my hand on the knob – it wasn’t locked.
The door swung open with a creak – she’d be having me oil that next, I supposed – and a large conspicuous white blob dripped from the end of the paintbrush onto the floor. I must not have cleaned the brush as well as I thought I had.
Now I’d have to clean that up too. With an angry swipe, I pulled my bangs back off of my forehead to glare at Denise….
Only… Only…. she wasn’t there. Not really. An ungainly pile of flesh, disturbingly pink and still slumped where Denise had been sitting. Her head had flopped back and I could see the stripe on her neck where she was garroted.
I touched my own neck in some strange sympathy as I swallowed the lump in my throat and took a step closer. The unwrapped candy bar was sitting on her desk. I could see the chocolate stains on her fingers and I could imagine how she felt, waiting to take another bite.
I leapt about a foot up into the air when I heard a noise – just a small, squeaky sound. I tried to swallow down my fear as I realized it was only a heating vent, swinging on its hinge – a dark gap in the ceiling tiles. Whatever happened – it was fast. She didn’t have a chance to scream.
I took another gulp of air and another step closer to the desk. I was desperately trying not to look at the body, and my eyes were drawn to a piece of paper on the desk – just a standard piece of 8 by11 printer paper.
But the words on it made my blood run cold, marked out in sharp, angry handwriting – minimalist, as though the marks were slashes of a sword and not mere ink.
It said “For you.”