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Cult of Personality (standard:horror, 1554 words)
Author: Alexander WilliamsAdded: Feb 23 2001Views/Reads: 3589/2127Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
A short bit of prose about the realizations that come about your co-workers.

The first time I walked in the front door of the company, I knew what
kind of place it was going to be.  Hard not to, really.  The welcoming 
secretary at the front desk smiles ... but only at the gentleman coming 
in behind me.  For yours truly, she had a cold shoulder. 

Its never really different.  You get used to it. 

When I shouldered my way through the swinging door, swiping my closed
hand over the badge sensor, she jumped a little.  "Serves her right," I 
muttered to myself and just kept my head down, drifting through the 
labyrinth of hallways and offices the size of closet-space.  A few 
people rushed past me, but mostly it was just the charcoal carpet and 
me, until I walked into the glassed-in lab. 

No one is ever ready for the first sight of the lab.  Imagine a single
room as big as the field in a football stadium, ceiling supported by 
thin columns painted a sort of bile green every thirty feet or so in a 
perfect grid, like foul trees, whose limbs overarch the "cube farm," 
ramshackle assemblage of "temporary" offices and desks.  Some of the 
ones in back are as old as the room.  In each little cubicle nests a 
poor, empty soul, hollow-eyed and searching, building the walls in 
their heart higher day by day until they dwarf the five-foot partitions 
that divide them one from the other. 

I waved and spoke to Shelia as I wandered by.  "Hi." 

Maybe she didn't hear me.  She hardly ever looks up when anyone walks
by, honestly, I had no idea what made me think today would be special.  
No day is special. 

Shelia's the kind of woman who makes you think she might have been fun,
once, when she was sixteen and just discovering what her body was for.  
The kind of woman with the fading echoes of laugh-lines around her lips 
and eyes as the long slow dusk of the thirty-somethings fades to night. 
 I liked her eyes, at the time, beautiful and sparking grey despite her 
drawn face and hair pulled back and bunned up as if to contain it from 
wild gallivanting. Those eyes were fixed on the screen, making some 
image dance to the beaten pulse of her heartbeat. 

The corner loomed, then turned away, and I sat in my cube, my little
kingdom.  The walls were perfectly clean, I remember that well, because 
I like things to be clean.  Nothing sat on the desk itself but a 
monitor and a keyboard.  Everything was pristine.  The monitor faced 
the cube's mouth, so I could see anyone that strolled by, wave a hand, 
share a smile.  I honestly like people. 

Really, I do. 

I even like Steven, who sat across from me at the time.  Like Shelia, he
seemed just on the ass-end of burn-out, but without the gumption to 
really give in and luxuriate in it.  I can't say he's fat, because that 
would be impolite, but the man certainly occupies space with authority. 
 Authority is a good word for Steve.  The greying hair, the steely dark 
eyes, they all say "authority" to me. The curl of his lip as lunch-time 
approached was always a great indicator of the time.  I think he hated 
everyone around us, I really do. 

Honestly, though, nothing beat spending my time staring up the aisle at
Sarah.  The woman has a perfect body, I must say.  Hours and hours of 
contemplation of her every curve flicked through my mind over the 
years, and she never seemed to age, to me.  Bright red hair, green 
eyes, a bust that can make a man swallow his tongue, they all work 
together on you, make you forget who you are. 

"Hi, Steven."  Shelia would come scuffling by his cube almost daily,
almost always an hour fifteen after lunch.  Precisely.  I admired her 
precision, too. 

"Shelia."  His acknowledgment, curt, direct.  I never looked to check
and see if he met her gaze.  I always thought he was above such things, 
flipping through schedules. 

Shelia scuffled her feet.  She never looked over at me.  "Are we on for,
you know, tonight?"  This was new.  I'd never really noticed any 
assignations between them, but I suppose I couldn't have.  I'm in and 

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