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Dark

Keep moving forward.

“The dark moments we face in life are not barriers to success. They are what shape us, teach us and inevitably strengthen us to become stronger than we were before. In the end, they are mere bumps along your road to victory. Onwards!”

The Crack

The keyboard rattles its endless clatter as I begin entering the third batch of numbers. Every day since starting this job, I’ve felt as if the job were an endless string of bad days. I try not to think of the monotonous life I’ve accepted when I hear it again.

A crack.

My fingers stop their automatic routine and I listen.

The faint clattering of keys from around me echo throughout the department. Off in the distance, I hear the soft rustling of papers. No one is talking.

Aside from myself, I can’t discern if anyone slows their data entry or paper shuffling and I wonder for the umpteenth time if maybe something might be wrong with spending the entire day in a cubicle, entering data only a select few will ever even see…never smiling and never communicating with anyone but our arrogant supervisor.

I hear it again.

The crack is like a sheet of hard cardboard being bent to make that crackling sound. I used to do that as a kid and remember the sound vividly. It is so close to that sound but different.

Maybe some tinfoil? I wonder and look around to see if I might have left some of those throat lozenges next to the computer, still tucked in their crinkly wrappers from when I was fighting a sore throat last week.

I don’t see any.

The sound repeats and loathe though I am to do it, I rise from my chair and look around the department, feeling like a groundhog, rising from his hole to check out the prospects for a long winter. All I see is the typical assortment of heads looking at their computer screens while continuing to enter their own digits into the system.

I sit back down, hating the creaking sound the chair makes as my weight settles in. I need to lose weight. Sitting in place for hours at a time can’t be healthy. Stretching my legs would go a long way to keeping my attention focused. Maybe it would increase the blood flow to my brain and I would think of an idea that could sell for a million dollars. Maybe I could write the Great American Novel and live off the royalties in a cabin that overlooks a lake, living each day with fresh air and long hikes without sore fingers, stressful meetings and forced deadlines.

I hear the crack again and almost jerk myself away from my desk. An image of an Easter party comes to mind as confetti-filled eggs are cracked over partygoers, young and old alike.

An egg? My mind fights to make sense of the annoyance and I see my leg beginning to bounce up and down. No. I tell myself. What would an egg be doing here?

Closing my eyes, I force myself to remain still and wait for it to come again, intent on at least identifying the direction it originates from.

“Mister Bloom?”

My eyes open wide. My supervisor’s voice often fills me with dread on a normal day, but on one where I am listening with my eyes closed…

“Yessir!” I pipe in, aware of how my voice has risen too many octaves above normal.

“Taking a cat nap?” The accusation is plain and although I hadn’t been doing anything of the kind, the flush of warmth on my face declares otherwise.

“N-no, sir. I was trying to hear for…” My words stop.

That was what I was trying to figure out in the first place! What the hell was I hearing? Was it a piece of eggshell someone was crunching to annoy me with? Was it a piece of glass coming off my bifocals? Was it a creak in his chair or a short from my computer?

“The short!” I say with a finality even I don’t believe. “I heard a crack from somewhere in my cubicle and am sure that I gotta have a short that needs attending to. I was just listening to…”

“A crack,” he says, curling his lip and giving me a half smile. “I see. And in your quiet dozing, did you find it?”

“Nossir.”

“Fine then.” His voice rises, making sure the rest of the department is privy to the exchange. “Mr. Bloom, if you should ever hear another sound that makes you want to shut your eyes, call tech support and let them deal with it, understood?”

“Yessir.”

“Good.”

I wait for him to leave but watch as his eyes move from me to my desk, where all my paperwork has been expanding with each batch. My heartbeat drums faster in my chest.

“Did you finish entering the corporate reports?”

I feel the muscles in my neck tighten and bite down on my tongue. The reports I’ve been working on are for the end of month inventory. The corporate reports were done a week ago.

“I’m wrapping up the end of month numbers,” I say, feeling my own upper lip tremble as I try on a friendly grin.

“The corporate accounts are priority!” I see his face redden, as if he had become a cartoon character.

Hope as I might, it doesn’t explode.

“Sir, Corporate was...”

“I didn’t ask for your opinion, did I? I told you to…”

He stops at once, leaving his mouth open and I am reminded of an old Twilight Zone episode where everyone in the world stops at the click of a pocket-watch. I hear it again.

His mouth snaps shut and I watch as his eyes dart around my cubicle, like a drug-sniffing dog in an airport.

“There!” I look to where he points and with the dog analogy still fresh in my mind, I fight the urge to laugh.

He leans over me, exhaling with a grunt and I smell his breath as he dips under my hutch, tracing a finger along the light’s dangling cord. His breathing is heavy and loud in the enclosure as the pungent aroma of onion and some kind of cheese wafts over me. I fight my gag reflex and clasp a hand over my mouth.

Just then I see him grip the cord and hold it up between his thumb and forefinger.

“Hah! Look at this! You got a...”

This time the crack is loud and I see a spark fly from the opposite corner of my desk’s fluorescent light. It shatters, raining glass bits on stacks of my completed paperwork. The supervisor goes flying from my cubicle, falling backwards and landing with a thump in the aisle. I notice his hair standing on end and his finger still outstretched while he grunts nonsense, struggling to regain motor control. I remember feeling the same way at age ten when I was foolish enough to stick a penny into an electrical outlet.

As he twists and turns in the aisle, the image of a dog rolling around on his back comes to mind.

Co-workers surround my cubicle, peering in as if at some exotic museum and I give them a thin-lipped smile before shrugging my shoulders, knowing how anything I say will send me into gales of laughter.

Some days, coming to work isn’t so bad.

The End