View Full Version : Office Asylum - 655 words

May 25th, 2015, 05:20 AM
This was a possible entry in the LM contest for the "You don't see me." prompt, but I ran out of time.

Though Mike’s spacious office had a panoramic view of his employees, whichever way he turned he felt that someone, out of sight, was staring at him and making rude gestures. He rose and closed all the blinds, but he couldn’t shake the image of employees pressing their faces against the glass and whispering to him.

He buzzed Sarah, his secretary, who picked up after the first ring. “Yes?” She had a gruff, masculine voice, but somehow Mike found this comforting. Parked right outside his front door, this short, stocky woman, with close-cropped hair, shielded him.

“Sarah, I’ve been looking at this privacy tint glass, and I think it would be perfect.”

“Sir, we’ve had this conversation before.”

“With this privacy tint and strategically placed lights, I can convert the three facing windows to one-way mirrors. The company is called-”

“Tint Pro,” Sarah finished. “So, you want me to call them?”

“Yes ... Maybe ... I don’t know.” He hung up and hoped that this time she would seize the initiative, and take care of it for him.

They were at it again. No longer whispering, they were now licking and scratching the glass.

The intercom chirped and Sarah came back on the line. “Mike, Janet needs to go home early. She’s got a sick kid, ok?”

“Which one is she? Never mind.” Staying seated, he rolled his chair to the front and peeked through the blinds. A healthy young bosom. A nice swell of the hips and sturdy, muscular calves.


“What?” Mike said, wondering if he had spoken those words aloud. The line went dead and Mike’s pleasant view was replaced by Sarah’s baleful eye.

He let the blind snap back into place, and walked the chair back behind his desk.

The pressure on the glass built, as more and more bodies pressed up against it. At any moment, it would buckle then give way, showering him in a cascade of glass shards.

Mike retreated to the back entrance that led to his private bathroom. He splashed water on his face, careful not to look at his reflection, which was always disappointing.

A couple of raised voices could be heard through the thin wall separating the bathroom and the break room. Mike obsessed over the activities in this break room, in which his employees habitually disappeared and reappeared. So much so, that he had planned to install a camera there, but Sarah had thwarted him once again.

Muffled shouts were followed by loud thumps. Maybe some creature had gotten loose in the break room?

Moments later Sarah was pounding on the door. “Mike, there’s been a fight in the break room.”

Mike re-entered his office. No. That can’t be. I imagined that.

Sarah continued beating on the door. “Come on, Mike.”

“I can’t.” Mike’s breaths became very shallow.

There was a jingle of keys, a fiddling with the lock, and then Sarah burst into the room.

“How did you get a key to my office?” Mike positioned himself behind his chair.

“You gave me keys to all the doors.”

“Why would I do that?”

Sarah made a move to fetch him, but Mike blocked her by scooting his chair.

“Someone’s been hurt Mike, and I had to phone the police. I’m sorry, but you have to handle this.”

“No, I don’t!” Mike’s eyes were brimming with tears. “I can’t.”

Sarah hesitated only a moment, then marched out of the office.

“Sarah, the door. Close the damned door!”

Mike plopped down in his chair. Even though he felt very exposed, he didn’t have the energy to close that door. Time slipped by as he opened and closed his eyes, each time taking another snapshot. Paramedics arriving. Paramedics leaving, wheeling a body on a gurney with a glimpse of blood on an untucked shirt tail. A police officer with a notebook, questioning an employee. Then Sarah, face flushed, finally closing his office door softly behind her.

May 25th, 2015, 10:57 AM
I like it. It initially reminded me of 'The Professor and the Madman," by Simon Winchester. Creeping paranoia, like Philip K. Dick. It also reminds me of horror stories.

“What?” Mike said, wondering if he had spoken those words aloud. The line went dead and Mike’s pleasant view was replaced by Sarah’s baleful eye.

He let the blind snap back in place, and walked the chair back behind his desk."

I'm a little confused at this point. Is Mike actually seeing Sarah, is she physically there in front of him, or is this in his mind's eye? I think it's in his mind, but I'm not clear and Mike is hallucinating, so this can lead to different ways. At the same time, as a reader my imagination should explore, wander, and if that is your intent then you have done your job.

I'm wondering if 'baleful' and 'blind' are tools of alliteration.

If you're writing a dream or a hallucination, you've done a good job. It's not long enough for me to know. I like it though, it was a good read.

Also, as an annoying side note, I would suggest that the blinds snap back into place. It's a style thing but leans forward.

May 25th, 2015, 11:51 AM
Nice story. Mike could use some extensive therapy.

May 25th, 2015, 12:33 PM
As a manager with a glass window I also feel the fishbowl effect but not to that degree.

That was a fun read, I was half expecting him to be the person hurting the other guy when his mind splits.
Great job!

May 25th, 2015, 05:09 PM
SailorGuitar - Thanks. Actually I read a really fascinating piece here about a women with hikikomori, and I wanted to see how that might play out in an office setting. Anything that he is imagining is in italics. No intentional alliteration between baleful and blind. :D

Kellinkston - Thanks. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Bevo - Thanks. Glad you liked it, and I definitely had the fishbowl effect in mind for this piece.

May 25th, 2015, 05:54 PM
Good read, its nice

May 26th, 2015, 12:52 AM
Very fantastic job. Mike sounds like someone who's got a lot of issues, and this is something I'd read again. Good work!

May 26th, 2015, 01:49 AM
asefaw123 - Thanks for the read.

ThunderMack78 - Thanks. Glad it worked for you.

May 26th, 2015, 12:54 PM
I really enjoyed this piece. I simultaneously feel disgust and pity for Mike, two emotions that usually never pair with me. I like that you have him interacting with someone but that the conversation still highlights his issues. Good job.

May 26th, 2015, 03:01 PM
Aliandra - Thanks. I imagined that she was his sole conduit to his employees, limiting his contact with her to phone conversations.

May 30th, 2015, 07:26 PM
tight little piece...I enjoyed it,you set the horror mood very well.

May 30th, 2015, 07:31 PM
a fine read indeed

May 30th, 2015, 11:39 PM
Why is mike so paranoid?

May 31st, 2015, 01:00 AM
CerebralAssassin - Thanks. You're the second person to mention a horror feel to the piece. That wasn't intentional. I suppose that's my default, preferred mode - so that permeates almost everything I write.

Escorial - Thanks. Much appreciated.

Sonterp - I imagine Mike's got a few wires crossed. I used hikikomori as a template for Mike's psychosis, though I don't believe someone diagnosed with hikkomori could really hold that kind of position.

May 31st, 2015, 04:00 AM
Another good short piece, you're on a roll! Engaging, easy to stay with. In this case the ending didn't quite feel finished; you wouldn't want to spoil the pacing but it feels a little chopped off or under-developed on the last third or so. Great premise, nicely written. Kudos.

May 31st, 2015, 04:07 AM
Agreed - tried to stay close to the 650 word limit, but the ending definitely feels rushed - and gimmicky.

May 31st, 2015, 04:16 AM
That's a hazard of a tough word limit like that...happens to me a lot.

May 31st, 2015, 01:21 PM
Your character development is sound. This is something that is difficult to accomplish in a limited number of numbers. You also managed to weave a complex plot within that causes readers to examine your piece a couple of times before fully understanding its value.

I wanted to focus on one particular:

“Sarah, I’ve been looking at this privacy tint glass, and I think it would be perfect.”

“Sir, we’ve had this conversation before.”

Your dialogue works well, but I feel like a few details about body language can reveal so much more. What are they doing with their hands, eyes, or bodily movements while having this conversation? If you can somehow incorporate these details within the word limit, I feel as if you can create more meaning in terms of your characterization.

May 31st, 2015, 05:11 PM
Masontrc - Thanks. Once the word limit restriction is lifted, I could definitely add some meat to these bones. I do have one spot that I can cut to get back to 645 words.

Maybe some creature had gotten loose in the break room?

I felt that some kind of reaction was needed from the MC, but I don't think it's critical. Possibly I could use these five words to add a little bit of flavor to that dialog. "Leaning back in the chair." "She rolled her eyes." Maybe with a few more words I can get her "Flinging a dry pen into the waste basket." Something to hint at her frustration.

What do you think?

Add: That's not going to work, since this is in Mike's POV. But I can inject something like "his leg begins to shake" in the middle of Mike's bit. His sentence is a bit dry and info-dumpy. The leg shaking would help highlight the agitated state that he's in.

June 13th, 2015, 11:38 PM
Howdy ya'll!
I was looking through this forum debating whether to join, and I so thoroughly enjoyed your piece that I signed up immediately. If I'm understanding correctly, you submitted for feedback? I hope you don't mind if I throw my hat into the ring?

I love the tone and your dialogue, but I was wondering if you considered tightening up your descriptions a little? The second, "he felt", the "could be heard through" for example? Sort of a classic example of "show, don't tell", right? Also, I was wondering who was telling this story? At a couple points it seems like a narrator, and others, Mike, himself?

Lastly, Sarah may be stocky, but she's still only one womAn. ;)

I hope I've done that correctly. Thanks for an awesome read! The hairs on my arms actually stood up--brilliantly creepy!

June 15th, 2015, 04:45 AM
KLJo - That's fine. You've done an admirable job. Thanks for the feedback. I fixed the womEn mistake. I'll have to give the other suggestions some thought.

T. John. C.
June 16th, 2015, 07:02 PM
I really enjoyed the realism in this story. It isn't a story about a guy who sees crazy unimaginable things. It actually makes sense and can lead to multiple reasons as to why he is so frantic. I liked how it was somewhat scary but not to an unbelievable point. Very well done :)

June 21st, 2015, 02:14 AM
I feel as though you describe an overworked man really well. As the story continues you can really feel his mental decline, and his intense desire to escape from his workplace. I really liked the way you did this; it accurately depicts what my mind was like when I was mentally unstable.

June 23rd, 2015, 08:12 PM
The line went dead and Mike’s pleasant view was replaced by Sarah’s baleful eye.

For my understanding, Mike was peeking from the blinds while on the line with Sarah, and then Sarah hung up and showed at the other side of the window ? Thanks :)

The agony Mike had to go through... I was thrilled !

June 28th, 2015, 03:20 AM
A good read that immerses the reader.

I couldn't find any stand out flaws.