I finally made it back to the spreadsheet…
I waited until it was very late at night. Just me and the coffee machine, and it wasn’t talking. I’d made a joke about the copier earlier that week and it seemed to be nursing a grudge.
After I carved my way through the forest of empty spider webs that filled like sails with stale air as I passed, I settled into Franz’s long abandoned chair and opened up the spreadsheet.
There were hundreds of tabs that I’d never opened. First I checked on Franz. His status hadn’t change. Still lost.
I picked one at random labeled ‘Jump Points.’ It seemed like a two by two matrix of cubical numbers, with a status applied to each row. Each one was marked ‘Inactive.’
I picked one at random, 19 | 23 and changed it to ‘Active’. It was Marc’s cube, 19, and the marketing girl’s, 23.
Had no idea what a jump point was, but around me waves of silverfish were crashing against the sheetrock and I decided that was as much as I could take. As much damage was safe to cause in one night, hit the KVM switch and ran for the door.
Back in the office, I walked past the empty cubicles and got a sullen cup of coffee from the machine. I sipped it a bit, then took a look at Marc’s cube, 19, to see what had changed. I didn’t notice anything immediately. Something was missing, I thought, but couldn’t quite put my finger on it.
I went to the marketing girl’s cube. It was difficult but I resisted touching her chair, her other things, and it may have been this momentary struggle with myself that make it take me a few minutes to notice that she had Marc’s picture of his wife and 2.5 kids on her desk. I picked it up. It was icy cold.
I ran back to cube 19 and put it where I thought it had gone, in a corner of the cube, where Marc wouldn’t spill coffee on it, and a second later, it was gone again. Back in the marketing girl’s cube. Not cold, this time, but there were what looked like greasy fingerprints on the glass.
I cleaned it, put it a little ways away from the jump point, and grabbed for something else to put through. Marc’s desk was near the printer, so I took a ream of paper and put it where the picture had been.
It took almost an hour for it to to make it back out. The pages were out of the wrapper, crumpled and stacked unevenly. The formerly pristine white pages where filled with words that looked like they’d been typed by an angry drunk with a junkyard typewriter. I got through enough pages to see that they were the collected works of shakespeare, and the pages smelled of zoo.
“You’re up to something,” said the coffee maker, as I turned off the lights. “Is this going to end well?”
“Not yours to reason why,” I answered, locking the door behind me.
At work the next day I waited to see if anyone would accidentally trip the jump. While I was waiting, I started to think I’d made a mistake. Marc’s a big guy, and the jump point was a fairly precise area of the cube, one that he’s be unlikely to press himself into by accident.
It took a few days till it happened.
Finally just after lunch, Marc must have reached for one of the pens I littered around the jump point, and with a slightly audible ‘pop’ he was gone.
I rushed to cube 23 too see if he reappeared, but there was nothing.
“What do you need?” Asked the marketing girl.
“Nothing,” I muttered, heading back to my office.
About 20 minutes later, the phones all started ringing, one after the other. When I picked mine up there was just the sound of wind, and maybe chimes in the distance, or maybe it was the sound of air whistling over the mouth of a bottle.
An hour after the last phone call Marc suddenly appeared again at cube 23, looking slightly bewildered. No one noticed. The marketing girl being busying yelling at a client. Marc went back to his own cube, staying far away from the jump point, and collected his things. I tried to talk to him, ask him what happened, but he looked right through me and walked towards the door.
He stopped by the coffee machine, whispered something to it, but I’m still not sure what he said.
The he walked out, and we haven’t seen him since. The new occupant of cube 19 hasn’t managed to trigger it yet, and I’ve more or less given up waiting for him to do it.
The coffee machine has never told me what Marc said. “Not yours to reason why,” is all I got, while it brewed a bitter expresso.