Walking in Circles

I knew something was wrong when I stepped out of the lab and Gerald wasn’t there to greet me. Gerald never took a sick day. Not that I can remember, and I’ve been here with him for sixteen years. That should have been my first clue, and the only one I needed.

The green exit sign flickered at me, beckoning, but I just stood there, confused. You know how sometimes you have to stop and think a minute as soon as you close your front door behind you? Did I leave the stove on, did I pick up my keys before I locked the door? That’s how I felt without Gerald there wishing me a good night. Lost.

The company hadn’t even posted a replacement guard at the door, which was even stranger. You have to pass some pretty serious security checks to mop the floors in this building, let alone wander around the biology lab unsupervised.

I shook off an odd chill and dropped my lab coat in the bin outside the locker room. No one else came in while I showered and dressed, even though I took my sweet time. Also strange. Nobody worked an officially regular schedule, sure, but we tended to cluster our comings and goings around the same hour or so. Except Larry, but Larry has that circadian rhythm disorder.

The echo of the padlock closing seemed louder than I’d ever heard it before. I turned around and noticed that the towel shelves were nearly empty. Laundry wasn’t the best department, but they were usually on top of their game enough that the towels deadened the sound a bit in this metal box of a room. I slipped my keys from my pocket and held them in my hand for the trip to my car.

Accepting that something was wrong would be the logical next step, but logic had left the building. I was freaking out, no beating around the bush. I’m just glad I wore tennis shoes to work; the tapping of my hard soled dress shoes in this empty shell of a building would probably have been too much for my lizard brain to take. The random squeaks were bad enough as it was.

Hang on. I should have been at the doors by now. But I’m not. Like I said, I’ve walked these halls for sixteen years. I’m not going to dissolve into a puddle of nonsensical lunacy now. I’ll just see whose office this is. 106. That’s Dr. Matthews. Two rights and a left and I’ll be at security, ready to wave goodnight to whomever’s manning the desk at this hour.

Hang on. I should have been at the doors by now. But I’m not. Like I said, I’ve walked these halls for sixteen years. I’m not going to dissolve into a puddle of nonsensical lunacy now. I’ll just see whose office this is. 106. That’s Dr. Matthews. Two rights and a left and I’ll be at security, ready to wave goodnight to whomever’s manning the desk at this hour.

Hang on. I should have been at the doors by now. But I’m not.

Hang on.

Hang on.

I wonder where Gerald’s run off to.

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