The Connection

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Mr. Thomas Gains was employed in the middle of everything, which just so happened to be the same location where nothing would happen on a day to day basis. The centermost cubicle of the office on the 4th floor of the 8 story building on the corner of Greenway Blvd and 4th Ave might as well have been the center of the universe to Mr. Gains, and he had grown used to the familiarity of the routine that he had developed, as well as the insignificant little details that combined in making his day to day a routine: the bland smell of paper, the cold break room coffee, the squeaks made by his office chair whenever he would swivel in it, the much warmer coffee he would get from the coffee place across the street on his lunch break, the way the air would create a brief gust that would blow in his face whenever he left the building, and how that brief gust would just tip his hat ever so slightly. However, on a cold, yet sunny day in August, just as Mr. Gains was putting his lips on the cold, yet familiar ceramic of his own personal “I Don’t Do Mondays” coffee mug to take a sip of the cold, yet stale decaffeinated coffee, Mr. Gains stared at his brightly lit computer screen wide-eyed and bewildered. Within the 24 years that Mr. Thomas Gains had invested into the company, the computer that had sat on the desk in the centermost cubicle had never turned on.
Mr. Gains stared at the computer in disbelief. He blinked, but when he opened his eyes the screen was still emitting a bright white light. So, Mr. Gains blinked harder. Still, the screen was emitting a bright white light, radiating seemingly brighter now because of how hard he had just blinked. Mr. Gains then looked over his shoulder to see if anyone had peeked into the centermost cubicle where he sat every day and had noticed this not-so-every-day phenomenon. He swiveled in his chair, turning around fully while simultaneously having a loud squeak to sound in the room. After realizing that no one was watching, he turned back to the screen quickly, having an even louder squeak to sound. Mr. Gains took another sip of his coffee before setting it down on an open space on his desk. He then reached out his hand to the bright light. The light seemed so far away, but when his fingertips made contact with the screen with a brief singular tap, his arm quickly recoiled, somewhat involuntarily. Making contact with the computer screen again, now with the open palm of his right hand, Mr. Gains let his hand rest on the bright screen until he felt the screen become warmer before it finally committed to a consistent temperature. He then let his hand drag itself across the bright, warm screen, producing a louder squeaking sound, which caused Mr. Gains to jerk his hand back to face before putting his index finger to his mouth which he nibbled on nervously, not realizing his hand was now covered in a thin layer of dust. The gritty texture of the dust forced Mr. Gains to produce a loud cough, involuntarily. He tried to resist coughing by forcing himself to drink more of his cold morning brew, but the gritty texture of dust combined with the bitter tasting coffee created sensation in his mouth that was so horrible, Mr. Gains spat out the disgusting combination on a messy pile of blank white papers strewn about his desk and cough loudly two more times.
***
The break room on the 4th floor was home to many corporate familiarities: a series of “motivational” posters, a water cooler, and a fair amount of employee side chatter. It was the perfect place to get away from doing nothing to do absolutely nothing. It wasn’t rare that someone would be in the break room trying to look for someone to make small talk with, but if an employee had ample timing, they often be met with Mr. Nicks.
“-And so I told her, ‘You wanted the damn thing. You can clean up after it.’”
Mr. Dennis Nicks was just in the middle of one of his hourly scheduled rants. The victim for this hour was Mrs. Jennifer Brooks, who was very good at just standing around and nodding, occasionally adding a “mmm” or an “mmhmm” for good measure. Mr. Nicks didn’t much care for Mrs. Brooks, but she wasn’t scheduled to receive that rant for another month. It wasn’t until Mr. Nicks had come into his closing statements on adopting children but before segueing into his rant about harlequin babies that Mr. Gains entered, covered in paper, clothing stained with cold coffee.
“Ah! Tommy! You’ve arrived just in time!” Mr. Nicks exclaimed, not having yet examined his coworker’s messy disposition, “I was just tellin’ Jenny here about how my wife tried to get me to change her kid’s diaper. “
“Oh, uh-… not now, Dennis,” said Mr. Gains with a rushed tone, not losing focus upon entering the break room, “I, uh-…, just came in for some more coffee.”
“More coffee?” said Mr. Nicks, rather confused. “You hate the stuff.”
Mr. Nicks turned to face Mr. Gains fully while sipping cold break room coffee out of his own personal “Go Corporate” coffee mug.
Mrs. Brooks interjected with an, “Mmhmm,” agreeing with Mr. Nicks.
“Well, something about today’s brew was really great,” replied Mr. Gains, unsuccessful at sounding convincing while pouring the brown liquid into his mug.
“’Something about today’s brew?’” Mr. Nicks said, observing Mr. Gains, “Tommy, you and I both know it’s been about 8 months since the last coffee boy made that coffee. Hell, you’re the only guy that drinks the stuff regularly.”
“Mmm,” interjected Mrs. Brooks, again, blinking softly.
“Well,” Mr. Gains said with a nod, setting his mug down, “I guess nobody will mind if I take the whole thing with me.”
Mr. Gains grabbed the break room coffee machine and pulled it once with a swift jerk, unsuccessful in his attempt to unplug the machine. Another swift jerk and Mr. Gains, while unsuccessful in unplugging the coffee machine, managed to be successful in pulling out the outlet covering, base, and some of the electrical wiring that was previously embedded in the wall.
“Tom! What are you doing?!” demanded Mr. Nicks, gesturing with his coffee cup. “They just finished painting that wall last week.”
“It’s nothing,” replied Mr. Gains, tugging at the wiring. “I just… really… want more… coffee.”
“Tommy,” said Mr. Nicks reassuringly. “Would you just look at yourself, Tom? You smell like old coffee grounds, you’ve somehow managed to get paper to stick all over you, and now, you’ve destroyed a perfectly good wall. Did I mention that the wall was just painted last week?”
“Mm,” interjected Mrs. Brooks, once again.
“We’re your friends, Tom. Now, what has got you so hot and bothered?” Mr. Nicks asked while brushing sticky piece of paper off his shoulder.
Mr. Gains looked at the wall with the revealed torn wires sparking and then the coffee machine, which somehow still held the coffee pot in it, before reluctantly gesturing to Mr. Nicks and Mrs. Brooks to follow him.
***
Mr. Gains led his coworkers back to the centermost cubicle, still clutching onto the coffee maker with the loose wiring trailing behind him. Upon arriving at the cubicle, Mr. Gains took a seat in his office chair, pushed himself to the rightmost side of the centermost cubicle, and swiveled his chair so that he was fully facing left, allowing his coworkers a full view of the disaster area as he continued to cradle the break room coffee maker in his arms. The cubicle looked as disastrous as the break room wall, the break room coffee maker, and Mr. Gains’ coffee stained outfit.
“Mm-mmm,” remarked Mrs. Brooks, disapprovingly.
“Tom,” said Mr. Nicks remarked in disbelief, “What have you done to the cubicle?”
Coffee stained paper covered most of the wrap around desk, and mounds of sticky brown papers attached to each other by a combination of staples, tape, and unrecognizable paper folding techniques. Mr. Gains bit on his upper lip and lowered his head to stare at the break room coffee maker, shamefully.
“My God, Tom, what happened?” said Mr. Nicks, “This cubicle was always so clean and organized. This desk use to say, ‘I’m a model employee and I belong to a model company with high standards of working,’ but now,” Mr. Nicks paused and put his closed fist up to his mouth, as if he struggling through a great amount of pain to finish his sentence. “I just… I didn’t expect this from you, Tommy.”
“Mm-mm,” Mrs. Brooks she shook her head.
“Look. You can’t even see your computer anymore, Tom.”
Mr. Nicks slowly outstretched his arm to the computer as Mr. Gains watched nervously. His eyes beat back and forth between the hand and his computer before slapping it away. Mr. Nicks quickly snapped his hand back and held it, displaying a look of shock toward Mr. Gains. He then reached for it again, only to be met with another slap on the hand.
“Dammit, Tom,” he said with a quelled but growing frustration, “This desk is a disaster and does not uphold the guidelines of cleanliness set by this company. If your manager was to see this, you’d be back in the mailroom faster than you could say, ‘I quit!’ Now, let me help you, god dammit!”
Mr. Nicks made another attempt at the computer, only to be met with another slap from Mr. Gains. This time it was a slap in the face. With frustration, no longer quelled and now growing into anger, Mr. Nicks pushed on the coffee machine in Mr. Gains’ arms, letting the pressure of the coffee machine crush his ribs, thus causing Mr. Gains to fall backwards through the wall of his cubicle. With Mr. Gains on the floor, now struggling to get on his feet without letting go of the coffee maker, Mr. Nicks tore the paper wrapped over the front of the computer. As he closed his fist tightly around the torn paper, he let out a yell of pain and pulled his clenched fist back to his face for a closer look. Unclenching his now bleeding hand, Mr. Nicks realized that he had 3 staples now piercing the outer layer of skin in his left hand, which was the 26th to last physical sensation he would ever feel. Mrs. Brooks gazed, horrified at the sight of blood dripping down Mr. Nicks’ hand and onto his suit and the shag carpeting. Mr. Nicks then turned to computer and saw the light that was glowing though torn paper. Now holding back visible signs of pain, Mr. Nicks outstretched his left hand, open palmed, to feel the warmth radiating off the light of the computer. That was the 25th to last physical sensation he would ever feel. The last sensation he would feel was Mr. Gains using the break room coffee maker to crack the back of his skull for the 24th time. Coincidentally, Mr. Nicks had a scheduled rant on brain damage which he had plan to deliver to Mrs. Brooks right after he told her about how much he did not care for her.
***
Mrs. Brooks stood in the wake of the two bloody coworkers, shocked by what she had witnessed. Her jaw hung seemingly unhinged, displaying her toothless, tongue-ridden mouth. Mr. Gains, still holding onto the break room coffee maker, stood over Mr. Nicks, who was no longer able to rant, criticize, or pick up his paycheck at the end of the week. However, Mr. Gains was able to stand upright, place the coffee maker down on top of a paper pile on his desk, dust himself off, and turn to face Mrs. Brooks fully. Their eyes met for a minimum of four seconds before Mr. Gains looked down at her feet and then back at her face for another four seconds. Mrs. Brooks neither looked away from Mr. Gains nor closed her empty mouth.
“Jennifer,” Mr. Gains said to her feet, “I’m going to be working late tonight.” Mr. Gains took a moment to breathe in, and swallow the stale office air. “If you could let the maintenance and janitorial crews know before you go…”
Mrs. Brooks began to speak but became embarrassed as she was not forming words or making sense. So, she gave a discouraged, “Mm-hmm,” and slowly walked away from the center cubicle and passed the smoking break room, leaving Mr. Gains alone with Mr. Nicks, the break room coffee maker, and the computer, still illuminating a bright white light from its screen.
***
The sun had abandoned its position in the sky in search of brighter tomorrows. The only light that illuminated the cityscape came from the 8 story building on the corner of Greenway Blvd and 4th Ave was coming from the center cubicle of the 4th floor. It was there that Mr. Thomas Gains sat in his office chair; drinking the last of the break room coffee and eating the remaining coffee grounds to stifle off his hungry. Mr. Gains had only taken his eyes off the computer when he had to poor himself a cup of coffee or to look over his shoulder to see if anyone was behind him, but he would normally be asleep at this time. His eyes grew dizzy, and the coffee did nothing to heighten his energy. With hand cradling his face, Mr. Gains began to give into his body’s demand for rest. Suddenly, the screen lit up brighter, and there was a ping sound from the computer. Mr. Gains reassumed an upright posture, and swiveled in his chair to face the computer screen. The computer made hushed churning noises and another audible ping was sounded. Mr. Gains wiped the dust and dried blood off the screen, to reveal white text in a blue box on the screen that read in all capital letters:
“ENTER NAME TO PROCEED TO CHAT”
Mr. Gains attempted to clear away the papers in an effort to find a keyboard, but he accidently entered his name as “64TW5”. After efficiently removing the paper, Mr. Gains looked once again at the screen, now black with white text that read the following;
[ABBY] Hello?
[ABBY] Is someone there?
Mr. Gains replied, eagerly.
[64TW5] Hi
[ABBY] It’s so dark in here, and I’m scared.
Mr. Gains was now intrigued by the messages. He had not been around this working technology very long, and it had already opened up a whole new world of opportunities.
[64TW5] Scared of what?
[ABBY] Being alone.
Alone? What did this [ABBY] mean by alone? Mr. Gains swiveled to see if there was anyone around, and then looked down at Mr. Nicks, who had not moved for several hours. Even if Mr. Gains didn’t understand where Abby was coming from, he still felt the need to comfort her somehow.
[64TW5] My name is Thomas.
[ABBY] I like that name. I had a dog named Thomas, once.
Mr. Gains liked this feeling of being connected to someone who he didn’t have to connect to for a job. Something about this [ABBY] made Mr. Gains feel as if the nature of their conversation was genuine. It was something he hadn’t felt since he began his employment in the building. He liked [ABBY], and he was pretty sure [ABBY] liked him, too. Mr. Gains smelt something over taking his cubicle. He stood and looked over his cubicle only to be greeted by a cloud of smoke coming from the break room from the far side of the office. The door to the break room office fell over, and a flame began to violently illuminate the office. Mr. Gains didn’t have much time.
[64TW5] I have to go.
[ABBY] No! Please stay.
[64TW5] I have to go.
There was no response from [ABBY] Mr. Gains looked at the fire, which was quickly overtaking the other cubicles, but as Mr. Gaines began to type “I’ll come back”, the computer screen cut off with a fizzle, then a crackle. He tried pouring his cold coffee over the screen to try and make it work but was instead met with a loud electrical whirring. Mr. Gains spent not a second longer in his cubical. He bit his upper lip and ran for the stairs, then the exit door. A small gust of air tipped his hat as he left the building, but he grabbed it and turned to face the burning building. Mr. Thomas Gains was employed to be in the middle of everything, which just so happens to be the same location where he learned what it meant to be alone.

Created: Feb 21, 2014

Tags: absurd, fiction, story

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