Peter lives in dystopia. It happened suddenly, all in one day.
“Thank you for coming to my office,” Mr. Crag said formally.
“No problem, Mr. Crag,” Peter smiled. “I’m always glad to meet with you and express some new things that the two of us have in mind.”
“Peter,” Mr. Crag said smugly. “That will be impossible from this day forward.
Sudden euphoria warmed his chest. It was difficult for him not to appear elated, but he felt as though it was upon his face flashing like a neon sign. The rumor was that a new project started. It called for new men, new ideas. He had worked hard for this promotion. There were late nights, taking work home, and working the weekends. He volunteered for every task. He laughed at Mr. Crags bad jokes. He covered for him. Now he was about to be rewarded.
“Peter, you have been dismissed.” Mr. Crag said. “At this time your computer is being removed from your office and your access code and email account with us are being erased.
Peter started to sit.
“Please don’t sit,” Mr. Crag said. “Weldon from security is behind you. He will escort you back to what used to be your office to clean out your personal effects. A box will be provided for you and you will be charged for it.”
“I don’t understand, Mr. Crag,” Peter said.
Crag nodded his head to Weldon. “Show Peter back to his old office and escort him to the front door.”
“But, Mr. Crag,” Peter said.
“Please, Peter, follow Weldon,” Mr. Crag said.
Peter turned. There was no eye contact from Weldon.
Weldon was the man he saw everyday as he entered the department. The first smiling face. He always told Peter what kind of mood Mr. Crag was in. Now it was as if he had no face, no feeling, and no soul.
They walked the hallway on the way to Peter’s department. He felt the cold presence of Weldon like an open window on a winter night.
The faces that smiled and greeted him at one time walked by as if he were invisible. It seemed like a dream
He walked slowly into his department. The first desk was Marge, a short stout bubbly woman with hair stacked high like a corn shock. She quickly looked away. ‘How does she know’ Peter wondered? For all she knew Weldon could just be on another assignment and walking the same direction.
Peter saw Robertson standing at the printer near the widow. He quickly looked outside. There was nothing to see, only a gravel covered flat room.
Peter walked toward his office. Miss Sanders his secretary quickly grabbed some papers from the he desk and quickly walked to Doug Belcher’s desk at the far end of the room. Belcher looked down the aisle. He saw Peter and rolled on chair under into his desk.
Peter stepped to the doorway of his office. On the wall to his right was a number of awards and plaques for him and his department. He tried to smile. He proudly stuck out his chin.
Peter turned to the department. Everyone was busy at their computers and workstations. “You knew, you all knew, didn’t you?”
No one raised their heads or gave the slightest indication that a word was uttered.
A cardboard box sat on his desk. He moved dolefully toward his awards and plaques. He removed one from the wall. It read “Employee of the Year.”
“I’m sorry sir,” Weldon said. “Technically that belongs to the company.”
Peter tossed it on his chair.
Peter scanned the room. He quickly calculated the size of the items purchased directly by him; a picture of his family, a name plate, a desk clock, a autographed picture of Clint Eastwood, a game ball from an Illinois/Northwestern football game, and model of a sailboat. He reached for the upper right desk drawer.
“There’s nothing in there, sir,” Weldon said moving toward Peter.
“My car keys,” Peter said.
“Oh, my mistake, sir,” Weldon reached in his pocket and handed the car keys to Peter.
“I’m leaving it all, Weldon,” Peter said.
“Very well, sir,” Weldon said. “You will be sent a bill for removal.”
Peter knew when this happened there was no use in trying to retain your job. The corporation was so big and powerful that it would end up mentally and emotionally exhausting you and ruining your life.
Peter thought he had a future with the corporation. His life was mortgaged on that expectation. Their were promises made and he had met or exceeded all expectations.
“It’s a shock,” Peter said to Weldon. “I’ve seen it done and always assumed the guy did something really bad, but I haven‘t done anything, but work hard and be loyal.”
Peter grabbed the football and tossed it to Weldon. “This is yours.”
“Don’t have any need for it, sir,” Weldon said and placed it in the chair.
“And neither do I,” Pete said.
He walked to the elevator with Weldon behind him. The decent of five floors to the ground floor seemed faster than normal.
“Did you have them speed it up?” Peter chuckled slightly.
“No sir,” Weldon said
The door opened and ahead of Peter was the glass doors to the outside. The hallway and lobby that always appeared full of life and greenery was suddenly drab and lifeless.
At the door he turned to Weldon and offered his hand. “No hard feelings, Weldon. I understand you are just doing your job. You know that this corporation makes Weldon?”
Weldon held the door open.
“It makes misery,” Pete said. “I see it on your face and everybody’s”
“Sir,” Weldon said. “The door.”
Peter walked to his car. He stopped and turned. The building he once saw as full of energy, excitement, security, purpose, ideas, and integrity melted in front of him like lava. The trees that lined the walk appeared dead and skeleton-like. The bright white building turned to a pale shade of gray. He looked in the windows only seeing robotic manikins moving about aimlessly.
Life was never been the same since that day twenty-two years ago. After three years of looking for a job and finding none his wife left with their child. Peter tried a few career changes; the last one a night clerk at a local motel. All the old friends moved away.
The building he worked at now sits empty. It’s been empty for fifteen years. The corporation found a new location and left this one behind. Peter took up residence their. He had no place else to go, except the streets or shelters. He found his way through a basement window. He wanders the empty offices, conference rooms, and hallways to pass the time. There is as much life there now as the day he left.
Not too many know about the window. He found a comfortable room that belonged to one of the janitors. He shares it with two others. There’s three mattresses, a battery radio, and a hot plate.
It was a cold winter day. Peter crawled through the window eased himself to the floor. Today he had a bag full of discarded snacks from a wholesale bakery. He walked the long tunnel-like hallway with steam pipes that ran the length of it.
He arrived at the room and opened the door. “Crag, Weldon, you ought to see what I got today.”
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