Exercising the craft—September 15, 2014

By Ekta R. Garg

Prompt: Write about a meeting in a corporate office that goes horribly, horribly wrong. Be sure to include something supernatural or really weird.



Darlene smoothed her hand over her hip, hoping no one would notice the cheap polyester of her suit. Granted, she’d worn her garage sale finds to work every day for the last six months, and no one had noticed. Clearly they had seen something in her that justified this huge promotion. But it was easier to hide the stray threads and old fabrics in a cubicle.

She pushed back her shoulders and held up her head. Just before the elevator reached the eighth floor, she practiced a few smiles in the reflective surface of the doors. Not too wide, but not to narrow either. There. When the doors pulled open with a quiet hiss, she’d found her power expression.

She walked out of the elevator and stopped at the receptionist’s desk. The woman took her name and picked up the phone to make a call.

I can’t believe they’ve got a paper pusher just for this floor.

Mr. Brand came out of an office to the paper pusher’s right.

“Darlene! So good to see you up here,” Mr. Brand he said as he unbuttoned his shirt cuffs and rolled up his sleeves. “Welcome to the team.”

“Thank you, Mr. Brand,” Darlene said, pushing her shoulders back again. She met his hand with her own and shook it with confidence. “I’m really pleased to be up here. Thank you for this opportunity.”

“You deserved it, Darlene!” Mr. Brand said. He loosened his tie. “Let’s go to the conference room. Everyone else is already waiting for you.”

Darlene felt a flutter in her chest. No more waiting tables on the late shift at Hooters. I’ve hit the big time here.

Mr. Brand opened the door to the conference room and made a sweeping motion with his right hand. “After you.”

Darlene smiled at him and entered the conference room. The hum of conversation distracted her for a moment. She took four steps into the room and stopped cold.

“Everyone, this is Darlene,” Mr. Brand said from behind her. He closed the conference room door and put his hands on her shoulders. “She’s our newest team member, and I hope you can make her feel at home.”

Six men and five women turned to face her, some sitting, some standing. All of them smiled at her. All of them had stripped to their underwear.

“So, should we get started?”

Darlene blinked several times, glued to her spot. Mr. Brand came around her, and he had already taken off his tie and shirt. He dropped both on an empty chair next to her and unbuckled his pants. Within a minute he took off his shoes and socks and then whipped off his khakis. They joined the other clothes on the chair.

Mr. Brand pulled out another chair and sat down. “Darlene? Make yourself comfortable.”

She looked from one person to another, and they all looked at her with expectation. Her hands got clammy, and the flutter came back. This time it turned into a drumbeat.

“Um, I’m…I’m okay, thanks.”

The smile disappeared from her boss’ face. “I don’t know if you’re clear on this, Darlene, but making yourself comfortable isn’t an option.”

Everyone examined her with pointed looks. Darlene clasped her suit jacket closed. All of a sudden, the cheap polyester felt as smooth as cashmere against her skin.

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