♦Welcome to another edition of the Open Book Blog Hop!♦
Write a scene or story that includes a character who has a phobia.
What do they fear? How does this phobia affect their life?
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Stanley never suspected he felt any particular disgust at the sight of any particular thing. The films he preferred to watch were often horrific and delved into the worst of fears. There was not a thing he could not handle. Of that he was sure. But, certainty is a funny thing. It’s not so certain.
Fleeting moments creep into the mind and what was once assured begins to crumble. The strike may be the tiniest of pebbles, but once that crack erupts, there is no power to stop the web-like tendrils from breaking the entire structure to bits. And, that’s how Stanley found his fears one day.
Within the confines of a gray cubicle, rows from the dark windows blocked out by dusty, broken blinds, Stanley settled in for a day of work. Someone had left a note on the calendar blotter he scribbled his appointments and plans onto for the month, a less detailed copy of a digital calendar he was about to load on the computer. He paused to read, half paying attention as he pressed the power button and gripped the mouse.
The note was left by Dorothy, the director’s secretary, to update staff on some procedures. The banal message sent his mind on a tangent. Dorothy had stepped into his cubicle without him there. A ring under his office cactus caught his eye. Water had collected some dust and soil. Stanley didn’t remember it being so prominent yesterday. He absently tapped his sign-on, giving him access to the digital workstation.
Had Dorothy touched Stanley’s plant? He leaned a bit closer, forgetting the memo. The computer fan grew louder and he felt the brush of air on his hand, drawing his attention to the keyboard upon which it rested. Why would Dorothy touch his plant? Perhaps he had moved the cactus inadvertently.
The thought continued to bother Stanley’s mind, despite his focusing on the morning email. Eyes flicked here and there. A page hung on the cubicle crooked, as bumped or purposely touched. His pens and pencils were mixed together. A push pin sat behind his telephone, knocked from it’s roost on the fabric wall. Stanley’s heart thumped. What else had been gone through?
“Good morning,” a voice disrupted his panic, causing him to start. “I didn’t mean to sneak up on you,” Dorothy stood there smiling. Stanley forced himself to smile, suspecting she had come there to see if he saw her handy work. “Did you get the memo, I left?”
“Yes, thank you. I was just reading it,” Stanley replied.
The pair tumbled into an awkward silence. Dorothy made to leave, but hesitated.
“Stanley,” she said, then lowered her voice. “I don’t want to alarm you, but when I left that memo before leaving last night, I thought I saw Sarah exiting your cubicle.”
Stanley had nothing to say, but attempted to hide his surprise. Sarah was his supervisor, and the suspicion that she was looking into Stanley had started to niggle at him after a meeting last week. Her tone had turned judgmental when inquiring as to his health, which was brought low by a terrible cold the week before that. Stanley had taken several days off to be well again, and then worked from home the rest of the week. It was acceptable practice. However, Sarah liked to have eyes on her staff. She didn’t trust the productivity numbers as much as doing the rounds to their desks.
“Thanks, Dorothy. I’m sure she was just dropping off a folio. Besides, everything looks great here. Nothing moved or missing.”
Stanley suddenly recalled the post-it-note that was by his phone, which noted an appointment he had upcoming.
“You’re welcome! Have a great rest of your day.”
Stanley had already forgotten her, but managed to mumble a farewell, as he searched his desk. The note was gone. The pounding in his chest grew heavier. Wiping his face, he tried to focus on his morning tasks. One of them was to get a cup of coffee, and it was evident by his reactions to things that morning, that he was in desperate need of some coffee.
Mind racing, Stanley opened his drawer to find that his mug was gone.
“Good morning, Stanley.”
It was Sarah. He turned. She held his mug out to him, full of coffee.
Stanley took the mug as she placed some creamers and sugar packs on his desk from the break room. The black liquid steamed ominously. Why would she make him a cup? Was she guilty for stealing his appointment note?
“I wasn’t sure how you take it, but I knew you’ve been having a rough time with that cold and thought you might appreciate a fresh cuppa,” Sarah explained. “Do you have a minute to meet?”
Stanley froze at the question. Sarah sat in the chair of the other workstation that shared his space. She urged him to fix his coffee. Stanley could barely hear over the ringing in his ears and his thumping heart. His hands shook as he put cream and sugar in his cup. Not a word she said reached him.
“Stanley,” Sarah’s voice finally broke through. “You’ve been doing a fabulous job on those reports. How would you feel about presenting on them at the next director meeting?”
Stanley agreed to the presentation. Although Sarah seemed pleased with him, he could not get rid of the thought in his mind that she or Dorothy had taken his note, and rooted around his desk for something. What were they after? Were they collecting information to make a case against him regarding his time usage?
“I could work overtime–to get them done faster. I’m sorry I’ve been sick so long. I think this stupid head cold slowed me down, but I’ve been nose-to-the-grindstone every day.”
“You should take Friday. Get some rest.”
Friday was tomorrow. Did she mean that? Less than a week’s notice on time off was frowned upon. Was Sarah setting him up?
Stanley nodded. The comfort he once felt in his job was shattered. The woman had rummaged his desk, and he knew he only just began to see all the things they had moved.
“Is everything ok?”
Stanley nodded and took a long sip of his coffee. It tasted more bitter than usual. What was in this? He set the cup aside, explaining he was tired, and would not mind working from home.
“I just don’t want to take more time off. I’ve got days saved up that I’d like to keep.”
Something in Sarah’s expression suggested a warning. Stanley recalled how she hated them working from home. Was this worse than taking a day? Stanley swallowed. His mouth was so dry.
“I think that’s perfect. I’ll call you in the afternoon to see how things are going.”
Stanley nodded as Sarah rose and made her exit. Was it perfect? He no longer felt assured.
Stanley turned back to his computer. A pink slip of paper caught his attention from behind his phone. The missing note.
Click on the links below to read the other author’s contributions to this week…