Austin E. Olson is a writer of short stories and poetry. He currently resides in the state of Minnesota where he was born and raised.
The Unlit Cigarette
Stanley Graham warily sucked on the filter of an unlit cigarette as he drove into the office parking lot. His thumbs beat on the driver’s wheel like sticks upon a drum. The rhythmic thumping matched the metronome that was his heart. For a moment after he cut the ignition he sat observing his surroundings. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary on this cloudy evening. The radio was still playing a tune that hardly reached his ears. It was something he normally would have enjoyed but tonight it made him feel sick. He opened the car door and the music abruptly ceased in the middle of the chorus. As he walked at a brisk pace towards the door he finally realized the bland taste in his mouth came from the filter. He reached into his breast pocket and pulled out a half empty pack and stuffed the unlit cigarette back in.
He still had his keychain and hand as he approached the door. He fumbled while searching for the correct key and they fell. The clinging sound made him even more paranoid so he turned around and looked to see if anyone was watching. Just nerves is all. Just nerves. He promptly picked up the keys and finally found the correct one to open the office door. Inside he felt even more tense. There was an odd aura about being in a place that you shouldn’t be after hours. Yes, he had worked late nights in his youth, but never had he been in an office between three and four o'clock.
The elevator ride was one of the worst in his life. He felt uncontrollable fear approaching the seventh floor. It’s alright. Everything will be okay. Breathe. Breathe in. Breathe out. He was happy to have such a good lead on both the authorities and the grotesque beings from the seedy underground. In fact it was help from a grotesque authority that lead him to know people were snooping around where they shouldn’t be. Johnny Law and those goons couldn’t hurt me. He often lied to himself in fear of the real world consequences of his own fallible actions.
Jesus Christ have mercy! The elevator door opened and he had a mini heart attack. Everything seemed louder in the silent office building. After a brief period of collecting his wits he exited the elevator and marched somewhat prideful towards his office. With the correct key in hand it opened it to find everything in order. He wasn’t methodical when it came to destroying the evidence. In fact he was quite lazy and unable distance himself from his crimes. He wanted the world to know but he also didn’t want to rot in a prison cell. After he shredded the first few papers he did feel some relief. It was as if he was starting a new life. The more he shredded the more he forgot about the world at large knowing the extent of his crimes. Time passed quickly now and he found himself shredding the last document.
What the hell was that? He wandered slowly over to the window and saw something that turned his skin pale. Two men were standing outside their car. He figured that sound was the doors slamming. These men weren’t Johnny Law. This was much worse. Two grotesque beings without definable features slowly marched their way towards the office building entrance.
Fearing what to do he thought for a brief moment and then shuffled out of his office and made his way towards the sixth floor by route of stairs. It was much safer to move without the elevator giving away your location. He was careful to stop every other stair and hold his hand over his mouth. He could hear better. No one is coming up the stairs.
He decided he shouldn’t actually go on to the sixth floor, but instead to the fifth floor. There were cubicles he could hide himself in. When he got to that floor he searched for a cubicle with a desk he could fit under. When he found the perfect desk he laid underneath fidgeting. He reached towards his breast pocket and pulled the cigarette from before. He put it in his mouth. The same bland taste reached him, but he could smell the faint tobacco and it eased his nerves.
Hail Mary Full of Grace. He stopped his prayer there in fear of his whispers being heard. It was the longest fifteen minutes of his life. He could hear the soft footsteps of one of those beings slinking across the floor. Every now and again the steps would stop and that caused more anger and anxiety in Stanley than anything. His mind began to wander. Happy thoughts. The happiest thoughts he could think about led him back here. He had conned so many people to achieve his success and it would seem that this grotesque being on the fifth floor with him was going to stiff him out of an early retirement.
Or so he thought until he heard the feet slowly shuffle towards the elevator. Once inside the doors shut and he heard the sound of the machine moving. With haste he left his spot under the desk not even thinking for a moment that it could be a trap. Luckily for him it wasn’t. Walking as if nothing happened he approached the doorway to the stairs and began his descent once again following the same protocol. Every other step, stop. Eventually he made it to the second floor but as he was searching for a cubicle he heard the elevator chime. For the fear of his life he ran into the woman’s bathroom. Thinking fast he shut all the stall doors and went in the middle stall and stood on the toilet. This way it was more likely for the grotesque being to find him. Again luck was upon his side. The being never came into the woman’s bathroom… that he knows of. While waiting for the undefinable figure to leave he looked around and saw writing upon the wall. Some of the most disgusting things he had ever seen were written upon the stalls wall. He was so fascinated by the vulgarity that he almost didn’t hear the elevator open, close, and zoom off to the next floor.
With the final floor below him he realized escape was near, but he hadn’t accounted for the other being to be waiting in the lobby. When Stan peaked through the tiny window on the door to see if the first floor was safe he was angered to see the man strolling around waiting his partner. Stan not knowing what to do decided to go to the third floor and hid in the janitorial closet. This is where he would spend the next hour or so listening to weird sounds of thumping and scratching until he heard a faint,
Is it true? Have they actually left? He wandered towards a window where he could see the parking lot and peaked out the window blinds. Sure enough the two grotesque beings were in their car. The ignition turned on and the car left the parking lot. Mr. Graham, excited, made his way swiftly towards the first floor but found a startling scene. He was locked from the outside in. Desks, chairs, and the whole works. It was then he heard the fire alarm go off. He was stuck in the building with no way out. Well there is one way, but he didn’t think about it. It would have been easy to break a window, but that might alert the police. He didn’t want to answer questions. He was sick of people prying into his personal business. He sat there dumbfounded and lit the cigarette still in his mouth and awaited his fate.