Herbert Allan was a little man, sixtyish and balding. Everything about him was tiny, his face, the pin-pricks he had for eyes, his mouth, and even the stripes on his black tie were small and narrow. A bookish man, he enjoyed working at Doubler and Doubler Accountants, and had in fact, worked there for thirty years.
Thirty years in the same small office with a single pint-sized light bulb, bare and dangling from the ceiling, for illumination. Three decades of staring out the puny windows into the same concrete courtyard from
And now, it was D day all over again . . . his last day of working at Doubler and Doubler Accountants was almost over again . . . just like he had fantasized so many times before. Only now, he wasnt so certain he had ever really dreamed it. And so his life, or so he thought, was almost over. After today, there would be no more rising at five in the morning to catch the subway into work. No more morning donut and a cup of tepid coffee with a copy of the New York Times folded open to the business section. There would be no more crisp new sheets of green lined paper. Life at Doubler and Doubler Accountants was about to change.
Change, hed always hated that word. He hated the progression of ousting old technology and instituting the new and the inevitable influx of personnel that change brought with it. And now, that very same change and technology that hed come to dislike was about to take his job.
Early retirement they had called it. Retirement…schmirement, it was only another of their fanciful words used to deceive him. How many others had they kicked out before; oh, excuse me, offered early retirement packages as a viable alternative to layoffs aka reduction in force, termination, aka we dont need you anymore?
The first to go during this century was Rickie. Yeah, good ole Rickie the Mick Shaner was the first. Good ole boy Rickie, he didnt let them get the best of him. He simply threw his belongings into the air, the ledgers into the shredder and ran from the room. Funny how hed never come back after his stuff.
Then there was Marcie OConnor. She had always been a loyal employee. Theyd called her into the office on the first floor at precisely four oclock on a Friday. Meek and mousy Marcie had trembled when the summons came. Marcie left without every saying goodbye to them.
Jed Darrell trailed Marcie OConnor, and he was followed by Daniel Adams, Kate Milligan, and now Herbert Allan. They were all gone due to technology and computerization.
It didnt matter that Rickie the Mick had been the best human calculator this side of the great divide. He could spout off figures like the ticker machines at the New York Stock Exchange. It didnt make a difference that Marcie OConnor never missed a deadline and was usually two weeks ahead of schedule. It didnt mean a thing that he, Herbert Allan, had never missed a working day, not even when Doubler and Doubler Accountants were closed due to bad weather or when September 11th happened.
And it certainly didnt matter that they had all loved their jobs beyond obsession. Loved the feeling of power it gave them when called upon to recite corporate figures during an important board meeting. Adored ear-marking questionable travel expense vouchers. They cherished making all those thousands and thousands of penciled entries into hundreds of bound ledgers. None of those meant a thing to Doubler and Doubler Accountants. The summons and the pink slips just continued to be doled out every couple quarters.
And now it was his turn. He had received his notice almost two weeks earlier, and like his fellow workers had opted to remain with the company for the full time and accept, not ungrudgingly, the proffered early retirement package.
So, now, his life, or so it seemed, was drawing to a close, but not quite. Now, maybe, he could get together socially with the original six, Rickie the Mick, Marcie, Jed, Daniel, Kate, and himself. Perhaps, finally after so many years they would all have the opportunity to get together for that cup of coffee over a donut, that afternoon brunch, or even an after hour drink they had always promised each other theyd do. It would be great to catch up with them about what theyd been doing since they had retired and to chat about days gone by. But, maybe, they wouldnt do any of that either.
It was strange in a funny sort of way how people, who had worked together for so many years, seemed to forget their old friends once they retired. It was odd how not one had ever called him and invited him over for dinner or light conversation. The again, maybe it wasnt so unusual after all. They had always been a non-social group, each seeking only to do his or her job at a steady pace, not interested in the goings on at the office. That could be the reason why each of them had been caught unguarded when the ever dreaded summons and pink slip had come to their desk.
Alas! If only hed been more social! He should have attended the two owners annual dinner party, or given to that one office collection for that wedding gift. Now, it was too late. All that was left now required no more thought than signing his name one last time making one final ledger entry. Nothing more to do than put the last of his few and small belongings; the picture of his late wife, the coffee mug with his name printed on it, and the pen and pencil set hed bought at a real bargain for only twenty dollars, into the small brown paper bag.
Looking around the cramped room, he noted the tinge of sadness registering in his heart, making its mark on the ledger of his soul. There had been no goodbye party in his honor; nothing to celebrate his distinguished years of service. Indeed, he had never actually accomplished much, only felt like he had. Like so many other peons in so many other fields seemed, he liked knowing he had never missed a day of work in his life. Not even when his dearly beloved wife had died all alone in the hospital ward two Christmases ago. He was a mere cog in the bigger wheel of a multi-billion dollar empire.
It was a though by not giving him a party his fellow workers refused to acknowledge his retirement and in that manner, they could make believe Herbert Allan would come back Monday morning. Pretend their jobs were somehow safe should any of them reach that golden year of thirty.
Only he knew better. No one at Doubler and Doubler Accountants had ever given any thirty-year veteran a retirement part. The truth was no one had ever actually retired from the corporation. Not voluntarily, anyway. Even if he had willingly retired, no one would have given him a farewell send off. Fact is nobody much gave a damn about Herbert Allan or any of the other thirty-year veterans.
Not Stanley Comer, who had shared his office for twenty-nine of those years and was the next in line to become a vet. Not Alicia Mendez, the pretty receptionist, who had greeted him nearly every morning for fifteen years. Not the custodian who mopped the building after everyone had gone home. Not the secretaries with their perennial business suits and clipped voices, or the typists with the rhythmic tapping of their fingers against black keyboards, or the file clerks with all those thousands of folder and ledgers. This was most especially true of the bosses.
No one cared much about Herbert Allan; not even his dearly loved dead wife whom he had wished would die and leave him in peace with his ledgers. No matter what he did, it never suited her, and he was sure to get an earful of her constant stream of nagging self-righteousness.
He was just one more persona non-grata who came to work each morning regular as a clock. Like a clock, a new day will rise, people will rush out in the ever-crowded streets and subways, race into offices to punch time cards and settle into the comfort of daily routines by eight oclock.
Without a doubt, Doubler and Doubler Accountants would continue. The accounts would be recorded, the spreadsheets not ledgers filled in, and no one would notice the empty desk where Herbert Allan had once sat. It was highly unlikely anyone would remember him a week later. A computer replacement would be bought, and soon the computer would merge into the anonymous mainstream of the corporation.
Only his memory would linger in that office where he had spent half his life. Only a remembrance would remain in those halls he had so often traversed. Only his essence would stay in the building as though the building itself contained memories not forgotten. Only the building would remember him as it remembered all those before him.
Stepping out into the dark corridor Herbert Allan closed and locked the door to his and Stanley Comers office one last time. Closer, locked and rattled the doorknob to be sure the door wouldnt open. He didnt want Stanley to come in Monday morning and find the door to their office wide open, would he? He didnt want to be accused of being forgetful, or even worse, careless about the precious records kept there. Accused and not present to defend his self. Only this time, he didnt close and locked the door. He didnt shut the window and turned off the lights, or did he?
Thus, Herbert Allan left the office and dropped his key into the night depository before turning to face the dark corridor. He squared his shoulders before turning to walk that last stretch down that familiar old hall and out the massive swinging glass doors on the ground floor. He contemplated the front doors with a sense of dread. Employees werent supposed to enter or leave through that entrance. As he walked down the dark corridor toward that final door, he looked at the portraits of the corporate founders. He studied the bland and stuffy faces of the two men who looked so uncannily like the current Donald and Mitchell Doubler.
He fancied their dead gazes were staring at him, their eyes turning to follow him as he walked. He could feel his heart beginning to thump in the hollow of his chest, the air starting to wheeze in his lungs. As anxiety gave way to fear and fear to terror, he felt his blood racing through his veins. Sweat beaded and dripped and finally streak down his face and back, under his arms and in the palms of his hands to become a river coursing the length of his body.
He hated walking alone down these corridors of darkness at night with those pictures watching his every move from their high perches along the wall. They always made him feel as though he had to beware of some mindless creeping monster reaching around a corner or from under a piece of furniture to grab him and eat him up. He could feel the tension mounting and his jerking as he tried to keep his eyes on the corridor and on the window where the moon had obtained a brilliant shade of orange in the eastern sky.
He was wary of some unforeseen creature come to gobble him up, or the harmless fixtures were becoming animated and attacked him. How many times had he felt the gaze of unseen things upon his back? The hair on his neck rose in spectral screams at some unknown sound coming from further down the hall. He heard the hollow echo of unsighted laughter after midnight and felt the cold breath of death easing past him.
Slowly, ever creeping, then the rhythm of his footsteps faltered and then proceeded. Clanging sharply against the hard floor the essence of his footfalls became a steadily increasing drumbeat. Hammering in harmony with the gasping intakes and short outbursts of sucked in the air he went faster and faster until he careened around the corner.
Herbert Allan never reached home on that last night of his employment at Doubler and Doubler Accountants. He never got to the Forty-fifth Street tavern to sit on the sixth stool from the door and sip a cold beer. He never caught the subway shooting underground from sixth to forty-Fifth Street. He never stopped at the all-night deli across from the corporation for that single loaf of French bread he savored and bought every Friday night.
Herbert Allan, like his predecessors, was never seen again. But, on a cold and windy night at Doubler and Doubler Accountants, his former co-workers could swear they heard the rhythmic tapping of his pencil against an ancient bound ledger.
Copyright © FM Burgett 2016. All rights reserved.
The right of FM Burgett to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. First published as an e-Book by FM Burgett.
Burgett, FM (2016-07-27), Dark Corridor, FM Burgett e-book Edition.
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Dark Corridor is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places, evens and incident either are the product of the authors imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.