LPfiction

Category Linkin Park

The Late Shift by Blackeyes

The Late Shift



Cubicle city: dozens and dozens of neatly-lined cubicles as far as the eye could see.


Mike leaned back in his chair and stretched. It was going to be another long one, he knew it. A glance at the clock on his desk confirmed it. It had only been two minutes since he'd last checked.


He hated this job, but it was putting him through school. Most evenings were uneventful enough, even if boring. On a good night he could get a ton of studying in. On a bad night, when the system decided not to behave itself, there would be no studying and hours of calls to people who had better things to do, like sleep.


It was Fridays that Mike particularly despised. Fridays because that was when everyone he knew would be doing something; partying, movies, getting laid.


A loud sigh escaped from his lips as he leaned his back against his seat with his eyes closed.


It's been too long since I got laid.


It was just after nine and he already became grumpy.


In many parts of the city, the night was just beginning. In its own way it was just beginning for him too. A few more minutes and he'd get the message from the system that the overnight batch processing was ready. All he had to do was confirm the date, press a couple of buttons and wait.


And wait. And wait.


It all went well, he would be done by five and home by six.


The clock flickered and another minute was gone. Mike decided he wouldn't look at it anymore, refusing to give it the satisfaction of knowing that time had more or less come to a complete standstill and would remain that way for hours.


His computer beeped.


A simple message box appeared in the center of the screen.


BEGIN END-OF-DAY PROCESSING?


Mike clicked 'Yes' and the message was replaced with another.


CONFIRM DATE (MM/DD/YY)


He dutifully entered the date, double-checking the calendar to be sure. He'd made the mistake of entering the incorrect date just once. The disaster that had followed had ensured that it would never happen again. Mike always entered the date with trepidation, knowing it was the right date, but never feeling that sure.


He compared it to that feeling of wondering whether he'd left the iron on. He was certain that he had obsessive-compulsive, OCD.


Mike clicked 'OK'.


The date appeared again with another message.


ARE YOU SURE THE DATE IS CORRECT?


Mike smiled. One of the programmers had added that feature in after the screw-up. Smart-ass. It was the last chance to check that all was well before committing. It made Mike laugh that a multi-billion dollar company with offices and people in far-flung regions of the world still needed a human being to babysit the technology on which so much depended, but no one trusted.


He clicked 'Yes' and the message box was replaced by another.


PROCESSING... PLEASE WAIT.


If everything went well, that would be it. Nothing to do until the system told him it was done. Then he'd run a report and leave it on his manager's desk and go home. Easy.


Mike picked up his bag of goodies.


"Well, Mrs. Kitty, instant noodle or leftovers?"


The Hello Kitty doll on his desk didn't answer. It was strange enough seeing a worker dragging his Hello Kitty doll everywhere he went, but seeing him talk to it made it more clear that the man was stressed out.


He looked at the plastic container in his bag. Suddenly he didn't want whatever it was, he couldn't even remember and the mystery meat inside wasn't giving him any answers.


"I agree. Noodles."


He opened a drawer. Inside was his stash of three-minute-just-add-water sodium loaded, tasteless shit that kept him going through the night. With a sigh, he grabbed one at random. They all tasted the same anyway.


It had taken Mike some time to get used to working alone. He was perfectly safe of course, but as he headed towards the kitchen area, he never quite shook the feeling of discomfort, as though he wasn't alone.


The office had a life of its own at night. The air conditioning would click on and off. The elevators would ding and open in the distance. Occasionally, a security guard would wander by and they'd chat for a minute.


Someone had left the coffee pot on and it still smelled drinkable. He poured some water into a cup and stuck it in the microwave to heat up. While he was waiting, he read the notices on the bulletin board. Same shit, different day. He barely knew anyone else in the company. Everyone else had day jobs.


The microwave dinged and he added the hot water to the contents of the instant noodle container.


"I can barely contain myself." He said sarcastically as he looked at the pathetic bubble mass in the cup. "Party on, boy."


He poured himself a coffee, and with his noodles in one hand and his coffee in the other, headed back to his cubicle.


On his way back to his cubicle he knew something wasn't right. That natural instinct kicked in but he calmed himself, like he usually did. He could see a message on his monitor.


Shit. Not tonight, please.


The usual 'Please wait' box was gone. Instead, streams of numbers and letters were scrolling up the screen.


"This is a new one."


He set his coffee and instant noodles down and clicked on the screen. Nothing happened. He pressed the 'Break' key on the keyboard. The text and numbers vanished immediately. The screen then looked normal. Okay, what now?


His stomach tightened slightly and he silently prayed that he wouldn't have to call one of the programmers. They were bad enough during the week. On Fridays... Well, he didn't want to talk about it.


With practiced ease, Mike started the overnight cycle again. He glanced at the clock, a quarter of an hour wasted for nothing.


It could've been worse


BEGIN END-OF-DAY PROCESSING?


He clicked 'Yes' with a grunt.


CONFIRM DATE (MM/DD/YY)


He repeated his earlier actions, confirmed the date and the system was on its merry way again.


PROCESSING... PLEASE WAIT.


He chewed his lip thoughtfully. Usually the system didn't start up that easily after a glitch. He watched and waited but it looked okay. He shrugged and reached over for his noodles.


---


An hour later the system was still doing its thing. The 'Processing... Please wait' message was comforting. Mike looked down at his homework again. He'd saved the best for last; history, but it was hard going tonight. Mike yawned and sipped his lukewarm coffee.


The computer beeped at him. The gremlins were back. Letters and numbers flashed by him.


"Fuck dammit!"


He sat up and slammed his cup down, spilling coffee. Now it was definitely going to be a long night.


He pressed 'Break' and the screen went blank. With a sigh, he reached for his copy of the staff phone book. The computer beeped again.


A message box flashed on the screen.


HELLO.


Mike stood up in haste and looked around the office. He was alone. He clicked the close box then the screen went blank again. Another beep.


HELLO. HOW ARE YOU?


He felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. The screen went blank on its own.


DO YOU LIKE TO BE EATEN?


There was a 'Yes' box only to click. The words hung in the thick atmosphere. Mike swallowed, his face was full horror. Now he was scared.


The screen went blank on its own again.


ARE YOU SURE YOU WANT TO BE EATEN?


Again, there was only a 'Yes'. The sinking feeling in his stomach returned, tasteless instant noodles he'd eaten earlier was ready to launch. Trying to calm himself down, he quickly reached for the phone and dialed security. It rang.


The screen went blank again.


The phone continued to ring.


Pick up asshole.


WOULD YOU LIKE ME TO EAT YOU?


There was no answer. He thought for a moment. The guard was probably doing his rounds. Should he wait here?


Still no answer.


I KNOW WHERE YOU ARE, MIKE.


His heart skipped a beat and he hung up. The screen went blank.


I'M COMING.


Christ.


Mike almost threw up. He grabbed the phone again. This time there was no dial tone.


I'M COMING.


Somewhere in the distance an elevator bell chimed and he heard the doors piss open.


Without anymore glance, Mike ran.


He ducked into a nearby office and waited. He was sweating and his heart thundered in his chest. He clenched his fists and tried to calm down. He wanted to cry.


Nothing happened.


He gingerly peeked out into the office. There was no one around. Mike dashed to the elevators . All doors were closed. He pressed buttons and waited.


No response.


Distantly there was a chime on another floor and he looked up. The elevator was three floors above. He strained to hear. Was that someone walking in? He couldn't hear anything.


Then he heard the doors closed again.


He was frozen in panic.


"Michael, move." His voice was reassuring.


Now.


He ran back into cubicle city and looked around in search of communication device . In another cubicle, he grabbed the phone. It was dead as well. He bit his lip to suppress a scream.


The elevator chimed on his floor.


"Jesus, I'm too young to die." He whimpered and quickly ran towards the emergency exit.


He heard the elevator doors open.


He banged into the exit door, pushing the bar handle inward. He let out a little sigh of relief when the door opened and he was in the stairwell.


He hesitated


The door closed behind him.


There was no way back in.


Move!


He ran down the stairs as fast as he could, slipping once or twice and forcing himself to slow down.


Above him a door opened.


Mike froze in his track.


There really was someone. He forced back a sob as he listened.


The door closed with an eerie sound.


Silence.


Mike realized he was holding his breath, he then exhaled quietly.


Sound of footsteps could be heard on the stairs, dragging along the tiled floor approaching his way.


The temptation to look up the stairwell was almost overwhelming, but good sense was still in control and he flew down, jumping the last several stairs, around the corner and down again. He paused a couple of times. Whoever was following him was walking.


Playing. He's playing with me.


He reached the ground floor and ran to the exit with a cry.


He was petrified but relieved. A few more steps. The bar pushed down but the door simply rattled. Mike took a step back, fear replaced by disbelief.


You are fucking kidding me.


The footsteps spurned him into action again. He banged down on the bar but all he could hear was a rattle outside. Obviously someone had chained the doors. He then banged and kicked at the doors desperately. The chains weren't about to give.


The steps echoed louder.


There was only one choice. Mike ran under the stairs and ducked down. There was nowhere else to hide. He hoped the man was stupid enough so he could sneak back up again and escape.


From his vantage point, he saw a man step down into the short corridor and walk towards the exit. The man pushed against the bar and Mike heard the chains rattle on the outside.


Now!


He darted out of his hiding place determined to make the stairs before the man caught him.


And the man turned around.


"There you are, Mike!" Barked the man with an eerie smile on his face.


"Oh God," Mike stammered as he finally looked at the man.


He actually grinning from ear to ear!


"I'm so glad I found you, now I can eat you."


The man had far too many teeth that looked like fangs and his grin was too wide for his face. And his eyes, oh God, he had no eyes!


Mike gaped, open-mouthed, unable to make a sound nor move.


---


Mike sat up and almost fell out of his chair, startled.


He stood up. He was alone.


He looked at the monitor on his desk.


PROCESSING... PLEASE WAIT.


It was three o'clock.


Jesus fucking Christ.


Mike closed his eyes and breathed deeply as he leaned his whole back into his chair. Trying to calm his nerves, he rubbed his horribly-sweaty forehead.


Walking to the kitchen, he felt himself still shaking pathetically. His knees wobbled and he wished he had his own car so he didn't need to go home by foot. Even when he rubbed the water to his face he could feel the nerves in his fingertips are still unsteady.


Mike turned off the faucet.


What a horrible dream.


He looked at himself in the mirror above the sink.


"You look terrible, Shinoda." He said aloud.


Suddenly, his eyes widened. He leaned forward and frowned. What was that on his neck? He turned his head slightly.


There were two perfect puncture marks at the base oh his neck and the skin was beginning to bruise.


He screamed.



End.

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