Dick peered down from his glasses at the expense report on his desk.The pages were marked with line after line of arcane symbols and runes, but Dick could read through them like they were a children’s book about dogs running or everyone pooping. He made a couple of quick marks in the margin, gave it his stamp of approval, and moved the report to the pile containing his last 7 hours of work. He snatched up another report and let out a sigh, thankful that he only had to finalize a couple dozen more of these damned things before he was off the clock.
“Hey, Dick! Workin’ hard or hardly workin’?” Terry, Dick’s supervisor, said from the doorway to the office. He raised his coffee mug to his smug grin and loudly slurped.
“You know, Terry. Same ol’ same ol’,” Dick gave his usual canned response to Terry’s canned icebreaker without looking up from his work.
“My man, always on top of things.” Terry slurped. “Hey, I’ll need you to file a couple more reports before I can let ya leave for the day if that’s cool with you.”
“Uh, how many are we talking about here, Terry?”
“Oh, you know, just a few. You’ll zip through them in a jiffy, champ. You’re the best in the business. The cream of the crop!” Terry slurped louder than Dick thought possible, downing the rest of his coffee in one fell slurp.
“Alrighty, then. I have to pick my daughter up from color guard practice, though. Are you sure it isn’t that much?”
“Nah, you’ll be fine. I’ll have my people send them on down the ol’ pipeline right away so you can get a head start.” Terry knocked on the door frame and pointed his finger pistols at Dick. “You stay frosty there, bucko!”
Terry mimed slurping from his now empty coffee cup and slammed the door. Dick took a deep breath and closed his eyes for a brief, meditative moment before returning to his reports. Right when he was about to stamp the paper, he heard a faint rumbling coming from above him. He peered around, trying to discern the source of the foreboding noise, but gave up when the noise subsided after a few short second.
“Stupid shitty building with its stupid shitty pipes.”
After a couple more reports, he heard it again, this time louder than before. He could feel the prolonged rumble deep inside his chest, like his chair was sitting atop a broken subwoofer. The uniform stack of finalized papers on his desk jostled around. His annoyance drew his attention toward the now uneven tower before he remembered that his whole office was shaking. Suddenly, one of the ceiling tiles burst in two and a large metal pipe now jutted from above. The pipe was vibrating profusely, rattling against its surroundings like a sex toy in a garbage can. The noise died down and the pipe rested. Dick stood on top of his desk and looked into the pipe’s open mouth. Nothing. Dick sat back down and grabbed his desk phone, hoping that maintenance or security or someone would be able to explain why his perfectly nice office was just skewered.
Dick was knocked to the ground before he could even dial out. Papers bellowed from the pipe like a firehouse, blanketing the office in an ever growing layer of monochrome. Dick stood up and swatted one of the pieces of paper from his face. He unfurled the wrinkled sheet, a piece of stationery from the office of Terrence McAllister, and read it aloud.
“Hey, Dicky Boy! Please get on these as soon as possible! Keep it slick, guy!”
Dick waded toward the spewing pipe and tried to stop it, but as he got closer the furious papers began to slice at his dermis like knives. He grabbed a report, but the stream of tree-matter blowing in his face blinded him. He snatched a few more from the knee-high puddle and tried to just finalize as many as he could regardless of their correctness, but his stamp was lost in the abyss. Dick called for help, but nobody came. He looked around for something, anything that could help him escape, but all he could see were flying grids and digits. It was too late. The pile reached his chest. Then his shoulders. He was neck deep in work. Then up to his eyes in work. Then he was in over his head. The work consumed him, each new paper taking away another sliver of light until everything was black.