Monday Morning Visitor, a short story by E. J. Ruek

short story image - Monday Morning VisitorMonday, a day I always wish could be postponed.  Entering the office, I switch on the light, turn on the computer network, stash my coat in the closet, then go make coffee.

The warehouse is empty, vacuous-feeling, and dark–no sounds other than the soft whirring of machines.  I am alone.  It’s early, just five past five in the morning. I like getting a jump on Mondays.

Cold water splashes as I fill the coffee pot.  The sound of the spray is loud in my ears.  My brain is reordering priorities, re-listing to-dos, as I watch the water level rise to full, then turn off the tap:

  • Payroll has to be processed.
  • Call the bank to correct an error in their bookkeeping (I hate the new bank we’re using—always errors.).
  • AR and AP comes next.
  • And there’s the meeting with department heads at ten.

A lot to do.

Ten scoops of grounds go into the filter, each one a leveled measure.  I make the coffee so it’s drinkable…hate the ugly way that Newburg makes it—thick enough to stick a fork in.  It’s his only fault.  He claims mine is caring.  I think he’ right.  But it’s my job to care.  It’s my job to keep this place running in the black.

Chelsea Cat comes meowing.  “Hungry?” I asked, and she rubs against my legs.  She’s the founder’s kitty—slinky, soft-coated, blue-gray—a Russian Blue, he says.  I get her bowl out of the cupboard, crack a can of Kit Gourmet—Chick-n-Cheese today.  She purrs, digs in.

Back in my office, I sink into my chair and take a sip of breakfast—triple shot espresso, no flavor, no sweetening, please—as I watch the system finish its self-checks.  Once it’s finally ready, I set the cup aside and open up the interface to start my day, but, instead of Excel spreadsheets, I get a pop window that says, “Hi.”

I stare.  What in the world…!

“Today, I’m going to be your pal.”

Frowning, I push away from my desk, go over to the security monitor—no other users, no other terminals up…not online.

I turn back to my monitor, think, boot to safe mode, start a scan.  Newburg will be livid.

“Relax.”

I whirl.  That was audio….  From where?

“It’s just me.”

Prickles run up my back to congregate at the base of my neck.  My legs turn leaden.  A pulse starts pounding at my temples.  I inch away toward the door.

A giggle.

I feel my hair tingle, my breath catching in short gasps.  I bolt.

A thumping starts somewhere in the ceiling…climbs down the wall…comes toward me as, fleeing terror, I race to the back door, keying in my release code.

The door stays locked, ‘system failure’ blinking on the tiny LED.

I turn, gasping, toward a sound behind me, searching darkness for some sign of the intruder.

“You can’t flee me,” it chants in child-like sing-song.

I dash for the breakroom, slam the door.

From the counter where she’s not supposed to be, Chelsea Cat stares.  Her eyes are riveted on something, and it isn’t me.

I turn to look…see nothing anywhere.

“It’s alive!  It’s alive!” taunts something tittering.

I grab a mug from the rack of them, fill it with hot coffee, my brain a whirl of panic, yet oddly, eerily still and calculating.

I feel a brush of wind along my neck.

The cat spits, rears up and claws the air.

I fling the contents of the cup where Chelsea’s fighting phantoms and watch in horror as a form of something globular takes shape.

I smash the cup upon it, bat it to the floor.

It turns its eyes—five in all—up toward me, giggles once, then dissolves to nothing.

Then, in my ear, a whisper:  “See ya tomorrow, Alison.”

~~~