First Draft

Page 12

Ben looked down at the rear seat beneath him. The Thumper had vanished beneath his clenched fists. Quickly, he scurried back into his seat and pulled the lever to bring it to its upright position, and released the brake. A car a few rows back honked its horn. Ben sped forward, buckling his seat belt. Unconsciously, he lowered his head, peering briefly up through the rear view mirror, at the two drivers who still stared on with apprehension. He caught a short glimpse of a flash of bare flesh, darting in an amongst the parked, honking cars.

A vicious grumbling sound drew his attention from the rear view mirror back to the road ahead. From the corner of his eye, he could see the pale, thin and wispy black shape of Mara, who was curled into the space beneath the passenger glove box. He didn’t bother to look down at her, as he sped on down the now open road, and into the darkened tunnel. Her growling quieted.

Benjamin stepped lively across the strip mall parking lot. Thump-thump-thump-thump went the clogging, awkward boots, a few paces behind him. There was no screaming to accompany the sound of the boots. There were, however, honking rush-hour horns, engines of trucks and cars, and the distinct smell of a nearby Asian restaurant, firing up its friers.

He opened the glass door that led to the second story level of the mall and slipped in, not bothering to hold the door for his fellow passenger. It would find its own way in – it always did.

Bounding up two steps at a time for the first few strides, his calves quickly reminded him that rapid, single steps were a far better strategy than long, doubled ones. Tap-tap-thump-tap-tap-thump-tap– his steps were nearly double the tempo of his grotesque stalker, who indeed, had already gotten in through the glass door, and was hovering right behind him.

At the top of the flight, Benjamin rounded a corner, skipped down a short, beige hallway, and swung around another bend. Here, he gracefully and quietly opened another glass door and slipped through – this one etched with the words “STAND-IN ARCHITECTURE FIRM”. Immediately, a din overwhelmed his senses. A bright, vacant entry room presented itself, complete with filing cabinets, a secretary desk, as well as a few large-format printers and a quaint coffee nook. He could already hear shouting from the next room over, and the smell of coffee hung in the air. Someone clearly was on their second (or third) cup.

Ben hung his jacket on a nearby wall hanger as a woman marched in through the door that adjoined the neighboring room. Her distraught expression quickly shifted to an open, pearly smile. “Hi Ben!” she shouted, before immediately setting back to do what she was doing. Her face resumed its original expression of moderate panic. “Sneaking in late, huh? I didn’t hear you come in,” she said, rifling semi-frantically through the piles of papers that were neatly stacked on her desk.

Benjamin’s eyes darted over to the empty doorway that led to the other room, as he slung the strap of his work bag over his shoulder. From the other side of the glass entry door, he felt one final THUMP vibrate through the concrete floor. From the corner of his eye, he saw the Thumper awkwardly standing out in the hall, its heels together, facing him directly. If it had possessed any arms, Ben imagined that they would be saluting him.

Ben looked back at the woman, who was now looking up at him from under her glasses as she rummaged through the stacks of papers, with another toothy smile on her face. He returned her smile as he adjusted the shoulder strap. “Morning Karmina.” He looked at the clock on her desk, which read half-past eight. “Yeah, you caught me.” He couldn’t help but smile wider at her as he walked past her desk, towards the doorway.