By: Paul Scheerbaum
At the House
My eyes cracked open at the beep of the alarm and I jolted out of bed. It was 7:00 a.m.—a half hour after I was supposed to be up, and I still needed at least an hour to make the morning commute. Luckily, Mondays usually meant heavier traffic and I was already late. I decided to take my time and enjoy a shower. My tardiness wouldn’t matter; everyone else took their time on the first day of the week. I did have to skip breakfast, though—let me rephrase that: I didn’t skip anything since I never had time to indulge in that most-important-meal-of-the-day. I assume this was how most Mondays began for every other sorry soul here.
It seemed we were all used to going to work tired, hungry, and behind schedule. We worked at a disadvantage and our batteries were constantly running low. The weekend did nothing for our recuperation and it was only long enough for the slightest whiff of relaxation right as it ended. Then come Monday, millions of alarms signaled an end to the “break” and heralded in another dreadful five days of trying to add sand to the hourglass. It was too bad the vessel emptied at a rate too fast for anyone to keep pace. We all knew the futility of trying to make up for lost time, but there would always be just enough carrot dangling at the end of the stick for us to accept our fate and put in another two weeks.
At least my car started on the first try.
The Morning Commute
Traffic was terrific. There was an accident that shut down the right lane for two miles after my on-ramp. Nothing helped pass the time in gridlock. Music lost its emotion. By the time the congestion cleared up, it was close to eight and I still had clogged surface roads to seep my way through. I was nearly an hour late to work.
Another laughable start to a Monday.
At the Office in the Morning
It didn’t matter. My boss habitually showed up to work around eleven, so he would hardly notice my tardiness. I decided to take my time and break myself in for the week using the little freedom I had in this place. The urge to start work tended to have more to do with how much time was left in the day rather than how much was on my plate.
I had resigned myself to this method long ago and I was used to it. I spent the first hour and a half looking through emails that had been collecting since Friday evening. Most of it was procedural stuff—pointless reminders of this and that. There were countless meetings planned for this week—all senseless. It was a lot of garbage to sift through before reaching job-related information, but a portion of each day was always dedicated to cleaning out the inbox, especially on Mondays.
It wasn’t long before the familiar electric buzz of the office began to get to me. The incessant hum was agitating, and I felt suffocated. Occasionally, less intelligible exchanges between my co-workers would help alleviate the pressure in my ears, but the tension always remained there in the background to punctuate the dull interactions. Sometimes I would resort to having conversations in my head to drown it all out. This morning was different. I heard every cough, wheeze, and fart over the steady electrical din. I could no longer hear my own internal pleas for quiet while the dissonance of fallen humanity filled my ears. It was as if all logical and articulate conversation had been muffled and our true nature as mere beasts desperate to maintain our illusion of superiority was revealed through the voiceless pall.
We used to be great, but it wasn’t good enough—nothing was ever good enough. So, we morphed ourselves into troublesome creatures of madness and mediocrity. Of course, those dubious traits fed into one another and a cycle of foolishness sent us spiraling out of control. Our progress somehow became inextricably linked to the conquest of the Earth and all her wild ferocity. We spayed and neutered the menace from the world. There was no place we hadn’t gone, no climate to which we could not adapt, and no prey we could not claim. We used to worship the ground we walked on and then we bound the Earth in asphalt chains.
What was left to pacify in the world once the master had mastered all? I believed I knew the answer to this question, and I feared what it meant for humanity if I was correct in my presumption. Yet here we sat—in a pen that’s in a box that’s in a cage of steel and concrete—unknowingly waiting for absolute judgment. Meanwhile, all I really wanted to think about was what I’d have on my lunch break.
In the Afternoon
I couldn’t remember what I brought for lunch. It didn’t matter. All that mattered was that for once in this place, no one took it upon themselves to bother me while I ate. The relative peace allowed me to collect myself and recover from the previous four hours of tedium. There were no half-hearted conversations about the events of the weekend; there was no awkward sports talk. My boss didn’t even pop in to fire off any one of the six Monday-isms he kept at the ready for unsuspecting diners. The lack of these repetitive performances was refreshing, if not slightly odd, but I think I appreciated the quiet more than I ever had before.
I left the break room and sat down at my desk. I began typing away once more, this time sending empty replies to my bosses and their bosses and their bosses and whoever the hell rested atop the ever-growing mountain of nonsense. Before long, I drifted back into the muted boredom of the office. Time stood still, but I was unaware. Time sped up, and I didn’t even flinch. Time morphed and molded itself around me.
My mind was still reeling in the hazy aftermath of the weekend. I was not quite in the present nor was I in the past. Time was lost and then found again. Mondays were meant for playing catch-up, so I began typing away, desperate to stay ahead of the reaper’s scythe.
The keystroke chorus took on a menacing rhythm and I was compelled to join in with the unseen hands in the office. I started to sweat, but I didn’t wipe at it for fear of spoiling the primordial tempo with the sudden gesture. They would know that I was the one who stopped, and I knew the consequence for quitting was death.
I soldiered on.
I did not recognize the characters appearing on the screen; their order did not match with my input of the keys. The same grouping of characters appeared over and over with cold precision. I tried to stop typing but I couldn’t. I tried to type something else and I couldn’t. I tried to get up from my desk and . . .
I opened my heavy eyes and stared at fresh drops of blood on the keyboard. Immediately, I pressed my hand under my nose and looked around my cubicle to make sure that no one had watched me doze off or could see me bleeding out. Pulling my hand away revealed even more fresh, red blood which then began to coagulate and stick to my fingers. I had never zoned out like that before, let alone experienced a random nosebleed. The whole episode made me uneasy.
When I finally managed to regain focus and stem the flow of blood from my nostrils, I saw that I had been typing for some time. Four single-spaced pages of the repeating letters VC shone on my blinding white monitor. On the surface, the final product was mundane—simple letters in a word processor. However, the meaning behind those letters was something else entirely. It appeared that the solution to our self-imposed existential dilemma had been provided, and from the Scorched One, no less. My presumption was correct.
What a Monday.
Underneath the Imbricated Moon
I got up from my desk and made my way through an office that no longer resembled the one at which I arrived this morning. Everything was tinted with a pale cerulean glow and the only sound was my heart thumping in my chest. I looked out the nearest window and the blue-green haze reminded me of the northern lights. However, if I had ever actually seen them, I would have known that the comparison was inaccurate, for there was something different about the way the color spread across the sky. It seemed to be emerging from a single point, and my gut told me this colorful energy had never before been seen in this universe.
On my way out of the office, every empty cubicle presented the same scene: VC across computer screens illuminating droplets of blood on abandoned keyboards. Some more creative individuals had smeared VC in gory pairs onto random walls; the turquoise-tinted gloom caused the characters to radiate an eerie purple intensity. The drying letters tugged at me and I meandered out of the office rather than walk with any purpose. As I got closer to the exit, the letters morphed into odd, geometric glyphs which I had no way of deciphering. When I made it to the lobby, it became clear that the fragile will of humanity was being tested and the actions of my co-workers were not entirely within their control.
I knew this because my own actions had belonged to something else from the moment I opened my eyes at my desk. I was able to look around and contemplate what I was being shown, but my body was paralyzed by a compelling outside force. The feeling of meaninglessness that this manifested within my consciousness was terrifying. The ethereal strand linking mind to body had been severed and the thought of myself—my true self—drifting further and further away from my physical body was worrisome to say the least. Who knew what was out there in the endless ocean of space? Who knew how long I would be able to last before I drowned and sank beneath the waves of time?
At this point, my only recourse was to wish for those questions to be answered swiftly as I approached the revolving entry doors. There would be no redemption.
The entire lobby was cast in that blue-green glow, except here it made everything glisten and I could almost feel its weight. I was moved through the congealing atmosphere and out a revolving door where I was placed on the edge of a stupefied mass of bodies.
The whole campus was already filled with the dazed occupants of office buildings, so I remained at the back of the crowd.
We must have been quite a sight, my co-workers and I, all dressed up in our finest business-casual with matching fresh blood stains trickling over our chins and down to our chests. I saw that all of their heads were slightly tilted toward the sky as if they were basking in sunrays on a chilly autumn afternoon. I looked up and joined my brothers and sisters. It was bright, but my eyes did not burn. A glowing moon from elsewhere emitted its cerulean radiance while it eclipsed our native satellite. The new god was a silhouette against the beaming imposter and our trial was set.
As I stood baffled by the false moon and her master, I began to anticipate what I was about to witness, and a rank wave of dread washed over me. As the dark tide crashed into me, I felt the same unseen panic ripple throughout the congregation. By that point it was too late, and we all remained in our positions resigned to our collective fate. We would be the first to receive the sacrament of judgment, but we would not be the last. After all, the being above had been able to find this time and place out of an infinite number of possibilities. There would be no escaping the penalty for our crimes of so-called “progress” against the universe; crimes of wasted endeavor and misplaced grandiosity. However, despite our impending annihilation, the greatest terror was knowing that it was us, the cult of the Modern Age, that had unwittingly greeted this agent of destruction with open arms. The blood that will suffocate the advancement of humankind will be on our hands.
And there shall be no more Mondays.