The Frozen Dwarf — A Day at the Office
By J C Pereira
She alone could see him. He had insinuated himself amongst them for over a year now. She had been confident. Had loved her work. In fact, she was very good at it; quick and efficient. When it came down to those ever so tricky negotiations, she wasn’t the best, but without overstating the obvious, she was up there with the best. Then things started to happen. At first, they seemed normal if unfortunate. Her highly competent team of old lost their manager to the vagaries of the unexplained corporate dismissals. A lady with exquisite abilities and a shining track record, her place could not be filled by the shifty worm who sat in her seat. After her fall, other colleagues inexplicably and suddenly found themselves, on very short notice, invited to leave in no uncertain terms. This prompted an unsettling period of instability, recriminations, tears and lengthy litigations.
She remembered that first moment clearly. It was burnt into her mind like the afterimage on the retina after accidentally looking into the blazing sun. There he was, a malignant spider clinging to her office wall, dripping liquid ice. It was like glimpsing a poisonous toad, squatting on her pillow. Here one moment and in an instant, gone. At first, shocked, she dismissed the unlikely image from her mind. Two weeks later, as she made her way early one morning through the still empty corridors that led to her desk, she slipped on something slimy. Catching herself quickly, she glanced down automatically with a curse on her pursed lips. It died where it started. On the polished floor were gelatinous footprints which turned her stomach queasy and caused her thoughts to scatter in an attempt to escape nausea. Pulling herself together, she forced herself to look more closely. Grease mixed with jelly, and glowing, pulsing with a sickness. That’s what they looked like. With a sense of floating above reality, her curiosity tugged her along the slippery tracks. They led directly to her office then disappeared right in front of her eyes. Startled, she glanced behind her, finding not a trace of anything abnormal. Shaking her head in disbelief, she set about reading her backlog of emails as per usual, setting herself for the start of a typical but challenging working day.
Two days later, things started to get personal. Out of the blue, she received an urgent email from the regional boss querying the non-payment of a contracted client company with the instruction that he wanted her to sort out the mess immediately. Somewhat disturbed to be reprimanded on something that was not of her making nor within her job specifications she nevertheless, demonstrated her professionalism. She got on the phone and rang her global contacts chosen for their specific expertise. By the close of day, although she was unable to clear the problem directly, she presented a clearly outlined timeline on the error. Along with this, she provided the solution to solving the oversight and who was responsible for putting it right. Immediately, a thank you and well done for a sterling effort popped up in her inbox. Even so, she returned home that evening to her husband and young child a bit puzzled and slightly defeated. Unbeknownst to her, this was only the beginning.
The next morning the newcomers swanned in. The close knitted, wide-eyed, hard-grafting staff were perfunctorily informed by the shifty worm that the long-necked interlopers would now be a part of the team and some restructuring would soon have to follow. Her time-hallowed and trustworthy colleague, a man not only known for his great diligence at work but also for his wit and humour, immediately labelled them ‘the Witches of Macbeth’. There was no denying that they were beautiful to look upon, but their eyes had a look of oil about them and it was evident that they were very familiar, some would say over-familiar, with the worm. After that, as the weeks progressed they proved to be conniving and less than transparent in their dealings with their new workmates, contacting their clients and signing off contracts that were not theirs to sign and when confronted, claiming innocence. Any appeal to the justness of the Cookoo manager was futile, for he protected their unethical practices and lauded their success with the borrowed client contracts, pushing their praises ever upwards.
It was after this that her sightings, if you could call it that, began to occur more frequently. Now it was impossible for her to ignore them and she began to fear for her sanity. The cold toad began to materialize nearly every day, usually at times of intense pressure. His luminous eyes fixing on her cloyingly and knowingly before he winked out of her existence again. She became distracted, gnawing nervously on her nails and becoming the victim of every virus brought home from nursery by her beautiful little daughter. She began to resent her once loved work. It wasn’t long before her very perceptive colleague noticed her difficulties and expressed his concern. She decided to confide in him though she half feared that he would either think her mad or laugh at her strange imaginings. He did neither. When she explained in hushed tones what she was seeing, his handsome brows drew together thoughtfully. He too had sensed the descending oddness like a twisted, unnatural cloud over the office.
‘It’s a bloody frozen dwarf,’ he whispered in response to her tale. ‘Nothing good will come of it.’
And true to his words, nothing did.
The year dragged on with one unwanted drama following on the heels of another. Combatants formed their troops, and the lines of battle were drawn. However, the malignant forces within did not see the point of fighting fair, and every night the old guard dragged themselves home feeling a bit worse than the night before. When she took the long overdue time to explain her worries to her dreamer of a husband he nodded sympathetically, panicked by the shadow of something he once escaped from in a past life. His strange advice was:
‘Don’t scarper from what you fear most. Run it down and get rid.’
Then he fled back into the comfort of his books.
Soon she noticed glutinous fingerprints everywhere, like an infection spreading from a virulent fungus. Wherever it was thickest, that was where the thread of people’s fates would unravel. Accidents, mistakes, illness and yet further dismissals. Every day deteriorating into a living nightmare, turning once sparkling eyes into harried, listless pools that mirrored worry and despair. The thing was growing in confidence and would squat across the room staring malevolently at her. It knew she could see it and it wanted her to know that she was next. She felt the determination and conviction, almost drained away, returning to her beating heart. She was through with reacting. It was time to act.
‘What are you staring at? Is it here?’ whispered her colleague and friend in her ear.
‘The frozen bastard is here alright,’ she replied in a flat tone. Not backing down one inch.
From that day on she began to watch, to take note, and to plan. They would get her in the end without a doubt, but she intended to bring the Frozen Dwarf, the King-pin of disharmony, down with her. No matter the cost.
It was late at night. The dim light on the digital clock registered 22:10. One hand gripped the wheel with a clenched fist of iron and the other clasped the ignition key tightly between aching thumb and forefinger. She ignored the cramp in her calf as she pushed down on the clutch like a foot on the head of a writhing, venomous snake.
‘Any minute now. Any minute now,’ she whispered fiercely between tight lips, thinly stretched with determination.
Then she saw it slithering out of the door, hunchbacked and malign, confidently stepping off the curb into the darkened street.
‘I have you now, bastard!’ she screeched, gunning her engine and releasing the clutch in one violent motion, launching her machine forward in combustive fury, the smell of rubber burning on the asphalt, spinning in anger, hungry for vengeance, plunging headlong down the beam of her headlights into the impending darkness of her own making.