Archive for September 11th, 2011

11th September
written by amber

Fall From Grace

It was a lovely morning but I couldn’t enjoy a minute of it, I was so nervous. I couldn’t concentrate on my work, I couldn’t lose myself in my projects the way I usually did. The hour of my meeting with my boss was approaching, and after that meeting, everything would change.

Just six months earlier, I’d been on cloud nine. I’d been hired for the perfect job – a salary in excess of what I’d hoped, a prestigious company, a very impressive location. When friends from home visited, I always invited them up to the office. It occupied two entire floors high above the city, an enormous spiral staircase leading to the upper floor, a couch in the waiting area longer than most people’s houses, the marble floors, my corner office with a view to die for.

And everything about the job was still perfect. Except for my boss.

I was hired because of my reputation as a maverick who gets things done. This was a major part of the discussion during my interviews. Mr. Todd professed to like forward-thinking employees who innovate and push boundaries for themselves and the company. But he lied. He’d tried to control and hinder me from the minute I started working there. Possibly he liked mavericks only if they were men. In any case, I could no longer work for him.

The time for the meeting arrived. I walked into Mr. Todd’s office and presented him with my letter of resignation. He read it, glared at me like a constipated frog, then said, “I can’t say that I’m surprised.  I would like to remind you of the terms of your contract with us. You will incur financial penalties if you wish to break that contract.”

When I opened my mouth to tell him that I didn’t give a fuck, there was a tremendous bang. The floor shook and the window glass exploded inward. I was hurled to the carpet by a blast of hot wind. “We’ve got to get out of here,” I heard him say, and he grabbed my arm and lifted me up as he hustled us both toward the door. But when he opened it, I could see the central part of the office engulfed in flames erupting from the stairwell.

He slammed the door, and shoved his jacket against the bottom of it to keep the smoke out. But that was futile. Smoke curled down from the top of the walls and from the ceiling tiles. We heard people screaming in the office. “Why aren’t the sprinklers working?” Mr. Todd muttered.

“What about the bathroom?” I asked and we ran there, but it was the same as his office, the window shattered and the room full of smoke. The taps didn’t work but we dampened towels in the toilet tank and held them over our faces. The heat was so intense that they dried out almost immediately.

The sprinklers started then, raining scalding water down on us. We hid beneath the desk. I was crying. “What kind of a fire is this?”

“It sounded like an explosion, maybe a couple of floors beneath us.”

“When will the fire department get here?”

He patted my arm. “Sarah, I don’t think they can. This fire’s too intense. Our only hope would have been to get to the roof and wait for a helicopter.”

I wasn’t too frantic to notice his choice of words, ‘would have been.’ This made me cry harder. “Mr. Todd, please, let’s try. I can’t take it in here any longer – it’s just too hot. I can’t breathe.”

“Okay, let’s do it.”

He opened the door and we took two steps into that inferno before I veered back toward his office, yanking at his shirt to bring him back with me. He closed the door again and we both panted and coughed in the burning air. I knew then that I was going to die. I staggered over to the broken window and hung my head out, seeking something cool to breathe, but the fire coming up from the floors below was searing.

I looked back into the room and saw that the carpet had started to burn. Mr. Todd joined me at the window. “I’m not waiting for the flames to get me,” he shouted. “I’d rather go quickly, and with a little fresh air before the end.”

“Yes,” I said.

“Hold my hand,” he told me. I took his hand and together we stepped into the sky.

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story posted every day on this website from May 1, 2011 – April 30, 2012. Stories must be a minimum of 200 words. Please help me by adding first line suggestions in the Comment section.