The Night Analyst: Part 1
Reggie’s first day was going well, but he was miserable. The night before he and his fiancé Scarlet were fighting until 2 in the morning. Again. To take the edge off and get some sleep he finished the dregs of a generic bottom-shelf bottle of rum. The kind of garbage that has a name like ‘Investor’s Club’ that you don’t remember ever buying, but has always been wedged in the back of the freezer crammed against a half empty bag of frozen corn encrusted with years worth of freezer burn.
Reggie tried to focus his eyes on his computer screen as his head throbbed in sync with his pulse. This was the 5th training video he had to watch today. His eyes glazed over as the woman with a bright shiny voice repeated the company’s slogan ‘Growing stronger, together!’ between filler sentences of various lengths. The video cut to an action shot of a tall blonde woman, the owner of the bright shiny voice, walking along a row of cubicles, their monitors facing the camera.
“At V.C. Incorporated you are our most valuable asset! We believe that effective collaboration, communication, and coordination between departments creates-”
A blue light flicked on atop one of the monitors. The rest of the screens were black, but the one with the blue light was clearly recording the woman as she walked by. But something seemed off.
Reggie paused and rewound the video and too see the blue light flick on, and also saw that the video was showing her from the front, even though it was clearly recording her from the back.
Something still seemed off, though.
He rewound to the same point again and pressed his nose against his monitor to get a better glimpse of the blue light and the monitor in the background. As he watched the audio began to sound slightly distorted, almost stretched. The face on the monitor in the background was the blonde woman’s, but it was... wrong. The left side of her face seem to hang loosely, uselessly, off of her skull, like baggy clothing. He felt a guttural vibration through the headphones and began to feel dizzy. He felt a hand grip his shoulder and he jumped back in his chair with a yelp.
Reggie looked up to see a startled face he did not recognize from the orientation. A youngish man flirting with middle age. He had close-cropped reddish-brown hair, and a stubble beard that was graying around the edges.
Reggie removed his headset as the bright shiny voice hammered home the importance of each departments’ value within the organization.
“Hey man, I’m Reggie,” he said extending his hand.
“Nice to meet you, Reggie. I’m John.”
John shook Reggie’s hand smiling.
“That’s weird, no one told me the new guy was starting today. Seems weird to start on a Thursday, doesn’t it?” John asked.
“Yeah, I was originally supposed to start next Monday, but apparently there’s some big project go-live tomorrow and Ted wanted me to sit in on it. Said it would be a good learning opportunity."
John rolled his eyes, “A great opportunity to see how this place barely works. The log consolidation helps but, damn, it’s a drop in the bucket."
Reggie smiled politely and put his headset back on, ‘-as long as we remember to adhere to V.C. Inc.’s charter values we can be assured that we will all be-’
“Growing stronger together…” muttered Reggie as he began to nod off once more.
He waited for John to sit down, and start working before rewinding the video again. This time, though, no blue light turned on. All the monitors in the background were black.
Reggie reached into his bag and pulled out a bottle of generic migraine pills. He prided himself on knowing the active ingredients in most over the counter medications, and needlessly worked them into casual conversations. The bottle felt light, but when he shook it he felt something rattling. He opened the lid to find only the strange plastic cylinder that seemed to be in every pill bottle. He never figured out its purpose.
Cindy, the receptionist, told him within their first 5 minutes of meeting that there was a stash of painkillers, the good stuff, in the second floor break room in the cupboard above the water cooler.
Reggie got up and moved through the rows of cubicles to the break room. As he passed the opening to the hall that led to the other wing of the second floor he thought he saw a blue light out of the corner of his eye coming from down the hall from an office with an open door.
He stopped, walked back and peeked around the corner. All he saw was a startled accountant who slammed her door shut when she saw him.
He shook his head and made for the watercooler. He opened the cupboard above and found a gigantic pill bottle. He looked at the active ingredients: acetaminophen, Aspirin, and caffeine. The good stuff.
* * *
Reggie pulled up to the apartment complex at 7:17pm, sweating. He pulled into his parking spot, number eight, and felt the loud ‘thunk’ that occurred whenever he turned right and stopped. He didn’t know what the thunk was, but he figured it was expensive and hoped that if he ignored it long enough it would go away.
He gathered his bag, and the mountain of employee handbook materials he accumulated throughout the day, and meandered towards the door of he and Scarlet’s one bedroom apartment.
He felt tension in the air as he moved his hand towards the knob, the same kind of creeping anticipation you feel when you are gossiping about someone and can sense that they are close enough to hear. He opened the door and braced himself expecting round two to begin immediately (as round one ended without resolution).
Reggie looked inside and found the apartment empty.
He wandered through the living room, into the kitchen, passed the bathroom and looked in the bedroom. The bed was made. He opened the bathroom door and turned on the lights to see a note taped to the mirror.
"Reg. I can’t keep doing this. I love you. I don’t think we work, though. I’m staying at Kathy’s tonight. Please don’t call me. I’ll be back in the morning to get my things."
Reggie sat on the bathroom floor for what felt like hours, trying to get his mind around it. Scar and him had been together since freshman year of college. They’d been through way worse fights than last night. Usually it ended after a day or two with a few more spats, then depleting an entire tub of mint chocolate chip ice cream together.
He didn’t even remember what they were fighting about last night. He tried so hard but just remembered her telling him he never listened.
Reggie guessed she was right.
He made his way back to the kitchen, opened the freezer to see the emptied bottle of rum, and considered his bad investment.
He opened the refrigerator and saw the empty box of pizza, and bottle of Sriracha with the crusty nozzle.
He opened the cupboard and saw a few torn open bags of microwave popcorn that he meant to clean up last month, and nothing else. Reggie walked back to the refrigerator, opened it again, and to his surprise saw the same empty pizza box and Sriracha bottle.
Hungry, tired, alone, and worst of all sober, Reggie made his way to the couch and plopped down heavily. He reached for the remote and was able to snag it by his fingertips. He turned on Netflix and fell asleep before picking anything to watch.
He dreamed of papers and papers and smug looking cube mates, of hidden caches of pain killers and of a frighteningly tall blonde woman whose face appeared to be sloughing off on the left.
She gazed at him with a deadened expression as the left eye grew milky and dripped from the socket leaving nothing but a blinding blue light. It consumed the dream. Everything was drowned out by the LED glare of that aggressively blue light.
He opened his eyes and the light did not fade with the dream. The light atop the TV, by the webcam, was on.
When he looked at it, it blinked off.
To Be Continued...