Warm rays of sunshine poured into her office fragmented through the dust-covered aluminium blinds. She sipped her lukewarm coffee and closed her eyes to bask in the heat. A heavy sigh left her lungs as she remembered where she was. Oppressive, dark and cramped, that was what the company had given Karen in exchange for an unfairly proportioned increase in paperwork. It was a meticulous work load and she knew it was worth more than her meagre wage covered. Still, it paid the rent and fed the cat and with no immediate family to worry about Karen felt no real obligation to complain. It all seemed like too much bother anyway and her frugal, simple life suited her just fine. She gazed through the gaps of the blinds, the bars of her cell, locked away from the outside world and the passing of the day. She wondered what it was about the outside world that was really so appealing, after all, she hardly left the house. Yet at work the outside world took on a curious quality, became intriguing. Never quite understanding why, she took comfort in watching people wander past, acting out their daily routine day after day, week after week, going about their business and living their lives through the same repeated series of monotonous actions as always. Their routines became part of Karen’s own routine.
On Mondays at around 11:08am the same alarmingly youthful looking OAP, adorned in a thick layer of matte red lipstick and blue woollen overcoat went by with her little Jack Russell terrier. Karen had grown fond of this dog and had nicknamed it Napoleon because it seemed to her that he was in command, he might well have been on a lead but he was certainly doing the leading- without fail every day Karen watched as the old lady struggled to keep up with him. She never stopped to wonder why this reminded her to fax the previous days figures to head office, but she took it as her cue and wandered off to the dark corner of her office where the fax machine lived, alongside the decorative indoor plant given to her by a family member who no longer knew what to buy her these days. She ran her hands over its waxy leaves, their dark green hue pleasing her, she genuinely liked this gift but she knew that no matter how much she watered it and changed its soil that it would never grow more than half a metre high. This saddened Karen a little but she had decided that the plants stunted growth was okay anyway, because the only other space for it was by the window. The very idea of blocking her only view to the outside world mortified her.
There were days that the old lady and Napoleon were late. On these rare occasions Karen would become fidgety and restless, picking up her assorted knick-knacks and stationery, moving the items back and forth to either side of her desk. Within these intervening moments she could not take her gaze from the window, her screen. She found herself panic stricken and worrying needlessly on their behalf. Eventually, after one full minute of excruciating terror, at 11:09am, they would stroll by and Karen could once again breathe easy. Whenever this same event occurred Karen would wonder if the old lady had stopped off at the post box and felt sure that she was probably correct and needn’t have worried, her old lady was writing letters to relatives because she lived alone. Of course! That must have been what kept them. The old lady and her loyal but feisty companion would never let her down. Karen was absolutely sure that they lived together in a small but cosy bungalow in one of those quiet residential areas of the city, the kind of place where trees lined the road and small children played happily together outside.
Today was different. 11:09am and the old lady and Napoleon were no where to be seen. Karen instinctively knew that something must be wrong. 11:09, 11:10, 11:11…as the minutes passed, Karen became frantic. Her eyes darted from the window, back to the clock, then back to the window again. Her eyes finally came to rest on her digital desktop clock, fixated with it and unable to pry away her gaze she had no choice but to watch as the small number 1 transformed itself into a 2…11:12am. It was 11.12am! Alarm bells began ringing in her mind. Where are they?! What could have happened?! Maybe the old lady has been attacked…she could be on the floor unable to get up after a nasty fall or worse…she could even be…but who…who would take care of Napoleon? Oh poor Napoleon! Helpless as his owner lies there motionless, waiting there loyally, hungry and all alone. It was all too much to bear thinking about. Karen felt the tears start, small droplets of liquid fell forming precise little blotches of ink on her overused, scrawled upon notepad, before she knew it she was sobbing inconsolably. “Poor Napoleon! Poor Napoleon!” these, the only words she could force out through the cascading tears.
Later that day Karen was made redundant.
A short story concerning obsession and neurotic behaviour.