This is inspired by a real event and location from my former workplace, and was originally posted in July 2016.
I got an email today from Facilities, and one from Conferencing. “Just to let you know” said the first, “That there’s a parcel for you in the Post Room”. The second said “Please collect your raffle prize from the conference department this week. See attached for list of prizes”
There was an attached list of prizes. It was a cornucopia of delights, trips to Edinburgh, vouchers that “Love to shop”, bottles of wine, candles, wheeled shopping trolleys. A village fate come to life in our own little company. I had bought five tickets for Good Causes, and had previously noted that my name wasn’t on the winners list. Bereft of prizes, I mourned the world where I could have won a Yankee Candle.
Today’s email was more pointed, however, and I wondered why. Each winning prize had the winning phone extension number registered to the ticket beside it, and I looked down the list to find my own. There it was! Apparently my name had been transcribed as “Michelle”, a new variant spelling of my name, and one far beyond my expectations. “Green 538”, it said, “has won vouchers!” The lights flickered as the universe assigned me my prize. “Please go to the Conference Department to pick them up”. I asked where the Conference Department was, and got told it was next to the Post Room by something that scuttled away shortly afterwards.
Facilities isn’t on the maps of the building, and it took me a while to find it. A door behind the canteen opened to a dark corridor that led far beyond the brick walls of the building. The lights didn’t work when I switched them, but a lantern hung with some fellows on a hook, and I lit it to continue my path.
A feeling of industrious darkness enveloped me as I headed towards the post room, feet stamping, people fending for their own deliverance. The tunnel went on in a straight line for hundreds of metres before turning abruptly left and down, spiralling into a darkness deeper than my lantern could penetrate, and with a rising heat that came with a dark green light which highlighted the contours of the walls I passed. Corporate beige walls began to crack and fracture as I walked, now a rough rock wall still painted with the officially mandated corporate colours of white and orange. Occasionally a fire extinguisher and a set of recycling boxes to break the monotony, once in a while a cracked and dirty sink with a tap that dispensed water just the wrong side of uncomfortably warm. The suspended ceiling above me ran in waves, lower than my head, higher than I could reach, the spackled tiles cut exactly to the angled and painted rocks either side. Fluorescent lights were installed every few tiles, but either they had failed many years ago or the switches were beyond sight. They rained dust on the carpeted floor as my head brushed against the lower ones.
Eventually I came to a flame-lit door that did not yield to my pushing, though by waving my ID at a small recessed panel it opened with a faint electronic sigh. Beyond was a brightly lit – to my abused eyes, anyway – corridor, and ahead of me was an office environment whose reality didn’t pass more than a cursory investigatory glance. The desks arranged in pods looked solid enough, but the books under the monitors had their spines in reverse print. The monitor cables were slick biomasses that oozed through the desks and plugged into nothing below. The chairs were too low for any human to sit in, with backs and headrests to support something not of our world. The room felt busy, industrious, and hardworking, for all it appeared empty and pin-droppingly quiet. A room to the left down the corridor read “Post-█████████ Room”, with thick black marker redacting whatever the middle had once said. I went inside.
The Post- Room was clinically clean, with stainless steel worktops and a freshly washed blue floor. Silver cupboards covered the walls, and atop one of the shiny surfaces was a small package with my name on it. An… attendant… chirruped at me affirmatively when I picked it up and looked questioningly at them. I summoned courage to ask if they knew where the Conference Department was. It was down the hall and on the left, and I would never forget that now. I left in silence.
I passed many doors down the corridor, and many spaces where I couldn’t tell there were doors. Eventually a brass plaque with deep red engraving read “Conference Department”, and I knocked and – without a reply – went inside.
The room was lit from no visible source. A deep red carpet formed a doughnut around the edges of the five-sided room, each oak-lined wall having in front of it a desk, and in the middle a bare concrete pentagon with a beautiful star-shaped diagram inside, with shading and colours and symbols that I tried to follow as they dodged and weaved over each other, seeming to slip and slide under my vision as I tried to comprehend the whole thing. I tore my eyes away with an effort of will, and closed them.
On one of the desks was a plain white envelope with my name and extension number on it, as well as a taped duplicate of my winning ticket. Picking it up, I left the room. Directly ahead of me was a bank of elevators which took me into a disused office not far from my desk without me pressing a single button.
Opening the envelope, I have won a couple hours domestic house cleaning. It says I should contact Ms Marsh in the Conferencing Department for the vouchers.
I think I’ll email her to post them.