Hanging upside down by her feet; that’s what it felt like; she had to be hanging upside down by her feet because of the blood rushing to her head the bursting feeling the feeling of her face ready to pop as she stood before Ilene’s desk getting holy hell from this inverted boss.
—don’t you ever do anything like that again! I am mortified absolutely mortified there were all our executives on that conference line. What were you thinking? You don’t come running into a conference room when the door was closed and start saying things like you said—
They had strung people up like this for punishment they had left them for days the words seemed like day’s worth of words pouring in they kept on pouring streaming from that black deep red rimmed upside down hole of a mouth, flapping and flapping and going on.
—I always knew you were half out of control. Look at the way you dress! You don’t know where you are, lady—this is AD&D! You don’t dress like that, you don’t talk like that—
Ilene’s mouth flapped showing black pearly teeth and a blacker void inside and her lipstick shone solid red like a joke of some kind like a little kid would put on lipstick playing dress up and her hand was a fist with one finger out pointing and the nail on the finger was so long, jabbing and jabbing so that Carolyn hung feeling the blades slice in all over swinging her head bursting funny it feels like standing but it’s not it’s hanging.
—you are a disgrace how am I ever going to patch up things with the executives now if they think we are down here thinking the things you said how will I ever God-damn patch that up Carolyn tell me how? How would you do it? No? No, of course you don’t know. It can’t be patched up now—
My God, my head, thought Carolyn screaming inside. My head is going to burst my head is twice its size swollen with blood blacking out now grainy black coming up blacking out now.
—so turn around and get the hell out of here, shouted Ilene, jabbing. Turn around and get out of here and I don’t care what the hell you do the rest of the day!
Carolyn backed out somehow though hung upside down she was able to back out all the way out the door that way and Ilene jumped up and ran across the ceiling and slammed the heavy wooden door in Carolyn’s face. Then Carolyn—Carolyn walked somehow she didn’t know how her head was still bursting and the lights above were going by overhead like white lines on a highway hung facing down above; my God the building is all upside down. I could walk on the ceiling but I better not. That would attract too much attention. Inverted skeletons covered with flesh and blood and corporate clothes passed her by hustling bustling on her way to her cubicle. Once they had been people but now that they were all upside down Carolyn saw them for what they were. At last she reached her cube and sank into her chair and her computer was dark and she touched the space bar and it all lit up, the computer was a window into the guts of AD&D, and somehow it seemed all right side up deep in there; she could escape in there, but her headache, her splitting bloodbursting headache paralyzed her. She still felt upside down her hair waved down she gripped the chair why was the chair not falling up it was not bolted to the floor but she was still upside down. Why was her coffee cup not falling up her pen her pencil her papers her computer? She blinked; here came a mild voice.
Excuse me? Carolyn? I have a FAX to send can I use your FAX?
A figure stood there nameless; another one! Another skeleton clothed in flesh and a dress and holding papers, but with a recognizable face—the summer intern in a smile with teeth but she was not falling up her skirt was hanging down not up and her hair hung down.
Yes, came from Carolyn through her splitting headache; from the headache came a name. The intern’s name. Eva. Yes, Eva. Yes Eva use the FAX.
Eva went around Carolyn to the FAX and Carolyn’s hands went down gripping the edges of her chair seat breaking her nails off because the whole place was still upside down and she knew, even though nothing else was falling up, she would if she let go. She sat hunched, eyes closed, clinging as the dial tone came and went and the FAX machine dialed and the other end picked up somewhere else, somewhere safe; there were safe places at the end of the wires; clean bright rooms in other companies where things were right side up and certain rough words could never be spoken. The people going busily back and forth there were bright and neat and clean and not skeletons. Eva’s papers shuffled in the hum of the machine and Carolyn felt safe in the clean bright tidy humming room with the bright busy people coming and going at the other company at the other end of the FAX line; but the hum stopped abruptly; and Carolyn was pulled back through the line and here came Ilene’s words once more, closer, closer—turn around and get out of here and I don’t care what the hell you do the rest of the day turn around and get out of here and I don’t care what the hell you do the rest of the day turn around—
Coming back out the line, she turned around, and there was Ilene by the FAX machine; and once more she felt herself pulled up hanging upside down facing the evil which stood papers in hand, her hole of a mouth open, ready to let out more words but Carolyn didn’t think she could take it so she did what she had to do to shut Ilene up and she didn’t know exactly what she did but she found herself standing in the middle of the cube, hair askew, the building once more right side up but bones and flesh and blood and bloody shreds of clothing and papers spread out around her feet and it was hard to believe it had happened so fast; and that moment of standing amid the bones flesh and blood was really the end of AD&D, of Ilene, and of the false life she endured up until now. The world was right side up again, the building all turned to never was, and at last free, in the open air twenty three floors, clear of everything, Carolyn flew off.
Jim Meirose‘s work has appeared in numerous magazines and journals, including Permafrost, Blueline, Ohio Edit, Bartleby Snopes, The Fiddlehead, Witness, Alaska Quarterly review, and Xavier Review, and has been nominated for several awards. Two collections of his short work have been published, and a novel, Mount Everest was released in 2015 by Montag Press. Another novel, Eli the Rat, has just been released by Montag as well. Three more novels are under contract with Montag for 2016-2017 release: these are previously published novels which had gone out of print from other houses. More information is available at www.jimmeirose.com.