Rob tried not to seem too alive as he re-entered the office, but his heart was pumping something other than the regular blood. His eyes were far too sharp, and his limbs were too...limber. He sat down at his desk with a wave of energy, and Bill's head quickly popped out of his cubicle with the motion of a jack in a box.
"Did you really have to go the washroom that badly?" asked Bill.
Rob turned, muttered something about having forgotten something in his vehicle, and returned to his work. Bill's head remained where it was. Rob ignored it until it slowly pulled back behind the wall like a nervous lizard into a cave. Rob found that his hands were shaking. He had to last until lunch. Then he could get some fresh air and cholesterol.
And when lunch arrived, Rob responded to the beeping of his watch like it was a gunshot; he was gone before Bill could helpfully suggest the same thing he suggested every day. Rob needed to escape for a moment of stunning clarity. Or maybe just something that made him feel a little more sane. A hamburger and a story about Bill's mother would not suffice. Not today.
Rob hit the street with a single stomp and stood stock still. He'd hit a roadblock, and his mission was looking hopeless. He didn't know whether to turn right or left. Clarity was nowhere to be seen. Which meant it wasn't really clear at all. Perhaps the dilemma was caused by the fact that life seemed to be telling him to take neither right nor left. But those were the only two directions he knew!
And so, after much careful thought, he looked up. Silently, Rob cursed.
There was a girl sitting in an English lamppost between the bulbs, calmly sipping a cup of tea. Rob approached the lamppost and looked up at her, licking his lips as he tried to think of something to say.
The girl soon noticed him looking.
Rob spoke. "Hi," he said.
"Hello hello! Whatcha doin' down there?" she asked.
Rob gave a laugh. "What a question to ask while sitting in a lamppost!" he said. "I'd like to ask what you are doing up there."
The girl frowned and gave him a concerned glare. She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and took a sip of tea. Finally, she said, "You've got a lot of nerve standing on the sidewalk like that."
Rob laughed again. "I've got a lot of nerve? Your sure are an eccentric one."
"What? Is this your lamppost I'm sitting in?"
"Ha, no," said Rob. "I like it down here, thank you."
The girl scowled. "Well aren't you brave. Some people like to sit and drink tea you know. And not take silly risks."
Rob was beginning to find the scene far too funny. "Ooo, so risky!” he said sarcastically. “I might step on a crack and break my back! Do tell me about my impending peril. "
"You might get hit," the girl said plainly.
Rob scoffed. "Are you for real? Is that what you're afraid of? You are more likely to fall off of that lamp than to get hit!"
A few heads turned at this exclamation, and Rob found a few funny looks tossed his way. He laughed at this too, because he rather thought the looks would much better be suited for the girl on the lamppost. He pointed at her, nodding and laughing in a wink-wink nudge-nudge get-a-load-of-this kind of way. The passing pedestrians widened their eyes and stared straight ahead.
Rob shook his head and turned back to the girl. She gave him a very funny look.
"What?" asked Rob. "Why is everyone looking at me with such stupid stares? What am I doing?"
"That is one very good question," the girl said slowly. A strange light had entered her eyes. "Why would people be looking at you? They should not be looking at you."
"No. They should be looking at you, right!"
"No," the girl said urgently. "They most definitely should not be looking at me. But you..." She gave him the most distrustful look anyone had ever given Rob. Rob shivered.
"Won't you come down?" he asked. "I assure you it's safe."
"You're not getting hit," she said. Her voice was soft and haunted.
Rob waved his arms around. "Of course not! Cars stay on the roads! Isn't it great?"
And then the girl suddenly screamed. "Look out!"
Rob stumbled out of fear as if a car was actually about to leap at him from the road. Instead, he was tripped by a stroller and sent sprawling across the sidewalk. The woman pushing the stroller hardly even paused, saying, "Oh, excuse me," in an absent-minded sort of way.
"Excuse you?" demanded Rob. "You ran me over!" The woman carried on at her regular pace and did not look back.
"Who are you?" the girl asked in a hollow voice. Rob turned back to see her standing on the arm of the lamppost, hands by her sides, not even quivering with any off-balance. Her eyes were wide.
"What?" asked Rob. "Am I missing something?"
The girl hopped down from the lamppost with hardly a sound, not even spilling her cup of tea. Rob quickly hid any signs of being impressed as she placed the tea cup on the sidewalk and straightened, pushing her hair aside.
"Who are you?" she repeated.
"My name is Rob."
"That tells me nothing," she snapped. "Where do you live?"
"I'm not telling you that," scoffed Rob. The last thing he wanted was to bring this strange girl home with him.
"Well what do you 'do' then?"
"I work in that office building just there," he said. "I'm a sales associate."
The girl gave him a heavy stare. "You're not even bloody joking are you?"
"Why would I lie about something like that?" asked Rob. "If I was going to lie, I'd say I was a wealthy artist living on a yacht."
"This is so wrong," she said. "There's something wrong with you!"
"With me?" cried Rob. "I think I am least likely to be the cause of all this...this...weirdness!"
"Mmm, weirdness. Good word."
Rob was not impressed. "I have no answers for you. Why don't you explain your side of the coin."
The girl shook her head sharply. "I can't speak to you. You're gonna have to leave right now. Go back to your regular life, surround yourself with family and friends. Don't wander around alone. Don't talk to anyone you can't see. I have to get back to the Mansion. Timble must hear about this."
Rob realized that this encounter was far too similar to his previous one as the girl’s voice lowered into a series of wary murmurs as she turned to leave.
"No," Rob said. "That can't be it! You can't just leave! Tell me what the hell is going on!" He pursued the girl, but she broke into a run. It was the kind of run that made Rob want to stamper to a stop after three steps. "Oh," he said. “You’re fast.”
But he wasn't about to give up and return to his regular life. The light in the girl's eyes offered too much temptation. She knew something. She could explain everything. If only Rob could catch her.