Ah, the weekly ritual. Extra caffeine, bleary eyes, lumbering gait, grunted greetings to the coworkers, and the disheartening sound of one's own ass descending far too rapidly into a creaky chair of dubious lineage and manufacture.
George stared blankly at his computer screen for a moment, wondering idly why his mind insisted on producing large words even when he was barely conscious, when it occurred to him that reason he wasn't seeing anything useful was that he hadn't yet turned on the computer.
He reached under the desk to switch on the source of all his woes, sighed for seventeenth time that morning, and decided to go grab a cup of coffee while the electronic beast groaned and clicked its way to life. He grabbed his mug and headed for the washroom to rinse it out.
As luck would have it, a few other Monday-lovers were congregated around the water cooler (yes, he'd discovered not long into his employ that people really did gather around the water cooler to talk and gossip), which was conveniently situated between the doors to the ladies' and men's lavatories. If he played his cards right, he could get involved in a conversation and be detained from returning to his accursed desk for a few precious minutes.
Mondays, the topic was usually Battlestar Galactica. As he approached the cooler, however, George did not hear any words that sounded like "Starbuck" or "Adama" or "Cylon." Today, he was hearing nothing of the sort.
"Hey, George," Fiona said as he stepped within earshot. "You're a writer, aren't you?"
George stopped and looked quizzically at her. "Why would you think that?"
Fiona chuckled. "Bill told me."
George cast his gaze upon Bill, who was looking distinctly uncomfortable at that moment.
"I... uh... might have mentioned it..." Bill stuttered. "In passing."
George grunted. "Should've kept my mouth shut."
"What are you so worried about?" Fiona asked. "Everybody thinks it's cool."
George closed his eyes, took a breath, and then opened them again. "Everybody, huh?" He looked at Bill again, his eyes narrower this time. "And just how many people is 'everybody'?"
Bill cleared his throat.
Warren, the third participant in the cooler chat, pushed up his glasses and made a clicking sound with his tongue and teeth. "Awkward," he muttered under his breath.
George shot Warren a quick glare.
"Anyway," Fiona said, "I wanted to ask you... Do you usually make your protagonist a writer?"
George looked back at her, feeling slightly dizzy. "What?"
"When you write... Do you make your main character a writer?"
"Sometimes," George replied. "But what does that--"
"See?" Fiona said, looking at Bill. "What did I tell you?"
"Fiona thinks that all writers write about writers," Bill said, evidently noting the confused expression on George's face.
"All writers..." George frowned, looking back and forth between Fiona and Bill. "Well, that's the stupidest thing I've ever heard! Where on earth did you pull that conclusion from?"
Fiona bristled. "Well, if you're going to be rude about it..."
George shook his head. "I need to wake up."
He took a quick step backwards and turned towards the washroom.
"George, look out," Fiona called.
Too late George realized that he had stepped directly into someone else's path. They collided with force, and at a sufficiently odd angle that George was propelled back into the cluster of coworkers and his opposing number was sent tottering across the corridor into the stretch of wall directly opposite the water cooler.
Bill and Warren caught George and prevented him from crumpling to the floor. The other traveller, who George now recognized as Sharon, one of the junior secretaries, winced and dropped her file folders.
"Ow!" Sharon exclaimed as she impacted the wall. She immediately grabbed her lower back and looked behind her.
George rushed over to her. "I'm so sorry, Sharon. Are you okay?"
Sharon slid to her right and slumped against the wall. "Something just jabbed me in the back," she replied, still wincing.
George glanced at the wall. "It's just a plain wall... There's nothing sticking out of it--"
"Well, what do you call that?" Sharon asked, reaching out and placing her hand on a doorknob.
But the doorknob hadn't been there a moment ago. George was sure of it.
"What the...?" George squinted and looked again. Yep. There was a doorknob sticking out of the wall.
He took a step back and surveyed a larger portion of the surface. It wasn't just a randomly placed doorknob, he realized. There were hinges, a doorframe, all the necessary bits needed for safe passage from one side of a wall to the other.
"That wasn't there before," George said.
"What are you talking about?" Sharon asked. She looked at him like he wasn't quite all there.
"This door. I swear this door wasn't here before." He looked over at Fiona, Bill, and Warren. "Have you ever seen this door before?"
"What door?" Bill asked.
"This door," George said, annoyance creeping into his tone. "Right here."
Bill stepped towards him, frowning. "There's no door there, George. It's just a wall."
"Will you look?" George was beginning to sound frantic.
Bill stopped in his tracks. A puzzled expression rippled down his face. "Oh. Yeah." He frowned again, deeper this time. "I guess there is a door there. I never noticed it before."
George beckoned Fiona and Warren to come closer. Both stepped across the corridor, and both exhibited the same pattern of denial, confusion, and realization that Bill had. It was as if none of them could see the door until they were made to concentrate on its presence.
"Hmm..." Warren grunted. "That's very strange. I wonder why we never noticed it before."
"Probably just a utility closet," Bill said. "I bet no one even uses it. Just part of the landscape."
"Maybe it's a new door," Fiona offered. "Maybe they just put it in."
Sharon frowned. "I haven't seen any workmen here lately," she said.
They all looked at the door for a moment.
"Well, I'd better get back to my desk," Bill said. "Lot's to do."
Warren grunted agreement. Fiona nodded. Sharon bent to pick up her file folders.
George looked at door for another moment, then helped Sharon get her folders back in order.
"Sorry about the collision," he said.
"Don't worry about it," Sharon replied. "No harm done."
"You'll probably have a bruise there."
Sharon chuckled as she hefted her pile and started off down the corridor. "If that's the worst thing that happens to me working here, I'll consider myself lucky."
As his four coworkers set off down the hallway towards their various stations, George turned his attention once again to the enigmatic door. They had all seemed quite nonchalant about the whole thing once they'd realized it was there. And yet, moments before, none of them could even see it.
It was puzzling.
No, it was more than that. It was damned peculiar.
And George made up his mind, right at that moment, that he was going to find out just what the hell was going on.