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Resonance: Chapter Fourteen

       Last updated: Wednesday, August 3, 2005 18:24 EDT



    Graham was back at work the next day, pushing the mail trolley along the rear corridor of the fifth floor. He was alone. The corridor empty, the office doors all closed. No muffled sounds of conversation, no tap of a keyboard or hum of a printer. The only sound an intermittent squeak from one of the trolley wheels.

    Strange, he thought. To be surrounded by so many people and yet to hear so little. Was it always this quiet? Or had he become over-sensitised since yesterday’s meeting with Annalise?

    He stopped by a door and listened.

    Nothing. Absolute silence. Not even the hum of traffic from the road outside.

    His fingers rested lightly on the door handle. He turned it slowly, easing the door open. A phone rang on the desk in the near corner. Graham didn’t recognise the man who answered it. He smiled in Graham’s direction. Graham forced a smile back and quickly cleared the out-tray.

    As he closed the door everything went quiet again. Were the doors sound-proof? He was sure they weren’t. Had the phone conversation ended the moment Graham closed the door? A phone that hadn’t rung until the moment he’d opened the door?

    Was this what it was like being inside a virtual world? Were all the rooms empty? Were they voids that only became real the moment he looked inside? Voids that suddenly had to be furnished and populated? Was it all like that? Westminster Street, London, the world - theatre scenery to be pulled out when needed?

    His hand closed around the door handle again. If he threw it open now, would the program have time to react?

    Slowly, he turned the handle … and then let go. He jumped over to the door opposite and threw that one open instead. The door flew back, further and faster than he’d intended. It banged against the wall and shuddered. He stared inside. The room was full of packing crates, empty desks and boxes. A phone sat on the floor. It hadn’t been like this on Friday. All the rooms on this floor were occupied. Had he beaten the program? Had it been unable to flesh out the room in time? Forced to resort to this half-measure?

    “Excuse me,” snapped a voice from behind.

    Graham jumped. Frank Gledwood stood in the doorway, his arms full of files and his usual sneer on his lips. Graham stepped aside, pressing himself back against the open door.

    “You can always help if you’ve nothing better to do.”

    Graham swallowed. Was this the program’s revenge? Cross me and I’ll make your life hell?

    Frank let the files fall with a clatter on the nearest empty desk.

    “Well, speak up, I haven’t got all day.”

    Graham nodded reluctantly. Shenaz arrived, her arms weighed down by two bulging plastic bags. She rolled her eyes conspiratorially towards Graham before dumping them in the far corner. Kathy wasn’t far behind, carrying a plastic crate overflowing with files and assorted stationery.

    “So, this is our new room,” Kathy said as she slid the crate into the centre of the near desk. She turned to Frank who was hitching up his trousers while looking out the window at his new domain. “I thought you said this new job was important.”

    “It is,” he said, still looking out the window, flexing his shoulders and stretching his neck from side to side. “Believe me, this is just the start. From what I’ve heard this ParaDim section is going to be massive.”

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