“That information was sent out on the 15th”, her voice was insistent, supported by the sound of his feet firmly planting in the dirt.

“I still don’t have it,” the words pushed between her teeth. “I have a lot of work to do on that information before the 19th.”

“We can resend the info on the 19th.”

“But it’s the 18th. I have no information. I am now horribly up against things.”

“Well we can’t re-release the information until the 19th.”

“Oh. Okay. Thanks for trying,” he said as she hung up on him. “Useless twat.”

She could feel the anger boiling up from six floors below. Into the feet, on to the knees, bubbling, coiling reddening hate. Her thoughts were consumed with fire. Fire. Matches, accelerants, the paper that surrounded her became a beautiful inferno, fire, licking the sky while the smoke chokes her enemies. Fire, hot loathing destroying, first, then a slow renewal where once there was rot.

That fucking minus sign again! It was quickly becoming the bane of her life. Too many negatives can make a negative person more negative, leading to bleak tundra of negativity that threatens to throw her out of the window and for fuck’s sake, blow your nose! Can you not hear that whistle?

The tic had returned. A horrible lateral twitch in her lower-left eyelid. It makes her eye wobble enough that she has to one-eye until it stops as the constant sideways wobble makes everything ninety per cent harder.

She picks up her mobile phone to reach out. To touch the data centre, to escape from the office, however briefly, just a small token gesture to confirm to her that this is not all there is.

##

She was standing on Exeter Bridge, staring at the passive blankness of the council offices. They looked over a regenerated riverside garden, once a dark place of rats and dealers, now a bright home of bees and smokers. More hacky-sack than crack, she was glad that it had changed. Made her feel that things weren’t always as bad as she felt they were. The inside of the council building was still as corrupt as ever, she thought as her phone pinged in her pocket.

A text.

[Hey, how are you?]

Oh, I’m just amazing, she thought, so utterly fucking perfect that I’m not standing on the bridge hoping for an apocalyptic flood to strip away my breath and gift me an instant, guiltless death.

[Just out for a stroll, how are you?]

##

She felt the double-buzz of a message through her mouse hand. Her phone was always on vibrate as the office elders frowned upon any noise that wasn’t the persistent verbal barrage of soap catch-up and babytalk. She looked around to check nobody was looking her way. Safe enough, she picks up her phone and tries not to squint at the screen.

‘Probably about time to enlarge the font,’ she thinks as she dares her screen to become easily legible.

Her frown deepened as she read the message. Staring out of the window, considering what she’s received, a gloom descends on her rage and dampens the fire leaving an ash-coat of    discomfort.

Looking around again, she sees a manager heading her way. She taps out a reply and hastily tumbles her phone on to the desk.

##

Ping. Ping. Pingu. The name she gave her phone in a moment of strange joy, now a name she hates but can’t seem to shake. Pingu. An irritating noise maker, persistent in its desperation for attention. Needy little plastic block, given personality by its worst features. She considers drowning it like that tamagotchi back in ’98, maybe casting Pingu into the Derwent would improve her life.

She puts her hand into her jacket pocket, grasps the phone as if to throw it. Suddenly she’s seized by a guilty feeling and merely swipes to unlock.

[Wish I was outside. It looks far more real than this office. Going anywhere nice?]

She looked at her immediate surroundings and decided to start walking again. To get to somewhere. Anywhere. A place with few people, maybe an outdoor space for smoking, coffee and food. Fuck it, she’d go back to her own back garden if it meant a rest from other humans, but it never does. She can always hear the neighbours, the aggressive old man who once woke her by shouting ‘cunt’ down his phone, outdoors at 5am; the parents who think parenting is all about shouting louder than your children; the Spanish students who never sleep; the miserable woman with a 40 Rothman cough.

[Nowhere in particular. How’s your day going?]

##

Old dreams are tearing me apart. The bustle in to the front of my mind as if they are a memory of the day or maybe the day before, fresh and haunted pieces of a long forgotten nightmare for which a meaning was never uncovered. The strongest of them stops me in my tracks, mid-sentence, mid-step, mid-stair. Am I broken? I fear this is a step backwards, into the rougher seas of my unconscious which I thought calmed of late. Maybe my forced attempts to go forward have created a terrible wake.

I should go back.

##

When her phone buzzed, she was elsewhere. The sun from the window disguised the notification light blinking for her attention. She was surrounded by a muddle of middle-management, all clucking ideas at her which meant nothing. She wasn’t listening to them. She hadn’t been listening for months now. She was listening to her own pulse, each wub a beat lost to this foolish endeavour. Who was she? Really? She is one of the lost souls. Chained by financial obligation to a desk in purgatory.

She agreed to something she didn’t hear, asking for an email to confirm the details of whatever nonsense project was being gifted to her in the way a puppy gifts you with a small pile on your floor.

As the muddle drifted back into its Brownian wanderings, she checked her phone.

Another text.

##

She had found her way to a quiet and comfortable coffee house. The people who worked here were just aloof enough that she could drift from thought to thought, undisturbed by unwanted pleasantries or unwarranted rudeness. She put her phone on the table near here coffee, took out her pad and started doodling, throwing ideas neatly across the feint lines. Her phone light began blinking. She had the habit of turning Pingu down when in enclosed spaces as the sounds it made were abrasive to her.

[Not great, management are ruining things again. Might try and sneak out early. You’ll be in town long?]

She put her phone down and stared out of the window. She hadn’t planned to be here as long as she had already, but maybe, if she stayed out, then that elusive idea might finally find form.

[Probably, just having a coffee, in no hurry to go home.]

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