Deadline [File #6]

Sunday

I woke up on my own bed, but couldn’t remember how I made it back. The clock on my bedside table read 1 pm and my head was pulsing like hell. What a party! I tried to recall the last thing I did before passing out. It was a Halloween night with my writers gang and Sally, our pain in the ass editor. She insisted to come along with us so we ended up in a lousy pub. We knew she wouldn’t like it at all. Crazy fun people. Lot of dance. Waves of alcohol, smokey air, Sally sitting in a corner staring at us, maybe despising us. I stared back at her, she whispered something… deadline? I saw the white of her eyes wide open while she whispered faster. She then stood up, made her way through the crowd disappearing in a dark corner of the pub.

What happened next? I tried to think harder but a sound was drilling my brain… It took me a while to realize it was coming from the scattered clothes on the floor. My phone.

“Hell… o?” I answered. Talking felt so painful.
“It’s me…”
I sighed. “What’s up, Sally? Where the heck have you been?” I grimaced thinking of her silly sorry face.
“Please, Veronica, not again, OK? You know it’s this Friday”
“Again what?!?”
“The deadline. Your article. By this Friday”
“Darling, give me a break, would you? I feel like shit and you are giving me 4 damn days? Are you serious?!?”
“No later than midnight”

She hanged up.

I threw the phone back where I found it. Was it really Sally just now? That pathetic girl, pale and bony, who always begged us for pieces like a poor little dog. It was her voice for sure, but she sounded different. I found peculiar I never heard her speaking in such a threatening tone. What made her suddenly think she could talk to me like that? We dragged her to the party to make fun of her. She had a crush on Nicolas, our top writer, but she seriously thought he’d give a shit about her? What a joke…

I contemplated the article lingering in my open laptop. The screen flickered a few times then went black reminding me I haven’t contacted my geeky friend yet. I tapped the thing until it revived and quickly drafted an email: shitty tech is driving me nuts, call me ASAP!

I dived into my bed pressing the pillow against my face. For a moment I wished to disappear from planet Earth, but no, I couldn’t give her such a joy. Did she want to play tough? Cool, and so I would.

I cursed Sally dozen of times before falling into a deep sleep.

Monday

It was when I decided to treat myself a massage that Sally called me.

“Sally! Sweetie, how are you today?” I tried to make things nicer but my voice betrayed me. I wasn’t a good faker.
“Good. Thank you, Veronica.” She sounded fearfully calm, colder. “I’m calling to remind the deadline…”
“…is this Friday. Listen, I’m in hospital. My head still hurts so bad. I’m afraid I can’t catch up with the date. Sorry sweetie. Boss must be pissed at you, huh?” I smiled when the thought of her being in troubles crossed my mind. Maybe the right time we could get rid of her, once and for all.

A long silence accompanied the following minutes. She was breathing heavily muttering something I couldn’t really catch. It sounded so feral. Did she hate me that much?

“It’s up to you” she finally concluded before hanging up on me, AGAIN.

It pissed me off tons.

Tuesday

The beast called again. She didn’t say a word. What ridiculous game was she playing?!?

This time I hanged up on her, tasting the pleasure of revenge. I didn’t want to make her life more miserable than what already was.

The phone kept ringing but I didn’t bother to answer. I powered it off.

Wednesday

Nicolas joined me for brunch.

“Did Sally call you about Friday’s deadline?”
Nicolas lit a cigarette, his legs dangling from the armchair. “Nope. I have submitted my piece a while ago, you know I’m the crème de la crème. And actually I haven’t seen her in a while. Is she alright?”
“Don’t know, she is weird. She is stalking me with this deadline thing”

Nicolas laughed. I returned him a puzzled glance.

“I thought she had a crush on me. Maybe she ain’t straight”. He blinked at me maliciously.
“That’s not funny, man” I complained. The only thought gave me the chills.
“Anyway you are mean to her most of the times”
“Come on…”
“She’s just a poor soul trying to accomplish her humble job. You probably have had everything she dreams to. I heard stories about her, sad stuff you don’t wanna hear. Life sucks, you know?”

I hated Nick mocking at me, but I couldn’t deny he was right. Perhaps I was too harsh on her, but aren’t we pawns in a cruel world after all?

Thursday

I tried to call Sally, she didn’t pick up the phone.

I insisted two, three, four times. At the last tentative someone eventually answered but the line was mute.

“Sally?”

Nothing.

I ran out of patience and texted her: you’ll get the piece tomorrow, OK? Relax, girl…

Friday

The office was cold and deserted, dimly lit by the greenish aura of my desk lamp. The clock on top of the doorway pointed ten minutes to midnight. Finally I typed the last word of my film review and I gave a call to Sally. She still ignored me. What the hell? Is she still playing the victim game? Exhausted after a tough week I wasn’t in the mood of playing games.

I was about to email her my article when my laptop started to mess up with me. The screen flickered and faded to black. Tapping the crappy machine didn’t help.

“Don’t die on me now, piece of junk!” Like a keen doctor in ER, I begged the dying patient to stay with me but nothing worked.

In a fit of rage I hit the chair. I couldn’t believe the geek let me down like that. I browsed my phone, looking for hints, and cursed myself after I noticed his missing call was listed on Tuesday.

All of a sudden, the door behind me slightly opened giving me the heebie jeebies. Was that Sally? I stepped closer and before I could even reach the knob the door wide opened violently. My legs turned to jelly and my whole body fainted to the floor. It was like all the gravity was pushing against me, dragging me down to hell. I couldn’t move.

From the distance I heard steps approaching until they halted in the threshold. And then I saw him, or at least part of. Black shining leather shoes, endless legs wrapped in a tight garment. I looked up for what I could, screening his inhuman physique, his face covered by something shining white and…

…I remembered

That night in the pub, I followed Sally to the ladies’ restroom. Someone was sobbing heavily. I peeped inside the room and I saw her, laying against the wall, tears melting her makeup, looking so unreal, groaning like if she was in the grip of a convulsion. She pulled her hair so strong that a lock was hanging from her filthy hand. It freaked me out, and I hated her. I couldn’t stand the way she was, I couldn’t bear her weakness. From the deep of my heart I wished she was dead.

I snapped a couple of pictures and went back to the guys. I showed them to the group, we laughed so hard. Then I turned back and I saw her in the dark corner. She wasn’t alone. A huge man double her height was standing next to Sally, wearing a white expressionless mask. He passed his long arm around her shoulders, bending down. He started to pet her, whispering something to her ear.

I looked at the guys, they were having a great time. Was I the only one seeing that?!?

The man slowly lifted his mask and the world started spinning around me. I fainted on the couch, staring at Sally’s mouth pronouncing something: it’s your…

…deadline

The floor was icy making my face numb. It was five minutes after midnight when I heard something crawling. I opened my eyes just to see a face popping out from the office threshold. It was Sally. She looked at the man like a dog expecting for a reward. He caresses her head and she licked his hand in return.

She looked at me, stuck on the floor, helpless. Slime was making its way down to her chin. She crept closer to me until her face was just a few inches from mine.

I closed my eyes and everything turned into darkness.

It was the end.

My deadline.