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A Gift in the Dark

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The Cubicle

Alan James Goodman sat fully clothed on the cheap plastic seat. The four walls crowded in on him, but he decided that although he didn't need to pollute the local atmosphere, he was probably better off staying where he was for a few more minutes rather than staring out of the window into the rain as he had done for most of the morning thus far.

He sighed. It had been a bad few days. Money had been lost, senior staff were involved and looking to point the finger at someone, and Alan was self-aware enough to realise that the quiet guy in the corner was the most likely target. He leant back against the wall and sighed again, blowing out his cheeks in an attempt to quell the rising panic he felt. He was too old to be made redundant now and working in the local supermarket didn’t feel like a positive step. It was probably better to get back and try and quietly sort this out before the rest of the smelly brown stuff hit the fan.

As he mentally prepared himself for the foray back into the grey carpeted hell known as the Accounts Department, the main door to the toilets swung violently open, slammed off the door containing Alan's personal throne, and someone hurtled into the stall next door. Feet appeared briefly in the gap under the adjoining cubicle walls and there was a brief stream of invective.

“Come on you bastard” grunted a voice next door; “goddam blasted cheap zips, come on you complete sh... ah!” With a cry of triumph there was a long zipping noise, the frantic rustling sound of clothing, and a cold, dead looking hand hit the floor by Alan's foot with a gentle thud.

Reeling back in horror, Alan assumed a foetal position on the lid of the toilet and stuffed his hands over his mouth to prevent a cry of terror as an eight fingered, green and spindly appendage grabbed the flaccid looking human hand and pulled it back out of sight.

“Anyone there?” questioned the deeply male voice from next door. After a few seconds and apparently satisfied with the lack of any answer, loud and complicated ablutionary gymnastics sounded through the wall, intermingled with noises of extreme satisfaction as whatever was in there carried out its business.

His eyes wide, Alan slowly uncurled and desperately thought about what to do next. The thing next door would undoubtedly notice his cubicle was ‘Engaged’ when he emerged from his cubicle. But, trapped in the corner as he was, it would be able to get to him and do whatever it wished.

Alan soundlessly placed his feet back on the tiles and stood up, his mouth dry with fear and sweat forming on his brow. For some obscure reason, he crouched to look under the cubicle wall in order to check the thing was still seated, but instead of the expected pair of crumpled trousers he came face to face with a human head. Glassy looking eyes stared blankly at him from among a pile of loosely heaped clothing, and a rubbery hand pointed accusingly at Alan from its position by an expensive looking Italian moccasin.

“Shit,” he whispered in horror, clapping his hands to his mouth as he realised what he'd done.

“Who’s there?” demanded the voice from next door.

Energetic rustling ensued on the other side of the wall, and Alan's frantically screaming brain finally managed to convey the message to his legs that getting the hell out of there might be a good idea. Fumbling briefly with the door lock and pushing instead of pulling lost a few vital seconds as he ran for the main door, only to be jerked backwards by a pull on his belt. Looking down and left he noticed in brain numbing clarity he'd snagged one of his belt loops on the cubicle handle. He turned, released himself, twisted back and stopped, mouth open in horrified amazement at the half clad creature now standing in front of him.

The smartly creased trousers and expensive looking double cuffed shirt went unnoticed by Alan. His gaze travelled over the human head lolling obscenely near floor level, the upper half of a human torso split down the middle by a long zip with shirt open either side. Jacket and tie in skeletally thin hand, an alien looking, green skinned creature grinned at him somewhat nervously, and then seemed to relax. Moving past him it locked the main door, took a numbed and shocked Alan by the shoulders, and propelled him away from the exit.

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