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'd done for most of the morning.
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 cistern and sighed again, blowing out his cheeks in an attempt to quell the rising panic he felt. He was too old to be 'let go' 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. "God damn blasted cheap zips, come on you complete sh... ah!" With a cry of triumph there was a long zipping noise, a frantic rustling sound of clothing, and then 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 Alan's cubicle was 'Engaged' when he emerged. 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 sensible shoes 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.
A humanlike, but small green hairless head regarded him through obsidian eyes. "Give me a moment and I'll be a little more recognisable," it said. "My apologies for all this, I'm usually a lot more careful. Too many meetings today, bloody coffee goes straight through me."
Alan watched in horrified fascination as the creature shrugged itself into its outer covering, his mouth opening and closing like a demented goldfish. It flexed both human hands, zipped up its body, did up the shirt, and finally pulled the human head over its own. As it re-tied its tie and slipped on its jacket - covering what Alan mentally considered a "man suit" - he recognised Mr Hyde, the senior accounts manager.
"Good name, eh?" he said grinning. "No-one ever looks at the obvious." Hyde moved back and sat on the edge of the row of sinks looking expectantly at Alan. "So, where do we go from here?"
"I, er... that is..." bumbled Alan. He drew in a deep breath and stopped. Oddly he was feeling angry. This was an unusual emotion for Alan, a quiet and peaceful man who enjoyed spending his days adding up long columns of numbers very precisely, or pottering happily around his allotment.
He looked up defiantly and opened his mouth. "Oddly enough Mr Hyde..." he started.
"Call me Kevin," interrupted the now human looking Mr Hyde conversationally.
"Okay. Well oddly enough.... Kevin. I'm having a really crap day. I get the feeling you and your smartly dressed colleagues are about to drop me in the shite from a great height. I have a headache, and now my senior manager who I thought was merely a little odd turns out to be.... well, what the hell are you anyway? Are you going to suck my brains out through my ears? Are you going to zap me with a ray gun, or is the door to cubicle three going to open up in Narnia? What the hell is going on?"
"And breathe," said Kevin as Alan gulped in a large lungful of slightly bleachy air.
"Some interesting thoughts there, let's go over them shall we? We were about to drop you in the shite, yes. But...." He paused and raised a finger as Alan went to launch himself into another minor diatribe. "But, I don't think I can do that anymore can I? I'm not going to harm you in any way at all if you think you can keep quiet about what you saw a few moments ago. I'm certainly not going to grab a straw and make a brain cocktail. I don't have a ray gun, and in fact I'm not sure they've been invented yet outside the poorer pulp science fiction stories and...." Kevin swung open the door the last of the cubicles. "Nope, nothing in there but an obscenely large deposit: Mr Granger I would suggest. There are certainly no centaurs, fauns or talking lions in there. I have some paracetamol in my drawer if you need some by the way."
"But, but...." Alan breathed in again and tried to collect his thoughts. "Um, thank you. I would appreciate the paracetamol." He paused and, after looking long and hard at his boss, decided to go for broke. "I would also like to talk about a promotion and a pay rise."
"Of course old boy, you are obviously more business minded than I gave you credit for. Don't push your luck and ask me for a company car though, there's a good lad." Kevin paused. "Right then: my office, ten minutes and we'll sort things out for you. Do we have a deal?" He held out the now human looking hand and looked expectantly at Alan.
"Um, okay." They shook hands and Kevin made to move towards the door but stopped when Alan cleared his throat. Kevin turned expectantly and waited for him to say something.
"You didn't tell me what you were."
Kevin smiled. "Let's just say I'm not from round here and leave it at that shall we? And to forestall your next question, yes, I am the only one working for the company and probably one of only a few left in the world. Mr Granger is actually human despite all evidence to the contrary, even if that thing in cubicle three does appear to have a life of its own. I'll see you in a minute."
He unlocked the main door and left the toilet, leaving Alan to collect himself. After spending a few seconds drying his hands and steadying his racing heartbeat he moved towards the door but paused with hand over the door handle.
Typical, he thought. He didn't even wash his hands.
~~~ The End ~~~
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A Gift in the DarkShort Story
An award winning collection of paranormal, horror and fantasy short stories woven around old legends, odd characters and the darkness within. There are things you cannot see unless they want to be seen, and some legends linger on despite the mode...