30 comments

Creative Nonfiction

(Contains some strong language)

It was the longest the hallway had ever been. An oblong dungeon. Stale, musty with the scent of aged spills and my own perspiration. No one was back there. I tensed, eyeing the light that blared through the swinging doors at the end of the tunnel. The soles, though soft, ricocheted slaps of sound off sealed concrete. Every corner shadow looked like an outline of the bastard's egg-shaped head. Any noise could have been him. I could never be sure if the slapping sounds were me, or he flying up from behind. The ticks of my human clock grew into thumps.

I heard the late night machinery back in the distance. Noise pollution. Beeps and clanks ravaged my sanity for one final time. The air between myself and the exit doors thickened, taking on the properties of water, then mud. My concrete-ravaged knees convulsed, giving unnecessary reminder of years of abuse. Helpless anger heated my face, bringing sweat to a simmer.

Get to those doors. Get there, and the battle is half over; get to the main entrance, the battle is won; get to the road, the war has finally ended.

Then what? As is usual with war, freedom, like everything, always comes with a price. I panted as shallow as excited lungs would allow, refusing to let the glaring rectangles of glass out of my sight with so much as a blink. It no longer mattered. I would pick up the pieces of my shambled adult life later. Whether or not any could be salvaged into something at this point was the nagging question.

The price sticker I had failed to scrape screamed at me in its green fluorescence. Everything comes with a price, and so would sticking it out yet another year. My steps advanced in speed. I could almost hear the mud sloshing.

Wait!

What would he say when they asked about my character? That I was slow? That I didn't pay attention to details? That I didn't even bother giving two weeks notice?

That was the whole thing: I hadn't planned on it when the alarm went off that evening. I thought I could tough it out. Five more years. Five more, and I would be set for life. Little did I realize how close to the breaking point I was. One more rant from Egg Head about something ridiculous, and the switch would flip.

I jabbed at the sticker with the scraper's rusted blade. It was obstinate as usual. The blade snapped clean in two. I clawed until my fingertips turned raw, abandoning it as a torn, wadded remnant, visualizing him standing over it later with a twitch in his throat.

The doors flung open, and I marched through. I didn't care if anyone was on the other side. If they asked me where I was going, I'd ignore them. The light at the end of the tunnel was artificial. It joined everything else swirling inside my skull as I picked the name tag off the left side of my chest like rotten fruit. My heartbeat was visible where the tag had been. My vision strobed under the torture of the ceiling's phony luminescence as it had for the twenty-two years leading up to this moment.

It seemed eons, waiting for the time clock to accept the final swipe of the bent, jagged plastic bearing my first name.

Successfully clocked out.

My arm pits turned cold as they began to dry. I'd done it. The piercing whine of Michael Bolton's voice could no longer hurt me. It muffled to white noise along with the throngs of midnight shoppers meandering through the aisles beneath the omnipresent loudspeakers. I was one of them now. But not for long; only long enough to traverse this ten-acre disaster zone to my newfound freedom. I would never return.

Cleanup on Aisle Three! Immediately!

I detoured through the camoflauge of the clothing department. Someone else's problem now. Six-foot three or not, Egg Head would never notice me here because he'd never dream I'd dare venture into the face-coloring territory that was Lingerie. It was all a pink and white blur in my peripherals anyway.

The glass doors slid and closed beyond the registers every couple seconds like the only thing in the whole building providing enough ventilation to prevent this boxed, fiery Hell from exploding. I remained crouched at the edges of carpet and shiny tile, the adrenaline sharpening my focus to hawk quality. Maybe the rest of the crew got called to the office for another long-winded bitching session.

No one of concern in sight. Just customers and new cashiers.

Opportunity knocked. I eased my way toward the group of eight who were heading for the doors, joining them from behind. I whispered a thanks for their acting as a shield. A puff of fresh night time caressed my ancient hair. Bolton's voice went silent behind me, and Chariots of Fire played in its place.

Still, I knew it wasn't over. This was a beginning, not an ending. The concentrated Cumulus was dissipating, but now a thick blanket of black emptiness above me had been revealed. The literal nightmare was done, but how long would the ones in my head go on? This place was inescapable. The decades, permanent. Once in, no matter where I tried to go, the mark of the beast would forever be implanted in my brain and tattooed on my ass.

The blank in "blanket". My new reality. A new chapter, thus far having pages lacking words. I stretched my neck searching for one lone star in the sky through the windshield as I started the engine and rolled in slow motion across the parking lot. I sank into the seat as the tan, tyrannical face of the building grinned at me, wondering if it truly was the sensation of tons being lifted from my shoulders, or that of my soul going under to a place far worse. No...There was no such place. For now, my Number One priority was throwing that alarm clock in the garbage.

August 29, 2021 18:16

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30 comments

Santina Forlenza
15:39 Jan 02, 2022

A very well done mix of adrenaline and suspense running until the end. I find the description so vivid and one thing with the entire escape towards freedom. Well done!

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Gip Roberts
18:28 Jan 02, 2022

Thank you, Santina. I get a lot of positive comments on this particular story, so it's one I regularly read again and again myself to study what made it work.

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Wy Jung
23:46 Oct 27, 2021

I'm still new here and figuring things out (for instance, just realized I can click the up arrow on people's comments I strongly agree with...niiice) and I really like your writing. Your sense of humor reminds me of my Granpa Lee's ...and I credit him with being one of the most comical people I've known. I hope you will continue writing here, even if not submitting. Your style is unique and resonates with me. After quitting my soul-stealing corporate job of 15 years, the egghead I saw here in your paragraphs seemed awfully familiar. Keep...

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Gip Roberts
20:03 Oct 28, 2021

Thanks, Wy Jung. I've been here for almost two years and things still confuse me. Like, how do I find specific authors without having to sort through thousands of stories? There's no Search box anywhere. I had a grandpa who also had a big sense of humor and I'm sure I get some of that from him. I intend to keep writing here, but at the same time I'm also looking into other ways of getting my work known, especially ones that pay. I get so sick of pouring my soul into my writing and never seeing a dime for it. I'm glad you, like myself, were a...

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Wy Jung
23:23 Oct 28, 2021

Hi Gip, Thanks for the comment! So, I realized yesterday that when you click on "Stories" at the top of the Reedsy page that there are 2 options. The default is alllllllllll the stories, but the "Activity Feed" option includes only the authors you follow. Hopefully that will help some. I was glad to have noticed it there. I'm thrilled to read that you'll keep writing here. My goal for ages has been to write for at least 4 hours a day (as that is the only way a book gets written!). I have been enjoying Reedsy as kind of a safe community s...

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Gip Roberts
20:40 Oct 29, 2021

Thank you for these tips. It sounds like you're really going all out toward becoming an established writer, and I'm glad you're with us on Reedsy. It's interesting what you said about the similarities between a platform like this and an artist renting studio space because I've also been doing some paintings and getting frustrated over lack of feedback back from anyone. I hadn't ever thought of renting studio space. Maybe I should look into that. Thanks :)

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Delia Strange
11:41 Oct 27, 2021

What an opener. Quickly painting the picture of prickly emotion. A phrase jumped out at me that I really loved: "[...]eyeing the light that blared through the swinging door at the end of the tunnel." The use of a sound word describing a vision really works here. I've seen this before but not always appropriately or as... *good*, really. The whole story was about emotion. About escape. Having left an abusive job myself, I can relate. I think, sadly, most can. Nice work capturing that sensation. I notice there were strong implications to th...

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Gip Roberts
19:39 Oct 27, 2021

You're a gem for this feedback. Thank you. I hadn't even noticed I used a sound word for vision until you pointed it out. Well, so long as it works, I'll keep it in mind for my future writing. Yes, I was definitely writing from personal experience with this one. The word "toxic" is being used more and more these days to describe abusive employers. I'm glad we both were able to escape. Because it was written from personal experience, but this needed to be a story rather than a rant, I deliberately refrained from mentioning any company names ...

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Bruce Friedman
23:47 Oct 26, 2021

Gip, wonderful story. Professional grade. Flows beautifully with rich vocabulary.

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Gip Roberts
00:07 Oct 27, 2021

Thanks, Bruce. There are so many good writers here who regularly teach me new words to add to my vocabulary.

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01:18 Oct 13, 2021

Hmmmm….sounds like a box store during the holiday seasons. I couldn’t help but guess. This is so creative. I love it. I have experienced the last two paragraphs and will again when I retire.

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Gip Roberts
20:09 Oct 14, 2021

Thanks, Theresa. Yes, it was a box store and I wanted to express what it was like having worked the overnight shift for years in one of them. Now that I've found a job that isn't toxic, my feelings about retirement have shifted somewhat. I hope when I do retire, I'll at least spend way more time writing. Thanks for the kind comment.

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Akshara .
15:01 Oct 08, 2021

Beautiful, really. This story gave me chills, sadness, but also a feeling of relief. The transition between Michael Bolton and Chariots of Fire was a great touch. This was wonderfully written! Could you please check out my recent if possible, and leave a critique? Thanks.

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Gip Roberts
19:44 Oct 08, 2021

Thanks, Akshara. This story was closely based on something that happened in my own life, and "chills, sadness, but also a feeling of relief" were exactly what I experienced. I'm happy to read your latest and leave a comment.

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Amy Jayne Conley
20:23 Sep 11, 2021

Oh man, this one gave me chills! :D Amazing, work again, Gip - the right amount of suspense, I found myself scrolling faster and faster and then... relief - he'd clocked out! BUT STILL SUSPENSE, because it's not over yet! And then it is! I particularly loved your ending sentiment, for some reason - 'pages lacking words'. Depending on how you look at it, it's either a positive (you get to write your story) or a negative (you don't have the words but there are so many daunting pages). I love it! Great work! P.S. I only just learned about the...

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Gip Roberts
21:20 Sep 11, 2021

I love your way with words in your comments too. "Relief - he'd clocked out!" That was exactly how I felt when I finally reached the time clock that night. I've never heard of the Activity Feed tab either, and it's always been really frustrating having to do detective work just to keep up with everybody. I don't want to risk having my identity stolen, so I'm not about to go get a credit card just to enter a contest, therefore won't be writing very much anymore.

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Amy Jayne Conley
07:01 Sep 12, 2021

A-ha, this is a personal story?? :O Well, I'm so glad you got out of there! And I hope you've been filling those blank pages with beautiful stories!! Honestly, I felt much the same - but I need to keep writing somewhere, and as we have the option to publish freely just to our profiles, I'm going to keep doing that! I don't have anywhere else where my writing would be read, really. It's people like you, reading and interacting, who've kept me writing at all! So, thank you so much for all your support, Gip - and I hope you keep writing, becau...

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Gip Roberts
19:19 Oct 03, 2021

I must have been experiencing a "brain fart" the day you wrote this reply, because I just now noticed everything you said. Thank you for the encouragement to keep writing. I'll be writing another one probably some time this month. It isn't all a waste, I suppose. We do still earn karma points and can get and give valuable feedback, and we can still post our stories on social media as far as I know. I just wish they would at least introduce some Honorable Mention prizes as an incentive for the writers who don't want to or can't pay the fee. ...

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Amy Jayne Conley
08:10 Oct 04, 2021

Hahahaaaaa the good ol' brain fart!! I have those regularly, don't worry, Gip! I agree about the honorable mention prize - something free like that would be amazing. I do think they've ostracised a huge part of submissions by introducing the fee... I personally would love it if you kept writing! I admittedly haven't done anything for a while since I got super busy, but I'd love to write weekly again. I miss it... but also, the prompts haven't inspired me much! It's a crazy world right now. I feel like I need a good long sleep...

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T M
12:31 Sep 11, 2021

"The piercing whine of Michael Bolton's voice could no longer hurt me." But it can, my friend...it can.

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Gip Roberts
21:42 Sep 11, 2021

Good point. Once you've heard one verse from the throat of that human embodiment of eternal hellfire, there's no going back. He will forever be a broken record burned into the interior of the brain, mercilessly administering an infinite loop of lashes striking the eardrums of the mind until the soul caves in.

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Kathy Roberts
18:16 Sep 06, 2021

I loved this. You built up the suspense right to the end.And then a feeling of relief.

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Gip Roberts
18:28 Sep 06, 2021

Thanks for your input. Since it was something I actually lived, it was easier to be descriptive with this one.

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Writers Block
13:19 Sep 03, 2021

The transition between Michael Bolton and Chariots of Fire was a great touch!

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Gip Roberts
19:44 Sep 03, 2021

I thought so too, haha. No matter how serious I try to be, I can't avoid adding dark humor to everything I write. Thanks for the comment.

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Rachel Smith
11:32 Aug 31, 2021

Hi Gip, I loved this! I was drawn in straight away and felt compelled to keep reading, right to the end. I liked so much about this. The suspense built brilliantly and the ending line was great. The emotions were palpable. Fantastic work.

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Gip Roberts
20:10 Aug 31, 2021

Thanks, Rachel. That's another thing I like about you: You're always teaching me new words. "Palpable". I'm going to look that one up. I've heard it all my life, just never bothered looking into it before. Thanks for the comment.

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Rachel Smith
20:53 Aug 31, 2021

You're welcome 🙂

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Giulia S.
22:25 Aug 29, 2021

Hello, Gip! Great job, as always. This story left me a sense of sadness but also a feeling of relief. I could feel the desperation of the narrator, desperately searching to get out of that hell he's stuck in. Beautiful, really. Congrats!

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Gip Roberts
23:08 Aug 29, 2021

Thanks, Giulia :) I aimed for conveying feelings rather than descriptions with this one. It's awesome to hear I seem to have achieved that so far. I appreciate the feedback.

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