Doug didn’t bother taking a shower. Instead, he came into work early as usual.
As he stood in front of the building, waiting for Kay to unlock it, he noticed that the others stood away from him. Some even seemed to be pacing around him, prowling. They complained in low voices about his stench, about his blog, about how he used them all as jokes, fodder.
Doug was first in. The others stood waiting a few minutes, as if his stench were contagious. He hoped it was. They could use some dirt, he thought.
Flanders sat in his white leather chair, reading something Doug could not see from the window. The men saw each other, caught as if in a picture. Doug pulled his backpack from his shoulder as he pushed through the door of Flanders’ office.
“I told you, you do this again, and –”
“Shut the fuck up, asshole. I got it. Fucking real proof.”
Doug pulled out a blue binder marked Xerrex Tanker Degradation Report / Contracts. Flanders’ face went slack. He knew it must have felt like someone kicked a hole in Flanders’ chest. The world had suddenly realized it wanted to be upside-down and followed suit.
“That is Ronto property. Give it over Doug.”
“Fuck that. I got proof. I knew you hadn’t lost this.” Doug was flailing the blue binder over his head. He waved it like a flag before a charge into a damp battlefield. As any good General knows, he understands the tide has turned before it even begins. The world tastes as sour as it smells. Everything feels smudged with the black grease of luck.
Flanders’ body folded back into his perfect white leather chair. The one hand-stitched by elderly women in a town in Italy somewhere.
“Security will be here in a second. You can either hand it over or they will take it back.”
“No, I… I have copies.”
“Come on, we know you don’t. It’s over, Doug. Time to stop. While you still have your head.” Flanders was in no hurry to explain. He sat back, his smile still fixed in the style of perfect men in perfect power, a perfection geometrically described would look fixed, held static.
Mouth-breather and Rat bolted through the door. Two prongs stuck into Doug’s chest as the Rat sent volts upon volts of electricity through him. He could taste nickel and smell burnt toast again. But he couldn’t think. Nothing moved. He couldn’t even speak.
Mouth-breather kicked him in the ribs as the Rat shocked him two more times. A rich, frothy mixture of spit and bile spilled from the wide smile shocked into him.
Doug tried to move, but felt nothing. Even the hunger and growling of his stomach had subsided and left. He felt empty as the ceiling. There was nothing left in him.
People were starting to mill outside the office. Doug could swear he even heard some of them growl. Then they entered the office, as if they couldn’t restrain themselves anymore, and took hold of Doug’s feet.
His teeth chipped against the ground as his nose bled a streak across the white carpet. Michael tried to punch him in the stomach and the balls, but too many people piled upon Doug. Instead, people just wildly punched at his body. Then people kicking at the back of Doug’s head.
“GIVE US BACK WHAT’S OURS!”
“YOU HAD NO RIGHT TO LEARN OUR SECRETS, ASSHOLE!”
“People don’t like their secrets being told everywhere,” Flanders told Doug. “I’m surprised you don’t know that.”
He was submerged by people. His arms felt like their arms, his legs were their legs. Doug felt hands reach for bits of him and the sharp pain of teeth in arms, legs, and stomach.
Given the chance, Doug would have screamed. He would have yelled as if on fire, but he was paralyzed. Frozen to be beaten and left for dead somewhere out in field.
Then his teeth crashed down his throat as people kicked at his face. He swallowed five teeth and tried to crawl away, but nothing was moving.
Flanders was yelling something at the employees. They were each in their corporate work wear best. Pleated khaki slacks. Lanyards announcing each person’s name and occupation.
Cathy. Accounts Receivable.
Chris. Administrative Assistant.
Even Flanders wore his tag.
Flanders. Sales Manager.
This was who he was now. As the others pushed through to kick and punch at him, this was who he was.
He would forever be left somewhere dead, in a field, out by the dying, yellow grain where he dug. It looked like gold.