It’s spreading and I can’t stop it. Never while I’m watching, I know that much. But I can’t watch forever. Each time I lapse - my concentration wanders or I drift into sleep - ‘want’ turns to ‘need’ and I lose a little bit more of myself.
My phone doesn’t work the same way it used to. No signal. No internet. The battery level never changes from ‘38% remaining’. But I can write notes. Notes which will probably never be read, but… what else can I do?
I’ll apologise now. I’m not a storyteller. I was always terrible in English class, and I doubt I’ve ever sent an email that wasn’t laden with typos and grammatical errors. My memory is… fuzzy. None of it feels real. My past. My present. My… There are moments where the terror overwhelms me. There are moments of hunger. Animal hunger. Endless hunger. But worst are the times when clarity descends upon me, and I remember the impossibility of it all. These notes are all I have now. I’ve had plenty of time to write and rewrite. I’ve had to delete large swathes of it, some of which I don’t remember writing. But I think it’s the best I can do.
It started on a Tuesday.
I barely noticed it. Almost walked right past it.
A kebab shop, or at least, that’s what it had been the day before. Just a takeaway place I’d never been to. Now it was a barren, empty building, all its contents removed. Its flashy logo had been taken down, screws still poking out the brickwork. The menu and phone number had been stripped from the window, faint adhesive residue still lingering on the other side of the glass. Nothing but a shell. A failed business whose name I don’t even remember. My eyes fell upon it and slid right off. But something snatched my gaze back. An innocuous sign, slapped up against the glass. Black text on white background.
‘WANT MORE LAND’
It made me laugh. Hard to believe that now, but a chuckle oozed out of me. I imagined some arrogant property magnate with a limited grasp of the English language, greedily increasing their little empire and deciding this was the best way to expand. There weren't even any contact details. Just shouting their desires to the world in all caps.
Working in property, I’ve met no shortage of those types. Entitled pricks who think they’re owed a bigger slice of pie. They’re never as smart as they think, and this one was clearly no exception. I simply shook my head and continued my walk back to work, reaching into my carrier bag to make a start on my meal deal. Snacking on a pack of crisps, I smiled to myself, wondering what they were hoping to achieve with this sign.
Whatever it was, a week later they clearly hadn’t accomplished it. The sign had been replaced, and this time I laughed out loud at the sheer ridiculousness of their latest attempt.
‘NEED MORE LAND’
Still no contact information. No company name. No further details anywhere. Just the same square sign, basic black text on a plain white background. I stopped to examine it, still bristling with laughter at the increasing desperation of whoever had put it there. I found it hilarious that they’d decided the previous sign wasn’t working, and this was their solution.
That smile was wiped off my face the next day. The florist next door had shut down, all its pretty flowers gone. I’d never been inside, but it had always had beautiful displays in the window, changing with each season or holiday. But today there was nothing. No wicker baskets or intricate vases. No splashes of colour. Just an empty building that looked the same as the one next to it, just a matching square sign, hanging parallel to its neighbour. Same size. Same colours.
‘WANT MORE LAND’
The sign in the kebab shop had changed back too, mirroring its new partner. Whatever desperation their owner had been feeling the day before had apparently been eased by their latest acquisition.
“You OK?” asked a voice at my side.
I turned to see an elderly woman, looking at me with concern. She pointed at the ground, and I realised I’d dropped my coffee cup, which had exploded and sent brown splashes of coffee up against the glass and all over my clothes. I must have looked like an idiot, my hand still grasping thin air.
“Uhh, yeah,” I muttered, wiping coffee blots off my trousers and avoiding making eye contact.
“Sad, isn’t it?” she said wistfully, looking at the shop. “Was such a lovely place. I guess times are hard...”
“Mhmm,” I replied, feeling thirsty and really wishing I’d not dropped my coffee.
I felt like a big enough fool that I tried to dismiss the entire thing from my mind, and actually managed it for a while. But I was shaken out of my ignorance with a bash on the head as I tried to enter the coffee shop a week or so later. My skull collided with timber as I tried to push my way through a locked door. Dazed and annoyed, I looked through the coffee shop window, expecting to find some dopey teenage barista to blame, but instead staring into an unlit, empty space. A chairless cafe, my memory of former visits creating an almost ghostlike visage. My ears longed for the chatter of customers, the hiss of steam as milk was frothed, the jangle of the cash register taking my money. But there was nothing.
Well. Not quite nothing. Something white and black lingered at the edge of my peripheral, and although I knew what I would see, I could stop myself from turning, as though my head were on a swivel-hinge.
‘WANT MORE LAND’
Staggering back, I forced myself to look away from the sign, to take in the coffee shop, or at least what remained. It was a miserable sight, all its baby blue lettered signage removed. Only a faint outline on the wall suggested it had ever been there at all. Every remnant of its insides had been gutted and taken to god knows where. People walked past, uncaring and oblivious. With a tinge of sorrow, I realised the place was just a memory now. It held no significance to these passersby, much the same way as people don’t stop to look at the graves of strangers.
It was a short walk to the Starbucks down the road, and I grabbed an overpriced mocha before heading back to work. Curiosity getting the better of me, I walked past the old kebab shop and florist, just to take a look.
Nothing had changed. I hadn’t expected it to really. Both desolate buildings stood silently, and I was once again reminded of tombstones. Those same signs still hung in both windows. Perfectly square. Black text. White background. It wasn’t paper, now I looked closer, or card. I couldn’t see any indentations or imperfections in its surface, and couldn’t see any fixings to it. No cellotape holding it up, no blu tack. No faint residue of glue.
Separated only by the glass, the sign filled my vision. The black text seemed to leap out at me, the white background somehow pulling me in. They say white is absence of colour, black is absence of light. Whatever absence that sign held, I was floating in it. It was only when my empty cup pressed against the glass that I realised I’d been drinking my mocha, scolding my lips and tongue in the process. Cursing myself and hurling the cup into a bin, I headed back to work.
“They planning any development on Keynes Street?” I asked my boss, trying to keep my voice casual.
He pursed his lips and gave the smallest shake of his head. “Nothing I know about. You can check the system, see if there’s any planning permission?”
“Yeah good idea,” I said, heading to my desk.
“What job is this for?” he called after me. “We don’t have any clients on Keynes Street?”
Not wanting to shout my concerns across the office, I walked back and acted as nonchalant as I could. “Just curious really, someone is buying retail space there. Three shops, all the same buyer. My favourite coffee place just-”
“If it’s not related to our clients you look in your own time,” he said with a hint of warning in his words. Turning back to his screen, I could tell I had been dismissed.
Sticking to my instructions, I slogged through the rest of my work and waited until I was off the clock and my boss had left the building to check on the system. No planning applications. I even checked whether the shops all fell under the same property owner, but each building belonged to different companies. I jotted down some contact information and headed home.
Opting to wait until normal office hours to call them, my decision to be polite offered no rewards. My calls went unanswered, and only one allowed me to leave a voicemail - the flower shop. I pretended I was interested in renting the property, and fortunately my job gave me enough knowledge to word things professionally. Still, I never got a call back.
After a couple of weeks, my curiosity slowly faded away and I fell back into the humdrum of my regular life. I’d tried the property owners again, ringing out or hitting the voicemail, and eventually left one more. I knew all too well that bombarding them with messages would work against me. At that time this was still just morbid curiosity, not the obsession it would become.
Perhaps coincidentally, it was another Tuesday, otherwise uneventful, but as I sauntered back to the office clutching my lunch, I cast a casual eye at the old kebab and flower shop. It had become something of a habit, with no visible change over the past few weeks. That particular Tuesday though, the signs had once again been changed.
‘NEED MORE LAND’ they both silently screamed.
I stood outside, reading the words over and over. Strangers passed by, irritated by my unwanted presence in their path, tutting or making elaborate motions to step around me, but I only had eyes for those words. Their desperation made me sweat. As my eyes passed over each black letter, they lost all meaning, no longer words, but a feeling. A colossal, unquenchable hunger. It deepened, and deepened, an infinite black pit of starvation, and I felt something wet and unpleasant in my mouth.
Pulling my hands away, I pulled the remnants of a brown paper bag from my teeth. Glancing aside, I met the wide eyes of a suited young businessman, trying to get around me. He was staring at me with slack jawed astonishment, and hurried his pace as my eyes followed him. My lunch was gone. I can only assume I had eaten it, and in the absence of more food, started on the packaging it had been wrapped in. Shaken from whatever trance I’d fallen into, I checked my watch and realised I had been standing outside those shops for over an hour. As I ran back to the office, I reached the former coffee shop. I didn’t dare look at its sign, and clamped my eyes shut as I sprinted past.
My extended lunch break earned me a stern word from my boss, and despite apparently devouring my sandwich, I still had intense pangs of hunger. I practically emptied the vending machine that day. But even as I ate, my cravings remained. Worst of all, I couldn’t shake a strange sensation. Somehow I knew in my bones. Another shop would close tomorrow.
The next day, I didn’t wait for my lunch break to walk through town. I got in early and walked down the eerily empty streets. Even the sun was still in bed, gloomy street lights offering an orange haze without warmth. Those strange signs had changed again. “WANT MORE LAND” said the coffee shop. A sentiment echoed by the flower and kebab shop. But there didn’t seem to be any new victims. None of the shops were open yet, but they still looked as though they were in business. I wondered if I’d misread the signs yesterday, wrapped up in some strange delirium.
At least my early start went some way to placating my boss, who asked me if I’d actually left the building when he arrived. “Just making up for yesterday,” I offered. There was enough work to do that I forgot all the hunger and dread I’d been feeling so intensely the day before, but it was a temporary relief. On my lunch break, I headed to the sandwich shop I’d visited the day before, and was met with a barren store and a familiar sign. Square. White. Black.
‘WANT MORE LAND’
The coffee shop had stung, but this one felt personal. It was two streets away from the others, and somehow I felt like I was responsible. As though I’d caused the shop to shut down. As though I was cursed, or being punished. I placed my palm against the cold glass panel of the locked door, staring inside at the dim interior. Yesterday there had been tables, chairs, a counter crammed with fillings, shelves stacked with bread. Fridges full of bottles and cans. A plump, smiling serving girl, and plenty of regulars reading newspapers or chatting their lunch break away. Yesterday the place had been alive. Today it was just a room. A dead, empty room. It made me think of a carcass, meat stripped from the bones. Only what couldn’t be swallowed remained.
“I didn’t know they were closing…” muttered a voice behind me. I turned to see a guy with a hipster beard shrugging before heading down the road. He wasn’t the only one to come and pay their respects to this latest high street corpse. In the peak of lunch time, several disappointed customers came, halted in confusion, then went about their day. I stayed there longer than would be normal, but for some reason it felt rude to abandon it. Like leaving a funeral early. I grabbed something quick from the supermarket and ate it while I sat on the kerb, ears pricking up any time someone mumbled something about the sandwich shop. Most of it was simple frustration, but one voice did make me turn around.
The plump girl who had served me the day before, banging a fist on the door. I clambered off the kerb, and practically pounced on her.
“You used to work here, right?” I said, mouth still full of food.
Her shoulders sagged. “Yeah, and this… dickhead!” - she pounded the glass again - “didn’t even give me a day’s notice.”
“When did you find out?”
“He text me this morning. I thought it was a joke or something.”
I tried to make my face sympathetic, but part of me was so excited at a potential lead that I doubt I did a good job. “This is a bit weird… but can I get your boss’s phone number?”
She shook her head and gave one last, mournful look at the shop. “Sure. Whatever. Tell him Carla says he’s a dickhead.”
That managed to get a laugh out of me, and as I typed in the number, I caught myself smiling like an idiot. If I could get in touch with this former owner, I could at least put my mind at ease with what was happening. This wasn’t some ominous, unseen force. It was just people selling their businesses. It happened all the time, I was just paying too much attention. I said goodbye to Carla, wished her well, and began walking back to the office. As I did, I gave one last glance at the former sandwich shop. I wish I hadn’t. My eyes fell upon the geometrically perfect square. Its deep black text. Its bright white background.
‘NEED MORE LAND’
I stopped dead in the street and almost got hit by a car. Leaping out of the way, I ignored the driver - honking and shouting obscenities through the window at me. The sign had changed. I’d caught it this time. Nobody had touched it. “WANT” to “NEED”, all whilst I’d been typing in that phone number.
“Did anyone see that?” I shouted, pointing at the shop. “It changed! The sign changed!” People stared at me like I was a crazy person, but I didn’t care. I screamed all my fears and paranoia at that empty storefront, catching my faint reflection in the glass. I did look insane. Forcing myself to shut up, I stormed back to work, trying to stop my hands from trembling. I walked past the kebab shop, the flower shop, the cafe - each sign in the window almost seeming to roar without sound, even when I shut my eyes, I could still see their words, seared into my vision.
‘NEED MORE LAND’
Keynes Street seemed to press in on me. Whatever was doing this was hungry. Whatever was doing this knew I was there. It tried to swallow me, I’m sure of it. The street stretched out before me, the walk seeming endless. I ran, and began to cry. Nobody turned to look. Even though I was sprinting as fast as I could, people casually walked around me, ignoring me completely. I screamed but no words came out. I was convinced - utterly convinced - that if I stopped running, I would vanish like the shops had, and nobody would notice I was gone.
Somehow I made it out, tripping on the kerb as I left Keynes Street. Someone picked me up, and I clutched their arm, thanking them over and over, asking if they could see me, begging them to see me. A crowd gathered around me, and I didn’t really know what was happening. I remember being sat on the ground. Someone passed me a bottle of water. I could feel the weary eyes of a hundred strangers on me, but it was a comforting feeling. I was just glad to be noticed. Glad to still be here. I knew as long as people were watching, I wouldn’t disappear. There was a jacket wrapped around my shoulders that wasn’t mine. Voices from above told me I’d had a panic attack, and everything was going to be ok. There was an ambulance and a paramedic asked me a few questions. Then people began to leave, drifting away as curiosity faded.
One person stayed though. I was staring at their shoes. Brown brogues with black laces. They looked vaguely familiar. Everyone else was gone now, but as long as just one person stayed, I was going to be OK. Eventually I found my voice, not lifting my head from the ground.
“You know…” I said slowly, quietly, “my boss has shoes like that.”
“...Does he?” replied the voice. It was a tired voice, with just a hint of concern playing around its edges. My boss’s voice.
I looked up, and met his eyes. The jacket draped over my shoulders was his, I realised now. Silence hung between us for a moment.
“Are you alright?” he asked eventually.
I shook my head. “Not really…” I managed, before adding a more definitive “No.”
“Let’s get you inside,” he said. “Can you walk?”
I awkwardly rose to my feet, and he helped me stand. “I think so. Just…” I wanted to say ‘don’t forget I’m here’, but couldn’t bring myself to say the words. I’d already made a colossal fool of myself, I didn’t want to make it any worse. “...thanks, for staying with me,” I finished.
“It’s fine,” he said, “as long as you’re alright.”
I nodded, but didn’t say anything. I had to bite my tongue not to ask him about the shops. Ask if he saw the signs too. Ask him if I was going insane.
It was dark now, I didn’t know what time it was, but everyone in the office had gone home. My boss used a key to unlock the doors and let me inside. Automatic lights flickered on as we made our way inside, illumination following our footsteps. Whenever the office was empty like this, it always felt weird. We passed row after row of empty desks, equipment all packed neatly away. We moved to the client meeting room, and he gestured to a chair.
“Sit down, I’ll get you a coffee. I can either drive you home, or we can wait until you feel safe to drive yourself.”
I nodded, and hung my head. Now that I’d had a little time to dwell on things, I felt so silly. I’d been letting this shop thing drive me crazy. So some shops had gone out of business, or sold up. So there had been weird signs in the window. It was no reason to work myself up into a frenzy. I decided I wasn’t going to even text the sandwich shop guy. I’d just forget about the whole thing. Focus on my work. My boss wasn’t such a bad guy.
A warm cup filled with steaming coffee found its way into my hands.
“Not sure if you have sugar?” my boss asked.
“Like this is fine,” I replied, before letting out a sigh. “You’re not going to fire me are you?”
He gave a minimal chuckle. “I just want to make sure you’re OK.”
He’d made a coffee for himself, I noticed, placing it on the oak table. He was just about to take a seat at the meeting table when his phone rang. Frowning, he stood back up and pulled out his phone. He looked a little confused as he stared at the screen.
“I better take this,” he said, resting a hand on my shoulder. “Drink your coffee, I’ll be back in a minute.”
I nodded, and blew the hot steam off my cup. My boss left the room, and closed the door, but I heard his muffled voice in the hall.
It drifted away. Becoming intangible noises, until I could just hear the bass of his voice, then eventually nothing. I sipped my coffee, and swivelled gently in my chair. I never got to come inside the client meeting room. It was nice. Well furnished, still warm from the leftover heat of the day. Photos of our most prestigious properties hung on the wall in gilded frames. Our company logo emblazoned on the wall across from me.
The coffee did nothing to perk me up, my entire body felt run down from my earlier panicked sprint. My brain felt like I’d pulled an all nighter, and my eyelids were so heavy. A wall clock patiently counted the passage of time, and its faint tick-tock felt like a hypnotist’s pendulum. I caught my head lolling, but the more I fought it, the more I drifted into sleep. I vaguely remember spilling my cup, brown liquid splashing over the carpet, the cup rolling under the table.
When I awoke, daylight was just beginning to creep in through the windows. I was still in the chair, still in the meeting room, but as I rubbed at my face and blinked sleep out of my eye, I felt like something was wrong. It took my eyes a moment to adjust to the light, but when they did, I saw an empty room. No oak table. No chairs surrounding it. No photos on the wall. No company logo. No ticking clock. The light fixtures above me didn’t have bulbs. Even the carpet was gone.
Just me and the chair. A faint brown stain on the floorboards next to me showed where I spilled my coffee, but my cup had vanished. Quickly patting my pockets, I was relieved to find my phone was still there, along with my wallet and keys. I pulled out my phone, and tried to call my boss, too afraid to move from my chair. I was greeted by a dead tone. No signal.
“Hello?” I called out to the empty room.
Grunting as I got to my feet, I stumbled to open the door, but even that was gone. Just a frame where it used to be. I looked out into my former office, and was met with a barren space. No desks. No chairs. No filing cabinets or monitors. Not so much as an extension lead, or discarded portfolio folder. No vending machine.
“Hello?” I shouted, hearing an increasing desperation in my own voice bounce around the cavernous walls. I called out my boss’s name, but once again there was no reply.
“Anyone!?” I yelled as I walked through the empty room, towards the exit. No sofas in the breakout area. No picture of Brad as ‘employee of the month’ for the eighth consecutive month. No chatter around the watercooler. No watercooler at all. I had to fumble my way down the stairs. There were no windows bringing daylight from outside, and no lights to switch on.
I was about to call out again as I reached the bottom of the stairs and opened the door to reception, but as sunlight trickled in, the words died in my mouth.
The reception desk was gone. The leather chairs I’d sat in when I first got my interview weren’t there. Our employee post boxes had vanished. No logo, no welcome mat, nothing at all. Even the company colours had been drained from the walls.
But in their place, hanging in the window, was a familiar shape. A white square. A sign which read all too familiar words.
‘WANT MORE LAND’
I screamed. There weren’t words to express, just an animal noise. I leapt at the door, knowing it would be locked, but frantically trying to escape, clawing at the handle that wouldn’t turn.
I could see people outside in the street, walking past without a second glance. Pounding on the glass, I screamed for help, waved with both hands, pleaded, begged, called them horrible names, hit the glass so hard I thought I’d break my hand. But none of the strangers outside batted an eyelid. Maybe they couldn’t hear me. Maybe they just didn’t care.
“Help me! Can’t you see me? I’m trapped in here! Please!”
They were so close, I could hear their footsteps from beyond the glass, the faint sound of traffic, drifting chatter and even occasional laughter. It didn’t matter what I did. Nobody looked. It was their faces that hurt me the most. Impassive. Ignorant. Person after person, en route to wherever, never stopping, never looking.
“Please…” I begged, sinking to the ground, palm sliding against the glass.
High above me, the sign watched. It could feel its gaze.
“Why are you doing this?” I began to cry, before pushing myself up and feeling anger take me.
I grabbed the sign with white knuckled fingers, and tried to rip it off its glass perch, but I couldn’t get my fingernails under it. It was paperthin, maybe thinner. I tried to grip it, to screw it up, to rip and tear, but my fingers slid right off. It was smoother than the glass it clung to. I’d noticed before there were no fixings, but now I was on the other side, it was even more perplexing. I wrapped my knuckles against it, and it made no sound. Tapping to either side of it, the glass rung out like a distorted bell, but the sign itself was silent. My mind couldn’t process what material it could be made of.
Tugging at my hair, I forced myself to ignore the sign and focus on getting out of here. It was just glass. I could smash glass. Taking a running jump, I hurled my entire body at the largest window, dead centre, but just bounced off with a bone rattling thud. I tried again. And again. And again. Not even a hairline crack. If I was going to get out of here, I’d need something bigger. A tool, or a…
The chair! I’d woken up on the chair, and it was the only thing other than me that was still inside the building. Sprinting up the stairs, I softly whispered “please” over and over, willing the chair to still be in that empty room, to not have vanished like everything else. As I burst into the empty meeting room, I actually let out a little gasp of joy to see it still there, waiting for me.
Picking it up and heading back down the stairs with it held above my head, I broke into a run at the window and hurled the chair as hard as I could against the window. Just like I had, it bounced off, but the smallest spiderweb splinter cracked on the glass where one metal leg had hit the surface. Emboldened, I began to laugh, picking up the chair and battering it into the window, smashing it over and over, splinters growing and multiplying with each hit. Sensing victory, I aimed for the sign, but as the metal hit the sign, the metal crunched, and my entire body jarred with the motion as the chair stopped dead. Whatever this sign was made of, it was thinner than paper, frictionless, and stronger than anything I could think of. I didn’t dwell on it, I just struck the glass. The glass was weak. The glass was breaking.
Outside, figures walked past without a care. They must have seen me, frantically trying to break free. Screaming, laughing, cursing. They must have heard me, battering the chair against the glass. Must have seen the growing cracks in the glass.
“Look at me!” I yelled so hard it hurt my throat. “LOOK AT M-”
The glass exploded into a million fragments. There should have been a smash. Should have been a beautiful melody of shards spilling onto the pavement outside. Should have been gasps, or screams from the figures walking past. Should have been sounds from outside, pouring into this empty tomb now the window was gone.
But there was nothing. Just silence. Just my own laboured breathing.
The people outside kept walking past. Hundreds of them. Thousands. More. Each hurrying on their way. Each trying to move faster than the last.
Worst of all was the sign. It should have fallen. Should have toppled, defeated, to the floor. But it just hung there in the empty void. Not fixed to the glass. Not fixed to anything. It was simply… there.
There were no sounds from outside now. There were so many people walking outside that they bulged against the building, their arms and shoulders spilling into the void. Limbs clattered against the window frame, but still they didn’t notice. Still they walked, endlessly, a crowd without gaps. I tried to join them, tried to leap out of the building, but there were so many bodies, I couldn’t get through. I tried to climb them, but they were moving too fast for me to get any purchase. Stepping back, and gritting my teeth so hard my jaw hurt, I took a running jump, trying to vault over them, over their heads. Into the crowd. Just anything to get me out of this building.
But as I left the floor, there was darkness, and I hit something hard. I bounced off, and tumbled to the floor, landing painfully on what was left of the chair and rolling into a tangled heap. Grunting, I pushed myself up, and my entire body sagged when I saw the window.
It had been covered with plyboard. Nailed on. The windows all boarded up. The grave sealed shut.
The sign still hung there. Same place. Same words.
I picked up my crumpled chair, tears stinging my eyes, throat hoarse with the moans and the cries I couldn’t stop myself from making. I struck out with the chair, thrashing it with all the strength I had left into the plyboard. It was hopeless. Deep down, I knew it. But I kept hurling the chair until it fell to pieces. I tried to use the broken legs to prise off the plyboard. Beat at it with my hands. Ripped the nails from my fingers trying to wrench off the timber edges.
At some point, I was as broken as the chair.
The sign still hung above me. Watching me. Mocking me.
“Please…” I begged. “Please… let me out.”
I raised my hand and touched its impossibly smooth surface. My palm slipped right off.
Hunger. That same hunger from before. The walls of the empty reception room pressed in, the ceiling and floor gnashing together to consume me.
I must have blacked out after that. When I awoke, I was on the floor, and the destroyed remnants of the chair were gone. Part of me wonders if I ate them. It was impossible to tell what time of day it was with the boarded up windows. There was still a dim light in the room though. The sign itself; its brilliant white background staying pure white even in the darkness. I didn’t dwell on it. There were windows upstairs. Maybe I could smash them, jump out onto the street.
The stairwell was even harder to climb, and I barely had the energy to stand, never mind walk. I pulled myself up each step painfully, on hands and knees in total darkness. Fumbling and feeling for every step, wondering if they’d go on forever. They didn’t, and I pushed the door open into the office.
Judging from the light filtering through the upstairs windows, it was morning again. I’d spent an entire day trapped inside my old office building. I crawled across the carpetless floorboard, fingers catching the nails and carpet treads. I only had eyes for the windows. Those beautiful windows, offering hope, letting me see the grey sky outside.
It was an effort to pull myself up when I reached them. I tried the latch, knowing full well it wouldn’t work - they didn’t open even when the building was in use. Safety reasons, I guess. A bitter laugh slithered out of me.
My eyes fell to the streets below, and all I could do was nod. There must have been a billion people out there. Clogging the roads, teeming human bodies, covering every inch of street, each walking their own way, seemingly oblivious of the other. It made me think of an ants nest. But anything was better than here.
I bashed my palm against the glass, in some futile attempt to get attention from just one of them.
“Help…” I whispered. “Help…”
As I gave up my final attempt, my hand slid from the glass almost a little too fast. Bewildered, I turned my palm around, and my entire body went cold. Cut into the centre of my palm was a plain white square, perfectly proportioned. In black text were the words ‘WANT MORE SKIN’.
[entry in phone, recovered from abandoned office building]
[possible link to item 200]