This story is by Broderick Lindeman and was part of our 2016 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the Winter Writing Contest stories here.
After a long day at work, Gork’s eyes became crossed at the thought of lingering for another minute to chat with his colleagues.
“Small talk. Is there anything worse?” he muttered to himself. Still, he endured the pleasantries, feigning interest until his friend arrived.
“Does anyone know what the weather is going to be like tomorrow?” A coworker volleyed to the group.
“Don’t answer that,” Gork retorted silently.
“Don’t reward his ineptitude. For goodness sake, we live and breathe technology. Just take a stroll over to the weather app and save us all your pointless que…”
“It’s supposed to be pretty bright out,” someone chimes back.
Gork’s face wrinkled with disdain, but soon melted to sunny complacency as his friend appeared from around the corner. Freedom.
With the swing of a hand, from the forehead out, “Hey Gork.”
With gritted teeth, eyes shifting and searching for the nearest exit, Gork offered only one word with the nod of his head, “Blank.”
Gork practically dragged Blank to the doorway, a task no easier than relocating an oak. At last, the double doors closed behind them. Gork’s jar loosened. Air passed involuntarily by his lips. Relief rolled up and over his shoulders.
“Man, you really can’t stand social interactions, can you?” Blank knowingly asked through a smirk he gave no effort to hide.
“You’re lucky I put up with you!” Gork fired back.
“Lucky. Is that what we’re calling it today?” the friend sneered.
Gork and Blank navigated the neighboring blocks, bantering their way toward Gork’s place, five clicks from the office. They were the only ones out, a fact most evident as their voices joined the endless current, searching for anything to reverberate off of, but rarely returning. The path in every direction was equally devoid of color as it was of sound. A piercingly white radiance ruled over the days there, with only the night to contrast it with a dull gray.
Few of their work mates ventured far from work. In fact, nearly all of the employees lived on campus, including Blank. Gork, as far as he knew, was the only to live on his own.
“Workaholics, the lot of them,” Gork would mutter to himself. Sure, they were all technically on-call 24 hours a day. Even so, it had been a long time since Gork called the office dorms home. Longer still, since he had received a late night page. Others were called in almost daily. He couldn’t help but think his life story paled in comparison. It was dull like the night. Would he even know what to do anymore if the call came?
“You ever wonder about what it’ll be like to get a late night page,” Blank started in, “and you’re nowhere to be found? You suppose the big guy is just going to wait around for you to show up?”
Gork began shaking his head as soon as he heard Blank’s tone, which had been all too familiar by then. Though he had the manners to let his friend finish his unoriginal thought before he replied, “Nope.”
“It’s been almost two years now,” he continued, “and nothing! Why waste my time?”
Before Blank could attempt to answer the obviously rhetorical question, they arrived.
“I, uh, love what you’ve done with the place,” Blank manages as he scans Gork’s newest landing pad.
The dwelling had an aerial look of a compass. The walls and table space were filled with trinkets and treasures from a life of traveling. Gork didn’t hide his peculiar tendencies from others. Though to be fair, Blank was the only soul to ever receive or accept an invite.
With a sigh, Gork nodded to the praise. It didn’t matter much if Blank meant it. As chaotic as it all seemed, Gork had a reason for every rhyme. His chest puffed with pride before he plopped himself onto a old piece of furniture.
Picking up where they left off, Gork challenged his friend once more, but more directly.
“What makes you so sure?”
The question lingered in the air, like a bubble. Jostling overhead, it taunted Blank, assuring him he had the floor. Surely, it wouldn’t disappear before he could grab ahold. But before Blank could collect his words, the silence popped, leaving his mouth agape, his tongue outstretched.
“How can you be so damn sure he’s coming back for any of us?”
This time, the silence tempted neither of them to wrestle the question from the air. Instead, it continued its trajectory until it collided with tall ceiling.
Blank leaned back in the rickety chair he had claimed coming in. The wood whimpered under the duress of his weight.
“I know. I just, know. Call it faith, call it intuition. I didn’t choose it. This knowing was put in me, written on my heart,” Blank paused and eased himself forward so as not to appear to convey his next words lightly, “by the same one who created you. Seems he wrote a different story on your heart, friend. Your questions, they’re important for you to ask, even the hard ones for me to answer. Don’t stop asking them, even if the answers don’t come right away. Don’t stop searching.”
Gork stared back at the large, sincere eyes that encompassed him. The third occupant of the room, the silence, gave way to the labored breath Gork forced through his nostrils. Blank stood and replaced the chair.
“Make sure to set your alarm, friend,” he said, with a warm, departing grin.