When the extension line rang I thought it was the usual caller. My boss was more than accustomed to using that line. As usual I faked the official accent. It was already lunch break and my colleagues and I had begun our normal ‘debate session’. More of a local gossip and entertainment session than an educative debate, but of course, with the ‘eighth’ sense one always grabbed themselves one or two life skill points.
The caller’s voice was unfamiliar but very friendly. A gentle, soothing voice that I’d have loved to hear wake me up every morning. I’d just resumed duty from a long leave and hadn’t noticed any changes at the main entrance. The topic for the day, ‘the new gate-man’.
The conversation was rather interesting. Something I’d not heard since I joined the organization. An identified visitor was requesting to see me. The urgency at which he had made the request was alarming. His name was not to be recorded as procedural. This was new! Unlike other days when visitors are to be directed to the office, I was required to pick him at the main entrance. This sounded awkward! On further inquiry the line went dead.
No one had promised to pay me a visit me at the work place. Moreover, in this era of technological advancement, I’d have expected everyone to be more sensible and make a call informing me of their proposed visit.
The gossip was sweet, and now this? What a distraction! I was confused! Uncertainty was clear on my face. An inner voice whispered to my heart to ignore the unidentified guest. It was not only unethical but also sounded rude for someone to disrespect workers at the contact point but on second thought I somehow had to find out who the uninvited, unexpected guest could be.
I hurriedly walked past everyone else in the room, through the long corridor to the lifts which took longer than usual to stop at the fifth floor, I then realized they weren’t working either. I had only one option left to meet ‘the ghost’ – the staircase. Rushing down, the stairway was not well lit as opposed to other days. All sorts of imagination ran through my mind. Just about then, I heard male voices from behind. The conversation was in a language I couldn’t understand, being a local who had resisted learning other dialects. Wasn’t this scary? Walking further down, the staircase became darker. Fear engulfed me. Doors leading back to the lower floors were shut. I believed some evil had been planned upon me and the trap had worked so well.
In the confusion lights at the staircase dimmed, then flickered, then lit back in smooth colors. My heart skipped! I found myself sitting on a case, unable to move further. For the second time lights slowly dimmed this time longer than earlier then went completely off. I opened my mouth to scream but my mouth was dry and tongue heavy. The voices behind me now silenced. Unsure of what was happening made me more scared.
Lights then turned on. I heard soft pitched bell rings, soothing melodic sounds, such as played in a festival, for the first time I thought I had entered heaven. I felt I’d been rescued, not sure from death or near death. I stood up and walked down faster to complete the stairs. The faster I walked, the faster the melodies played, and lights blinked, in different colors. I noticed the glittering walls and a beautiful carpeted stairway. I almost stopped to stare at the beauty, but again, what would come next? “This must have been a stale joke!” I thought to myself.
On arrival at the first floor the stairway was blocked but the exit door from the hall slightly open. I pushed the door making my way into the hall that was so well decorated as if ready for a function that afternoon. The source of the melodies and home to ambiance. Admirable!
Right away I knew I was misplaced. I turned back to leave but heard a lady’s voice through the mic call my name. “Angiel”. “Not again!”, I told myself. “Please take a seat of your choice”. “At the front”, the lady continued. I was numb. My eyesight blurred, and palms sweat. I recalled the hanging on the wall back in my childhood and that mother always asked us to look unto, in times of dismay, ‘Prayer changes things’, all I said, “Jesus help me”. I turned and walked forward. The music came louder and voices from the curtains, “happy birthday, happy anniversary” they appeared….. I couldn’t believe it when I saw my supervisor, my ex-husband, then my colleagues. Had everyone planned this on me???.. the day apparently had a double purpose, my birthday and ‘our’ 19th wedding anniversary…. plans he had arranged with my boss who had been his best friend since high school.