A Night to Remember
rating: +19+x

I was running down that hallway yet again, dreading what I knew would soon occur. I had been subjected to many unpleasant things in my lifetime, but none as traumatic as this. I was about to reach safety, my hand in the process of turning the door handle, when I knew it was over.

"Is that really what you are planning on wearing to the party?"

I looked to see my co-worker Ted. He was dressed as a giant yellow bird.

I sighed, staring at the nameplate above my office door. It read "r. Matthews", the "D" having had fallen off some time ago.

Ted saw the look of discomfort on my face and followed my gaze to my nameplate.

"I am sure HR will send you up a new one sometime soon. No need to worry about it."

"I don't think Claire has forgiven me yet for what happened with Marie."

"It was an accident. Anyway, she still processed your registration for the site bowling team."

"I spilled lemonade down the front of Marie's dress. Her white dress! That both of them had apparently spent the last week designing!"

I remembered both the embarrassment of spilling a cold drink down the front of her handcrafted dress and the horror of watching her best friend's face as she gave me a combo of a wicked grin that promised a slow and painful retribution paired with a gaze that nearly turned me to stone. I had been about to comment on how I had been forced to process my request to join the bowling team with a different member of HR when Ted interrupted.

"But, seriously… You are going dressed like that? I always thought you were more creative."

"It was short notice and it's a classic. Anyways, yours is stupid too!"

Ted looked at me aghast.

"Henry, I would have you know everyone grew up with that show and he is a great and beloved character. Now, stop trying to escape to your office, and let's go to the party! Marie might be there…"

My face betrayed my thoughts and Ted gave me a cheeky grin. I scowled before growling out a response, in what I hoped would be an intimidating enough tone to shut him up.

"Fine. Let's go."


I learned that I was not alone in the lack of creativity department as we entered the main lobby, which had been fastidiously decorated to reflect the season.

"There she is!"

Ted pointed to a pair of hideous monstrosities. The first was decorated to resemble an ophio-scalped female wearing an immaculate white robe and smiling at me in a way that still gave me a feeling of dread.

The second, standing next to her monstrous companion, was dressed in full military combat gear. She took one look at me and then found an immediate and intense interest in the contents of the small plate of hors-d'oeuvres she had in her hand.

I took note that she had managed to make a semblance of a face on her plate out of an assortment of gristly appetizers, with which she had almost managed to maintain "eye" contact with up until Ted and I had gotten into drink spilling distance.

She had looked up and looked like she had been about to speak when the Gorgon from HR spoke aloud in a tone of voice that clearly emphasized her contempt.

"Ted."

Ted stood still for a moment, no doubt remembering the quick temper of the woman who had chased him out of his own apartment with a tennis racket the week before.

"Love what you have done with your hair, Claire."

Ted looked from me to Marie. I took it as a cue to say something.

"Nice face, Marie."

Claire looked at me with a shocked expression, Ted facepalmed hard enough to cause his beak to twang audibly, and Marie looked at me confused before looking back at her plate.

"Thanks?"

I hastily retreated to the punch bowl to see if I could transform it into a flesh-eating anomaly by submerging my head and wishing really really hard. Unfortunately, Ted caught up with me before I could begin my experiment.

"Dude, I know that was awkward but it's fine. I am sure she will find your ineptitude charming."

Neither of us had noticed Marie's approach.

"How about I handle the refreshments this time?"

She wore a look of authority and command that simultaneously made me want to bolt but kept me held in place. I waited for her expression to soften into the look that always drew me in, like a moth to a flame.

"By the way, I don't know what your issue with me is, but if you have something to say, say it."

"What? I… I…"

I had almost managed to eloquently speak aloud when I noticed Ted had abandoned me. Before I could locate where he may have escaped to, Marie received a notice from her pager.

"I have to go… take care of something."

Then she left the lobby.

I stood there alone in a sea of aberrations and apparitions and watched her walk away. After a minute, I ran after her.


I managed to catch up with her at her cubicle. I had been about to say something which may have been profound when the lights went out. There was a brief moment of silence. Not the kind that keeps you up at night or the kind that makes you check all your door and window locks for the third time. But, the kind that every Foundation member dreads. The silence before the backup generator is supposed to activate.

The emergency lights came on and the bulkheads came down. The site was undergoing the mandatory lockdown that occurs in the interim between a power failure and the verification of containment of each onsite object and entity. The security teams would be dispatched to verify containment and rescue any staff that may be in danger. However, Marie and I hadn't told anyone we were leaving the party. Security would have no reason to believe that anyone would be in this area. They might even…

My thought was interrupted by a stream of profanity that snapped me to attention.

"Damn! I was just about to respond to my email… What are you doing here?"

"Following you."

I was still rattled by the idea of being mistaken for a monstrosity by the security personnel.

"Why?"

"To apologize… because nothing is wrong with you. Err… I meant that I have no issue with you. I just have issues and I am sorry for that."

"So you're saying that all the tripping over my laptop power cable at lunch, inane comments, and spilling a drink on a $2000 dress is just how you are with everyone then?"

"No… Just with you."

"So it is just me then? What did I do? Do you not think I have what it takes to be a researcher? Well, I will have you know I just received an offer to be a researcher at Site 76!"

My vision blurred. My heart sank. She hated me, not only was annoyed by me, but disgusted. She would leave thinking I was a chauvinistic pig trying to ruin her career.

"I just really like you."

"What?"

"I just liked you OK! I get nervous and then I get clumsy! I…"

I am sure I had been about to circle back to my previously imminent and profound statement, from just before the power went out, when a sound neither Marie or I could ignore stole both of our attention.

It was the sound of a proximity alarm going off. Neither of us had heard anyone approach, but that hardly was a cause for comfort in this line of work.

"We need to go."

We ran down the hallway, made a right, and entered the nearest unlocked room. It was a supply closet.

Marie pointed up to an air vent.

"Give me a boost."

I complied, helping her onto my shoulders. She produced a small multi-tool and removed the screws.

I heard something moving down the hallway. Marie seemed to hear it too and hurriedly tore off the vent cover.

She got into the vent and reached out to help me up. I thought I heard a sharp scraping sound from outside the door as I made it into the vent. We wasted no time crawling as fast as we could away from whatever it was.

By the time I stopped looking back to verify we were not being followed Marie had stopped. She had begun to take the screws off a nearby vent cover.

We dropped through the opening and into a dark office room. Marie turned on a flashlight and turned to me.

"I am sorry. I had thought that you had been doing it all intentionally. I normally intimidate people and I was worried that you were just…"

"Just what?"

"Just another person making fun of me for not being normal. Claire and I had worked really hard on that dress and I had thought you were…"

"You thought I was what?"

"Well… I thought that your ineptitude was charming. Until you ruined my dress."

"It was an accident."

"Claire thought Ted may have put you up to it."

"No! I just tripped. I swear."

"I know that now."

"But you are leaving."

"I did… I mean I do like you, Henry… but, I have worked hard to get the position over there and it has great potential for my career. We can't work together but maybe we can work together. Site 76 is not that far away. Maybe we could go out for coffee sometime."

My heart leaped into my throat, then the sound of two bursts of gunfire erupted from out of the hallway. We headed back up into the vent and tried to make as little sound as we could. The ventilation system took a downward turn as we continued.

We could only see by the virtue of Marie's flashlight as it reflected off the metal innards of the vents.
I could hear the security teams throughout the facility attempting to quell something or another. I tried not to scream.

After what seemed like an eternity Marie exited the vent as we had finally made it back to the lobby. As I crawled out I grabbed her leg for support. She let out an involuntary yelp. Then I was hit by a painful shock in my upper back.

"What? I thought he was a zombie?"

Claire was motioning toward my costume still holding the taser.

Marie giggled and gave me a warm smile. I smiled back, still twitching, until Ted helped me to my feet.


After normal lights had come on and we had been escorted off-site, as if nothing other than a standard power outage had occurred. Marie and I had found our way to our cars. We were parked next to each other as usual.

"Henry?"

"Yeah?"

"Would you want to go grab a coffee? I know a little place not too far away."


I will always remember that morning, talking, laughing, and sipping our morning cup of joe in that little cafe. I remember the way the rays of the dawn caught her hair. My memory of that particular morning we shared together I will always hold special.

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