Robert Batten

Sci-Fi and Fantasy Author

September 27, 2016

On Meetings: a short story

A fresh voice speaks, identical to the preceding drone. Many words amalgamate, joining the growing mass of wasted vocabulary. An epic of empty sentences and meaningless points.
I blink, lids scraping over burning eyes — pleading to remain closed. I glance at the clock in the corner of my screen. Twenty minutes to go.
Twenty. Interminable. Minutes.
The weight on my forehead increases — a crushing sensation reminiscent of a vice winding shut. Fatigue has never been this heavy.
Someone new interrupts, asking a question. A goddamn fucking question. What are they thinking? How can they do this? I swallow my impatience and reach for my cup.
It's empty.
Tears threaten to escape, but I must not cry. The promise of relief for my weary eyes has fingers twitching, eager to flick the web cam off, but I resist.
I can do this. I won't be beaten by a one hour meeting.
Focusing on the words, I wrestle the stream of gibberish back into sentences. The shared screen thrusts a phalanx of numbers at my abused eyes. Row upon row of figures linked to unfamiliar GL Codes. Columns parading progress devoid of reference to any landmark. It doesn't matter; the speaker has elected to explain every cell.
I switch windows and open Facebook.
Why am I even here? How did I get invited to this?
Ten minutes to go, but the spreadsheet continues its assault. I bring up the agenda, ready to calculate the likelihood of finishing early.
My heart stops. My stomach shrivels. My tears flow free.
It isn't a one-hour meeting. It's a two-hour workshop.
I release a digital plea for help to the first of my friends I spy online. Save me. Save me from this purgatory.
First World Problems.
An animated gif of an orangutan falling over laughing.
I need new friends — people who understand my pain.
If no-one will save me, I must rescue myself.
I cast about, searching for salvation. It comes in a sleek plastic case, merry LEDs mocking my torment. Possibly the result of caffeine-deprived psychosis, but the device trembles as my hand draws it near, smearing fingerprints over its proud surfaces.
I pull the plug. The condescending lights dim.
A message of deliverance blazes across my monitor, "connection to the server has been lost."

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