Floor 49 (Excerpt)

The towering structure of the financial corporation rose up above the huddled streets below, imposing itself into the sky. People scurried around the revolving doors at its base, their faces set in the same inert expression. Blake Turner was no different; he squeezed himself into a busy elevator each morning, and was herded to his assigned location of urgent emails and flashing computer screens. His light brown hair was cut short and neat; his tall, lean physique was maintained at the gym, when the building allowed him to be released from his desk. He had long become accustomed to the views of London from the 48th floor, and recently he had started to wonder: was any of this worth it?

Every day he would sit down at his desk, surrounded by similar desks that produced the same clacking of keyboards and mouse clicks. Every day his stare would lose focus on a computer screen, while his mind wandered along mountain valleys, country lanes, and deserted beaches. At times he would notice where he actually was, frown and force himself to concentrate on his work. Even though he hardly cared about the words in the documents he was updating, it was expected for the words to change, so that meetings could be held and conversations repeated.

He glanced at the clock icon at the bottom of one his screens. 7:03 p.m. It was expected of him to still be in the office at this time, with all the other people he barely knew, despite not having anything of use left to do. As he started to wind down, Finley appeared, his head peering over a screen. Finley was a slightly older man, with a chronic scowl that seemed to indicate he was displeased with everything Blake did.

“Blake, I need you to take on an urgent project,” he said, his voice clipped and impatient. Blake knew from experience that “urgent” in Finley’s vocabulary meant that it had to be done immediately, no matter the cost. “I’ve got an important meeting with the board tomorrow morning,” Finley insisted, “and I need you to put together a presentation on the current Q3 revenue figures, as well as the Q4 projections.”

Blake groaned inwardly. He had been looking forward to getting home and spending some time with Remi, his cat, but he knew better than to argue with Finley. “Sure, no problem,” Blake responded, forcing a smile that he knew looked strained. “What time do you need it by?”

“First thing in the morning at 7 a.m., so be prepared to stay as long as it takes.”

Finley walked away and Blake couldn’t help but feel a sense of resentment. Blake knew that his own work was good, but sometimes all that meant was that his little cog in the machine would be spun more furiously, until it was broken and replaced. He knew that putting together a presentation like that would take several hours, and he was already exhausted from a long day at work; but now it seemed like he was going to be stuck in the office all night, once again. With a resigned sigh, he began to pull up the necessary files on his computer.

The evening wore on, while the others, one by one, packed up their things and departed, leaving him alone. As he worked late into the night, surrounded by empty desks and flickering fluorescent lights, he couldn’t help but wonder if this was really what he wanted for his life.