Author: R.J. Sadler

Herman sat at his cubicle nervously waiting for the next round. He could hear the wheels whoosh along the carpet tiles.
“Here ya’ go jack.”
The forms fell on his desk with a splat. Herman stared at them.
“Need’em done by 2.”
He looked up at The-man-with-the-cart. He nodded and the-man-with-the-cart whooshed away. He picked up his pen with shaking hand and began to fill in the forms. By the third page he felt an immense pain consume his entire body. It started in his feet and climbed up to the top of his head. He was sweating. He took a deep breath and continued.
He made it to page four, but then dropped the pen. It rolled under the desk. Getting on all fours, he crawled after it into the dark recesses of the desk. He could faintly hear what sounded like carnival music. A woman called to him in foreign tongues through the dense wilderness leading him deeper into the eternal woods that now surrounded him. The owls watched from the moonlit silhouettes above.

He emerged with the pen and returned to his seat. The forms were waiting. He began to sweat. He continued to shake. From a distance he heard the swoosh returning.
“What’s taking you…” The-man-with-the-cart stopped talking and looked at him.
Herman looked up, “ I’m not well…I cant…I’m…”

At the doctor’s office Herman sat waiting. Already the placebo of distance made him feel better. He noticed an art print hanging on the wall depicting a dense forest. He stared at it.

“Herman?”a woman called from beyond the reception window.

As he approached the desk he saw a clipboard loaded with forms as the room tipped to its side. He staggered from wall to wall like on a ship in heavy wake.

“Sir, are you alright?” she asked in a garbled voice that became more difficult to understand with every word spoken.

He fell through the floor and into the dark forest. He heard her voice again, and he followed it to a bed of pine needles.
When Herman awoke, he was on the examining table with a pillow behind his head. There were two people in the room; a room which slowly was coming into focus. He sat up.

“I’m going to prescribe you…” the doctor said while filling out a prescription.

Herman’s face winced in revulsion as he watched the doctor complete the form. He had to look away barely listening to the doctor’s instructions.

“…And you’re going to stay out of work for at least a week,” said the doctor.

Herman heard that and felt complete. He felt like someone picked up all his pieces and put them back into the box. His nerves subsided. Then the doctor handed him the script. Herman looked at it for a long time before taking it. It felt dirty in his hand.

He left the doctor’s and went straight home. The doctor called Herman’s office, and notified The-man-with-the-cart for him. Herman didn’t fill the prescription. He didn’t need the edges removed. He needed to be removed from the edge.

At home, the couch was soft. He dusted off one of his old favorites and dropped the needle. He felt 10 years younger instantly. Humming along and tapping his foot on the arm of the sofa, he decided to order a pizza. 5 minutes later the doorbell rang.

“Damn, they’re not kidding about being fast delivery.”

But as he approached the door he could see it was not the delivery driver. He opened the door enough to peek his head through.
“Hi, I’m from the messenger service. I have a delivery for you. Please sign here.” said the messenger holding a large envelope and a clipboard. Herman’s head recoiled in disgust. He pulled his head back and stared at the messenger.

“No that’s ok, “ he said snatching the envelope and opening it.

He slid the papers out of the top. There was a note attached with a paper clip: “Hope you’re feeling better. Get these finished so we don’t fall too behind. We’re counting on you!”
It was signed by The-man-with-the-cart. Filling with rage, Herman looked up at the messenger. In the background, the record began to skip. And skip. And skip…

“Sir, if you can please sign h…”

Before the messenger could finish, Herman grabbed him by the throat. He squeezed and and squeezed. He blinked, and it was the doctor’s neck. He blinked again, and it was The-man-with-the-cart. He closed his eyes again returning to the dark forest. As he walked through, the woods became thinner and thinner. The owls were more distant. The path grew wider and harder. There was a flatness to everything. The music faded. Her voice was gone.

When he opened his eyes he was back in his cubicle, but it was ok. Everything was softer. He could even faintly hear music. On his desk in front of him was a small orange bottle with a white lid and his name printed on it. Next to the bottle were the forms. He clicked his pen engaging it. His pen strokes were smooth across the forms. They were finished in no time.