Janus by V.C. Thomson

Today, I’ll get some answers, Barry thought. All I need is to speak with someone. Once they hear my side of the story, everything will be back to normal.

Barry stepped out of his car into the dark, empty parking lot in front of Janus Corporation. He locked his car and slowly walked towards the gray building, his right hand tightly jammed into his jacket pocket. The silence, the darkness, the loneliness. The cold, dark atmosphere mirrored exactly how Barry felt on that bleak January morning. Actually, he felt this way most mornings, since his divorce. The only time he felt normal was at work.

Barry reached the front door of the company. He swiped his card, but the door remained locked. He frowned, pulling the door handle repeatedly. He tried his card a couple more times without success.
Strange, Barry thought. It’s fine though. I know another way in.

Barry hurried around to the back of the building. He had worked at Janus for ages. In fact, next week was his 25th anniversary with the firm.

He now stood in front of a door at the back of the building. He reached into his back pocket and pulled out a small, dark brown key. Someone had lent it to him once, and he’d held onto it for years. Now he could finally use it. Barry slipped the key in, and turned. The door opened, and Barry stepped in to find himself standing in a janitor’s room.

Barry’s mind drifted back to yesterday’s events. He squeezed his left hand tightly into a fist as he remembered speaking with a woman named Diana. She was a short, rather plump woman in her forties. She called herself a consultant.

What a bitch, he thought. Diana had told Barry he no longer had a job. She actually told him to leave the company. However, Barry didn’t care because he knew she was wrong. She didn’t even work for Janus Corporation. Barry had demanded to speak to someone else, but Diana just refused. She called security, who escorted Barry out of the building. This was why Barry came today – he needed to speak with his manager, Walter, and finally get some real answers.

Barry emerged from the janitor’s room, and wandered along the hallway towards Walter’s office. It’s so quiet, Barry thought. One thing was for sure – Walter would be in early. He always was.

Barry walked along the dimly-lit hallway, turned right… and stopped in shock.

Walter’s office was empty.

Barry opened the door and walked inside. Walter’s desk was usually littered with papers and file folders. He also had lots of family photos posted on the bulletin board beside his desk. But now – there was nothing. It was as if Walter had disappeared. What had happened?

Suddenly, Barry’s mind flashed back to the day he lost his wife, Ann. She had just disappeared, too. Left without even saying goodbye. After days of searching, he’d discovered she ran away with that son of a bitch, Mark. His neighbour. When he found out, Barry felt as though someone ripped his heart from his chest. He’d wished he was dead. The only thing that saved Barry had been working at Janus. This job had become his life. He had nothing else.

Barry slowly backed out of Walter’s office. He felt even more confused, and even more desperate for answers. Where was Walter? Where was everyone else?

Barry stopped suddenly. He heard someone moving around further down the hall, towards the reception area. Finally, someone else had arrived in the office. Barry glanced down the hallway, and felt a surge of rage pass through him. It was her. Diana. The horrible woman with the nerve to tell him to leave his own company. And she was walking in his direction.

She saw him about two seconds later. “Barry!” she cried out. “What are you doing here?”

“I need answers,” he demanded. “I want to speak with Walter.”

Diana backed slowly away from Barry, studying him with raised eyebrows. “Walter doesn’t work here anymore,” she whispered.

“That’s bullshit. You told me I was fired, too,” Barry said. “But you lied.”

Diana was silent. She looked scared, but didn’t say anything.

“I want to speak with my boss. You told me the company’s closing down, and that’s another goddamn lie!” he shouted. He felt his palms growing clammy with sweat. He jammed his right hand back into his pocket, squeezing tightly onto the handle of the knife he had brought with him.

He pulled the knife out, thrusting it in front of him. “Don’t move.”

The color drained from Diana’s face. She screamed, stumbling backwards, trying to escape. But after a couple of steps, her back hit the wall. She was trapped.

“I want to know why,” Barry said softly. “This job is my life… I don’t understand… it doesn’t make any sense…”

Diana’s eyes were full of tears. “I told you the truth. The company is closing down,” she choked out.

“No!” Barry’s face was deep red with rage. “You’re LYING!” he screamed. He waved the knife in front of him. “Tell me the real reason.”

Diana was shaking, her eyes glued on the knife. “Please don’t hurt me!”

“Give me an answer right now, or I’ll…. I’ll…” Barry paused. “Or I’ll kill you right here.”

Silence. Five seconds might have passed, or maybe five minutes. It was impossible to tell.

“It’s not fair! It’s just not fair, Barry,” Diana was sobbing. “Please. Let me go!”

The words rang in Barry’s head. Not fair.

Images flashed through his mind. His job, his wife, his friends, the company. He was remembering the last twenty-five years of his life.

Diana was right. Nothing was fair. He held the knife tightly, and imagined driving it deep into his chest. Ending it all.

But Barry didn’t do it. He dropped the knife, and fell to his knees, sobbing, on the floor.

“Thank you,” he whispered. “I understand. It’s over.”

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