Part 1 (of a Self-Indulgent Mary-Sue Story)
The sun rose. It dipped over the horizon, bird calls heralding its arrival. The world began to wake, houses slowly coming to life and light as the people within began their days.
Soon front doors swung open, cars were started, windshields scraped in the sharp winter air. The workers of the community saw their children off to school and headed off for their day.
At work, cups of coffee were poured. Coworkers chatted and complained about the drop in temperatures, about how hard it was to leave a warm bed. Early morning meetings were held as employees settled into their routines.
Still, she slept.
When the absolute last minute had arrived, the alarm pealed its shrill warnings. Sara stirred in the bed and moaned, resentfully.
Beneath the warm, safe cocoon of her blankets, she pondered calling off, or at the least calling in late. If she stayed in bed another few minutes, she would be late past the absolute limit her work allowed. Part of her knew she must get up and go in. Part of her didn’t care.
Finally she rose, the battle barely won. Stumbling into the dim bathroom, she stared unhappily at her reflection. Her face was wide, with broad cheeks and a square jaw. Thin, dull brown hair stuck up at all angles, mussed from sleep. The poor lighting washed out the image staring back at her, as though she too was a part of the room. Might as well be.
Willing herself, she set into quick action, aware of the passing of time. The mousy hair was brushed, teeth cleaned, deodorant applied. There was no time to shower, only to get minimally dressed and head out the door. Her shower from yesterday would have to suffice.
She draped herself in a large grey sweater and unremarkable slacks. Quickly she put on a minimum of jewelry and then paced into the kitchen, picking up her bag and coat. Time to leave.
She got in her small black car and cursed as she realized the windshield was frosted over. Muttering to herself, she quickly hopped out and scraped the minimum needed to see. Twelve minutes to get to work, and if she was fast enough, she’d arrive right at the 59 minute mark.
Who would even notice if she was late? Surely the receptionist would. The woman had used to say hello to Sara as she entered the building, but put off by Sara’s rushed manner, the greetings had become less and less. It both did and didn’t bother Sara.
She drove aggressively to work, hating every driver who drove under the speed limit. She stared at the clock on the dashboard every thirty seconds or so, wondering if she would be late. Her hands drummed anxiously on the steering wheel as she sat at the light across from her work, waiting to turn left. A truck pulled up in the lane next to her and man inside gazed curiously into her car. Sara glared at the red light, willing it to change.
At last, she was parked in front of her building. Sara grabbed her work bag and got out of the car, striding towards the entrance. She badged in, and waited irritably for the slow elevator to arrive. As predicted, the receptionist didn’t look up and say hello. Only a year ago, Sara would have taken the initiative and said hello herself. Now, she just wanted to get to her office as soon as possible.
The elevator arrived, the door dinging open. Sara practically flung herself inside. In the lobby, the receptionist looked up then paused, a confused look on her face. The older woman with short curled hair looked around the area, then directly at Sara inside the open doors. Her confused look intensified and Sara turned away. She felt herself fighting not to take the woman’s expression as a personal slight. Harder and harder to do these days.
The elevator chugged slowly upwards to the fifth floor. By this time of the day, most of the others at her employer had already been at work for one to two hours, and she suppressed a surge of irritation as the elevator paused at the fourth floor.
Three of her male coworkers entered, chatting among themselves. They were men she only knew by sight, and had never spoken to. Sara wedged herself into the corner as they took up a generous portion of the small area. Saying something would be sticking up for herself, but she knew it would only add to her reputation here. So she said nothing.
The elevator reached the fifth floor and Sara ground her teeth in annoyance as the three men slowly filtered out before her. She practically jogged to her office, hyper-aware of any footfalls she heard that might signal someone would round the corner and catch her rushing.
She pushed her closed door open and set down her bags, staring at the phone on her desk. The pale LED screen indicated she was, as usual, just barely on time. A brief spike of relief filled her mind as she sat down at her PC.
Sara immediately browsed to her favorite news site, then guiltily tabbed over to her work email. She had missed a few meetings by not checking first thing in the morning. A few emails were there, mostly things she was copied on. She barely skimmed over them, deleted them, then went back to her news site.
There was only a half hour until the daily meeting, so Sara spent those precious minutes browsing to her heart’s content, pausing only to get a coffee halfway through. At two minutes before the meeting, she sighed resentfully and got up, her coffee in hand.
Down a floor and across the hall in a stiflingly warm taupe conference room, she found only two of her co-workers assembled. As usual, they said nothing as she entered. They didn’t even look up. Though this meeting happened every day, Sara rarely said anything unless she was directly addressed. It was better that way.
Sara took a seat, several away from her two team members. One, a slim young man named Tom, idly leaned back in his chair and rocked it back and forth as he waited. Susan, a bulldog of a woman who ran the meetings, looked around with irritation in her milky blue eyes.
“Is this all of us today? I know we’re near the holidays but seriously.”
Tom grunted. “I saw Will and Steve in the hallways a few minutes ago, but they had their coats on. I don’t know about Sara or Ray Ann.”
Sara looked over at him in mild confusion. “Um..”
Susan sighed, heaving her large body from the chair. “Well, I guess we can pick this up tomorrow. I need Steve to look at the test lab again, if you see him.”
Sara stood up eagerly, glad to have the meeting unexpectedly abbreviated. It was almost enough to cancel the slight of being completely ignored. Sometimes, Sara wasn’t even sure why she had to attend this meeting. It mostly consisted of Susan questioning each team member about the previous day’s work. Half the time, Susan became caught up in discussion with her chosen person and skipped her entirely.
Still. A canceled meeting was a canceled meeting, and it buoyed her spirits a little as she trudged up a flight of stairs back to her office. She shut the door as she went in, and plopped back into her seat. Sara took a breakfast bar from the box on her desk and ate it slowly as she returned to her news site, feeling no urgency to begin work.
She had always felt anxiety over this practice, but it was countered over increasing apathy. When she had first joined this project a year ago, she had met with her team lead Will, a man who had been maintaining the project largely alone for six years, to learn about it. There was little enthusiasm about having a subordinate to train, and Sara had never fully gained full understanding.
Gradually her responsibilities diminished, her work on the project was deferred or barely glanced over, and any attempts on her part to change this were unfruitful. She worked on what scraps she was given, and tried to get through the long days the best she could. Sara clicked a link, looking at a picture of a cat with a mustache, then hit the back button. Seven more hours to go.
After another hour, Sara realized she had not yet looked in on GiraffeChat. The chat room her friends posted in every day. Friends, she supposed, was too strong a word. Rather, they were people she had known at school. Yet she felt a surge of warmth as she read the group’s posts, feeling for a little while like she was one of them.
Jackie90: Good morning everyone! ❤
MrDingo: Hows it hanging AudiFan
AudiFan: Good. Got too much to do this morning. ::overwhelmed::
AudiFan: Who’s watching the cup this weekend?
Jackie90: MrDingo and I will! Beemer Joe’s pub?
SalaciousD: I’ll do Joes
AudiFan: Sounds good. Tomorrow at 5
MrDingo: Jackie90’s mom can watch the kid so yeah we’ll be there
Sara greedily soaked up their words, feeling once again like she was a part of their world. She had always been eager to be a part of a group, perhaps pathologically so. She had never learned what it took to do so, however, and had finally realized she was a clinger. Someone who hovered on the edges of groups.
She caught herself mid-rumination, and tried to derail it. That was nice, that they were meeting up on Saturday. She hoped they had a good time. Perhaps she would read about it in the chat on Monday. She looked away from the screen, staring at the floor for a moment, then pushed her chair back from the desk.
The coffee made itself known. She made her way to the women’s bathroom, passing co-workers in the hall who stared straight ahead, and pushed the door open. She passed the large rectangular mirror over the sink, not bothering to look as she headed towards the stalls.
The mirror blurred.
She caught it from the corner of her eye and stopped dead in her tracks.
Sara’s heart skipped several beats. A chill went over her entire body, raising the hairs on the back of her neck.
She could see herself in the mirror. Just barely.
In the bright corporate bathroom, she should have been able to see every flaw in solid, high definition. But what stood in the mirror was a transparent, shadow image of herself. Sara began to tremble, and rose her shaking hand to her face. It too, was perfectly transparent. She could see the faintest fleshy pink outline of her fingers, palm, and wrists, but she could also see the sink through it.
Letting out a terrified gasp, she looked at her body. Tasteful tan wallpaper and creamy ceramic tile was visible through the grey of her sweater and the black of her slacks.
She pawed frantically at her transparent body with transparent hands, finding it reassuringly solid.
The bathroom door opened. Susan walked in, and Sara turned to her.
“S-Susan! I don’t know-.. I need- ”
The older woman moved right past her. Sara turned, jaw slack, and shouted this time.
Susan opened a stall, closed the door, and Sara heard her grunt as she settled down onto a toilet.
She backed up, hitting the solid wall with her body, her breathing fast and shallow.
It wasn’t just dark in the bathroom this morning.
The guy in the car and the receptionist didn’t stare at her funny.
The men in the elevator.. Her coworkers at the meeting..
They didn’t ignore her.
They couldn’t see her. They couldn’t hear her.
And yet, she could somehow vaguely see and hear herself.
She.. couldn’t be a ghost, could she?
Sara clamped her fingers to her wrists, and felt the pounding of her heartbeat. She rose her hand in front of her face and breathed on her fingers. She felt the warm, humid air gust around them. She pinched herself, for good measure, and her semi-transparent face winced in the mirror.
She pulled away from the wall, thoughts flying a mile a minute through her mind. How did it work in movies? People died, and then didn’t realize they were ghosts? She immediately discarded this notion, but then thought over her morning.
Most of it was a blur, made so by the break-neck pace she took to get to work on time. She remembered the drive, yes? Sara patted her pockets, finding her keys there.
She took the time to pace her breathing, slowing it until it was nearly normal. She certainly felt alive. This was the most alive she’d felt in ages.
Taking one last deep breath, she turned and pushed open the bathroom door, making a beeline for the stairs. She took the stairs at a pace even more rushed than her morning be-on-time death march. Going down five flights of stairs, she encountered another co-worker whose name she did not know.
“Hey! Hi! Hi!” She paused on the steps and directly addressed him. He breezed on past, head in the clouds. Hesitantly, then more boldly, she reached out and tapped him on his retreating shoulder.
Solid. Definitely solid. He stopped in his tracks, turning around in bewilderment, looking down the steps then directly up, as though something might have fallen onto him.
Sara watched him appraisingly as he shook his head and muttered to himself. “I can’t tell if I need more coffee or less coffee.”
Her test subject resumed climbing the steps and then Sara thundered down the rest of them. She was solid. Ghosts didn’t breathe, didn’t have heart beats, and weren’t they unable to touch people? This was crazy. She didn’t even believe in ghosts!
She zoomed through the front lobby and out into the parking lot. There, dingy and dull just like her, was her car. Sara shivered in the cold and went out to it, looking closely. There was no damage. Nothing. No indicator she’d been in an accident and was now in some sort of spectral state.
She was.. just invisible.
Standing in the bitter cold, Sara started to laugh. It made sense. Somehow, this all made perfect sense. Unseen by others, she had actually become unseen by others. The awful comedy of it twisted in her mind, laughter turning to terror and back again.
Finally she took charge of herself again, shivering, and felt a dozen different questions looming in her mind.
How long does this last?
Can I turn it off?
Does it damage my body, my mind?
What are the limits?
..Can I turn it back on?
She felt herself stand up straighter, her arms fall down by her sides, and her eyes narrow as she contemplated the very last question. Her lackluster life, her unfulfilled needs and loneliness all fell away at the implications.
…What can I do with this?