This is the first part of a fiction serial, in 705 words.
3:17. That was the time shown by the red numerals on the digital alarm clock next to the bed when I woke up for no apparent reason. The little dot next to the number three was at the top, indicating it was morning, not afternoon. I had never got around to changing the setting to a twenty-four hour display.
The feeling I had was more uneasy, than scared. I hadn’t been dreaming, at least not that I could remember, but I definitely recalled sensing a presence of some kind next to the bed. Once awake, I felt thirsty, though I was reluctant to get up to go and get a drink. Whenever I did that, I rarely got back off to sleep, and I had a long day ahead of me. So I settled back onto the pillows, but as predicted, sleep didn’t come.
Once I was on the crowded train, having to stand was a blessing, as it kept me awake. It was my second day working at the smart new development, and yesterday I had met Janice, who was in charge of the sales there. Dockside View was one of the company’s prestige blocks, and Janice was determined to get all the flashy apartments sold by the deadline. They were throwing a lot of staff at the project, which was why I was now commuting into the centre, instead of walking to the corner to sell semi-detached identical houses, and commercial lots nobody was interested in.
Janice was a woman who didn’t tolerate fools, and she had made it clear she hadn’t asked for me, so expected me to impress her. To be honest, the demand for the property was high, and I had spent the previous day juggling viewing appointments. Getting the deposit was everything. Our performance targets were based on deposits taken. If the sale fell through later, nobody on the sales team cared. We had done our bit.
From the station to Dockside View was a twenty-five minute walk. So I bought a coffee from the vendor outside to perk me up enough to face it. In our brochure, it was described as a ‘Pleasant fifteen-minute stroll’. That made me smile, after walking fast for twenty-five minutes yesterday, and only just getting there by my start time. And the scenery on the way was hardly pleasant. Lots of building work going on, cement mixer lorries crammed into small cobbled streets, and builders shouting up at crane operators.
Neil smirked at me as I walked in. He was standing close to Janice, and he had worked with her on the Britanna House development previously. I marvelled at how he could look so crisp and fresh after travelling in all the way from Kent. Not a crease in his suit, and his white shirt was so clean, it seemed to reflect the light.
He jumped in before I could dump my empty paper cup in the bin. “No drinks in the sales area, Darren. You were told that yesterday. Don’t forget you have a nine-fifteen, you should ring them to let them know you are ready and waiting for them”.
I would dearly loved to have leaned across and head butted him. But I needed the job.
Walking outside to ring the client on my company-supplied mobile, I suddenly realised I had only four percent battery, and had left the charger at home. I couldn’t even creep around the corner for a cigarette, as Janice had banned smoking for the duration of the sales. “They will smell it on you, Darren. That’s a sales-killer, believe me”. My Russian customer had a name I couldn’t pronounce, so I just called him ‘Sir’. After assuring him I was at his service for the nine-fifteen appointment, he just hung up with no goodbye.
Now I had to face going back inside and asking Neil or Janice if they had a phone charger. I hung around for a few minutes, hoping Desmond would show up. He carried a big rucksack that they made him store under one of the sales desks. He probably had everything in there, incuding a charger, I bet.
Then I remembered he had the day off, because he had worked last Saturday.