's 2017 Horror Write-off:

This is a Happy Ending Story

Submitted by Canute Goodman (email)

It feels weirdly negatory to start off with a whole bunch of disclaimers, but I do want to state up front that I'm perfectly fine and I don't think any part of this was a very big deal. I know when people post about these sorts of situations it's pretty tempting to yell at them about making better life choices, but I promise I know my own circs the best and everything is pretty good, all up. I don't even want advice about what happened, I just think it's interesting enough to share. Please don't tell me to quit my job because of this.

Anyway, I don't even know for sure if it's a connected thing, (and I kind of hope it's not,) but during my last year at high school I found a bunch of playing cards? Just five of them, all from different decks, and all in different places. The only one that weirded me out at all was when I found the eight of hearts sitting on one of those metal front-facing library shelves. And that was just because I'd found the Jack of Hearts two weeks ago and the library did seem a random place, though really it was probably more likely than finding one on the ground, which was where the others were. Still, when I mentioned it to my best friend and said I guessed the whole thing wasn't really that weird, she looked annoyed with me and said "Oh my God, Rose, it is so weird; I have never found a playing card in my life, who does?"

I've never taken a survey or anything but I'm sure other people do sometimes. Maybe it was a bit of a strange coincidence it happening so many times in a short space of time, but oh well. I still have the five of them, in my wallet. Three have gone tatty cardboard at the edges. The other two are plastic. Obviously they don't prove anything because if I'd wanted to buy five different decks and force a mildly weird anecdote with props, I could've. I don't know that I'd be super upset to lose them, (frankly if I lost my wallet I'd have other concerns,) but I like having them.

Nothing ever happened to me because of those cards, and like I said, I don't know that they're actually connected to anything. But I thought maybe it was required backstory for why I kept the Cluedo card.

Maybe it isn't. Maybe it's a perfectly normal human impulse, and if you'd been walking along on your way to work and seen a card from a board game you'd have picked it up too, maybe even tucked it into your wallet without even thinking about why you were doing that. I'd like to think so. That would mean what happened wasn't really intimate the way it might be otherwise, just another coincidence.

The card was Mrs Peacock, only it didn't say Mrs? It just said Peacock, and had a very purple silhouette of a woman in a trench coat. (I don't know why it was purple; peacocks are definitely blue, I think even in Cluedo.) She wasn't overtly sexualised, but stylistically curvy with a bend to her butt that probably wasn't possible for a real woman standing the way she was. It was obviously modern, and when I looked on the back I wasn't surprised to see it was dated 2014. I was a little surprised to see it was dated, though. I'd been working as an admin assistant for six months and I knew for a fact that if people could date stuff, they mostly would not.

The job's at a small local animal charity. I can't be a lot more specific than that; New Zealand's a tiny place and we don't even have a lot of small local animal charities so maybe even that's too specific. It's my first real indefinite job, with no automatic end date in the contract, I mean. The wage is not...high and the hours aren't super great but it's an actual job and got WINZ off my back and I quite like living at home, so. It's a good job.

The absolute best thing about it though is that the office is filled with dogs, and sometimes the big ones come lean on me while I'm working at the computer. It's fantastic.

The fact that I'm not planning on leaving probably makes it seem like what happened to me can't be that bad, and honestly I think that's true? I have been accused of downplaying thing in the past, but I think I'm just being sensible this time. (I'm even typing this up on breaks at work, with big dog Cairo leaning on my side.) There are five other people at work. My co-workers are all in their thirties or older, and work's not super social. They all seem like thoroughly professional people who mostly focus on getting shit done and they all care about dogs a lot.

Our manager/boss is named Reg and so is one of the dogs. They named the dog after the manager because they said they were so alike, which I don't agree. (I like the dog.) Everyone always laughs when they say that, so maybe it's an office joke. I used to think it was understandable that I didn't understand most of everyone's jokes, like there was a context I didn't know. After a year I'm beginning to think that it might just be we have different sense of humour.

Cheryl is, I think her title is marketing manager but Reg calls her Little Miss Public Relations. She isn't little and I think she's married but she does spend a lot of time on the phone being polite to people. Honestly screw that for a job. (The phone part. I quite like being polite.)

There are two full time animal supervisors (I don't think that is the right word but) who come in pretty regularly but their work isn't office based. And there's Hamish, who does all the cleaning and gets offended when the others call him a handy-man and ask him to fix stuff though he does it anyway.

I got to work a little late that day, because it looked like raining, and the bus always takes about ten minutes longer when the weather might be bad. Normally Cheryl is at the front desk, and by normally I mean I had never entered the building without her being there because she's the one who unlocks the doors and if she's not in I can't get in. It disconcerted me even though I knew she must have just gone to the toilet, and I was going to mock myself for being pathetic about a tiny change in routine when I realised the lights proper weren't on.

The room was lit like natural light on a grey day, except our bit of building was right in the middle of more building being used by other businesses and there were no windows for other light to be getting in, except the tiny one in the front door which couldn't have done the job.

It was literally physically impossible, but the human brain or at least my human brain coped with that by deciding that the error was inside itself. I hadn't been in work with the lights off before; I didn't know for sure it should be darker than dim daylight even though everything I'd absorbed of basic physics said so. I suppose for a proper spooky atmosphere the building should have been dead quiet, but I could actually hear the people around going into their work talking like usual; I'd never made out what anyone was saying but from the way the building was shaped it was totally normal to hear murmurs and footsteps, especially around nine in the morning when people mostly arrived. Maybe that should have made me feel better, but it didn't.

I called for Cheryl but no one answered. I decided she must be around, or at least someone must be, since the door was open and it was time for people to be here. So I went to my office.

My office was just barely down the hall from front desk, closer than the toilets were, and I told myself it would be weird and babyish to actually go look for Cheryl like I needed to hear a good morning to feel okay.

I had the key to my office, and when I turned the door handle after turning the key the door wouldn't open. It had been unlocked when I went to unlock it. That sent me in to a panic because I was so sure I remembered locking it last night, but again my brain blamed itself and said that my memory must be wrong. I got the door open and went through.

My brain didn't point out that there was a pattern of weirdness going on even when I saw the dead body.

It was Reg. He had rope coming out of his mouth and a spanner sticking out of his chest. His hands were clasped above his head with blood leaking all out the bullet holes through both his wrists. I swear I didn't think Cluedo-themed murder at the time, even when I saw that his nose was covered with wax and someone had stuck the handle of a butter knife deep into his eye, leaving the blunt blade sticking out.

If you know your Cluedo that's five of the six weapons and I guess I have a theory where the sixth was now but at the time it didn't even occur to me that there was a theory to have and even if it had I wouldn't have checked.

I guess the image of all that might seem funny to some people or something but honestly I just feel sad and gross when I think about that body and those moments I was there with it.

I wanted to take his pulse (even though I should have known it was absolutely futile, he was ultra-dead) and literally stuck my thumb right on one of those holes in his wrists and it dipped in and I know I was in shock or whatever and I'm sure some nice people would say I shouldn't blame myself but I do??? I will literally hate myself forever for that incompetent hopeless garbage moment of failure where I looked at a man with holes in his wrists and thought I should take his pulse and then didn't go for his neck because?? That would have made sense??? And been fine???

I had blood on my hand and I started crying.

A lot of people wonder how they would cope in emergencies and let me tell you it is not fun to know that you're someone who promptly turns wet and useless but I guess I have to live with that now.

While I was standing there staring at the blood on my hand and failing to achieve anything, the door behind me opened. When I turned around there was Hamish wearing a yellow shirt and yellow trousers, (where do you even get yellow trousers?) and I swear I still made no connections.

"Someone...someone should call 111," I said to him, quietly. "I think Reg is dead."

Hamish leant over my shoulder. "That's sure his corpse, alright," he said cheerfully. "Guess we'd better investigate, don't you think?"

I decided he must be coping with inappropriate humour, only I don't know if I really decided that. It was like I was having what I thought were very calm sensible thoughts on the surface of a frothing turmoil that was actually a lot more in charge than I realised it was. I'm not sure inappropriate humour in distress would have seemed at all an actual explanation for how he was acting if hadn't been so worked up.

"You call 111," I told him. "I'm gonna go and...go and be away from here."

He didn't try to stop me leaving. He just laughed again.

Probably the sensible thing in that situation would have been to suspect Hamish of being the murderer. But actually I hadn't even reached the point where I realised someone had to have done this to him. I would have been panicking even harder if it had occurred to me that there might be a killer in the building with me. All I wanted to do was get out of there, no one could expect me to work when there was a dead body by my computer, and probably the police would want to talk to me but they could talk to me at home or at least outside, surely.

When I opened the door out onto the street, masses of peacock feathers started falling through. There was no way past them, I couldn't even see behind them, and they just kept coming. I don't even really remember how I got the door shut. When I got the door closed the view of the street the window in the door looked totally normal. But the floor was still covered with peacock feathers. (I never understood why they were considered unlucky before, since they're so beautiful, but yeah, now they definitely give me bad vibes.)

I couldn't get out. And at that point I'd finally begun to twig that whatever was going on wasn't weird in a way that still vogued with reality. My legs were shaking. I needed to sit down. I went for the lone chair we have in reception, one of those ugly but utilitarian plastic stackables. I collapsed into it. The first thing I noticed once I was sat down was the blood on my hand. I knew I needed to get up right away and go wash it off but I couldn't actually turn that knowledge of need into action. I flexed my fingers hopelessly and then I noticed something. My skin looked paler than normal. By like, a lot. I knew shock could make people go pale, (though I don't know I've ever seen it?) but I didn't think it could melt away actual melanin. Also, I was pretty sure my shirt had been orange when I put it on that morning. It was now yellow, and hadn't I been wearing jeans? I was pretty sure I didn't own anything quite as impractical as a pastel blue skirt. I closed my eyes in panic and just breathed for another obnoxious little cowardly moment.

When I opened them I was wearing a white dress. I thought I saw the fabric winding up me, fusing together.

That was when Cheryl came in through the front door, swishing through the feathers. She was dressed how she usually did, in a cardigan and a tunic with leggings, but they were all blue and she was smiling much wider than usual, wider than I'd ever seen her smile, even when we had good dog news.

"Hamish texted me," she said.

I don't think I could have responded even if I knew what to say. The idea of putting words into a sentence and making my mouth say them seemed absurdly removed from reality, like it had never been an option in the first place.

"He said you don't care who killed Reg? Is that a reasonable interpretation of your current stance, Rose?"

I would have liked to defend myself, but it wasn't happening.

Cheryl sighed. "Look, if you want sit out the fun, that's no problem. I'll just make sure you can't interfere, and we'll get on with it." She patted my knee, then straightened up. "You'll be fine. See you this afternoon."

I think I tried to get up to go after her. I definitely stood up for some reason. But my legs buckled and I sat back down. After a moment, it felt like my legs weren't there anymore. I tried to look down, but I couldn't move my head. I couldn't feel my arms, I couldn't move my body, I couldn't blink, I wasn't breathing.

What I could feel was a lot harder to describe. People do talk about feeling hollow but I think that's mostly an emotions metaphor, and I've never really heard anyone describe feeling spherical or plastic.

That was the worst thing that happened that day but now that it's over, I have almost no memory of it, just because it was so boring there's nothing to remember. I could still see though I had no eyes and I looked at the wall for so long I sometimes have nightmares about that exact patch of wall. It felt like forever while it was happening, but now that it's over, well, it's over. There's no point in being upset about it.

When Cheryl came and made me back into a functional human it was five in the afternoon; I'd been that way for probably over seven hours. I suppose it's perspective whether that was a long time or not.

This might be TMI but when I went to be sick in the bathroom the Weet-Bix I threw up from breakfast were definitely only partly digested so there's probably some interesting science there about how being frozen into a giant Cluedo game piece affects digestion, I guess.

The others showed up in reception as well, after I had been done being sick. I didn't exactly want to hang around but I wasn't sure I'd be allowed to leave. I don't remember what colours the animal supervisors were wearing. One of them said to me "You didn't have to work all day, lucky thing," and the other said to her "Like you were working," and then asked "Wait, Is Rose upset?"

"You look upset," the other one said accusingly.

I was scared still and just shook my head a little. Cheryl said "Rose is fine. She can take a joke no problem; she's not going to throw a tantrum and run away like that fool David, right, Rosie?"

I guess David was probably the admin assistant before me. I nodded and then Reg came out of his office. There was still bits of blood on him and the eye that had had the knife in it was caved in and oozing. He came up to us and smiled gleefully at me, like he was about to start skipping or something.

"My throat's a little sore but darn it's good to be dead sometimes," he said hoarsely.

"Imm, don't get up to anything too rowdy this weekend, okay?" said Cheryl.

"How'd you like the joke?" Reg asked me, with a smirk.

"I don't think I understood it," I said, smiling weakly.

That made him laugh out loud. "Don't worry, everyone else was quite entertained today."

"She threw up," Cheryl told him. That made him laugh more and so did the animal supervisors and Hamish. I told them I would have to leave then if I wanted to catch my bus, which was true, and they all smiled and nodded and said "See you Monday" and "Have a nice weekend" which I didn't but I still went back to work on Monday because I was worried what they'd do if I didn't.

And everything's been fine since then, really. It's been over eight months. I was definitely worried my first couple of months after the whole incident but I know now it's not going to be a regular thing, and I'm barely having nightmares any more.

So yeah, it's all been pretty normal except for my performance review, which Reg did. He gave me a very official looking piece of paper that just had out of five scores on it next to the words "Disingenuous," "Excelsior," and "Chubby." I got a one out of five for Disingenuous, a three point five for Excelsior, and a five out of five for chubby. (Chubby is a pretty accurate description of me, for what it's worth.) Reg had absolutely none of the bubbling up with glee he'd had after the whole Cluedo thing and seemed super serious going over it with me. He said that the whole thing was "obscenely self-explanatory" and that I was doing quite well overall but had obvious areas for improvement. When I asked what he'd specifically like to see for disingenuous he said it would come with age, so that's...something. I also heard Cheryl and one of the animal supervisors talking and the animal supervisor said "I only got a two point six for excelsior even though that was totally beyond my control this year," so I think it's legit?

Also I realised while writing this that it's a little weird I have five co-workers I see fairly regularly and can't tell you two of them's names or genders or at all what they look like, but I think that might be on me for not being much of a people person?

Speaking of, one of the animal handlers gave me a white rose the other day and sniggered a bit. But honestly I like roses even if they are my name so the only person that really did down was whatever old lady whose garden it got nicked from.

They're talking about hiring some new next year which I have...mixed feelings about but I'm sure it'll be fine, probably. And I'm definitely getting a raise next year and they've been talking a bit about a title change and some different responsibilities so it's all pretty good, really. I'd rather work somewhere where one mean thing happens a year rather than lots of spread out meanness, and if anything weird happens again I think I'll be a bit less caught off guard and hopefully not overreact so much.

That's just what I want to say, that I'm fine, and this job is working out pretty well for me really. I mean, I have no credible idea what happened, but I think not trying to think about that too much is pretty normal. Plus I have a job where I get to help dogs! I always remind myself of that whenever I don't wanna get out of bed in the morning and it's really super motivating. So I'm doing good, really, everything's fine with me, and I hope everything works out well for you too and we all have a good 2018. :)