Curiosity killed the janitor

Posted: January 23, 2011 by writingsprint in postaday2011, postaweek2011, Science fiction, Shatter, Writing
Tags: ,

Working a day job is a trip when you’re psychic. It feels like you can hear everyone talking at once, and when you talk to someone, half the time they’re thinking about your nose hairs, your clothes, or what you look like. Oh, they’re thinking about whatever the issue is, too, but you can’t separate the person from what they’re talking about. Half the time people were preoccupied more with how they felt about the person they were talking to. And if the person they were talking to was good-looking, forget it. The words were serious, but the thoughts were, “Wahoo! I’d love to hit that!” and “Hel-lo, sailor!”

Bob went from office to office in jobs that didn’t work out, and finally wound up as a night shift janitor at one of the office buildings downtown. It was lonely work, but it was quieter on the mind. He had to train himself to clean mirrors with his eyes closed, or looking down at the sink while he sprayed Windex. It wasn’t easy but he got the hang of it.

3:00 a.m., fourteenth floor. Bob finished the east mens’ room and was starting on the womens’. He set up the “room closed for cleaning” signs and got to work. As he finished cleaning the johns, he could hear soft voices inside his head. He couldn’t pick out the words… low, rhythmic… probably someone listening to music, working late. It was month-end and sometimes the accountants were here all night. Bob whistled to try to even out the sound, inside his head and out. He was getting pretty good at it whistling the theme from the Andy Griffith show.

Bob pulled his cap down farther over his eyes. He broke out into a sweat all over his body. He swallowed, took a breath, and turned to the sinks and counters. He wiped the counters and sinks quickly and thoroughly. There was no problem, but just knowing that the mirrors were there – he could almost see them through the brim of his cap – made him nauseous just thinking about it. The memory of all those voice screaming was like hearing it again, hushed, waiting for him to look into a mirror so they could scream again. He was trembling, and when he finished he turned his back to the mirrors and wiped his forehead with the back of his arm. Scary but you got used to it.

Now the good part. And he did this on every damned floor. Bob picked up the Windex, grabbed a roll of paper towels, closed his eyes, and started working on the mirrors.

The whispers from the other side of the building stopped being whispers, and they stopped being rhythmic. The words were coming and going now, and they were more taut, like chords played at random, or like a mariachi playing one riff, then another, then another. They made sense separately, but together, it sounded pretty but wasn’t a song. There was a conversation going on and it wasn’t about sports.

“Keep your nose clean, Bob,” he whispered to himself. “Don’t even think about it.” But he was thinking about it. Every time he practiced, he learned he could hear thoughts farther and farther away. It made Bob itch, wanting to know what he could do.


  1. I’m trying to do 200-300 a day Monday to Friday. Best of luck with your 400 a day!


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