Hank clicked away idly at his terminal, not wanting to return to the drab task of data entry a single second before his unpaid thirty minutes were up. He pulled up his fantasy football roster and sighed, disappointed yet again with how naively ambitious he’d been before the season started. Then in a blink, the roster disappeared. In it’s place was a notepad window with the words “Hi Hank” typed out in the upper left hand corner and before he could even process what might be going on another line appeared beneath it. “Are you ready to play?”
Hank leaned away from the computer and scanned the room. Everyone else was at their desks and even if they hadn’t been he wasn’t sure that any of them were tech savvy enough to pull off whatever was going on here. Keeping his eyes fixed on the screen, he reached for the PC’s power button.
“Don’t turn me off Hank,” the notepad said.
Hank swallowed hard. “What’s going on?” he typed back with unsteady fingers.
“I just want to play a game,” it said. “Don’t you like games? :)”
“I’m going to get IT up here,” Hank typed. “And whoever this is, we’ll find you and press charges for hacking our network.”
“I’m afraid it doesn’t work like that Hank. I’m not on any network.”
Hank scoffed, picking up the phone. But when he went to dial the tone cut off abruptly. He looked down at the receiver and found that not only had the cord been cut where it came out of the wall, but a neon-pink sticky note, the kind that Janet used, had been placed on the receiver. “Last chance to play,” it read. His blood beginning to boil, Hank grabbed the note and marched across the office.
“What’s going on here Janet?” he demanded, marching up toward the waifish receptionist.
Janet gave him a wary, almost frightened look, “Excuse me?”
“This!” he shouted, waving the pink note in her face. “Are you and Trent trying to fuck with me or something? What the hell is this?”
Her eyes grew wide and she backed away, grabbing her phone and dialing a number. “Are you going to answer me?” Hank asked.
“Stay away!” she shouted. Then into the phone, “Yes, I need help. I think my co-worker is going to do something dangerous.”
“Dangerous?” Hank shouted in confusion. The thin woman winced. He looked around, everyone was up and out of their chairs now, all of them looking at him strangely. “I-I just thought that she left me this note,” he tried to explain. “It-it was on her paper and it said–” He turned the note over to read it to the crowd but it didn’t say the same thing anymore, it wasn’t even in the same handwriting. This time it was much more messy, much more rough. “Numbers,” he read in a terrified whisper. “You’re all just fucking numbers now.”
The rest of the office stared at him for a moment, then suddenly all leapt backward and began to shriek. It didn’t take long for Hank to realize that the reason for this was the large combat knife that had suddenly appeared in his hand. “No,” he shouted at them. “You don’t understand. This isn’t me. I don’t know what–” But before Hank could finish, Daria from marketing was missing an arm and the knife, still gripped tight in his hand, was wearing her blood.
While he was still gripped with confusion three of Hank’s coworkers rushed toward him from all different sides. But just before each one reached him, their heads tumbled to the ground and the sleeve of his white button up grew a deeper shade of red. Hank shook, panic beginning to throttle him as the screams of his peers filled the open room.
“I-I’m sorry,” he cried, dropping the knife and collapsing into a fetal curl. “I’m sorry, I just–I don’t know what’s going on.”
But whatever was doing this to him wasn’t content to let him stay on the ground. In one blink he was on his feet and in another he was gripping the knife again. He struggled to keep his eyes wide and open, hoping that would stop it. But when he didn’t blink the world seemed to do so for him, each jilted, dissembled frame of movement standing on their own like pages in a terrifying flip book. He tried to drop the machete too, but every time he loosed his hand about the grip, he found his knuckles tightening back down against his will just a second later. No matter what Hank tried, there was no stopping the choppy frames of reality as they churned slowly forward. So he closed his eyes tight and shrieked as his body moved in gruesome autonomy, putting the blade through every last person in the office.
When he was finally finished time took it’s regular course again. Hank rocked himself in the center of the room, vomit streaking his shirt in the few places where the blood hadn’t. His weeping was the only sound that filled the empty floor. Then in a sudden flash, a man appeared from seemingly out of nowhere.
“Get back,” Hank shouted, raising his arms. “There’s something wrong with me. I’m possessed, I don’t know what I might do.”
But the man didn’t back away, or scream, or even twist his face in terror. He laughed. And as he laughed, Hank began to realize what was going on. “You,” he said with a shudder. “It-it was all you, wasn’t it?”
The man nodded. “You wouldn’t play with me,” he said. “So I played with you.”
“But why?” Hank asked. “Why would you do this?” He raised his arms to the gory hell that had so recently been his office. “What kind of monster would–”
“What would you do if you could stop time?” the man interrupted him, hunkering down so his eyes were level with Hank’s.
“With all the time in the world, what would you really do?” When Hank didn’t answer, the man continued on. “It’s the fun stuff at first, the stuff you imagined when you were a kid. You pull people’s pants down, sneak peeks in the ladies locker room. But what about after that? Help people? I helped people. But how many times can you rescue some nameless face from a burning building without wondering what would happen if you pushed them into the flames instead? A hundred? A thousand?”
“It’s all just a numbers game at a certain point,” the man went on, his smile fading. “They stop being faces and they just become numbers and then you stop caring, Hank.” The man paused and for a moment it almost looked as though he was going to begin to weep. “Do you know what a man really does with all the time in the world?”
Hank shook his head, slowly.
“He gets very, very bored,” the man said. Then he blinked out of sight.
Hank thought about that man a lot in his jail cell. And when the day finally came when he tied the noose, Hank fully understood what he had meant.
Originally posted as a response to a prompt by /u/GravityHelpMe on reddit.com