What starts out as a typical day for Ruby quickly becomes surreal.
“Son of a--” Ruby gasped as she felt the hot liquid soak into the front of her silk blouse and then her bra.
“Christ!” exclaimed the fool with the now empty Styrofoam cup. “I am so sorry.”
To further solidify in her mind the man was indeed a fool, he began to blot the front of her top with his coffee shop napkin muttering apologies and promises of free dry cleaning. Ruby stood there a moment aghast. Was this man seriously feeling her up? For some reason she thought of her latest dating disaster and winced.
Finally coming to herself, Ruby swatted the idiot’s hand away from her cream, and now blotchy brown, blouse.
“You have done quite enough, thank you.” She snapped in frustration and pushed past him.
When she was several feet away Ruby began to feel remorse for her behavior. It was not the man’s fault she was already in a foul enough mood she could pluck wings off flies and enjoy it. Ruby hated being late and today she was running late for the most important thing to happen to her in the last six months; an interview.
Not just any interview, but her dream job. She finally got an ‘in’ through a friend at Homeland Security. Many people would think there would be nothing sexy about a job at the United States Secret Service, but Ruby thought it was the sexiest of all jobs. All the top secret classified information made her feel like she worked in a David Baldacci novel.
Well, it would if she landed the job. It was only for a speech editor, but hell it was a job.
Listening to the uneven click-clack of her heels she walked swiftly towards the carefully nondescript, but certainly imposing, building. The bleached white walls, and glass windows that blocked all view from the outside-in, gave off a feeling of ‘don’t mess with me.’
An awkward glance by a passerby brought her attention back to her nearly ruined blouse.
Ruby was nearly to the entrance so she unwillingly yanked the short blazer from her briefcase. August D.C. weather was not cool by any means and she groaned as she pulled on the long sleeved torture device.
Before stepping to the revolving doorway she wedged her case between her knees and buttoned the light brown patterned jacked that matched her skirt. The blessed thing covered the horrible coffee stain now drying into her silk blouse. Maybe this would not be so bad after all.
Ruby’s suddenly lifted spirits came to a deafening halt as she crossed through the revolving door into the lobby.
To say it was packed like sardines would have been a gross understatement. What seemed to be a haphazard collection of pressed shirts, crisp suits, and pencil skirts, was actually a zigzag line to the security checkpoint. Ruby had a fleeting thought of Disneyland and wondered if she could purchase a FastPass somewhere.
More people began piling through the revolving door so Ruby immediately jumped into line and sighed. At least she was here.
Ruby caught a glimpse of a doughy older gentleman at the checkpoint and idly thought if he were counting the days to retirement. His slacken cheeks and vacant eyes seemed to say as much as the masses passed by in slow motion.
Thankfully the line moved well. Ruby was nearly to the checkpoint and the interview nerves began to set into her belly. The doughy security guard regarded her with his blank expression and Ruby attempted a smile. She was next in line and her stomach was in knots.
Stepping forward to the security gate Ruby was suddenly knocked off balance. With a yip she jumped back from the five men in black suits that seemed to materialize from nowhere. She was about to apologize and then it dawned on her they had cut her off; they had line jumped.
Now she was pissed.
“What the hell?” Ruby screeched at the dark shrouded man in front of her. “The end of the line is that way.” She jerked her thumb over her shoulder.
There was no movement from the mountain of black-on-black attire standing with its back to her.
Still nothing. No movement at all. Ruby may as well have been yelling at herself.
Giving in to her growing frustration Ruby jabs the wall of black in the shoulder blade with her index finger.
The standing shadow slowly turned its head to regard her over his shoulder. Ruby took half a step back. The man was wearing a mask as black as his suit. Ruby’s gut twisted in on itself. Was he insane? It was August and humid in D.C and no one in their right mind would wear a mask in this heat.
The masked face slowly turned back to front smoothly as if on casters. As the head of the man swiveled back to face the other shrouded individuals passing through the checkpoint Ruby caught a glimpse of something near the ear where neck met jawbone.
The skin was scaled. Not scaled like forgetting to apply lotion for decades, but scaled like a lizard. The man had grey skin as you would find on a desert creature.
Ruby gasped and took a step back as the black-on-black cult vanished on the other side of the checkpoint.
There was a nudge from behind her and Ruby looked at the doughy security guard. He was as blank faced as ever. She turned to the line behind her and they too looked at her expectantly and with more than a little impatience. Had they not seen?
She looked back at the security guard.
“C’mon, lady. You’re holding up the line.” He mumbled through his jowls.
Hesitantly Ruby walks through the security gate. On the other side she looked back at the line of people. They looked dull with eyes glazed over or not looking at anything at all. Many were still engrossed in conversation with those in line with them.
Did nobody else notice them? Did no one else see the strange five men or the oddest of them all, the man with the lizard-like face masked in the dead of August?
Feeling suddenly foolish Ruby click-clacked her way to the elevator and punched the tenth floor button. She could not have imagined the whole thing, could she? She was not that unstable.
Ruby shook herself as she stepped out to the tenth floor and checked in with the reception desk. The young girl with the slinky figure showed her to a small office and told her someone would be right with her. Ruby sat in one of the two chairs and waited.
The room was unimpressive with the single door, no windows, flat painted walls that were maybe a shade darker than the light charcoal carpeting. The desk stationed in front of her was empty save a desk calendar and a jar of pens. Ruby thought it odd there was not at least a phone.
With a sharp click the door opened behind her and Ruby stood to greet her interviewer. Her smile faltered halfway and she openly gaped at the man standing before her. He was wearing an eerily similar black-on-black ensemble to five men she had seen not too long ago.
“Sorry to keep you waiting.” The man said as he regarded Ruby’s half extended hand.
He slid over to the other chair in the small room. Ruby frowned at this. This man did not move like a man at all; he moved like a snake. The movements were all slithery and slick; almost as if his feet never made contact with the floor under his highly polished black shoes.
The anxious jitters in Ruby’s stomach were instantly replaced with the ice-cold sickness of fear. Something was terribly wrong with this man and it terrified her. Everything inside her screamed get out and run until she was far away.
The man stood at the chair without sitting and looked at Ruby with unblinking black eyes. Only then did she notice his eyes had no whites to them, just black. His sudden grin chilled her to the bone. There was nothing friendly about that grin. It was as slithery as his movements.
“My apologies, I have forgotten something.”
When the man slid back to the door Ruby stepped away from him quickly. The man merely grinned further. Without another word he slipped from the door and closed it behind him. The secondary click in the door made Ruby jump.
Suddenly in a panic Ruby grabbed at the door handle and yanked. It wouldn’t turn. The door was locked. Why was the door locked? Ruby yanked and pulled on it again and again all to no avail. The door would not budge.
With a feeling of utter despair and dread Ruby’s body slowly slipped down the door until she was a crumpled mess of terror and tears in the windowless gray room.