The elevator dings and the doors open. I get in and press 8, top floor of our little office building. Only a few weeks on the job and I’ve already learned that the place isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It’s the regional headquarters for a big tech company, though I’d rather not say which. Sounds pretty good, right? Turns out, our office exists mainly for tax purposes, so we aren’t what you would call “important” to the mothership. They bought an office building and staffed us. We have actual work to do, sure, but it’s mostly the boring busywork that the “thinkers” at the mothership don’t want to do. It’s boring, but it’s a job, and it doesn’t pay too bad either.
I tap my foot. I feel like I’ve been on that elevator much longer than normal. It’s not exactly the fastest at the best of times, but the normal ride had to be 45 seconds to a minute, tops. I’m pretty sure I’m nearing 3. Great. The elevator is breaking. I just hope it would make it to my floor before it died. The one thing I don’t need is being stuck on the elevator first thing in the morning. It slows down and I brace for the sudden stop. If I get stuck in an elevator, I still better get payed for the day. The sudden stop doesn’t come. Instead, it keeps slowing to a smooth stop, like normal. It dinged and the doors opened. Good. Not trapped today. Before I leave, I look up at the floor indicator. It says -∆. Definitely broken. I’ll have to remember to take the stairs when I leave. I step out into the aggressively beige office space.
I catch Tracy walking by. I jog to catch up. “Hey, Trace, how’s it goin-” She keeps walking. Didn’t even acknowledge my existence. Weird. I wonder if she’s mad at me or something? Whatever. I head over to the break room to put my lunch in the fridge. Kevin is in there, digging through the fridge.
I lean against the counter while I wait for him to finish. “Something wrong with Tracy?” I ask casually. “She seems a little quiet today.”
He says nothing, finishes up sorting through the fridge and closes the door. The turns around looks me straight in the eye, then leaves. Never says a word. I stare at him as he leaves the break room. Kevin was never the most normal person, but that was weird, even for him. I open the fridge. It’s pretty sparse, I’m not sure what he was even messing with in there. I throw my food in and leave the break room. Looks like this is going to be a just get my work done and get out kind of day.
I head over to my desk and settle in. When I sit down, I notice my computer is already on. I know I didn’t turn it on, and I always shut it down when I leave. It’s logged in with several documents open. They don’t look familiar to me. I get up and peek around the corner of my cube. It’s definitely my desk. Something’s not right here.
I need to report it to the boss. It’s a big problem when someone else accesses your computer, and one that the mothership takes very seriously. Somebody was getting fired for this, for sure, but if they find out I knew about it and didn’t report it, that person would be me.
I hurry out of my cube toward the boss’s office. I’m thinking too hard about how much this would suck and I run into somebody going the other way.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” I begin to say, but I stop hard. Standing right in front of me is… Me? Or, at least, someone who looks a whole lot like me. He has the same blue eyes, the same mess of blond hair, the same scar across his eyebrow. I would say it’s like looking in the mirror, but it’s not quite. He doesn’t have the same dumbfounded, completely uncomprehending look I do.
He looks me over like he’s appraising my value and he finds me lacking. He brushes past me and into my cube. I run to the boss’s office. He’s got Tracy in there when I bust in. She is sitting across from him and they are staring at each other. Neither acknowledges my presence. I stand there awkwardly as they continue to stare at each other. Eventually, Tracy get’s up and leaves. Not a word has been said since I got in there.
“Something weird is going on here,” I say as soon as she’s gone. “Nobody has talked to me since I got in and there’s somebody who looks just like me in my cube.” I’m rushing and the words are falling over each other to get out. I hope he understands what I’m saying. I feel like a crazy person just saying it.
He stares at me the same way Kevin and my other self stared at me. I’m beginning to think this was a mistake and start backing away, until I run into something. I turn around and see the other me. He brushes past me and sits in the chair, where he and my boss begin staring at each other. I run out of the office.
I’ve got to get out of here. Nothing’s right. I remember that the elevator’s broke, so I run to the stairs. I rip open the door and run out into the stairwell where I smash my face right into a wall.
There’s no stairs, just four, white, cinder-block walls and the door I came in from. I feel along the walls, just in case, but they’re solid. I rip the door back open and run to the elevator. It doesn’t matter if it’s broken. Being stuck in an elevator would be better than this.
I frantically smash the button and all around me, office life is going on. I see several little, every day office interactions, normal except nobody’s mouths are moving. They just stare at each other for a few seconds, then separate. Finally, my frantic button mashing has payed off and the doors open with a ding. I dash into the elevator, smashing into the person exiting and sending papers flying in all directions.
I smash the door close button as they wheel around outside the elevator. They manage to say “what are you-” before the doors shut them out.
I let out a sigh of relief as the elevator begins its descent. There are papers all over the floor, left there from when I bowled over whoever, or whatever, that was. I pick one up. It says “Employee Generation Program” at the top and I recognize the signature of one of the bigwigs at the mothership near the bottom. Plans for, whatever that is? Maybe. I spend the rest of the abnormally long elevator ride gathering up the fallen papers. When the doors ding open again, I put them under my arm and do my best to look like they belong to me. The security guy doesn’t even pay attention. I guess he’s seen me enough times in the last few weeks that I’m a normal part now.
I’ve read all the papers. I won’t tell you everything that was in them because, there are things you’re mind can’t take, things that would break your idea of the world, forever, things you can’t unknow, things you don’t want to know. Trust me.
But you do need to know this. They are trying to replace you. Replace us. All of us. And they’re close. I am going to go torch that building. I’ll probably die doing it. That’s okay. This is big. Bigger than all of us. I’m sorry. I really am.
If you’re reading this, it’s probably already too late.