a short story about work

like a gobo

On the third week of your new job you are called into a meeting with the head of your department. She shows you to a small, neglected boardroom in the corner of the third floor of the building. Abandonded printers and electric typewriters under dust covers take up most of the space. Power cords and phone lines snake out from a hole in the centre of the table.

The head of your department moves a stack of bankers boxes out of the way to expose a door. She explains that it is a door to Hell. For reasons that she expects are obvious, you must never open it. You sign a long agreement promising not to open the door. On the way back to your office, you notice that the floor with the Hell boardroom is nearly empty except for a few people from Quality Control. There is also a vending machine with a Post-it Note on it that says “Call supplier.”

You start finding pretexts to pass by the boardroom. Every so often you duck in on your break and contemplate the door. You don’t believe for a minute that the door leads to anything but a closet with old audio-video equipment, but the head of your department seemed so serious about it. Does it feel a little warm in the boardroom? At one point you nudge the boxes aside with your foot and study the bottom of the doorframe. Sometimes you feel a slight draft, and once a nearly imperceptible sound, more a change in air pressure than anything else, like someone shifting his or her weight.

A few weeks later the head of your department visits you again. Corporate restructuring is underway and you are being relocated to a new office. She takes you up to the third floor, now a bright and bustling work environment. You are led to the Hell boardroom, which has been cleaned up and converted into an ergonomically pleasing office. A desk has been installed, the obsolete tech has disappeared, and a poster of a kitten hanging from a branch has been taped to the Hell door. The poster says “Hang in there, baby!”

Isn’t this the room with the door to Hell? you ask the head of the department. She gives you a puzzled look and retreats.

You try the handle of the door. It is locked.

The next day you are fired.