The brushed steel doors slowly slid open, and Mike blearily regarded his cube farm. He trudged out of Contralia’s elevator, blazer draped over one arm, to-go coffee held upright. Jessica breezed by with an armload of folders and wished him good morning; he returned it. She made a show of glancing at her watch; he ignored that.
He passed Martin’s cube, and Martin looked in as bad shape as he was—reasonable, as they’d been doing tequila shooters too late last night. Martin nodded at Mike dolefully and returned to pounding at his keyboard.
In his cube, Mike fired up his laptop and hung up his blazer. He started to whistle Elvis Costello’s “Almost Blue,” got it confused with the intro to Billy Joel’s “The Stranger” and abandoned it. He lifted the coffee to his lips, focusing on the feel of the roll of waxed paper against his lip, the sensation of caffeinated steam flowing up over his eyes, and he sipped while the laptop also struggled to come to life.
Why do I do this to myself? He snorted. I knew what today was. That was just a good goddamned game last night. Oh well, just gotta tough it out. Plenty of water. Early bed tonight. I can do this.
He logged into email and a text alert booped at him. It was Martin: “Not trying to make your Monday extra-magical but Delia’s back.”
Mike closed his eyes and swore. Not under his breath, either: it was a loud, barking FUCK that made Lila poke her head over the cube wall and glare at him. “Sorry, sorry,” he muttered quickly.
She arched her eyebrow. “What’s got you so upset anyway, Johnny-Come-Sleepy?”
Before he could answer, the sunshine dimmed on their office floor. The fluorescent lights continued to glow but the windows were coated in a thick quilt of foam. Many of the employees reflexively looked at the glass panels that surrounded their floor, all of them clear but the west-facing wall. Soon, a tremendous whorl of cloth swam over the windows, visible only in small portions. It swept to the left, back to the right, and then down. The windows were streaked with thin rivulets of soap and water, only slightly distorting the vast, grinning face beyond them.
“Good morning, Michael!” Delia’s slight Vietnamese accent rang throughout his office. “Wha-a-a-at? I don’t see Michael anywhere! Is Michael in yet, Lila?”
“He’s right here in his cube, Delia!” Lila took too much delight in theatrically pointing at the space across from hers. “Try to keep your voice down, though: he’s not doing too well today!”
“Oh, is that so? Michael, are you there in your cube? Michael? I can’t see you, Michael.”
He waved his hand, then resumed clutching his aching head.
“There you are, Michael! How’s your head this morning? Were you doing tequila shots with Martin until the wee hours, Michael?”
Mike rolled out into the aisle to give his friend the stink-eye. Martin shrugged and ducked back into his cube. Mike turned toward his gigantic tormentor, resigned to the fact that she wouldn’t go away until he saw it out to its tedious conclusion. He waved at her.
“How did you know he was drinking tequila, Delia?” Lila called out.
Delia’s eyes, so brown they were nearly black, widened to the size of the bay windows on the office floor. “Because we were watching the same game! I guess not everybody can hold their liquor like I can.” Chuckles rippled through the office. “How did your team do, Michael? Did they do well? Did they win, Michael?”
All the heads (except Martin’s) along Mike’s aisle peeked out and turned to look at him. “No, Delia, we lost. You know that.”
The giantess’s laughter rattled all the windows. Some of the employees felt their stomachs drop, staring into the inky depths of the enormous window-washer’s throat, and they slunk back to their cubes. “Oh, that’s true, isn’t it! Does that mean you lost our little bet?”
It wasn’t little: “I forwarded you $100 to your−”
“You can forward the hundred bucks to my account, Michael!”
“I did, before I came in. I have your−”
“I believe you have my account information, Michael, so you can do that at your earliest convenience!” Her voice bounced along with childish glee.
His coworkers enjoyed the exchange, but Mike’s face burned. “Is there anything else I can do for you?”
There was a long pause. The huge, dark eyes flickered slightly to Lila. “I think he’s talking to you, Lila.”
Mike swallowed his immediate, expletive reaction and drew a deep breath. “Is there anything else I can do for you, Delia?” Giants and giantesses (“Gigantics”) preferred proper names in conversation, since any group of people found it difficult to discern who their huge eyes were looking at. And if they had to use proper names, then so did their little friends. It was only fair.
“Why, no, Michael! I think we have successfully concluded our business transaction!” Her massive head tilted jauntily and she grinned at him. “Have a great rest of your day, Michael!” When her broad palm rose slowly into view, Mike wheeled into his cubicle and wrapped his blazer around his head, but nothing could stop his tender and throbbing brain from suffering the resounding THOOM, THOOM, THOOM of her mere fingertip rapping against the window at the end of his aisle.
Delia ran a wide silicone squeegee down the length of the entire side of the building, wiping off most of the lingering suds. A thunderous grumble arose from the street level as she got up from kneeling. Her huge UGG boots gently pounded one strip of the Giants Causeway, a reinforced grid lacing most major metropolitan areas. This permitted Gigantics to move around and do their business in Washington (not that Washington) without tearing it up: in this case, it enabled Delia to wipe down its gleaming skyscrapers in her latest temp job.
Most employees went back to their desks, except for a few men, staring at the vast and spreading plaid skirt that rose to their level outside. Her large hands brushed at her black-stockinged thighs, then smoothed out her pleats, then flipped off her audience. Her iridescent purple fingernail polish was a jagged blotch in the center of each nail.
Mike, slumped at his laptop and gritting his teeth, waited some moments to get up and retrieve a very large glass of water and some ibuprofen. Lila quipped, “I think she likes you,” before ducking behind their divider wall.
“Read that back to me,” said Jessica.
Lila scrolled through the meeting notes. “Civic construction fatalities, while not non-zero, have nonetheless plummeted below even the most optimistic projected outcomes in the past year alone. The coordinated efforts of Washington officials and Gigantics augmentation−”
The speakerphone in the center of the table emitted a polite laugh. “We’re a bit more than an ‘augmentation,’ I think you have to admit,” said Tylda, a Gigantics workforce liaison. “Without wanting to resort to puns, we do most of the heavy lifting.”
Jessica nodded to her team. “Absolutely correct, Tylda. Lila? Please record Tylda’s amendment, if you would. Mike, rewrite any references to the contribution of Gigantics to more accurately reflect this sentiment.” Mike nodded and highlighted his copy of the document for revision.
“Is Michael there?”
Jessica bored a hard look at him. His jaw tensed and bulged all the way up to his temples. “Yes, hi, Tylda, this is Mike Robbins. I don’t believe we’ve ever−”
“Delia says hello.”
He stared at the speakerphone, quietly tapping his pen against his printout. “That’s great. I’m one of Contralia’s tech writers, I’m helping out with−”
“Too bad about that hundred dollars, huh?”
He drew a long breath and pursed his lips. “You win some, you lose some. Anyway, I just want you to be assured that the next round will do due justice to your contractors and their undeniable boon to the city.” He looked at Jessica, who drew her thumb like a dagger across her throat. The back of his skull lanced with a new headache.
Tylda paused briefly. “Yes, Mike, that sounds great. We really appreciate your consideration in this.”
Everyone in the meeting room sat up straighter, breathed a little easier. Jessica wrapped up the conversation with more pleasantries, being perhaps a bit kowtowing to a woman several dozen times her own size, then hung up. “Good work, everyone. We can’t afford to lose this contract, as I think everyone knows. And now it’s more apparent to us we’ve got to be careful with our language. It’s nobody’s fault: it’s just something we haven’t had to face before.” She picked up her folders and turned her smartphone back on. “I look forward to this new opportunity, and−”
Martin poked his head in the doorway. “Sorry, Jessica. Mike, you’ve got a visitor.”
“The fuck?” Jessica looked from Martin to Mike, who wore a face like that of a religious confessor upon the rack.
Delia’s voice boomed throughout the office floor. “Did he get my message?”
“Stop looking up my skirt, Michael!”
Mike drove his Passat westbound along 25th Avenue South. The sun shone in his rear-view mirror. His music was cranked. He gripped the wheel and crawled along in traffic.
Every fifth avenue or street was designated to cross the Giants Causeway, so as to permit traffic to flow without depriving the Gigantics of anywhere to step as they made their way through town. Delia, however, was kneeling on the Causeway, straddling 25th Ave S, poking her butt at the sunrise and waiting for Mike.
“Michael in the black Passat! Stop peeking up my skirt, Michael!” she cried, echoing throughout the morning cityscape.
A woman driving a beefy, white F-150 beside him slowly shook her head at him. He shrugged helplessly, then glanced at the clock. He had fifteen minutes to push his way into downtown, but traffic was slow this morning. He didn’t look at the massive UGG boot beside his vehicle; he didn’t look at the slender, bare calf that emerged from her boot, when he came up to it; and he never, not once, took so much as a peek up beyond his windshield. He even turned the visor down to block out everything but the avenue ahead.
He sighed with relief when the cars all surged through her bent knees and he entered the city proper. The blocks were long, but not long enough as he counted down from 15th Street East to 11th. Boom, Boom, BOOM, BOOM came the huge boots, planting themselves on either side of 25th Ave S.
“Michael! Are you looking up my skirt again? Stop it!” Delia’s voice rained on all the cars, and all their heads turned toward him once more. He stared at the fuel gauge until he saw her boot pass by in his peripheral vision.
He tried to slow down, but traffic picked up for no good reason. There went 9th St E, then 8th, then 7th all too soon…
Boom, BOOM, BOOM. “Michael in the black Passat! I can’t believe you’re staring up my skirt again!”
Three-quarters of a tank. That would take me pretty far from Washington. This car gets reasonable mileage in the country.
There went 5th St E, then 4th and 3rd. Just ten more blocks to work.
Boom, BOOM, BOOM. “Oh my God, Michael! Are you actually staring up my skirt? Eek! Please stop!”
I could make up a story for Jessica. Hell, why do I have to tell her anything at all? I could just disappear.
Hello, 1st Street West. Hello, 2nd St, what’s your hurry? What happened to 3rd St? Slow your strut, 4th St. Oh, 5th St, nobody wanted to see you.
Boom, BOOM, BOOM. “Help, officer! There’s a pervert in the black Passat who won’t stop staring up my skirt!”
Maybe I can will my car to blow up. That would be good.
Mike tapped away at his laptop, listening to a pair of wireless headphones. One project down, another one nearly ready for Jessica. Barring any surprises tomorrow, he was ready to wrap up a productive week and start the weekend in clear conscience. He saved his spreadsheets, hit Print, and walked off to the communal printing area.
“Sup, buddy?” Martin called after him as he passed. “Plans for the weekend?”
Recalling his Sunday drinking spree at the sports bar, he laughed. “Gonna take it easy this time around. Not getting any younger, you know. How about you?”
Martin got up and followed him to the printers. “Taking the wife and kids to a play at the museum on Saturday. One of their kids shows—I forget which—they’re doing a live show. Singing, dancing. It’s supposed to be good.”
“How’s your Sunday looking?”
“Nothing going on. What’re you thinking?”
Mike watched his report shuffle out of the printer. “Supposed to get up to 80, maybe you wanna come over, grill some steaks? Bring Cami and the kids.”
His friend nodded, said he’d check with his wife, when there boomed a loud and hollow THOOM, THOOM, THOOM. Mike froze in place. His hands clenched into fists.
Martin looked out of the print room then back at him. “Uh, hey, man…”
“Please don’t acknowledge her.” Mike rested one hand on the printer.
Martin looked out of the room again. “Were you expecting her or anything?”
“Martin, seriously. Please just come back in here and let’s finish our conversation.”
THOOM, THOOM, THOOM went the windows. A young woman’s incredibly loud voice said, “Michael! Michael! It’s time for lunch, Michael!”
“I think she wants you. Maybe you wanna…”
“No, I don’t. What I want is to print out this report, place it on my boss’ desk, go back to my cubicle, and−”
“Michael! I brought you something, Michael! Come see!”
“She knows you’re here, man.”
“I need you to be a mensch, Martin. Please help me out with this.”
“Mi-i-i-i-ichael! Aren’t you in there?” THOOM, THOOM, THOOM.
“I think she’s going to break the windows. Just come on out and get this over with.”
“What did I do to deserve this? I’m nobody, I’m just an office drone.”
Jessica rounded the corner and burst into the room. “I swear to God, Mike, if she shatters these windows, I’m holding you personally accountable!”
“How am I responsible for this?” He snatched the papers and shoved them at his boss without stapling them. “I don’t know why any of this is happening!” He blew past the two and stormed up his aisle to where Delia was waiting for him, kneeling outside the building, nearly pressing her face to the glass.
“What the fuck do you want?!” he screamed at her. Behind him, Jessica muttered about language.
“It’s time for lunch, Michael! It’s lunchtime!” the giantess chirped. “I brought you lunch, Michael, see?” With this, she opened her mouth as wide as it could go, exposing an ample mattress of mashed-up sandwich. Bread rolled like sea-foam over her large tongue, with hefty chunks of vegetable matter and minced meat. Beyond this, her glistening throat tensed and stretched, and long, glossy strands of saliva vibrated with her giggles.
Someone a few cubicles to Mike’s left vomited. Jessica swore but Mike had the tact to refrain from throwing her words back at her, even though the timing would’ve been perfect.
Mike sat bolt upright in his cubicle, his body as tense as a coiled spring. It was 3:52 p.m. and nothing had happened all day. He had shown up on time and well-rested (except for some chasing nightmares). He presented a solid proposal for an audacious project to Jessica, and she sounded entirely amenable to it. He had a nice lunch with Martin, a perfect BLT at a new bistro that opened downstairs. He even held back from lashing out at Lila when she asked where his girlfriend was.
“I have no idea,” he replied in moderated tones. “I haven’t seen her all day, and frankly, that’s what worries me.”
Martin sidled up to them. “Maybe she’s done.”
“No, with her temp shift. How long does it take a Gigantic to wipe down all the skyscrapers in the blocks around us? She did ours in five minutes, being careful about it.” He shrugged. “Maybe her shift’s done.”
Mike’s eyes grew round. He hardly dared hope, for fear of jinxing himself, but what Martin said made sense.
Lila smirked. “So no more misspelled love-letters to you on the building across the street? You’re going to miss that, admit it.”
“It wasn’t a love-letter. She drew a penis beneath it.”
“It was spurting hearts.”
Mike frowned at her. “You’re surprisingly crass for a fundamentalist Christian.” She blushed and ducked back into her cubicle.
“Here’s hoping,” Martin said, punching him in the shoulder.
Four o’clock rolled around, as did 4:30, and at five Mike activated his out-of-office responder on his phone and email. He was going to take a couple days off next week for a four-day weekend, planning a drive out to a state park for camping and fishing. Decompressing. Shinrinyoku, to borrow the Japanese colloquialism. He needed time away from everything.
With his blazer draped over one arm, he caught the elevator (Lila even held it open for him) and rode down to the ground floor. The neon lights in the new bistro glowed happily as he walked by, taking the escalator to the parking ramp. He whistled a tune he didn’t even think about, as excitement about the weekend began to build up inside him.
The scent of gasoline caught his attention. Looking down, he saw a long, black rivulet of oil crawling beside his shoe, wending its way through the parking ramp. He followed it to where he’d parked his car, which was now upside-down, bent up at the front and back, with a huge fingertip-sized divot in the center.
Delia’s black eyes glistened at him between the levels of the ramp. The way her lower lids puffed, he knew she was smiling broadly. “I made you an ashtray,” she said.
[Created for Undersquid. She knows what she did.]