Annie On Writing

June 22, 2016

Boxed In by Emily Forster

Filed under: Writing Tools — Annie Evett @ 1:42 am

She looked down at the box she was holding, and hesitated. It had been overfilled. The walls bulged outwards and she could feel the flimsy cardboard warping around her fingers, unable to support the weight. Her shift was over. She should put it down.

There is a kind of exhaustion where you are so tired that sleep becomes impossible. Heavy with fatigue, your body sinks into the mattress, desperate for unconsciousness, but your brain refuses to cooperate. It skitters from one random thought to another, directionless and unstoppable. Like shadows in candlelight, all the little things you have to forget just to get through the day flare up to monstrous proportions. You try to clear your mind, concentrate on breathing, count sheep, but the torrent of thoughts flows on, relentless, exhausting. The tick tock of the clock chisels away the minutes. Five hours until morning. Four. Three. And if you do – miraculously – succeed in dropping off, the alarm intrudes all too quickly.

There was a small tear in the top left-hand corner furthest from her body. She watched it creep inexorably downwards. She imagined she could feel the fibres stretching, straining to cling together until the last possible moment as they were wrenched apart. It was going to split. She should put it down.

The day after a sleepless night is like a hangover. With an aching head, sore eyes, dry mouth and jittery stomach, you force yourself out of bed. You pray that the shower will wake you up. Peering bleary-eyed into the mirror you recoil from the apparition gawping back at you. Splash red eyes with cold water. Smear make-up onto grey-tinged skin. Try to humanise the zombie in the reflection.

She thought her arms must ache, but she couldn’t feel it. Her fingertips were white where they gripped the cardboard. She stood motionless, expressionless, watching the slow progress of the fissure as it lengthened and gaped. She should put it down the box.

When starved of sleep, emotions are thrown into sharp relief. Minor setbacks become catastrophes. Negative thoughts clamour for attention. The unfairness of working long hours for pitiful wages, at a place where pay is docked for the slightest reason and employment is never guaranteed more than a week ahead. Where the Head Manager monitors your every move and can terminate your contract in an instant. Where you can never make friends because the turnover is so fast and chatting is a sacking offence. Where exhaustion and depression join forces to prevent you from ever escaping this hell.

She should have put it down. With sudden violence the cargo lurched towards the opening, forcing its cardboard walls apart in a bid for freedom. At that moment she was overcome by the strange phenomenon whereby excessive fatigue is converted to hyperactivity. The myriad little injustices crowded together in her mind. With a grim smile she hurled the box into the air. People dived for cover, screaming as plastic shrapnel rained down upon them. Roaring, she rampaged along the aisles, shaking the shelves until they toppled, contents cascading across the floor. Crushing anything in her path, she tore through the warehouse, destruction in her wake.

The office door loomed ahead. The home of her oppressor. It was locked. She wrenched a fire extinguisher from the wall and attacked. There was a satisfying crunch of splintering wood. A second blow smashed the lock from the frame and the door swung inwards. There was the Head Manager. Alone. Exposed. Vulnerable. Spinning like a hammer thrower she propelled the extinguisher at her enemy. With a piercing battle cry she launched herself after it, fists whirling. This monster must be destroyed.

Pain flooded her arms and hands as the adrenaline wore off. On the verge of collapse, she mustered all her strength for one final, deadly blow. Her adversary fell to the ground, vanquished. Strong hands gripped her arms and dragged her out of the room through crowds of dumbstruck colleagues. Blood dripped from her bruised knuckles and she could hear the whine of police sirens, but she had triumphed.
‘FATAL ERROR’ flashed across a blue screen.

‘Hey!’ She started at the sound. ‘You won’t get paid any overtime! Give me that and go home.’ She blinked at the Shift Supervisor, his hands outstretched.
She looked down at the box she was holding, and hesitated.


1 Comment »

  1. Somehow I doubt she’s getting a promotion anytime soon…


    Comment by ganymeder — June 27, 2016 @ 8:03 pm | Reply

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