The instant messaging window is blinking again. It's Sally.

u busy? she says.

I think, Of course I'm not busy. What do you think this is, a factory? I am a knowledge worker. Since I know nothing, or almost nothing, it follows that I can't do real work, or almost no work.

The pay is not bad though.

Sally is waiting for my reply.

I type, Yep.

really busy? she says

I type, Well, not really.

I type, But I wanted to ask you about before.

Before? she says.

I type, Earlier, the message you sent.

I just got here, she says. I start to wonder if worrying so much about a simple message makes any sense at all.

I type, Really.

Yeah, she says. Then she says, Why?

I type, Emmm... nothing. Don't worry.

I look at my watch. It's ten past five. In about half an hour my manager will walk around the office handing out last-minute assignments. This is his way of compensating you for your hard work. The more hours you work, the more work you get. One of his theories is that whoever works overtime is a slacker. Nobody has ever been able to follow his reasoning on that one.

Time to leave, then.

I type, sorry but have to go now. l8r.

l8r, she says.

I close the window.

What I'm worried about now is, first, she wasn't there before, when the mysterious message was sent. Second, she didn't seem too surprised about what I said. All of this sounds awfully strange to my tortured mind. I should have asked her who else could use her computer.

And she said she had just arrived? At five?

I'm such an idiot.

I have to talk to her. I look at the instant messaging window again, but suddenly she goes offline.

What the hell? This truly might be a case of a few neurons misfiring. Hallucinations can seem quite real, they say. In fact, if it's a true hallucination, you shouldn't be able to tell what's real from what's not, right?

What does that say about reality?

I turn off the computer, and look around to check I'm not forgetting anything. It seems not, although it always seems that way.

I walk out of the office.