I am standing in plain view in front of her desk, but the secretary simply ignores me. Coughing, shifting my weight from one foot to the other, whistling, nothing seems to work. She keeps typing and every once in a while she looks at the phone next to her for a few seconds. She looks at it intensely, as if the phone was behaving badly, or guarding a secret, but the phone sits there, silent, revealing nothing.

I say, Excuse me.

No response.


Her eyes turn my way, and when she sees me she jumps in her seat.

Sneaking up on people eh? she says.

New definition for sneaking up, I think: quote, To stand in plain view for a long time, making annoying noises while trying desperately to get noticed, unquote. What is it with semantics these days? Has the meaning of words changed, or have I?

I have to deliver a memo to Pete, I say.

Blank stare.

Pete Prentice? The head of the department? I offer.

I can tell that she is still in a trance. She takes a long time to do or say anything, her mind lost somewhere else. I am tempted to take a look at her monitor and see what she was doing, but it would probably be useless. She must have a perfect excuse for whatever it was. After maybe five seconds, her eyes light up.

Pete! she says.

Yes, I say, hopeful. Finally a human answer.

He doesn't work here anymore.


What do you mean? I say.

He was relocated yesterday, she says. In the reorg.

What reorg?

The latest, she says. There's almost nobody left in there.

Thanks, I say, and I step back. She goes back to doing whatever she was doing, and she doesn't look at me again. I walk into the floor, and what greets me is the same eerie silence I found in the floor where Sally worked. I walk to the nearest cubicle and everything looks the same, everything wrapped in transparent plastic foil, stacked in neat piles.

Calm down. I'm sure there is a perfectly plausible explanation for this.

Massive alien abductions, for example.

My manager didn't know anything about this, or he wouldn't have sent me here. Or did he know? I have to talk to him. I have to talk to him now.

I go back to the lobby, and press the button for the elevator. The numbers over the door start to move. Next to the door there is a trashcan. I throw all the remaining memos into it. I think about what to say, how to approach it. Maybe confrontation will be useful for once.

Who knows? He might even tell me the truth.