I glanced down at my watch as I ran along, trying desperately not to let the loose bundle of papers tucked under my arm come undone. The bouncing of my limbs made it hard to read the time, but I finally caught a glimpse of the clock face.
Shit. I was already five minutes late, and I had no idea where the meeting room was. Dan, that empty-headed idiot, had only given me the floor number, and I had assumed (like an imbecile) that the room would be obvious! But now, dashing down this corridor with door after door, I had to admit that I was hopelessly lost. Each door had a floor-to-ceiling pane of semi-opaque glass set in next to it, presumably so that I could see into the meeting rooms, but I hadn’t been able to spot an occupied one yet.
I spotted a door up ahead, unlike the others – this one was covered in vertical wood paneling, just like the wall, and only the bright brass doorknob distinguished it from the rest of the corridor. Crossing my fingers, I opened it and peered inside.
Nope. Nothing but some machinery making faint chugging noises against the back wall. I closed the door, turned around-
-and almost slammed into Dan, walking in the corridor right next to me.
I gawped at the man, wondering where in the world he had come from. Just a moment ago, I had been the only one in the hallway, and I most certainly hadn’t heard any approaching footsteps! “Dan!” I gasped. “Where’s the room at? You didn’t tell me the room number!”
The other man seemed perplexed by my panic. “It’s room 443, right here,” he replied. He waved a hand at the room in question – just opposite the door I had just opened that had been covered in wood paneling, in fact. “Take a breath, man, you’ve still got five minutes!”
As Dan headed into room 443 at his annoyingly slow, leisurely pace, I glanced down at my watch again in confusion. “I thought the meeting was starting… at… ten…” my voice trailed off.
My watch now read only 9:55! I raised it up, staring at it with suspicion, but the second hand seemed to be operating normally. I realized that I was standing still, and I hurried forward once again to catch up with Dan, but my mind was awash in confusion. What in the world was going on?
As always, the first few minutes of the meeting were worthless anyway. Making sure that everyone was here, dealing with conference callers, following up on old pieces of business from the last meeting that had never quite been removed from the agenda – all necessary, but all incredibly boring as well. Thanks to arriving a few minutes early, I had managed to snag a seat near the door, and I spun a couple times in my chair, gazing out through the semi-opaque glass next to the door into room 443. I could see the glint of that brass doorknob on the other side of the hall.
As the head of the Committee for Diversity and Equal Treatment was making his usual inane announcements about H.R. representation, I glanced out through the pane of glass again. Someone was outside the room! I wondered if they were here for the meeting – they were moving jerkily, their actions making them look as if they were late and panicked. The opacity of the glass prevented me from making out details, but they looked to be about my height. A bundle of loose papers was barely tucked under one arm.
The person outside twisted around, his or her gaze shooting up and down the hall, and then they turned to the door opposite the hall from me. I watched as they twisted the handle, pulled the door open from the rest of the wall’s wood paneling-
Something made me glance down at my watch. 10:05. It took a few seconds for me to put together what had happened, but then, sitting at the table, my eyes slowly began to widen…