Too Close to Home

Groaning to myself, I risked another glance up at the clock, taunting me from the far wall.

Forty more minutes to go. Forty minutes until my shift ended, and I could get out of this soul-crushing office and go back home, where I’d…

Well, I didn’t really have any plans for the night. Watch some television? Crack open the last couple of beers in my fridge, finish them off? Lay on my couch and stare up at the ceiling, wondering about where my life had somehow taken a wrong turn, ending up so mundane and banal that I had to self-medicate most nights with booze in order to forget about how much everything sucked?

So many possibilities, I darkly told myself.

On the other side of my cubicle wall from me, Adam, my coworker, chuckled. “Time flies, huh?” he called out to me, and I grunted in assent.

Another glance at the clock. Still forty more minutes. Wait a moment – had the second hand just started going backwards? What was happening?

I squinted a little harder, but realized that no, it had just been an illusion. I groaned again, rubbing one hand over my aching eyes.

Needing a distraction, I lowered my eyes down to the browser on the computer in front of me, clicking over to the Writing Prompts section on Reddit. I’d probably get yelled at by IT at some point for spending too much time on here, but I enjoyed reading through the submissions, marveling at the creativity of others. Adam probably saw me browsing here when he peeked over the top of the cubicle wall, but he wouldn’t report me.

I scrolled through the front page. Ooh, ones about immortality, dragons spitting rap lyrics…

Wait. My mouse hovered over one of the prompts. “All of the clocks in the world start going backwards,” I read off.

Hadn’t I just been thinking that?

Curious, I clicked on the name of the user who posted that particular prompt. /u/Zalgryth, I read off. Looking at his history, I scrolled through the submissions to the Writing Prompts subreddit, and my unease deepened.

There, another one! “Everywhere I look, I see her,” I read off. Gosh, that pretty much summed up my life right now, didn’t it?

And the more I read, the more responses jumped out at me. Some of them were daydreams I vaguely remembered, some were descriptive of my life. This couldn’t be happening. This seemed too weird. Was someone pulling some sort of joke on me?

I scrolled up to the user’s most recent prompt. “You’re reading a bunch of writing prompt responses and you start to notice the responses of one particular user seem like they’re taken from your own real life experiences.”

Holy crap. What the hell was going on?

I pushed back my chair, forgetting about work, forgetting about all of my life – and then, as my chair turned around, I saw Adam, grinning at me over the top of the cubicle wall.

“It’s you!” I burst out, stabbing out a finger at him. “You’re the one posting all this stuff about my life!”

He laughed at me, shrugging his shoulders. “Eh, it gives me something to do during these mindless last few hours of the day,” he nodded. “I didn’t think that you’d catch on!”

I laughed, even as I headed out of work. And I’d thought that someone was somehow spying on the deepest secrets of my life, mystically divining things about me! It was just Adam, posting little snippets of conversations… with…

I paused, standing in the parking garage, as a sudden thought struck me.

I’d never told Adam about my daydreams.

So how did he know what to post about them?

I stood there for a minute, frozen – until the ding of the elevator’s doors opening behind me startled me into jumping and spinning around.

“See you tomorrow, man,” Adam called as he strolled past me, off to his car.

I didn’t say a word in return, but stared at him as he left without a backwards glance. Something didn’t seem right…

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