If you’d asked me ten years ago where I’d see myself now, it definitely wouldn’t have been working at a cleaning company.
No, back then, I had higher aspirations. I even dropped out of school chasing some vague, unrealistic dream.
After things didn’t work out, I had to accept the situation and get a normal job. This cleaning job was supposed to be nothing but a temporary thing. But five years later, I’m still here.
To say I dislike the job would be an understatement, but it is what it is.
There are some perks, though. Half the time I’m working alone and I can listen to music and podcasts. The other half, I’m working with Mark, my superior, who’s the most chill guy in the world.
I usually work in the early morning, getting things read just before rush hour and before all the regular working people arrive. I hate the early morning shift because you’ve never got enough time to get everything ready.
The night shift is different. You’ve got all the time in the world and there’s this sense of calm and quiet.
Yesterday, Mark and I were on the night shift again. It should be a night I will never forget.
We got dispatched to some high-rising office building and were told to clean up some promising start-up’s offices on the third floor. Apparently these tech-guys couldn’t be bothered cleaning up after themselves.
It was already late evening when we arrived. The building was a dark monolith of glass and steel rising high into the night sky above.
After mark unlocked the door, I pushed our massive cleaning cart inside. The thing was a monstrosity, an amalgamation of anything we might need on the job. It was stacked with all sorts of chemicals and detergents, a handful of mops and two floor cleaning machines.
As I pushed the thing into the lobby, all I could see was a giant staircase in the back.
“Oh, come on, you’re telling me we have to carry all that shit up the stairs?”
I was in a foul mood that day, and I hated today’s job already.
Mark gave me a grin and waved the key-chain he was still holding.
“No worries, there’s a nice little service elevator waiting for us just around the corner. Come on.”
With that he led me to a small, half-hidden elevator shaft, unlocked it and we pushed the cart inside.
“See, Tom, the job’s got his perks!” Mark said.
“Yeah, guess so,” I mumbled to myself. I had to admit though, I was more than thankful we didn’t have to carry all that stuff upstairs.
Once we’d made it to the third floor, Mark unlocked the company’s offices.
“Well, you read for our little night time adventure?” Mark asked while pushing the cart inside.
“I don’t get how you can always be so happy about this shitty job.”
“Got to make the best of it, you know? Can’t be moping around, come on, smile a little! This job ain’t so bad!”
“Yeah, why don’t you fuck off,” I mumbled, but couldn’t help but laugh.
Mark sure wasn’t the smartest guy around, but he sure was one of the nicest.
“So, how you want to do this?” he asked as we entered the pristine white hallway covered with motivational pictures.
I turned first left and then right.
“Well, would make sense to divide the thing up, wouldn’t it? That way we’ll be done sooner. I go left, you go right?”
“You want me to walk around here all by myself in the middle of the night?” he asked with a fake-shocked expression. “What if there’s some crazy serial killer hiding up here or, you know, ghosts, or,” he rambled, but I cut him off.
“Stop joking! You know I’m not in the mood for any of that creepy shit. Let’s get going.”
While Mark laughed his ass off, I stacked up on cleaning supplies and got my floor cleaning machine ready.
I plugged it in, started the beast and made my way down the hallway. Those things were pretty damn awesome, I had to admit.
I rumbled past the first glass door when I thought I saw a low glimmer of light from inside. For a moment I felt goosebumps all over my arm as Mark’s stupid joke came back to my mind. I shook my head and told myself it must’ve been my imagination.
Still somewhat anxious, I turned off the floor cleaning machine and opened the door. When I entered, I found myself in a giant office room, filled to the brim with desks and computers.
I took down my headphones and listened for a moment.
“Anyone there?” I called out and was annoyed at the edge in my voice.
When I didn’t get an answer, my hand wandered to the light switch.
Right at that moment, a guy’s head poked out from behind a computer at the back of the office.
I jerked back at his sudden appearance.
“Jesus Christ,” I blurted out.
“Hey there, sorry about that,” a nervous voice spoke up. “Got to finish this module, you know, someone fucked up the code and, well,” his voice trailed off.
“Shit man, it’s like… eleven in the evening,” I said checking my phone.
His eyes probed me and for a few seconds all was quiet before he gave me the weakest of shrugs.
“Yeah, it’s late, but hey, if you got to clean, go ahead, but, maybe, you know, you could finish here last? Really got to fix this shit and all that.”
As I stared at the guy in the dark, I saw bloodshot eyes, a tired face, and somehow I couldn’t help but feel for the guy. If he was still here at this hour, his job was even worse than mine.
Finally, I shrugged and gave him a little nod.
“Sure thing, I’ll take care of the other rooms first. You’ll probably be gone by then.”
Nothing, just his staring eyes. Then he opened his mouth again.
“Yeah, thanks man, all good, all good,” he mumbled.
What the hell was with this guy, I thought as I returned to the hallway.
I turned the floor cleaning machine back on, pressed play on my music and continued on my merry way down the hallway.
After that, I took care of the toilets at the end of the hall. I hated cleaning those, so I did it first. Get the shit over with, in the literal sense of the word.
Once those were done, I cleaned the conference room and break room.
I returned to the hallway just to see the glass door to the office open up. My eyes met those of the guy I’d seen before. I saw his mouth move, but couldn’t hear him over the music I was playing. I took down my headphones once more and took a step toward him.
“Sorry, what was that?”
But I got no answer. He just stood there in the doorway, half his body hidden behind the doorframe.
“Guess you’re all done, right?”
Once more he mumbled something to himself, I couldn’t hear. I could see his feet shuffling nervously, but he didn’t step out of the room.
“Hey, you okay, man?” I asked, this time louder.
He jerked at the volume of my voice.
“Yeah, all good, I just, eh, gotta,” he started but broke up.
He slowly pushed his head forward, his eyes growing wider by the second as he kept staring at me.
“You know, how about you just keep on cleaning and leave me the hell alone?”
What the hell had he just said?
“Yo, man, I know you’re having a tough day, but there’s no need to be an asshole!”
The guy started mumbling to himself again. I could see his jaw tightening, saw his body growing tense.
“… calling me an asshole?” I heard between other indistinguishable curses.
“Yeah, I’m calling you a,” I started, but when I took a step forward, my foot got caught in the floor cleaning machine’s cable, I tumbled and almost crashed to the floor.
“You stupid piece of shit!” I cursed at the machine and gave it a hard kick. A bottle of detergent I’d placed on top of it clattered to the floor and popped open.
“You’ve got to be freaking kidding me!”
I quickly picked the bottle back up and closed it, staring at the little puddle on the floor. I sighed before I turned back to the guy who still hadn’t moved.
“Sorry man, guess I’m having a bad day as well. I don’t want any trouble, so how about we let bygones be bygones? No need to tell your boss about our little argument, all right?”
I waited for a moment before the guy gave me a weak nod.
“All right, gotta get going,” I said before I turned around.
Whatever the matter was with this guy, he gave me the creeps. Freaking computer nerds, I thought as I made my way into the kitchen.
The place was a mess. To say it was untidy was an understatement. The floor was dirty and stained, and so was the table and any other surfaces.
The fuck were those guys doing in here?
I pulled out my phone and checked out our to-do-list. Of course, we had to clean all surfaces in here. Isn’t that great? Am I freaking maid or what? Freaking start-ups.
For the next half hour I was busy with half a dozen chemicals to return this dump of a kitchen back to pristine condition.
Once my work was done, I was pretty proud of myself. Sure, the job sucked ass, but I wasn’t half bad at it.
Well, that leaves the office.
I pulled out my phone to hit up Mark, but of course he didn’t answer. He had this stupid habit of turning his phone off. Well, whatever.
A moment later, I reentered the enormous office. By now it was all quiet. The dim light I’d seen before was gone.
“Yo, programmer dude, you still around?” I called out.
Thankfully, he seemed to have left.
I was about to get the floor cleaning machine when I noticed a bunch of dark splotches on the floor. Great, guess he left me a little goodbye present. Freaking asshole. Well, doesn’t matter, get rid of it and be done with it.
I hit the light switch and came to a stop. What the hell was that stuff?
I’d thought it might have been coffee or soda, but this looked nothing like it. It was dark red and syrupy. There were splotches and little splatters all over the place. Hell, there were even footprints.
Then I saw a piece of clothing nearby, discarded on the floor. It too was stained with dark red.
What the hell was this? Don’t tell me…
As I inched closer step by step, I thought about the way the guy had acted, how nervous he’d been, how fidgety, how… creepy.
I followed the trail of red liquid, red liquid that was most likely blood.
“Fucking hell,” I cursed when I noticed the first outlines of a pool of corrugated blood below a desk.
Shit, fucking shit, I cursed to myself. My hand was shaking as I pulled out my phone to call 911 and slowly made my way around the desk.
What I found behind made me scream up and scramble back.
A woman was lying on the floor in a pool of her own blood.
“Hey, are you,” I started in a shaken voice, but broke up when I saw her bloodstained clothes. Her eyes were wide open and the perpetual remnant of a scream distorted her face.
All the strength left my legs, and I crashed to the floor. A second later, I stumbled away and threw up into a trash can.
Fucking shit. What the hell was this? What the hell was going on?
That guy, that guy I’d seen, he must’ve…
For a moment my head jerked around, half-anticipating this deranged psycho coming for me.
Sweat ran down my face as I backed up against the office’s wall, my eyes darting left and right, desperately scanning the room. All was quiet, there was no movement, no sound. For all I knew, he was gone.
Then something clicked in my mind. The only exit was at the other end of the hallway. The other end where Mark was cleaning. What if he’d run into Mark and… Shit!
I tried to hit him up on the phone, but it was still turned off. Shit, why’d he always have to do this!?
I opened my mouth to call out, but closed it again. What if that crazy motherfucker was still inside the building? What if he was lying in wait for me somewhere?
As quietly as I could, I inched forward, carefully bypassing all the doors.
When I arrived at the service elevator, I found the doors closed and the elevator gone. But you needed a key to operate it, didn’t you? The key that Mark had!
As I rushed down the hallway, I called out his name, all of my fear forgotten, but I got no answer.
I found him soon after. Mark was lying on the floor at the end of the hallway. His floor cleaning machine was still rumbling on next to him, busily soaking up the blood that was leaking from his body.
“No, Mark, goddammit!” I called out, tried to lift him up, but his limp body and his empty eyes told me there was nothing to be done.
“Fucking hell, man, fucking hell,” I cursed while the tears were streaming from my eyes.
Finally, I called 911 and explained the situation as best as I could, given my condition.
When they arrived, however, the killer was long gone.
In the coming weeks, I learned the details of what had happened. Jenna, the dead woman, had been working late to hit a deadline. For weeks, though, she’d complained to co-workers about an ex-boyfriend turned stalker.
The man must’ve made his way to the office that same night, knowing she was all by herself and murdered her.
By that time, though, we’d already arrived at the office. With no way to escape, he pretended to be an employee and left when I was busy cleaning the kitchen. On his way out, he must’ve run into Mark, murdered him as well before he fled via the service elevator.
And unbeknownst to it all, I was listening to my damned music while I cleaned the kitchen.
As I think back to that night, I can’t help but shiver.
That argument I’d had with the guy, the way I’d started toward him. It was by sheer chance that I’d tripped over the cable and dropped the detergent. If I hadn’t… if I’d actually stepped up to him…
Yet, that’s not the worst. There’s one more thing, one more detail that’s taken root in my brain and has been growing there like a festering wound.
Those dark splotches and little splatters, the blood. It hadn’t been there when I first entered the office.