I am trapped at a desk in the family room, working from home, much like Fortunato could be described as “working from home” after Montresor lured him inside the hollowed-out wall of his cellar and then bricked it shut, trapping him inside to succumb to fate. This is how I work from home. I try to focus on counting the stones at my feet, writing the totals on small slips of paper that I feed into cracks in the wall. I have lost all sense of purpose. My coworkers have become different colored names. My work computer is a stone wall built over my exit into which I feed the slips of paper. I continue working. Obedient to my pointless tasks, as I have no other choice except for madness.
Ghosts haunt the upstairs hallways. I hear moaning and the rattling of chains. Shrieking and the sudden stampede of too many feet ending instantly with a crash or a thud or a painful wail. Often, restless figures float past me, over my shoulder, shadows casting shadows. They look hungrily at my computer which once was theirs. They sigh into my ear. This is their home to haunt, they seem to say. They do not appreciate usurpers. How dare I disgrace their holy shrine to Youtube with Math and Traffic Reports! “Work? This is no place for work!” their tired faces seem to say, and I look at what I have accomplished in the day and am forced to agree. The distraction and mindlessness of it all is never-ending.
Sometime this morning there was a roar as something heavy collapsed down a staircase and fell hard on something else in the living room that shrieked as it tried to get away. I slowed my breathing and listened to the invisible struggle. There was hissing and shouting as something large was dragging something smaller across a carpeted floor.
“Dad!” one of the somethings yelled. “Dad, help!” The sound was muffled as the other something tried to hold a hand over its mouth. “Dad!” it yelled again, clearer now as it peeled the fingers of its attacker away.
“Who was this ‘Dad?'” I wondered.
A second voice joined in. “Say it!” the voice snarled. “Call me Queen Lydia.”
“No,” the first voice choked out. “Never.”
“No. Say, ‘Yes your majesty’!”
I quietly slipped a pair of headphones over my ears and went back to counting stones. With every stone, the day grew closer to its end.