Two and a half metres wide, thirty metres long: this was no abnormal corridor. It started at this end, and finished thirty metres later at that end. Or perhaps it started at that end and concluded thirty metres later at this end?
Today was the first time that anybody had paid attention to the corridor.
Mr Poti rose out of one of the newly installed whizzy chairs. He had no idea that those chairs would be gone the next day. He had even less of an idea that he wouldn’t be able to see that the chair had gone the next day.
None of these thoughts crossed the mind of Mr Poti; in fact not a lot really did. He was quite content to have a job that required not much thought at all – he replied to customer complaint e-mails.
At the moment, he was thinking about his hair. Did it need a trim, or new highlights? There’s something amiss about it anyway, he mused. Perhaps copious amounts of gel would do the trick.
His brain told him his stomach hurt. Was it because it was too full, or too empty? Better not risk it, he thought. Mr Poti decided to go to the cafeteria the long way round; there were wall length modernistic mirrors that way, so he could casually check his appearance. He closed his office door and made his way down the corridor.
Mr Honku logged off from his computer. He had another hour of work left, but he had found that nobody stopped him from leaving work early. Mr Honku was quite sure that the other workers respected him so much that they hadn’t the courage to inform on his pre-emptive departures. He chuckled to himself – he was certain that if he were in their position, he would do exactly the same.
A person across from his cubicle said goodbye as Mr Honku left his small workspace. Mr Honku considered this person so far below him on the social ladder that he didn’t even deserve a retaliatory acknowledgment.
He indifferently ignored him and made his way out of the brightly lit ‘Human Resources’ area. Mr Honku’s job was to write customer complaints. His company paid him to write grumbling e-mails to a rival business, under the alias of a fictional dissatisfied client, the aim being to waste the other company’s time and resources.
Mr Honku never really thought about his job, and today was no exception. He closed the door to the murmuring Human Resources area and made his way along the corridor to the lift. He would never make it.
Mr Poti strolled down the corridor. A cleaner brusquely pushed passed him, trailing a maintenance trolley behind her. She mumbled a sorry and hurried on.
Was she so abrupt because she liked me? thought Mr Poti. He rated her on his ‘Cleaners that like Me’ list. Fourth from bottom, ah well.
As he concentrated on walking again, he saw another figure coming towards him, currently twenty metres away. It’s that prick from the other company, he realised. Both companies shared floor space on the same level of the same building.
Mr Poti realised from the first minute he saw Mr Honku that he was a threat, a threat to his rule as King of Level 3. They had only occasionally gone past each other in the corridor before, but the insolent way Mr Honku had ignored him made him conscious of the fact there was a rival to his crown.
Mr Poti would not let Mr Honku come out of this exchange on top again. I can pay no attention to a person as well as anyone, he encouraged. With his eyes set resolutely to disregard this man, he walked steadily down the blue carpeted corridor.
Mr Honku glanced at his watch. He was eager to catch Deal or No Deal, and if he hurried he might get home before the banker’s first call…
But a man stood in his way.
Mr Poti, he growled to himself, that arrogant, conceited moron from the other end of the corridor. If there was anything he hated more than a contestant walking away with only £5 on Deal or No Deal, it was people who thought they were better than him.
Mr Poti walked up the corridor.
Mr Honku strolled down the corridor.
Soon, there would be chaos.
The two men marched straight into each other, rebounding with a slight recoil. Still avoiding eye contact, they both tried to proceed down opposite directions of the corridor through the other person, but the result was exactly the same.
As the rebounds reduced exponentially in magnitude, Mr Poti and Mr Honku both realised that someone had to move.
A rival worth my time, thought Mr Poti, as they came to a rest* a foot away from each other. I can outlast him. He’ll move first.
Mr Honku showed no sign that this was an unusual situation. Inside, he was reeling.
Who does this man think he is? There’s only one person I’d move for, and Mr Poti definitely isn’t Noel Edmunds, Mr Honku thundered to himself.
If only I could stop ignoring him for one second to insult him, then I’d show him where he belongs. Mr Poti was the kind of person that had twenty insults up his sleeve ready to issue for any circumstance. I would call you a fuckwit, he thought, but you don’t have any wit, so I’ll just call you a fuck.
Mr Honku, however, was thinking of battle tactics. He had already deduced that a move must be made, and so he made it.
Mr Poti was perusing the corridor walls with feigned interest. His eyes rested on a particularly nice screw in the wall that shone with a galvanised beauty. Oh, how I love cross headed screws! The way the screw driver fits in snugly, turning with an astounding ease that makes you want to shout, CONNECTION MADE!
But it only interested Mr Poti for mere minutes. He glanced around to find something else worthy of his attention, when he saw out of the corner of his eye… no, it can’t be! Mr Honku was staring straight at him! Mr Poti almost rebounded in astonishment, but his exterior didn’t reveal his amazement. He coolly returned Mr Honku’s gaze.
Checked and nearly mated, and not even a flinch! He’s good, Mr Honku reflected, but my repertoire contains moves no soul has dared necessitated. After his reply, I shall STRIKE!
Mr Poti had his reply already planned. It was a combination of well known moves put together in a jaunty, unassailable way. He got ready to pull face number 15 (every face he had ever pulled had a number), and raised his hand to his mouth.
Mr Honku watched amusedly as Mr Poti coughed politely and peered condescendingly at his watch.
No marks for originality, Mr Honku thought.
Mr Poti finished his move and stared incongruously at Mr Honku.
No reaction at all! This person is no novice…The tense situation got a hold of Mr Poti’s stomach: it made an ominous rumbling sound. He tried to cover up the fact with another little cough.
Ha! This is going to be easier than I thought. All I have to do is wait, and the stomach shall prevail. Mr Honku mirrored Mr Poti’s watch glance technique, to get things flowing once more. But this had an adverse effect which he had not foreseen.
Mr Poti, in his embarrassment of the grumble, had gone slightly red. He knew this was a position that made him odds on favourite for the runners up spot in this contest. He looked at Mr Honku again, expecting the killer blow, but instead he saw something on his opponent’s forehead that made his heart skip a beat.
Mr Honku thrashed his head back to glare at his watch.
Oh my goodness! I’ve missed half of Deal or No Deal! He almost sobbed in despair. Almost. If I don’t finish soon, I’ll even miss the snooker! I don’t want to miss another hour long safety battle between snooker’s finest!
Mr Poti’s eyes followed the slow trickle of sweat down Mr Honku’s forehead. His opponent was weakening.
* For all those anally retentive, pedantic, self obsessed, mathematical function loving fools, I DO fecking know that an exponential function never reaches zero. So THERE. Poetic license or somfing.
This is an original Hashmark short story written by Fyodyor Medvyed Estoni in early 2006