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Blood. The desk was blood-red and Michael’s vision faded in and out as he stared at the computer screen. This was yet another day for Michael, another day to bore his life away at the office. He’s the working man, he’s captured by the corporate machine to sell his soul for a dime. As he frantically worked at his desk, trying to clear the service level, his boss came over. Her name was Lorraine. She was a pleasant woman, but so pushed by management that she was at times unbearable. Nothing was ever good enough. Michael could work his fingers to the bone every minute of every day and there was still more work to do, there was always more work to do.

Michael went to the break room during lunchtime to sit with his friends. I say friends, because they were really just acquaintances that he tried to attribute as friends. He got on fine with them, but he knew they were just appeasing him. He felt like a stranger in his own office. Maybe everyone feels alone and hides their pain so no-one else can sense it. Or maybe Michael was just unusual, unusually alone.

Michael doesn’t even know the pronunciation of friendship.

However, this lunch-break was different, and Michael would never have imagined how his life would take such a drastic change. In walks a young, slim and beautiful woman with a striking face. She stole the spotlight of the room, everyone looked at her from the corner of their eye. The men were beauty-struck and the women were filled with jealousy, especially the insecure. This woman walked straight at Michael. He couldn’t believe it, what could this woman find interesting about him? She was everything he wanted to be, confident and self-assured. Yet, to his disbelief, she sat down next to him as he was on his own. His friends walked into the room shortly after but decided to leave him be.

Perhaps they wanted to give him space, or they were glad to be away from him. The woman smiled and pushed her tufts of dark hair away from her hazel eyes. Her eyes had a glimmer in them, her eyes betrayed a desire. She put her hand on Michael’s, and shook it.

“My name is Laura”, the woman said as she kept Michael’s gaze.

Michael’s throat went dry as he tried to find the words to reply with.

“My…my name is Michael” he said as he built his courage up.

Laura laughed and looked around the room. She smirked as she opened her mouth to continue speaking.

“Man, this place looks pretty miserable, I always forget quite what it’s like in an office”.

Michael looked at her, and spoke quietly so no one around could hear.

“I guess you could say its hell on earth”.

Laura smiled and after running her pale hand across her arm gave Michael an invitation. “Hey, why don’t you come round to my place, I know how to keep the blues at bay. When I feel depressed, and that I can’t do anything to help my situation, then I pick up my harp and pluck the strings to calm my spirit. Sometimes we just have to push through our job, even if we never asked our life to be like this”.

After some initial shock, for Michael had never been invited round to someone’s house before, never mind a beautiful woman’s, he struck up the courage to accept her offer.

After she gave him her address, a calm suburban block, she walked away with her black dress floating down her shoulder and trailing across the floor. He did think it was strange that he had never seen her at the office before, but he assumed she must just be a new starter. Or maybe he told himself that because he finally had a shot at true friendship.

That evening he went round to Laura’s house as he promised. She stood at the door and greeted him with a smile. He instantly felt a powerful aura from the house and could immediately tell there was something about Laura that didn’t seem quite right. Something eerie and unnatural. Still, he went into the house because he was enamoured with her and was longing for friendship.

Laura took him up the staircase and into her bedroom. She pointed at the harp that was sitting by her bedside, it was a zephyr harp, compact and with a slick elegant design. It was truly beautiful and was decorated with golden decals but had an otherwise simple and practical design.

Laura motioned her head over to the harp and began to speak.

“This is the harp I was telling you about Michael. I sit all evening playing this harp”.

Michael looked at the harp, and not quite knowing where Laura was going with this, awkwardly started speaking.

“Heh, I guess you could say that you’re a workaholic when it comes to that harp”.

Laura sadly laughed and replied.

“I’ve spent so many hours in lonely solitude playing this instrument. As far back as I can remember, there have been so many nights dedicated to the melodies I’ve produced from this instrument.”

Michael asked if Laura could show him her musicianship. Laura sighed and looked sadly at Michael. She looked at him in his eyes, and started to speak.

“Why don’t you tell me a bit more about yourself Michael, for so long I’ve been alone in an unkind and savage world. What’s worse is that no one else can tell, for they are too preoccupied with their own pain”.

Instead of answering her question, Michael asked Laura why she felt so alone. Could it be that he had finally found someone who felt the same pain he did, someone would could share the loneliness.

“Laura, you, you are beautiful and talented. Why would someone like you be so alone”? She gazed at the floor for a short while, looked at Michael with pity and sadness and struggled to speak.

“Let me show you”.

She put her fingers on the harp strings and started to caress them with her fingers. A resounding beautiful harmony came from the harp and carried all around the room. Michael was amazed, it was the most beautiful music he had ever heard. The aura he had sensed before coming into the house was growing stronger, and whilst he was starting to become anxious, he felt safe in the presence of Laura. Or maybe he wished to believe his own deception.

After a few minutes of playing sublime music, Michael started to feel light and wheezy, he found it difficult to feel his fingertips.

Laura started to play the harp more aggressively, blood started to trickle down her finger tips. It could be because of the aggression and speed of Laura’s fingers, but Michael knew there was more going on. He could sense something sinister.

Soon, Michael felt ‘pins and needles’ all over his body, with each limb slowly going numb. He tried to open his mouth but wasn’t able to speak. Every time he wanted to speak nothing but air came from his mouth. Blood started to fall down Laura’s arms more rapidly and her pale arms turned red.

Finally, Michael was no longer in control of his body. He longed to run, he longed to escape, he longed for anything but as hard as he wished he was powerless to do anything. Laura sat up, walked over to him and kissed him on the cheek. She looked at him in the eyes and met his still gaze with her teary eyes.

“I’m sorry Michael”.

Suddenly, Michael blacked out. He awoke in an underground cellar. There were cages all around with people as white as sheet, the blood drained from them. He tried to move his head and he tried, so hard, to do anything but he was unable to. He could hear the sounds of footsteps and soon, Laura was in front of him. She looked at the floor, not meeting his eyes, and spoke.

“There’s no use Michael. Even if you could move, you can’t go back now. You are stuck here forever. Look at this girl.”

Laura pointed to the girl in front of Michael. She was emaciated and looked seriously sick. She was constantly shaking and her eyes twitched around, darting all over the room.

“This girl’s name was once Constance. She was so insecure of her weight and beauty. Look at her now, she’s a shell of her former self. Nothing remains but the pure insecurity.”

Michael tried so hard to speak, but Laura seemed to predict what he was going to say.

“No Michael, there’s only you two here. You two are unique, you are the only people who have given me pause for thought, yet you are both the best examples of your emotions I have ever met. Everyday you went to work, you pushed on and tried to hide your loneliness from your colleagues, but everyone knew, everyone knew about sad, little Michael”.

Laura gave Michael the best smile she could and looked at him warmly. It terrified him.

“Constance no longer needs to feel insecure, she has me to comfort her. And you, Michael, don’t feel lonely any more. We three, well, we are like family now”.

Laura tried to smile, she tried, but each time she tried it seemed broken.

She picked the harp up from the floor and started to play it. Cries and anguish swirled around the room and Michael could hear each individual shriek for help. Laura suddenly looked intense and stopped playing completely.

“Michael, I need to go back. I’m needed again. Try to relax, you are going to be here a while. We are friends now”.

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