I dreamed I went back to R.A.C again.
I was sitting in the reception area. Pure dread. I swore I'd never return, but there I was, back in my waking nightmare. Around the corner, I heard office noises, but no voices. Then the steady click of black pumps moving over a parquet floor sounded down the hallway. The typing on computer keyboards picked up to a frantic pace. My heart stopped.
The Princess of Darkness turned the corner. Her elbows pressed hard against her waist as she walked so that her scrawny forearms jutted ahead of her. Her hands turned palm down to the floor. Long, glistening red fingernails were a constant reminder that she had gutted and eaten employees alive before. I had no proof, but I swore she was once a prison matron for a South American dictator. Or Jurassic Park.
Instead of fleeing, I followed her past rows of desks where sullen, silent employees wore shades of gray and couldn't lift their eyes to meet mine. I searched the blank faces for my old co-workers, Struggling Actress and Lives In A Glass Closet, but the nightmare was for me alone.
POD opened the double doors of the big corner office. I went inside. As usual, it took a moment for my eyesight to adjust to the dim lighting. I took a seat before the huge desk. Wreathed in swirling cigarette smoke, a shadowy figure waited for me. Office noir. Gin glazed eyes were the only distinct facial feature I could see in the haze. I thought he was about to speak, but the Hideous Troll launched into a prolonged phlegmy cough. He continued wheezing. He was struggling for breath. My lungs were about to burst in sympathy, but then I remembered that in his office there never was any pity, so I got over it. The POD stood behind me. Her talons gripped my shoulder too close to my jugular for comfort. POD spoke fluent phlegm and understood what the Hideous Troll said. I had no clue, but the interview was over.
For some reason, I took a seat at a desk and began to work. Color drained from my skin. Things were almost the same, but different enough that I wanted to ask questions. I knew better than to talk though. There was a reason Struggling Actress, Lives In A Glass Closet, and I passed notes like third graders when we worked together. We used to hide them under the sink in the bathroom rather than dare pass them by hand. We were watched. Some days, sheets of alternating handwriting bore witness to our struggle to maintain our sanity. They were conversations of shared misery peppered with longings to escape. I was tempted to go see if one was still stuffed in the U-bend of the pipes.
About once every six months I suffer through that bitter nostalgia. The absolute absurdity of that place should make me roll my eyes and laugh, but it doesn't. Years later it's still too real.
Dream time is quirky, so I have no idea how long I sat at that desk. For some reason, even though I'm consciously aware that I'm having a nightmare, I always try to make a go of it, try to prove to them that I am, above all, professional. Not that they care. But I do. The nightmare thankfully ends the way it always does - with me grabbing my stuff, telling POD I won't work there again, and walking out the door. They never try to talk me into staying. They know I'll be back.