Corner Office

“I quit, Mr Abaddon,” I sigh, my fingers twisting around the hem of my skirt as my palms start to feel clammy again. Stay strong, I whisper to myself, the job is tempting, I know, but the omnipresent guilt…

“You… you what?!” Mr Abaddon stammers, spinning around to look me right in the eye. “You can’t QUIT!” He bellows in response to his own question, incredulity etched onto his face.

“I can, actually. And- And I will,” a sudden burst of confidence flows through me, forcing out words that are calm and dignified when on the inside, I feel anything but.

“Mara,” He coos, his voice softening abruptly. His eyes scan me almost hungrily as he says, “Think about all the great work you’ve done for us, all the flawless… presentations. You’re amazing at your job.”

“Nowadays, I feel burned out and dissatisfied,” I confess, a hint of doubt starting to pick at my brain. “All the new… assignments… They’ve taken a toll on me,” I add, not sure if I really mean what I’m saying.

“But you used to LOVE this life, Mara,” Mr Abaddon counters smoothly. “You adored the field trips out of the office and you tackle challenges so well. Your numbers are fabulous and I can’t remember the last time an employee had a drive like yours – not to mention the amazing records,” He pauses to slip in a watery smile.

“I know you don’t REALLY want to leave,” He wheezes, and I feel my resistance start to crumble.

“Give me one good reason to stay, then,” I challenge with a final spurt of severity.

“Look outside and you’ll find a million,” Mr Abaddon promises and so I twist around to get a good look out the window. The view, although a familiar one, takes my breath away.

Saffron flames lick every visible surface as ragged beings trudge through an arid wasteland. Suffering hangs in the air like an obstinate cloud that refuses to relieve itself and the pain… Oh, the pain seems to be the only constant.

Despite my resolve, I feel a beaming smile creep onto my face. Mr Abaddon’s blood-red eyes study my reaction carefully, waiting for a response.

“I don’t know what got into me,” I confess, my stomach unclenching. “It would take a fool to pass this kind of job up. Of course I’ll stay.” I smirk.

“I knew you would, old girl. You never could resist the smell of suffering, could you?” Mr Abaddon chuckles, his scarlet skin crinkling up at the eyes.

Just as I start to shuffle back to my corner office, Mr Abaddon adds, “So will I have that loss-and-loss chart on my table by ten?”

“Sure thing, boss,” I whistle, my heart almost singing.

Whoever said that corporate life was hell?

There’s Something About Marseille…

“We’re he-er,” A voice from the front seat cooed as I groggily tried to rub off the faint traces of sleep that still haunted my eyes.

The sleek, white Renault trundled to a stop just as I popped my head out its window to get a good look at the view outside – and I DEFINITELY wasn’t disappointed!

“Oh. My. Granola bar.” I sputtered, pinching myself to make sure that I was really, truly in the beach capital of France, and not tucked away in bed, half a world away.

I’m still not sure what exactly it was that stupefied my senses so dramatically in that moment. Maybe it was the piercing blue of the ocean, its waves crashing onto the shore with a symphony of sounds. Or maybe it was the sight of the darling cobblestone streets, twisting around town in a mosaic of brick and mortar. It might have even been the rows and rows of quirky, sea-facing cottages that threw me – but whatever the reason, I was completely DAZZLED.

And, as I was going to find out, each moment that I would spent in Marseille would just make me fall deeper and deeper in love with it.

In the five days that we spent basking in the glorious French summer sun, we did little more than eat, explore and enjoy everything to the fullest [and did I mention eat?].

We prayed for world peace in the celebrated Marseille cathedral, browsed artsy cafés and galleries on La Canebiére, ate our weight in bread and cheese, witnessed a thumping flash mob [and, yes, it was just like walking onto the set of an SRK movie], took a tiny train up a hill to get a look at the beloved “Notre Dame de la Garde” sculpture, bathed in the frigid waters of the sea [which was followed by a sun-bathed yoga session on the shore] and swiped every single freebie within a 3-mile radius of our apartment [hey, you know what they say; you can take a girl out of India, but you can’t take India out of the girl!].

And, oh, don’t even get me started on Marseille by night! Every evening, just as the sun started to dip towards the horizon, the lights from the yachts docked at the port would shimmer in the frosty air and lend an exotic glow to the entire coast. The high-rises that dotted the port side would light up just as twilight would start setting in and add a glamorous touch to the whole affair.

It really is true; moonlit Marseille is the perfect place for a little stroll. As we ended up eating out almost every night, we were able to take utmost advantage of this and gawked at the beauty all around us as we made our way home.

When the time came for us to leave the picturesque coastal haven, there’s no doubt that I’d have given pretty much anything to stay. In just five days, Marseille had already made me feel like I belonged within its sun-kissed borders.

My only consolation as I looked out into the infinitely large ocean one last time before getting back into the Renault was that somehow, I just knew that I was going to return one day.

And that thought makes me very happy.

Thanks A Lot, Kathryn

The metro creaks along its rickety tracks, the fluorescent lights flickering to expose the handful of passengers seated in its garish seats. Fourteen stops, I count mentally. Fourteen stops till I’m back at home.

I have only myself to blame for my current situation, of course. When Kathryn suggested we go for a 02:00 am screening of an obscure Japanese movie at the cinema downtown, I should’ve known better than to say yes. But she’s Kathryn and I’m desperate so I jumped at the chance to spend a little extra time with her which is what eventually lead to me now being mostly alone in a gaudy metro.

Tired to the bone and more than a little creeped out by all the deserted stations we were passing by, I heave a relieved sigh when I hear the distant chugging of a train nearing ours.

Desperate for some sign of human life [apart from the three sleeping forms that constituted all of my fellow passengers], I crane my neck to get a better look at the other train.

Surprisingly, it seems like the vehicle is packed with people. Even more surprisingly, out of the seemingly 100,00 faces that whizz past me in a blur, one of them stands out as clear as day.

The strange thing is, I couldn’t describe the face even if my life depended on it. I can’t say if its eyes were brown or if the skin was pale, but I can somehow tell that it’s been imprinted into my mind, somewhat permanently.

Brushing it off as an oddity, I settle back down in my seat just as the neighbouring train clatters away. My mind already working on erasing what just happened, I’m a little perplexed when I hear the hoot of another train set to cross paths with mine.

Now, I don’t have a PhD in metro schedules, but it seemed a little off that there were two trains hurtling along the same line in such quick succession. I peer out of my window to get a closer look and immediately feel a jolt run up my spin as I realise that this one is identical to the one before; it’s brimming with life forms and the same peculiar face is glaring right at me. Except…

Except it feels like the face is closer than before. My brain already turning this into a Paranormal Activity sequel, I decide that I’m just tired and firmly close my eyes. At any rate, I’m only twelve stops away from home now and then it’s bye-bye-insidious-hallucinations for good.

I’m just about to plunge into a first-rate nap when I feel my skin turn cold for no apparent reason. My heartbeat starting to accelerate, I open my eyes…

…Only to find the face, seated at the far end of my train booth. An inexplicable fear starts to creep up my throat because it hits me; the face is going to keep coming closer…

And closer…

And closer…

Until…